When I was little, the world of my parents’ youth seemed indescribably distant. I was a ‘mistake’ baby. I was 14 when I realised it. My brother and sister were over ten years older than I. Breakfast time was usually hectic in my family. My father was always late for the office, my sister worked for local television and was needed early and my mother had an obsession about us all having a cooked breakfast plus porridge in the winter. She also thought that a glass of a tincture originally produced to cope with cholera in the Crimea and sold today in much milder form would set us up for the cold weather outside. I am not sure she realised in those days that this over-the-counter preparation contained a not insubstantial amount of an opiate. No wonder double-maths in the mornings passed so much more easily than in the afternoons.

On this particular morning, however, I was on holiday and came downstairs rather late. Over a cup of hot chocolate and two rounds of toast and marmalade, a thought suddenly struck me. ‘Why did you want another child after ten years?’ I asked. She stopped whatever it was she was doing and smiled, with a rather guilty look. ‘But we love you just as much darling,’ she answered. Since I had never entertained any doubt that my parents loved me, this answered my question. As I grew older, particularly as I also grew to love history, I found out more about my family. My father had a great-aunt, still alive when I was in my mid-teens, who had campaigned for Gladstone and my mother had been born the day after RMS Titanic set sail. Both my parents had lived through both World Wars. They seemed to me to have their roots in a time far-distant from my own.

During my own life, I have a wavy vertical line in my mind somewhere around the late 70s, early 80s where the world changed completely from the old world of the somewhat grey 50s and explosive 60s, itself looking back to its recovery from World War Two, to one of yuppies and ‘loadsamoney’ as Harry Enfield characterised it. From Thatcher’s Britain through Cool Britannia to just before today, even with the astonishing additional development of the digital age and the internet, we still seemed to be holding on to the umbilical cord that had emerged from the post 70s revolution. The War and the years of national decline had finally been laid to rest, even though we had failed to deal with numerous and consequential deep social and cultural divides. For some, indeed, the new world was as grim as, or grimmer than, the old.

I had previously concluded that it was impossible to recognise these seismic shifts unless a long time had passed; until, that is, now. Coming daily to court for my first lengthy trial since Lockdown One, things have looked ostensibly similar, minus the catering facilities we moaned about at the time but now miss badly. Three or four trials are there alongside ours and a clutch of preliminary hearings happen in the mornings involving a daily input of fresh faces. There we all are in our wigs and gowns and bands but there is a peculiar feeling of being trapped in aspic, waiting… Jake Esslen, who changed from pupil to tenant during the pandemic, came up to me in a socially distanced way in the Bar Mess. ‘Hello survivor,’ he said, cheerily. Pupils and junior tenants nowadays have a refreshing lack of awe. ‘Looks a bit weird in here. Better in a way. Not the usual crowds.’

He echoed a thought I had had only the day before, walking down once-busy roads. A barrister at a table next to mine, whose face seemed vaguely familiar but whose name escaped me, said: ‘I saw an old sci-film recently, when a rogue star called Bellus is on a collision course with the earth…’ ‘When Worlds Collide! 1951,’ interposed an amiable junior and film buff called Stephen Law who was boiling an ancient court kettle. ‘Yes, that’s it. There’s a scene at the end, when the survivors, who have escaped in a spacecraft to a new planet which had come along in tow with Bellus, walk hand-in-hand down the ramp of their spaceship as a beautiful new day dawns, called Day One. It’s a bit like us post-vaccination.’ ‘Hopefully…’ said a listening silk. Stephen Law then shouted ‘Zyra!’. ‘Sorry?’ I questioned, becoming confused. Law looked over: ‘That was the name of the new planet.’