CategoriesTravelFiction

Fiction: Anywhere But Bangkok

Disclaimer

What follows is pure fiction, written by me twenty years ago when I was running a backpacking NGO, Voices for Burma, and after completing a travel writing course at the University of East Anglia. This is not my usual type of blogpost. I encourage readers of a sensitive disposition to read no further. The views expressed by the narrator and the characters are not my views. The views are anachronistic, but real to the time that I wrote this. 

I am publishing this on my blog now as a record of what I wrote – but didn’t publish – many years ago. I write primarly for my children, so that they have a digital record of who their dad was and how I changed. By reading, you acknowledge that you are reading fiction, rather than an opinion piece.

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Chapter One

 

I have changed their names to Rob, Kris and Jen. They are this story.

During one summer in the early noughties (I am never going to tell you which one), my bus ground to a halt in Chang Rai, a small, pointless town in northern Thailand; that’s where we met. This trio were arresting and rare – rare like rocking horse manure. I was bewitched; haunted if you like.

After much persuasion from me, and with the contractual obligation to share the book’s sale proceeds with them, I now have their diaries. Based on my acquisition of their innermost thoughts, I have written this book. I now know them, intimately. I write to explain what they had going; to tell their tale.

But first, let me explain how I came to meet these three intrepid travellers.

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Arriving at any bus station in the 1990s in Asia is a nauseating experience – any Western visitor will tell you that. But, as a seasoned traveller now-turned writer, I should have been inoculated against the haranguing meted-out to every Westerner, by desperate tuk-tuk drivers, clambering for custom. I had fallen for their scams many times before: “So my guesthouse is closed, is it?” “Too expensive, you reckon?” “Out of town, you say?” “Get stuffed, the lot of you.”

Back in the late 90s, when I was new to this game, on countless times I had been out-foxed by the head-haranguers – bulky men who control tuk-tuk allocation. Late that afternoon, after a tediously long journey, I just wasn’t ready for them.

Having spent several unmemorable days in Chiang Rai before, this northern outpost held no particular fascination for me – or anyone at all, unless you had a penchant for blandness, bad driving and food that reeked of Japanese encephalitis. Returning to Chiang Rai was like going through labour knowing that you’ll produce a stillborn.

Stepping down from the bus, I was instantly surrounded. My best tuk-tuk-rejecting gestures got me nowhere. Irked, I came close to committing a cardinal sin in a Buddhist land by losing my temper. Fortunately, for the tuk-tukkers, I was stopped in my tracks.

Where did she come from? A genetically-blessed Western girl of remarkable femininity, whose face could have been designed by an Estee Lauder focus group, stood before me in the crowd. She must have been a late teen, just. She had long auburn hair tied taut in a high ponytail. She wore hearing-aid-beige shorts, down to her knees and a white, strappy top. With her skin the colour of frightened milk, she was a modern-day pre-Raphaelite beauty. She smiled – well I think she did – and sensed that prior to her manifestation, I was about to rage. Then, she said something in Thai, with a North American twang, and the tuk-tuk drivers skedaddled (she must have told them that they would be on the next plane to Guantanamo).

At this time, I was sweating like a darts player, for the humidity in these parts is unbearable and no matter how long I had been in the area, I couldn’t acclimatise. The girl thrust her water bottle into my hand. I drank. The ice-cold water was indescribably refreshing.

‘Jen,’ she said and extended her hand. I wanted to kiss it, but I played it cool, and squeezed it slowly. ‘Rough journey, heh?’

‘The roughest,’ I replied.

‘I’ll introduce you to the gang.’

She must be Canadian, I thought: Americans don’t travel. She beckoned me to follow her. I did what I was told: first down the main street, which I remembered, then a third right and a second left, down a backstreet. I struggled to keep up with my new tour guide. My backpack chafed like a jockstrap during a cricket match.

By now, we were in the fag-end of town. I was about to make a joke about women and directions, but my better judgement kicked in. I followed her into a bar, which was ablaze with fairy lights, and she presented me to her two friends – both men. How disappointing.

‘The gang,’ she said.

‘What’s up?’ I replied.

‘I’m Kris, with a “K”,’ said the bearded one, who looked like a 10-months pregnant Star Trek fan.

‘Good to meet ya Kris,’ I said, and we shook hands heartily. I recoiled at his vice-like grip.

‘With a handshake like that I’m sure you’re not an Israeli,’ he said. I had no idea what he meant.

