Thursday, October 14, 2010

10/14 - Return of CEB

As I find myself still wondering about why various people here would find it difficult to believe in bisexuality (not to be a great cheerleader for the Bs, who are unlikely to attain true unity with the LGs as long as the Ss manage to throw up enough smoke screens to keep them divided, although there are various areas for improvement on both sides), this seems like a good day for the return of our guest columnist C.E.B.:

Greetings to regular readers of this page! As my schedule as a highly successful and much in demand Queen's Counsel appears to have provided me with yet another uncharacteristically lengthy block of free time, and as it was rather pleasant to be able to enlighten people without Rumpole tricking my witnesses in cross-examination or Phylly on the bench summing up against me, I thought I would fill in yet again.

L1: Dear LW1, I entirely empathize with your situation. Your sister and family are treating you exactly the way the Sisterhood of Radical Lawyers likes to treat me. Just because a number of young lady barristers have been attracted to me - not just my wife, Phylly, who, you may recall, was my pupil, but also Fiona Always, who told Rumpole I looked like Paul Newman, and Liz Probert, who pretends not to like me but keeps wheedling me into taking her to the Opera every now and then. But please don't think that I spend all my time pursuing young lady barristers (or typists, if we count Dot Clapton). It's not my fault that they fall in love with me. I often make a conscious effort not to attract women, and can mention at least two of my lady pupils whom I did my very best to repel, Mrs Heather Whittaker and Wendy Crump. Mrs Whittaker was middle-aged and Wendy Crump was fat. But I mustn't take up a lot of time delving into the many chapters of my rich and varied love life. Seriously, I mustn't, as Hilda Rumpole reads this column very carefully to make sure Rumpole isn't getting up to anything, and Hilda might tell Phylly something she didn't already know.

Weddings can be difficult occasions. I remember that Phylly and Marigold Featherstone thought that my remark at the Ballards' wedding about Sam being sentenced for life could have been phrased better, but at least the moment passed without any such exchange as that between you and your sister. Of course, sisters have exchanges that can be difficult to interpret, such as when I hosted a party from Chambers at the Bar Races and we met up with Fiona Always. Then Fiona's sister Jennifer Postern showed up, they called each other Sprod and Pimpsy, and said it was loathsome and disgusting to see each other. I couldn't understand it.

Now, it appears you are being accused by your family and you certainly have form (previous convictions). I am glad I am here this week instead of Rumpole. Rumpole would tell you never to plead guilty, but I know a thing or two old Horace doesn't. After all, which of us, I might ask, is a Queen's Counsel and entitled by rank to lead the other? But I have a little secret. There is a much more highly effective stratagem available to you. By all means plead guilty, and let all your family know how aware you are that you have a problem. The "I Know I Have a Problem" Admission works wonders. People fall all over themselves to be sympathetic, and quite often they don't even make you do any real work to resolve that problem. Telling the Sisterhood of radical lawyers that I know well how much I need to work on my sense of Gender Awareness (or some other of those terms that young lady barristers seem so keen on these days, such a lot of nonsense most of it) has saved my bacon on numerous occasions. Just don't tell Liz Probert.

L2: Dear LW2, you had an unfortunate reaction to a sedative and behaved, entirely beyond your own control, in an inappropriate way with a friend. Now, in some respects, this smacks of a technical question. Why your dentist would entrust you to the care of a friend without impressing upon him the importance of his seeing you home safely in person is beyond me. It seems to be asking for a lawsuit of some sort or other. At the very least it appears to be sheer negligence. There are also those who might cross-examine your friend about why he thought it acceptable to drop you at the bus stop when you had behaved inappropriately in the car, but I think his reasons will become clear during the progress of my answer.

But the true issue here is not so much what you actually did and don't remember doing, but that your friend is no longer quite so friendly with you. I regret to point out that you really cannot expect him to be after what has happened. Even if on an intellectual level he entirely accepts that you were neither in control of your actions nor acting out your true subconscious desires, it will probably prove impossible to un-ring this particular bell.

