As we continue to get up to full speed after the recent change of internet, and as She Who Must Be Obeyed took exception to one of the letters, I have lined up a special guest this week who, I must admit, possesses considerable expertise on the subjects of being bullied at school, feminine attributes, daddies finding time to be at home and coping with difficult houseguests. As his wife, the Portia of our Chambers, has been away trying a long firm fraud in Hong Kong and has therefore been unable to approve this week's substitution, I shall introduce him by his initials, and ask you all to welcome to the column the inimitable C.E.B.:
I thank you all for your kind attention and crave your indulgence as one unaccustomed to column writing. Phylly, my wife, has always discouraged me from writing, but if Rumpole does it it really can't be all that difficult, can it? After all, he never took silk. And I must admit that Phylly has a tendency to underestimate my capacities, strange as it may seem. It would be rather nice being married to a judge if she weren't so inclined to be - well, judgemental. But enough of domestic bliss in Islington. I understand that the purpose of this column is to provide much needed guidance to four seriously lost letter writers, so let me begin:
L1: Dear LW1, so you were bullied at school by a teacher? It takes me right back to Bogshead, where we had to run three times around Tug's Patch before breakfast on saints' days and get up at 6:00 for early school on Saturdays. And it was a teacher who always had it in for me who gave me that nickname Collie that has stuck with me for the rest of my life. I completely sympathize with you. But you are looking at the situation the wrong way around. Naturally it's one thing as a child to hate school and all the teachers who aren't kind to us, but now you are on the other side. Seek out your former teacher, and see if she can recommend any particular students who occupy the same position you did, and now it's your turn to perform the same kind service that was done for you. After all, if it hadn't been for going to Bogshead and Winchester, I'm sure I'd never be where I am today, a successful Queen's Counsel. And if being bullied at school were really all that bad, we shouldn't keep sending our children to those schools - well, at least, our sons (but I'd rather not dwell on Phylly's adverse reaction to Tristan being sent to a boys' school where Isolde couldn't go with him).
L2: Dear LW2, I must admit that your letter interests me most of all. And it was this letter which induced my dear friend Rumpole to recruit me to substitute for him this week. Now, this is an area where I happen to have acquired considerable expertise. You may remember my picture appearing in the Daily Beacon when I was photographed in the Kitten-a-Go-Go Club at the very moment when, it just so happened, the young lady dancing had just removed her brassiere. Of course, I would never have entered such premises had it not been that I'd been sent a brief in a case of Actual Bodily Harm that had resulted from an affray that had occurred in the club. Rumpole, who takes cases of common assault far more often than I, had advised me to visit the locus in quo in order to cross-examine witnesses on the geography. While perhaps not in the class of an evening of Wagner at Covent Garden, the entertainment on offer was lively, and I did receive substantial damages when the Beacon was forced to admit that I visited the club solely in my legal capacity.
Now, as for your coworker's attributes, I shall take a page from Rumpole's book and cross-examine you about them. Are they firm? Are they large? Are they perky, like Liz Probert's? discreet, like Fiona Allways'? Exactly what size is the brassiere she isn't wearing? Perhaps it might be of an unusual size that makes it difficult for her to find appropriate undergarments. If your business failed, would she be able to support herself by dancing at the Kitten-a-Go-Go Club?
In fact, the more I consider the situation, the more inclined I am to cross-examine your friend in person - as long as she's not... well, fat, as my former pupil Wendy Crump was. Rumpole always called her a brilliant cross-examiner, but then, of course, Rumpole is so portly himself that he can't see clearly the advantages of having a slim pupil. If your concern is because your friend is overweight and your clients will find the view unappealing, I am entirely on your side. But otherwise, I think you might be missing an opportunity here. Doubtless your friend has been bringing in more business than the other two of you combined - you should all (provided, of course, that none of you are fat) follow her excellent example and watch business skyrocket.
L3: Dear LW3, I am entirely on your side. It is vitally important that a father spend as much time home with his child as possible. In fact, I don't think, after she got pregnant, that Phylly and I would even have gotten married at all if I hadn't been so determined to arrange my schedule so that I spent rather less time in court or Chambers and much more time at home with the baby. A father's influence cannot be overstated.
It strikes me as possible that the problem might be on your end. After all, while I was spending every afternoon and evening at home with Tristan, Phylly was always in court doing important cases. What you need is to have your clerk get you a few civil cases - perhaps even in the Chancery Division, if you're lucky, and then your husband will have to stay home more than he does. However, as it may take time to build up your practice, in the meantime you might call upon your husband's employers in person and see if you can convince them to see reason about making his hours more suitable. Phylly has always been a tremendous advocate, and I believe she even convinced our Head of Chambers, Sam Ballard, to tell the Lord Chancellor's office that I had been showing a great deal of gravitas and bottom the year I finally took silk. And Rumpole's wife Hilda has always been formidable in argument. Take the appropriate wifely role, LW3, and things should sort themselves.
L4: Dear LW4, I can relate to your situation as well. Tristan and Isolde do on occasion have friends over for meals during the holidays. Phylly and I have always been most generous in our offers to share our meusli, but quite a lot of our houseguests don't want to deprive us of our supply. They kindly insist on preparing their own meals, as Rumpole did when he put up with us after he and Hilda had a disagreement about an off-colour joke he told at the Scales of Justice Dinner at the Savoy. At any rate, we are quite at ease with our guests declining to share in our particular delectables.
Rumpole would doubtless enjoy himself cross-examining you on why your daughter has only one friend and such an unpleasant one at that, but I shall offer rather more practical counsel. Your problem is what to do when your visitor complains about the repast on offer. The solution is simple. Do as I do and simply stuff the buds of your Walkman into your ears and listen to a bit of Wagner. I find the Love Duet particularly enjoyable, especially when I can imagine Liz Probert or Luci Gribble... well, I'd better leave it there and, on that note, conclude my column. I have enjoyed filling in for Rumpole, and hope to do so again the next time any of the questions cause dissatisfaction to Hilda.