The other lad, who was scratching his crotch through his denim shorts, looked at me like a cowboy looks at a horse. It was awkward.

Surveying my new surroundings, the bar suffered from gentle decay. The white plastic seats were mismatched – the cheapo Western-garden furniture type. Plants grew majestically around the higgle-de-piggle-de veranda. From a photograph on the wall, the Thai King surveyed his subjects.

The locals in the bar were glued to the boxing on the TV, except for one couple who were plotting adultery – the real Thai national sport. The menu was in Thai, and, unlike everywhere else in Thailand which I had been to, we were the only non-Thais.

‘So, where are you from, Kris with a K?’ I asked.

‘Does it matter?’ said the other lad.

‘No, I suppose it doesn’t,’ I said.

‘Rob,’ he announced, opening his force-field, ‘But call me “Voice of Reason”, and I’m English, if you’re still wondering.’

He had a well-to-do accent, no manners and a chip on his shoulder. This could mean only one thing: a St Effing Andrews University grad.

Evidently, by arriving with his dream girl, I was invading his territory. And before I could introduce myself, the supercilious sod launched into a tirade:

‘Let me guess: you’re English. You’ve just finished media studies at the University of Toy Town. You’re doing the whole “South-East Asian thing”.’ He said, using his fingers to emphasise “South-East Asia thing”. ‘You email, email, email home and survive out here on a diet of banana pancakes. You don’t go anywhere that isn’t recommended in the bloody Lonely Planet. Nice. And Kris’s from Holland for your information, and perhaps the only fat Dutch traveller you’ll ever meet.’

The acid-tongued Englishman was right about the emails and his chunky friend, but this was no way to talk to me. I would have to handle him as if he was radioactive, I thought. I looked to Jen for moral support, in the foolish hope that we had established a rapport and she said:

‘Rob, do you always have to be like that?’

I turned to him, and he eyeballed me. He raised his whisky in his right hand and gave me one of those single nod-of-the-head apologies, which, I would have been more inclined to accept, had it not been demanded by Jen and executed with a sly smile.

I was wounded: battered by a bus journey and bewildered by conversation. I could have made a sharp exit, but I didn’t, as on a cost-benefit-analysis, Jen was there and, although Rob was blunt, I admired his honesty and shared his distain for fellow travellers.

The table was quiet with all eyes on me. I had to impress. The stage was set for my comeback.

‘I’m Vincent,’ I said. ‘And yes, I am from bloody England; but I haven’t just graduated, actually. I’m researching a book – actually – about Laotian drug-smugglers operating in the Golden Triangle, just north of here.’

They were impressed. I turned to the waiter, who was watching the boxing, and ordered myself a Chang beer.

‘Do you have a guesthouse?’ said Kris.

‘Not yet. I was gonna crash at the place I used last time.’

‘Stay with us,’ said Jen. ‘We’ve got the only four-bed dorm in town. The walls are thin, but the owner is a nice guy. A friend recommended it to us.’

Like shopping on Christmas Eve, I had no time to think: ’Why not!’ I blurted.

My first gulp of beer jolted me with a little frisson of pleasure, and boy did I need it. With every subsequent mouthful helter-skeltering down my oesophagus, I could feel my vital signs gradually returning; but, the booze went straight to my head and rendered me less able to verbally defend myself from their searching questions about my book. Each time I made a dog’s dinner of a reply, my spirit dipped in instalments. To make matters more humiliating, their knowledge of Laos was better than mine.

‘Why are you really here, mate?’ said Rob. ‘The Dickens you’re an effing Bryson,’ he said, as if he had been injected with a truth serum.

‘You know, I’m just doing a spot of writing and getting away from it all.’

‘From what? Getting away from what?’ said Kris.

I paused, cogitated and replied: ‘Career, or middleclass slavery, as I prefer to call it.’ I then peeled the label off my Chang bottle. I must have cut a sorry figure.

‘Gonad,’ whispered Rob, and then, without asking us, he ordered another round of drinks with regal aplomb. He spoke to the waiter in pigeon Thai – his pronunciation was all over the place – but the smiling, pockmarked-faced waiter, who could have been anything from sixteen to forty, beamed back at him, and leapt off to fetch the order, like a dog chasing a ball. I didn’t recall subcontracting my beer choice to Rob.

