I was tempted to save my thoughts on the Heterocentric Bisexual Male from Monday for today's opening, but luck is with me. Having posted about him, I then had a few extra ideas float around, and one strikes me as not all bad. Thinking that it might be fun to get the perspective of being on the najority side of presumed universality, it then occurred to me that it might be made into a formal thing and given a particular duration of time. Eventually, the idea fleshed itself out into the possible adoption of Homocentric August, treating everyone and everything under the assumption of homosexuality until admitted otherwise for one month, which is close enough to proportional in terms of population. I thought of August because it occurred to me that the closest one might ever come to being right in such presumptions might be during summer holidays in such a place as Provincetown or somewhere similar.
I have practised one or two of the likely conversations. "A recent groom? Congratulations! Your husband is a very fortunate person. Oh - a WIFE! I'm sorry, I just would never have guessed... well, good for you! In fact, I am entirely in favour of opposite-sex marriage, and if we ever have a referendum on it here, I will definitely support it." "You wore this dress to prom? How lovely. Did your girlfriend's dress match? Oh - a BOYFRIEND! I'm sorry; I just never realized that schools around here allow opposite-sex couples at proms now. That's really great!"
There may still be a snag or two, and I may well find I haven't quite the nerve to follow through, but the idea has considerable charm.
But now, moving on to this week's crop of letters, it may be observed that one of the letters deals with the subject of diet, a topic on which I always recuse myself. Accordingly, I have arranged for the column to be undertaken by my regular substitute, C.E.B.:
Greetings to all you readers of Points for Cross-Examination who have been eagerly waiting for my return. As I have had astounding luck lately in getting my clients to settle their cases rather than make me stand up in Court and advocate for them, I have the spare time to assist dear old Rumpole with his weekly column. And who knows, a word or two in the appropriate ear and - hint, hint - we might even persaude Rumpole to reitre to Florida again, and then it might not prove a bad thing for this column to be taken over by a dashing Queen's Counsel with an encyclopedic knowledge, not of bloodstains like Rumpole, but of something much more uplifting, such as the works of Wagner. But now to the letters.
L1: Now, LW1, I am entirely on your side. Even Rumpole has frequently maintained that one is entitled to a degree of privacy, even in married life. I am reminded of the occasion when I took Liz Probert to the Opera back when Sam Ballard, our Head of Chambers, wanted us to go into partnership with solicitors. Naturally I only took Lizzie to the Opera to discuss the future of Chambers, but then unfortunately she left her program behind and bolted away at the final curtain, so that I took home two programs and left them sitting on a table where they were found by my wife. Rumpole told me at the time I should have claimed my right to silence and refused to say a word. But, facing the stern cross-examination of my wife (and some people think that Phyllida has had a more glittering career at the Bar than I have had, although I don't think they make enough allowance for the unfair advantage she has had for being a woman when the Lord Chancellor has been eager to appoint new women silks and judges), I naturally felt that I had to tell her somethijng. And, as she would surely misinterpret the truth, I told her I had taken Uncle Tom to the Opera. Actually, Liz Probert and I had met Uncle Tom on our way to Covent Garden, which was why I thought of him. Unfortunately, when I put it to Uncle Tom that I'd appreciate his backing me up, he cooperated only rather too enthusiastically, telling Phyllida I had taken him to a Show with lots of Happy Tunes. She naturally refused to believe that Wagner had written If You Were the Only Girl in the World, and the whole thing might have ended in disaster had I not thought to tell Phyllida that the whole idea of taking Liz to the Opera in the first place came from Rumpole. She thought that it would be the sort of idea he might have, and the incident more or less blew over.
Anyway, lie detector tests are not admissible in Court, so that I fail to understand what good it would do if you took it, whether you passed or failed. Now, Rumpole would have a good many questions for you. He would wonder how the question of marriage and the condition of the lie detector test had arisen in the first place. Did your boyfriend spontaneously mention this requirement, or was it something he only said because you were bringing up matrimony and wondering when he intended to propose to you. (Rumpole would also wonder why on earth you were sitting around and waiting for himj to ask you to marry him, but that's neither here nor there.) He would ask about your use of the word pinpoint, and whether it would be reasonable to assume that you might have been a bit fuzzy about strict truth on occasion, despite your testimony of your fidelity and honesty. He might go on for some time about why you didn't have the firmness of mind you appear to have now about what was or was not his business regarding your past. He would doubtless take great interest in your phrasing with regard to your compromises and sacrifices in the name of a happy partner, and why there have not been any on his side that you cared to mention.
Most of all, Rumpole would wonder why on earth the first mention of the test would not be enough to make you run for the hills. Personally, I don't think the occasional polygraph is too great a price to pay for what might be considered a more or less happy marriage overall. Only next time, do make sure that, whatever you might be suspected of doing, you've actually done. That's much more satisfactory, I can assure you.
