August 14, 2018:
‘Remember to play after every storm’
– Mattie Stepanek
We have a new tenant in Chambers called Daniel Arwille (pronounced the unfortunate way), who has transferred from a set called Whythlin Chambers. I do not sit on the Tenancy Committee any more. I had enough of those disappointed looks after the annual post-pupillage round or the strained requests before interviews: ‘Need a bit of devilling?’ Some even forgot the etiquette and said ‘sir’ or called me ‘Mr Byfield’. One brave soul, doubtless trying to make me feel, however ineptly, that he was already a member called me ‘Bill’. He now practises Sports Law in the West End.
So, Daniel Arwille was a new name to me. Roderick Twist, the arch trimmer – surpassed only by his brother Alexander – gave me the news. ‘Brilliant hockey player!’ I was surprised. Roderick would give Donald Trump a run for his money on protectionism. Nevertheless, he had voted to take on an established young practitioner. Also, I had never connected him with sport of any kind. He read my mind. ‘He mostly defends. And he is quite a way from my band of Call. I admire sportsmen; they understand life needs a Code.’ I looked but said nothing. ‘And there is always the question of rent,’ he said. ‘More is less, so to speak,’ and added in a defensive jab: ‘we don’t all need a room to ourselves.’ The Head of Chambers in Gutteridge gets his own room. Sometimes one has to have delicate private conversations with staff and members. Most of Chambers understands this and realises it is not some symptom of folie de grandeur. But I fear that one or two more discontented souls dream of ejecting William Byfield QC into a tenement slum and chopping up my lovely room, I mean the Head of Chambers’ lovely room, into three ‘work-sits’ or, worse still, hot-desking.
As usual, I had not heard of his old set of chambers. Whythlin? I consulted our young fees’ clerk, Alan. ‘Oh, sir, it was… er... yes, Access Chambers run by that old leftie chap who wears a kaftan dinner jacket.’ It still meant nothing to me. He scratched his head. ‘What was it before that... oh, yes, it was 6 Meadow Court.’ ‘Oh, that one,’ I said. ‘Not a bad set. Why do they have keep changing their names?’ ‘Some of the young ones wish we would too, sir.’
I sent D Arwille, Esq a welcoming note and gathered he was already in residence. I was out a good deal that week, mostly avoiding the never-ending heatwave. Youngsters in 50 years’ time might think of 2018 as I do of 1976, my last term as an undergraduate. Unless, of course, the climate-change lot are right and every summer is going to be like this or hotter. I returned to Chambers in time for the General Management Committee meeting and to notice increasingly black thunder clouds rolling in. By the time we were half way between last month’s Minutes and Any Other Business there were gashes of lightning in the almost black sky accompanied by torrential rain. It felt strange after two months of sun and heat.
Then Andrew, our senior clerk, who moves his body when a crisis looms as if it were made of plasticine, came into our upstairs conference room. I looked at the Agenda: he hadn’t been invited. Indeed, given item 6, review of staff salaries, I had assumed he had been told to go home early. ‘Sorry, ladies and gentlemen,’ he said, ‘Mr Arwille, and some other young men dressed in little but shorts and rugby shirts, are dancing in the rain in Fountain Court and doing odd things to the fountain.’ ‘I thought you said sportsmen had a Code,’ I said to Twist. ‘That is the Code,’ said Paddy Corkill. ‘Don’t let Hetty see this!’ said a slightly neurotic member who has a niche practice in Ecclesiastical Law.
A commotion was heard downstairs. Daniel was wrestling incompetently with a Temple porter in our doorway. There was an overwhelming smell of alcohol. ‘Me and my mates from the Hockey Club…celebrating my arrival at good old Gutters,’ he said in slurred tones. ‘Overdid it a bit.’ He thumped me on the back and lurched sideways. ‘Don’t need a pass to get in here! I mean, what will it look like to jurors and witnesses when we can just swan past them with our Bar passes in the three-mile queue to get into Fallingdown Crown Court. I mean, what will it…’ Suddenly he stopped, went a strange green colour and made an unimpeded dash for the facilities. ‘Nice fetlocks,’ said Hetty Briar-Pitt, as he rushed by. ●