It is a curious fact – isn’t it? – that when any group of strangers meet, anywhere in the world, one wannabe-demagogue masterly manipulates his minions, while the minions passively permit their own subjugation. However, later, I discovered – much to my sheer delight – that I had misunderstood the group dynamics.

The phone behind the bar rang and the waiter went over to answer.

‘If it’s for me,’ shouted Kris, ‘Tell them I was never here!’ and we descended into a frenzy of laughter, even though, objectively, it wasn’t in the least bit funny.

As Chiang Rai dissolved into darkness “The Gang” explained how they had all met a month before on the Khao San Road (KSR), Bangkok – the backpacking Mecca. Describing their first impressions of each other, they rolled around laughing. They waxed lyrical about their foray into Burma. Jen recounted the minutiae of their trip to a hilltribe, somewhere. But of course I outdid them with accounts of my own travels, adding a smattering of anecdotal license to good effect.

I took note of the Dutch guy: he was thickset, with the slowness of movements that only those who are sedentary workers develop. He wore a white T-shirt with the McDonalds logo rewritten as “McShit”, in a lame pitch to anti-consumerism. Kris had an inoffensive face when talking, but, when he was thinking, he looked like he was swallowing a fly – and enjoying it, too.

Conversation flowed in multifarious directions. Why is it, we wondered, that western women rarely date Thai men, but Western men date Thai women in high numbers? Puzzling. Then, Jen nearly stormed out when Kris duped her into believing in a country called Absurdibaijan. She is, of course, gullible, uneducated and young. Jen eventually calmed down when we agreed with her – under duress – that the best way to travel round the world was from East to West.

Long after it was dark and following a delicious meal, which was entirely chosen by Jen, was washed down with bottles of metallic-tasting Chang, Jen licked her plate clean and ordered the bill in Thai. I reached for my wallet, but Rob grabbed my arm with his sweaty hands and said drunkenly:

‘Allow us, alright. You’re our guest.’

I was perplexed by the offer: travellers don’t do this. And, to top it off, when the bill arrived, Jen divided it into three, even though she had consumed only a modest portion. This was weird: travellers are the type of people who remove the light bulbs when moving house.

With the bill settled, allowing a tip for the waiter, I followed my new friends through Chang Rai. We walked in silence, in respect of the locals, who had largely turned in for the night, in a hark back to the days – not long ago – when electricity hadn’t made its way to this back of beyond.

We passed packs of feral dogs lying in the road feigning sleep. Every time one barked, I froze. Jen – much to my horror – had the audacity to feed one a titbit of food, which she had surreptitiously taken from my plate, as she later admitted. It seemed like The Gang were accustomed to the vagaries of South-East Asian life. Me, however, had much to learn.

Although we were merry, it was unlike any other stumble home that ends my typical Saturday nights back in Blighty, for we didn’t shout any ‘wayyyyyss’ at passers-by. The lads, quite unbelievably, took turns to carry my backpack, which further compounded my alcohol-induced paranoia as to where I was being taken. This was the first and only time I had ever allowed a fellow traveller to carry my backpack. (Although, once, I did let a Nepalese Sherpa carry my bags up to the Everest base camp, but that was different.)

The sublime enveloped my drunken body and my inner-anguish evaporated. I was at one with the moment. Like so many other runaways before me, I had “gone travelling” in search of something – a something that I didn’t have the wherewithal to comprehend. At this moment, as I recalled it, thoughts of Laotian drug-runners were far, far from my mind. I was finally at peace with myself. I needed some time to think about my life, about my purpose. I realised that this writing lark was doomed to failure. This revelation was like the popping-open of a corset. Who was I trying to fool?

I turned to Jen, who had remained close by, and smiled. She is the kind of person with whom one has an understanding without having to communicate with words; the type of person who you could make eye contact with on the Tube and not feel alone; the kind of woman who would be described by her friends as a “people person”. Sober, she was entrancingly pretty; drunk, she was jaw-dropping.

We traipsed along the road parallel to the river for ten minutes. Fortunately, the gang had brought torches, which illuminated our presence and protected me from the kamikaze driving of the locals. We passed numerous wats (temples) which, had they been in a First World country, would have been floodlit.

The murmurings of hushed whispers bought my attention and, to the left, I saw some Thais, living in reduced circumstances, eating in the ground-floor room of a three-storey concrete block. They’re always eating, I thought.

When I heard some English travellers on the other side of the road, I shouted over a customary and time-honoured ‘Hello’, unaware of the faux-pas that I had just committed.