L2: This letter, of course, is what caused Rumpole to recuse himself from the column this week and ask me to write it for him instead. You may remember the terrible dietary restrictions that were inflicted upon Rumpole by Hilda, acting in league with his physician, Dr McClintock. Of course, I don't think it right to judge Rumpole for being, well, corpulent. After all, it's not every barrister who can remain as trim as, well, need I say it, your humble servant. And he certainly had no better luck at remaining on his diet of Thin-o-Vite than your father, LW2. I cannot think how often Liz Probert or I would catch Rumpole sneakily adding a large sugar bun to his breakfast at the Tast-E-Bite Cafe.
Rumpole would no doubt have a good deal to say about the wisdom of choosing athletic holidays for a large family party in such a remote location. Then again, he might add that there could be considerable opportunities on this holiday. After all, who wants to live with a father who eats your sister's entire birthday cake all by himself? Go on your holiday and hike to your heart's content, and somehow just find an excuse to leave your father behind somewhere, no doubt after he picks a quarrel (after some judicious prodding). Leave him with a lengthy hike back to the hotel. Given the correct altitude involved, that should solve your problem. It's reminiscent of Patrick Seton's plan to take his diabetic pregnant girlfriend Alice to a chalet in Austria where she would at the inappropriate moment find herself alone without her insulin in *The Bachelors*, or Nevile Strange's nipping into Mr Treves' hotel and hanging an Out of Order sign on the lift, thus requiring that the old man with a dicky ticker would have to risk his life by walking upstairs in *Towards Zero*.
L3: Dear LW3, I am entirely on your side again, just as was the case with LW1. I too am being constantly dictated to by our Head of Chambers, Sam Ballard, as to how I am required to spend my hard-earned fees in keeping up the best traditions of the Bar. Members of Chambers are constantly being obliged to purchase tickets to the Inns of Court Dinner or the Scales of Justice Ball, or go to hear the Bishop of Sidcup giving a talk on the moral abivalence of the Rent Acts. And I must recall how, when I was defending in a case of assault in the Kitten-a-Go-Go Club, how Rumpole told me to investigate the locus in quo in order to cross-examine the witnesses on the terrain, which led to a photographer taking my picture. The picture was published in the Daily Beacon with a paragraph suggesting that such was my usual practice in the afternoons. Sam Ballard insisted that I sue the Daily Beacon for libel, despite my protest that the expense would be extreme. But nothing else would due, but I must sue, in order to uphold the Best Traditions of the Bar. As it happens, that worked out rather well, as the Daily Beacon settled the case and I received substantial damages, which, as I reminded my clark Henry, were entirely free of tax.
If he were advising you, Rumpole would compare your lot to his marriage. After all, once you've survived the first ten years, why abandon ship now? There are always little ways around these things without quitting. Are you really willing to toss it all away simply over a mandatory voluntary charitable contribution?
However, we have in Chambers someone with much greater knowledge of the true inner workings of charities than Rumpole or even Sam ballard himself. I refer, of course, to Liz Probert. Even if she has never displayed that natural taste for the Opera which I might have wished to awaken in her, Liz has an encyclopedic knowledge of the true inner workings of charitable organizations. After all, her father, Red Ron, practically ran all of his part of South London for years, and doubtless is behind a number of charitable concerns. I took the liberty of putting this question to Liz in a general way, and she said it was sure to be simple. This charity encourages corporations to mandate voluntary employer contributions. Such a charity must naturally be run on corrupt principles and practices. They are sure to have violated the sacred tenets of political correctness in a dozen ways. Find but a few, and you will have an unanswerable argument in favour of ending these enforced contributions forever. You will be a heroine to others as well as yourself.
L4: Once again, I find myself remarkably in sympathy with the LW. How could your parents even have considered selling your ancestral home? My own mummy would never have permitted such a thing. And I was always loyal to her, going back to stay with her whenever I had a little row with Phyllida, and taking her to the Opera every time I had two tickets and for some unaccountable reason everyone else in Chambers had a previous engagement for the evening...
I am convinced that your parents have found someone whose company they prefer to yours, who has cleverly insinuated his or her way into their lives, and who is now doing everything possible to push you out. For a parallel case, I would consider Tuppence's great-aunt Primrose in *By the Pricking of My Thumbs*, an elderly woman who took in a young man named Mervyn whom she claimed to be quite a kindred spirit. When Great-Aunt Primrose let her relations know that she had made a will in Mervyn's favour, the family acted in some haste, discovering just in time that Mervyn had an unsavoury past and putting the police on his tail in time to prevent anynthing happening to Great-Aunt Primrose.
I advise you, LW4, to make it quite clear to your parents that you find their conduct unacceptable, that you won't have it, and that, if they think they can replace you in the family with someone who make them more proud, they can think again. Rumpole would doubtless just tell you to grow up, stay at an hotel when you go to visit them, and be thankful they are being reasonable about your having an adult life with which they have nothing to do. But I think this situation is far too important. You must fight to get them back, even if it means you have to go so far as to get yourself fired and move back in with them.