I have been blessed to be in the right place at the right time.
October 22, 2022 –  Buzz Aldrin


I was privileged to attend Call Day at my Inn of Court recently. I have always found it a moving ceremony. Each Inn has its own particular variation of what you do and what you wear to be called to the degree of the Utter Bar. Mine favours full court garb. They all stood there in their robes with a certain far-away look, not listening to the excellent talk about their futures, but looking with happiness and a degree of anxiety towards their parents and families in case someone might shout out ‘Alright Ellen!’ or start taking videos of the great event on a mobile phone.

You cannot help wondering with the expansion of provision of courses to train for the Bar whether there will be anything like the number of places for those who want to obtain pupillage or if it will be more like those terrible queues for theatrical auditions where only a very few are going to get a part.

My own Call Day was a year after I had (just) passed Bar Finals as I had not eaten until then the requisite number of dinners. I had obtained a rather cushy job as the moral supervisor of a tutorial establishment which was a sort of co-educational St Trinian’s. Having some actual cash for once, I decided to stay at the Waldorf for three days. It was nearby and boasted a very severe barber who mowed my hair to the level favoured on Centre Court at Wimbledon.

The day after the ceremony I invited an old friend of mine to a celebration lunch. She was called Karen Kristiansen and we had acted together at university in a production of Hamlet in the city’s playhouse. On the opening night, I had been given, for the first time since we started rehearsing, an actual fake-blood capsule on which to chew, for the point at which Hamlet would stab me (as Polonius) from behind the arras and I would fall at Gertrude’s (played by Karen) feet.

Unfortunately, instead of taking the recommended sip of water with the capsule as I went on stage, I gulped some lemonade. As Hamlet stabbed me, there was a mini explosion in my mouth and red liquid spurted from either corner and down my nose. During Gertrude’s heart-rending scene with Hamlet, as I lay on the floor, a river of red kept emerging from my face and when I opened one eye at Gertrude, she could no longer keep her composure and started laughing as my body heaved in sympathy.

I ordered lunch and we reminded ourselves of this and many other anecdotes as we waited, and waited and waited. Forty-five minutes passed and no food arrived. There was a young man sitting by himself at the next table and I think, by the grin he was trying to suppress, he had already overheard some of our stories.

After I had tried one more time to find out where our potted shrimps were, she and I joined in an over-theatrical display of exasperation. The young man smiled again and asked, ‘Still no food?’ We were delighted to have someone else to whom we could introduce ourselves and regale with our problem.

Suddenly, he flicked his fingers and the head waiter came forward. The lone diner explained the dilemma. Where was the food? His had come. Where was ours? ‘I really don’t know what is happening?’ the maitre d’ said, without seeming to be in the least bit puzzled as to why the young man should have been concerning himself with our problem in the first place.

I have been thinking a good deal recently about being in the right place at the right time. Leaders of a particular political party have been in my mind. Some seem to be in the right place at the wrong time; some in the wrong place at the right time and, most recently, one at least has been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Those called to the Bar nowadays are in the right place but whether it is the right time will only become clear later.

As to Karen and myself… That day, in November 1979, we discovered we were most definitely in the right place at exactly the right time. This became obvious when the head waiter responded to the helpful young man’s command to get our food immediately. I shall always remember it. ‘At once, Mr Forte!’ he said. ‘And there will be no bill,’ said Mr F.