‘Vincent, why do you only say hello to the whites?’ asked Kris.

‘Well that’s bloody obvious: they’re travellers and so are we. Travellers say “hello” to each other. English is the lingua franca, my friend.’

Kris continued: ‘Vincent, my problem with you is not that you say “hello” to travellers, or that you spend all your time with them, but it’s because you don’t greet locals. You only have contempt for them. You don’t speak with love for any of the countries you’ve been to. This is my observation.’

They all stopped, encircled me and Jen continued the verbal assault:

‘Today, I was just walking back from the market when I saw you. Frankly, I couldn’t miss you. You looked like a hunted animal. I felt so sorry for you, Vincent.’

I turned to Rob in the expectation of another blitzkrieg on my character, but he just nodded and added: ‘Only your real friends will tell you when your face is dirty.’

Like a British squaddie in Iraq, I was the victim of friendly fire. They were right, though. Their onslaught made me realise that I needed to reconsider my whole approach to travel. Somewhere along the line I had become battle-hardened to locals. I guess that duplicitous locals – from Hamburg to Hanoi – had burnt me so many times before that I now gave them all short shrift.

My new friends ambled off down the road, so I composed myself and returned to following the travelling circus.

The moon was almost full and cast a pale light over us. All of a sudden, they veered off down an ominous-looking path, which was potholed like the surface of the moon. I found myself following Jen in an S-shaped motion in order to avoid the puddles. The boys, however, ploughed straight through without a care. By now, I could barely hear myself think, as militant insect sounds filled the air.

Just as my feet were going to mutiny, we happened upon a clearing, with paddy fields on both sides. I made out a large hut fifty yards ahead: it was not the instantaneous relief I had expected. Jen pointed at it with her torch. I stopped to contemplate my next move: I could either endure the Third World accommodation that would surely ensue, or I could flee back to town, alone. It was Hobson’s choice.

‘Can you tell what it is yet? said Rob in his best Rolf Harris impression, pointing at the hut. ‘Can you? Can you tell what it is yet?’

A solitary light flickered outside the hut. There seemed nothing guesthouse-like about it, not even any signage to depict the presence of a guesthouse. I walked onto the veranda, which squeaked, creaked and wobbled under our combined weight. I followed Kris’s lead and removed my boots. Rob tutted at me for the delay caused by my socks.

In the front room, a Coca-Cola fridge provided the only light. I made out a table and two more doors. Jen opened the fridge and helped herself to four bottles of water, and handed them out like guns to conscripts. She then led the way down a corridor.

I opened the bottle and it hissed: fizzy water! Come on, I thought, the 1980s are long gone. Who drinks fizzy water these days?

Kris then poked me in my back and pointed at a door and whispered: ‘Psssssssssss. Toilet.’

Jen opened a door – our room – flooding it with light. I was pleased by the dormitory, as it was large enough to house a family of refugees. An un-shaded bulb provided the only light.

The room was tidy, as the occupants’ clothes had been folded and placed neatly upon their open backpacks. The room felt lived-in. I noted that, like dogs resemble their owners, so too do backpacks, as Rob’s looked pristine; Kris’s was tatty; and Jen’s had a USA badge affixed to the front.

Four single mattresses – just mattresses – had been spread out on the floor with accompanying mosquito nets, giving it the feel of a World War Two jungle hospital. Rob’s mattress was nearest the door; Jen was in the middle of her boys; and mine was at the end, next to a small window.

I brushed my teeth with fizzy water – which was a novel experience that I can recommend – and clambered into bed. The sheets smelled fresh.

I wanted to stare at Jen, but I couldn’t muster the audacity. In order to refocus my mind, I stared at a healthy-looking gecko, which had taken up prime mosquito-hunting territory above my window. Then, in the corner of my eye, I could discern that I was the only one not writing a diary.

‘What are you going to say about Vincent?’ said Rob.

‘Not telling,’ said Jen.

‘I’m telling my journal that I want to swap him for you,’ said Kris.

What were they really writing about me? What were they writing about each other? Each had experienced a similar day, and yet, each would have a unique take on events, shaped by their own experiences, prejudices, genders and nationalities. My mind popped, like a teenage boy’s zit! That was it!

When Rob turned the light off, I reached for my mobile phone (hardly a distinguished writer’s tool of choice) and saved this message to my Outbox ‘CHANGE OF PLAN! I WILL WRITE ABOUT TRAVELLERS – THESE THREE. I WILL GET THEIR DIARIES. I SHALL WRITE THE TRAVEL VERSION OF BRIDGETT JONES’ DIARY. £££££££. BRILLIANT.

