My latest book, The Diary of a Trainee In-Law is now on pre-order for the kindle version; the paperback will follow. If you’d like to enjoy the mysteries of being the father of a bride to be, albeit this is mostly from my fevered imaginings, then this is the book for you. It’s, funny, touching, nice and compact and you’ll soon whistle through it. If you do indulge, please leave a review. I will be ever so grateful.
Here’s the link…
To help you make up your minds on this diary, I’m starting another brief diary based on my training to be a solicitor. In 1979, I joined a three-partner firm in the West End of London that focused mainly on residential conveyancing (houses, flats, that sort of thing), divorce, some landed estate work for an hereditary peer and a tobacco tycoon. There was also an eclectic mix of jobs for two ancient sole practitioners who rented a room each in the building. We called them consultants though that suggests they were part of the firm; they were independent, but the firm allowed them to use the trainee lawyers and junior staff. I was officially the articled clerk, which does have a whiff of the serf about it, not without reason.
Let me set the scene; we are some three months into my two-year term as jobsworth, the Thursday before Mrs Thatcher was elected PM and it’s Monday.
7th May 1979
Odd start today. The alarm didn’t work but at the exact time it should have, Colin banged on my door and told me to ‘sort it out’. ‘It’ was, as per usual, the toilet flush. Starting Monday with my hand in the cistern, I hoped it wasn’t prophetic.
Chased by park police for cycling on the paths in Hyde Park as I affect a short cut to the office; I wonder what will happen if they ever catch me?
Mr Bett was in his office when I arrived – oddly early for Our ‘Enry – so I had to carry the flying machine into the lightwell; he’s made it pretty clear, if I lock it to the railings again, he’ll have it removed, though how he’ll do that isn’t clear. With his teeth perhaps?
I’m met inside the front door by Ethel, his secretary, who explains the apparition that is our early rising senior partner. “Mr Bett is leading a minute’s applause at his club for last week’s vindication.” This ‘vindication’ is his unwavering support for our new PM when she was being roundly criticized by the Tories for not being this or that, when, per Our ‘Enry, it was because she wasn’t a man. Our ‘Enry may be a sour old curmudgeon, who’s wet dream is that the world stopped progressing in 1937, but who also considers himself a feminist for his loyalty to Mrs Thatcher. Ethel continues. “He’s said he will be keen to ensure we were all equally loyal.” I assume she means he will want to know I voted Tory. Dare I tell him I went with the Dog Lover’s party back home in North Devon via a postal vote? Probably not if I want my legal career to progress. I hide in the downstairs toilet until he’s gone out.
In my office which I share with the junior partner Peter Fantouffle, I start on the project that has been with me since my first day at Crimbold Rougby & Co: trying to make head or tail of the title deeds to Lower Plucker farm near Lewes. It should be easy as five of the six titles are registered but even here the Land Registry has used plans with different scales and in two cases with no features beyond a north point. I have three searches of all five titles and each time the composite plan has come back both different from the last and from how the farm is shown on the current Ordnance Survey map. The farm has been for sale for at least six months and if anyone buys it, I’m expected to make sense of the deeds to persuade the buyer that all is hunky dory; that’s because we acted on the various acquisitions over the last fifty years and if there are anomalies, it’ll be Crimbold Rougby who’ll carry the can. Today, prompted by Jane Splont, the junior lawyer, who, in the pecking order here is just above me – I am pond life hereabouts, the articled clerk, trainee solicitor or ‘articled particle’ as the secretaries call me – I plan on calling the ‘help desk’ at the Land Registry, even though she has warned me the use of the word ‘help’ in their title is what I will be crying for once they get their mean little civil service claws into me.
Before I’ve even laid out the plans I have and the papers I think are relevant, Peter interrupts my flow with the most terrifying eight words for a Monday: “Can you do a little something for me?” In my few short months these requests have included: returning a pair of clearly worn brogues to Selfridges to get the money back (“Sir is having some fun, isn’t sir?” was the salesperson’s response); going to the High Court to try and persuade the clerk to change the name of the defendant on a writ to Graham James from James Graham by blaming the clerks of incompetence (doing it the correct way, by an application to a Master will take a month and the client will go apoplectic) – I succeed which hasn’t proved to be a good thing because I’m now possessed of supernatural powers so get all the rubbish begging jobs; and going to help the ancient consultant solicitor who rents a room from the firm. This last is Mr Mezellius, whose compendious knowledge of the peccadilloes (he insists on calling them peck-a-dildos with some relish and, it seems some accuracy) of certain sections of the acting fraternity in London’s theatre land is second to none. Usually the latter is a welcome distraction even if it means I get none of the rest of my work done; today though, starting with me elbow deep in a toilet, isn’t going to prove ‘usual’. I refile all my papers for another day, grab a counsel’s pad and pencil and head for the second floor and the garret room in the roof that is Mr Mezellious’ domain.
I don’t have the confidence to tell him I prefer Geoff; he isn’t a ‘Geoff’ sort of chap, I suspect.
“A little task, if I may impose? Conrad Pettifore has found himself in a rather delicate situation…”