It might as well rain until September.
September 10, 2021; Carole King


Pre-COVID, I always attended a small lunch party held by close friends of mine in September to say goodbye to the summer and hello to the academic and legal new year. Life is really beginning to have an apocalyptic feel about it. Perhaps it is comforting to our politicians to realise that the phrase ‘history will not be kind’ only serves as a warning if they can visualise anyone being around to write that history.

It was a relief to be able to drive into the country where an old university friend, Claude Meyrick, is the Rector of a lovely 14th century church in a very beautiful parish. He is not, in fact, the typical country cleric. Although he read Theology at university, I had originally thought he was an agnostic. Indeed, he was a doyen of the antiques world for years until suddenly he took the cloth. His somewhat eccentric style, honed at the sale room, fits in perfectly in that part of the world.

The other guests were drinking in the garden when I arrived. I was looking forward to a lunch away from London and Chambers. Sipping a strangely coloured summer punch, I saw Jenny and Ossie Gilbert who had retired from a lifetime at HM Treasury, a rather effortlessly wealthy banker called Josh Stibble who glided rather than walked, a retired Circuit judge who I didn’t realise lived near Claude and who was suffering from a bit of memory loss as he now seemed to think we had liked each other as barrister and judge, and a delightful friend, Annie, who runs an animal sanctuary where the animals are distinctly in charge – plus a few others.

‘Hail, Caesar!’ said Claude, ‘get this down you. It’s the old crowd plus some strange judge who begged to come because you’re an old friend.’ He paused. ‘Oh and yes, the youngest is here too and she has brought her latest bloke, whom doubtless you recognise.’ I looked across and there was Emma Meyrick coming towards me laughing and holding out her hands. She had a good-looking young man in tow who was smiling rather shyly. Yes, I did know him, but where on earth from, and, worse still, what on earth was his name? ‘Hello, William,’ she said, ‘You know Evo of course.’ ‘Of course,’ I replied. What an odd name, but it did ring a bell. He definitely wasn’t a godson. Was he the child of another of my friends? Evo spoke. ‘Sorry to haunt you, William… he sees enough of me already.’ I put on a fixed smile as I wondered if the ‘care home’ moment had come – inauspiciously before Boris had organised his Churchillian rescue package. Luckily, the Circuit judge, whose name I think I had actually blocked for more understandable reasons, solved the puzzle. ‘You sound as if you are his valet,’ he said to Evo, with that common touch he had honed so unsuccessfully on the Bench. ‘No,’ said Evo. ‘I’m the new junior tenant at Gutteridge. Actually, we mostly see each other on Zoom at the moment.’ I widened my smile. ‘Poor Evo,’ I said. ‘you can’t escape me anywhere.’ Phew! What a narrow squeak! Evo Emery. He had a very interesting backstory, having been a professional actor for seven years after university. To be fair, he looked slightly different on Zoom.

We had been graced by fantastic weather for our lunch, particularly given the weather options this summer had varied between desert heatwaves in parts of the world and a miserable damp chill here. I detected, however, a certain indifference to the weather and a slight edginess in the conversation as we sat round a rickety wooden table on the lawn eating delicious summer food, including a chilled broccoli and pea soup with ginger. The depression seemed to be centred around Jenny and Ossie and whilst I smiled at my neighbours, my ears tuned into the Treasury. ‘… so, we’ve been living in a dream world with all this government money. Now comes the sting!’ Ossie agreed with his wife. ‘But you can’t keep raising taxes. There will have to be cuts. But where from?’ Josh Stibble supplied the answer: ‘They’ll go for the departments the public don’t care about.’ I felt eyes suddenly turning on me. Evo leant over to me and whispered, ‘Do you think I should start auditioning again?’ I felt that those inchoate fears I had during lockdown about where all the state money was coming from had just been given life by my friends and I heard that Carole King song playing in my head.