I am reminded of the time I had to interview Dave Inchcape for a seat in Chambers. Just prior to the interview, Liz Probert had accused me of being prejudiced against gays, in part because there were no gay members of Chambers. My defense, that we hadn't had any gay or lesbian applicants, ought to have been persuasive, but she simply replied that she'd like to see how I would react if we ever did. And then, when Sam Ballard accidentally knocked himself out when he accidentally hit himself with his chest expander in the middle of the case when he was leading Rumpole and defending Lady Perdita Derwent on the charge of murdering her husband, I had to interview Dave Inchcape. It was a most awkward situation. If I advised against him, and he turned out to be gay, Liz Probert would never have forgiven me. And I couldn't just come out and ask him. But I certainly would have felt awkward shaking hands with him or not having him sit on the other side of the room. I suppose, since I myself would of course be entirely incapable of passing judgment on such a point, that if he were gay, he would not have any difficulty finding partners, and then he mentioned his experiences with Tommy Tompkins, who was married and had children. Now, I had never known about Tommy. Perhaps there were other members of the Bar who'd been leading secret lives all along; it was too good a chance not to admit Dave to Chambers. And then, at the Ballards' wedding, mind you, I got the shocking news that Inchcape was a closet heterosexual when I saw him actually KISSING Liz Probert! Naturally, I was outraged.

Now I must be better at this dispensing of advice than I knew, because of course the Ballards' wedding is important for another reason. It was when Sam was coming around from a strong sedative that he became enamoured of the formidable Matey - Marguerite Plumstead, who had been Matron at the Old Bailey for years. I am certain anyone would accept that Sam, who had been a resolute bachelor for many years, would never have fallen in love with Matey had it not been for the sedative he was given after his head injury. This, I think, is the sort of corroborrating evidence that supports your claim that you had no idea what you were doing and that you would never have acted in such a way had you been in command of your faculties.

But back to your real problem. Your friend may be able to accept that what you did is not your fault, but the fact remains that his delicate straight sensibilities were assaulted in a way that he may never be able to forget, even if he can forgive them. It is similar to someone with Tourette's Syndrome whose conversation is involuntarily peppered with foul expletives. A possible romantic interet might well be able to accept the (s)he is not being CALLED all those filthy words, but having to hear them every so often in the conversation will likely and understandably be a sufficient deterrent to dating such a person. Similarly, if your friend is unable to forget your hand in his pants, then it is unlikely to matter whether or not he fully forgives you for it. After all, just consider what it might have meant if - well, something had actually responded in that situation? No offense, but it's too disturbing for me to able to contemplate any further.

L3: Dear LW3, you have discovered that your landlord is a convicted criminal of the worst variety. Now, you doubtless do not require my opinion as an expert on the Rent Acts, having already had the testimony from a number of other knowledgeable people. First, be thankful your landlord wasn't defended by Rumpole, who might have gotten him off. Then again, if it had been before Mr Justice Graves or Mr Justice Bullingham, Rumpole's reliance on brilliant cross-examination of Prosecution witnesses might have been less effective and resulted in a longer prison sentence.

Now, one thing I have learned from our Head of Chambers, Sam Ballard, even if I did call him a pompous you-know-what when he originally was less than entirely cooperative with my application for silk in his correspondence with the Lord Chancellor's office, is that so many criminals have an insufficient sense of sin. that may explain why they are so often repeat offenders, like Rumpole's favourite clients, the Timson family. My advice, andn I am sure that Sam Ballard would agree with me, is that your landlord has doubtless not served sufficient time in prison to have learned the error of his ways. It is clearly your moral duty to set him up to be caught again by the police, this time with a longer sentence in store.

L4: Dear LW4, your letter takes me back. I remember when Rumpole spent the evening with us explaining to an American visitor about the pantomime. After I cleverly supplied him with a large quantity of claret, NOT from Pommeroy's Wine Bar, he even agreed to take Tristan and Isolde to the panto. That was a magical evening for Phylly and me. We definitely were able to put the spark back in our marriage.

Now, before this occasion, we were, on occasion, able to drop the children with our friends, the Arthurian Dagos, who only go to Italian Opera, and therefore were generally at home when we wanted to go to see any Wagner. It made a very nice little arrangement, even though the Arthurian Dagos are in no way related to either of us. But then disaster struck. Phylly was away trying a long firm fraud, and the Arthurian Dagos decided it was time for us to return the favour and att end to their three children. With Phylly away, I had to take care of five children at once, which was entirely unfair. Anyway, to make a long story short, we soon discontinued the practice.

But it did teach mje an invaluable lesson which you may be able to turn to advantage. Remember your simple arithmetic. Three is greater than two. Need I say more?


  1. Hey, any comments about Rumpole's whig? Is it itchy or doesn juridical wisdom emanates from it?

  2. It's certainly pretty ancient, probably about as detrimental to his reputation as his hat, which has frequently been invoked.

  3. You are, of course, aware of why the I Know I Have A Problem Admission always works? It's because everyone thinks Admitting You Have A Problem Is Half The Battle. ;)

    Did I catch this dreadful cold from you?