An enthusiastic return to the Temple and to Chambers as the summer fades away and autumn begins to fall
October 10, 2011: “The robbed that smiles, steals something from the thief.” ~William Shakespeare, Othello
There is nothing so good for soothing stress, refreshing the body and invigorating the faculties as a jolly good return to work. You can put aside the stresses and strains, frayed tempers, quarrels and politics of a typical holiday. The trade unions and party conferences over, the leaves beginning their colourful dance with death, and a chill in the wind – this year interspersed with a brilliant Indian Summer – and it must be time to start the legal year. Nothing cheers me more!
I walked to Chambers across Green Park, past St. James’ Palace, across Trafalgar Square and along the Strand to the Temple last week and entered the hallowed portals of Gutteridge Chambers with a spring in my step and a smile on my face.
Happiness has a strange effect on the clerks. Once they detect a sign of joy from any member, particularly the Head of Chambers, it seems to send them into instantaneous depression. This can be rectified only by the transmission of information so depressing that the member, particularly if he is Head of Chambers, feels his or her step become leaden and the expression on her or his face resemble rigor mortis rather than joy.
And lo it came to pass! “Hello everyone,” I said, as I breezed in. “All had a good summer?” Andrew did not look up. “We’ve been back a month, sir.” I thought it best to remind them: “Well, if you remember, I didn’t actually go away until the end of August.” Was that a snort I detected behind me from Ronnie, our junior clerk? Andrew did raise his head from The Sun at that point and gave me the kind of smile I can only describe as a grimace. “Well, you’re back now sir.”
“All quiet in my absence?” Andrew fixed me with a look. “Very quiet, sir. Most of them are fretting over their CPS applications. They all put them in on the last day. I only got English at “O” level, sir, but even I could have done better than some of the ones I read. One put ‘council’ c – i – l when I presume he meant ‘counsel’ s – e – l. No doubt he’ll get the top grading. Ronnie accidentally showed the BARMARK geezer your draft business plan - you remember, sir, ‘steal the quarter’s VAT money and run’ – and Miss Briar-Pitt’s best stallion died of the colic, which she gives as her explanation for leaving the downstairs shower on all night, flooding the basement. Oh, and there’s something about you having to get quality assessed and they’re planning to introduce competition – as if the Bar wasn’t the most competitive profession in the world already.”
I suspected that it was better not to tackle these issues on an individual basis. “They will do it. They will do it,” I said, in a passable parody of Grimes, Roger Thursby’s pupil master in Brothers in Law. “Any news about my case?” I was, of course, referring to my defence brief in the case of the alleged murder of the ghastly Judge Allerick. We had recently shopped the person, Moses, who we said was the true killer and I presumed he was racing up the fast lane to join us at the Bailey unless he had told a very convincing story to the police and we were deep in the substance produced by Henrietta’s now somewhat diminished number of equine charges.
“Oh yes,” said Ronnie. “Andrew forgot that one. Moses says it was all your client and it’s a cutting-throat defence.” “Cut-throat,” I corrected. I left the clerks’ room with a slow step and a sad face, up to my own room. I shut the door and then released the broad grin that I had been suppressing for the previous three minutes. I sprang into my revolving chair with back support.
As Andrew conceded, I doubt poor English is a bar to prosecuting nowadays. The BARMARK “geezer”, as Andrew put it, had a brilliant sense of humour – I suspect you have to have in his line of work – and doubtless understood my sentiments entirely. I was sorry for the poor horse, but my one experience with renal colic suggested that death would be a merciful release and I remembered we had a rather decent insurance policy for fire and flood. I am inured to all further indignities from our regulators and a cut-throat defence with Moses was going to suit me just nicely.
In my book: “Oh to be in England now that Autumn’s here …” ?
William Byfield is the pseudonym of a senior member of the Bar. Gutteridge Chambers, and the events that happen there, are entirely fictitious.