September 10, 2018:
‘In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.’
– Robert Frost
The arrival of our new tenant, Daniel Arwille (pronounced the unfortunate way) last month was memorable, as I recorded in this diary. Being drunk and disorderly around Fountain Court clad only in a rugby shirt and shorts and bringing the scene, though fortunately not your drunken friends from the hockey club, into the foyer of your new chambers is not the best introduction, even if Hetty Briar-Pitt did cast an approving eye over this young tearaway, possibly fantasizing about entering him for the Badminton Horse Trials next year.
Next day, when he appeared in front of me for summary justice, looking somewhat the worse for wear and with his head bowed, I was reminded of what my late pupil master used to say about ‘transplants’ – those who came to us from other sets. ‘With some,’ he said, ‘the chambers’ body simply rejects them. Others,’ he went on, ‘fit in to an extent but provoke symptoms at the slightest upset whereupon the body remembers they were transplants. But,’ he concluded, ‘the happiest souls are those who you can never remember joining in the first place. T’was as if they were always here.’ I should add that this was said during the era of pioneering surgical work in the hitherto unheard-of world of heart transplants. Dr Christiaan Barnard performed the first at Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town, on 3 December 1967 and by my pupillage, some 13 years later, they were still perilous operations. Transplants in the Temple had happened since Creation, but they were then still comparatively rare and equally perilous.
Nowadays, of course, with the Bar’s desires to embrace modern business practices and with a faster rise and fall of legal empires than when I started, transfers have become almost commonplace. Nevertheless, I think my late pupil master’s observation, perhaps shorn of its surgical connotations, is still reasonably accurate. And so, I looked at this young man who had abandoned his old chambers, Wythlin Chambers (but to me good old 6 Meadow Court – bit to the left but nothing wrong with that) and come to us. How would Jonas Jakesworth, his former Head of Chambers have handled it? Sternly, I felt. Wythlin, now I knew where it was, would not have taken kindly to gangs of marauding young males with inadequate degrees of clothing behaving inappropriately to that fountain. It conjured up unpleasant comparisons.
How would I deal with it? There was the irony. The Chambers that prosecuted as well as defended and doubtless sent hundreds of people off to some awful fate because they fitted within a sentencing guideline and, when prosecuting, attempted to appeal any judge who showed a tad of mercy outside of the rigid barriers, was, when dealing with its own, likely to be far more liberal than Wythlin, the home of ‘right-on’ defending for as long as I could remember.
Or was it just I who was the useless liberal, unable to be judgmental or even cross for very long? Anyway, I need not have worried. Daniel himself was far sterner than I could ever be. We began with pleasantries, rather coldly exchanged, and then to business. ‘First, I want to say how sorry I am. It was entirely unacceptable and boorish behaviour.’ I thought I detected an Irish accent and said so. ‘I’m actually of Dutch extraction,’ he said. ‘Isn’t that extraordinary?’ I commented. ‘I always do that with accents. When I try to do a Welsh accent it always turns into an Indian one after a few sentences and vice-versa.’ I felt for a moment I was losing the mood of the meeting, but he brought it back to where it should have been. ‘I have reported myself to the Bar Standards Board and I am happy to abide by its judgment and will leave Chambers if it is adverse.’ I felt I should shout out ‘no!’ as if a minor aristocrat trapped in revolutionary France had said he thought he ought to pop into the Revolutionary Tribunal for a spot of self-reporting after some drunken trampling of the Tricolore.
Instead, I nodded. ‘Well, let’s hope they see it as very minor,’ I said, adding, ‘I am sure we will.’ He smiled ruefully and looked up. ‘I hope so too. I would so like you to meet my sister Kitty. She’s in TV and is producing some great new legal docu-drama. I think she hoped you might do some advising for the programme.’ I sat back in my chair. Already I couldn’t remember the time when Daniel wasn’t a tenant.