I couldn’t sleep as my mind fizzed with thoughts of my new book (and what car I would buy with the royalties). Jen talked in her sleep; Rob snored; and Kris whimpered, like a dog having a dog dream.

 

CategoriesInternational AffairsPoliticsThought of The Day

Trump and the Massacre in Goa

Oops: I should have applied sunscreen today. My face is red. Silly me.

 

I’m typing in a hotel bar, then sipping my first Venezuelan rum. Here in North Tenerife, it’s raining, as it has done for most of the day, but with a brief interlude – hence my mild sunburn. I haven’t stayed in such a basic hotel since I holidayed in Albania, ten years ago. It does the job, though. Just.

 

Over the last few days, I have spent my time with a British couple, who are selling their business. I’m interested, very interested indeed, in acquiring it. If nothing else, here in Tenerife the ambulances, hospitals and emergency call-handling, all function.

 

Back home in Broken Britain, good luck getting medical care today. “Don’t do anything remotely dangerous today” instructs Sunak’s Government – (such as allowing 50,000 excess deaths). In more sensible times, presiding over so many unnecessary deaths and a falling life expectancy would be grounds for a lengthy custodial sentence. But most of the public are distracted by Prince Harry.

 

But enough about that. Over the last few weeks, I have been chewing over an issue which vexes me.

 

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Let me tell you a story.

 

Twenty-one years ago, on 9/11, an hour or so before those awful events, my good friend – let’s call him “J” – collected our Iranian visas from the Iranian embassy in London. We were going to Iran!

 

Then, two planes later, our travels plans were changed, as was the world. Instead of travelling from Greece to Burma/Myanmar overland, given that travel insurance to most of the Muslim world was voided, we went to India instead.

 

By the third week in India, we found ourselves – as a backpacking cliche – in Goa. We hired scooters – of course we did – bumming around the beaches and bars, before retiring to our 50p per night hostel. Rinse and repeat, day after day.

 

Everything changed one fateful day when J ordered a chicken sandwich from a hut – a hut which didn’t have a refrigerator. We had been the first – and last – customers of that day. We both recall the look on the faces of the staff as J bit into that sandwich.

 

Delhi Belly beckoned: horrendous for him and vicariously for me, given that we were sharing a crummy room. As J’s condition deteriorated, I summoned a doctor: pills were prescribed, so was the strong recommendation that we checked into accommodation more salubrious.

 

Not far from our lodgings, I found better huts, with intermittent warm water in the shower. Unusually, these new digs had a swimming pool. At £5 per night, shared between us, it was comparably expensive. This attracted a different sort of backpacker.

 

As the days passed, J’s condition improved. Eventually, he was well enough to swim. In the pool, the could-have-done-with-some-filtration water was far too low, making it quite taxing to clamber out.

 

One sunny afternoon, J noticed that there were dozens of frogs drowning in the pool. They were, he thought, marooned, unable to get out. Ever the nature-lover, J swam around, carefully scooping the frogs out of the pool, depositing them safely on solid ground. Mission accomplished.

 

Listening to my Walkman, I watched with fascination, proud of my friend’s good work. Then, almost imperceptibly at first, the surrounding trees became increasingly lively with movement: birds – lots of them and goodness knows the species – began to assemble, like onlookers to a playground fight.

 

In sync, the birds dive-bombed towards the pool, scooping-up every last frog, before returning to the trees to devour lunch. It was a feeding frenzy. J was crestfallen. Every frog met its maker.

 

(Only later did we appreciate that the frogs were, in fact, cooling down, and could easily get out of the pool when they wanted.)

 

Loosely, tangentially, this incident reminded me of, one, Donald Trump.

 

Trump is vile, with every unpleasant description of him, justified. He’s the very worst example for children. But notwithstanding his awfulness, dispassionately, we should remember his many good deeds and sound predictions.

 

Trump crossed the DMZ between North and South Korea, which delivered a short-lived rapprochement between these two warring parties. For a time, “Little Rocket Man” stopped firing rockets. Now, under Biden, North Korea routinely fires its rockets over Japan.

 

In the Middle East, spearheaded by Trump, several Arab nations signed peace deals with Israel, under the Abraham Accords. More Arab countries will follow suit. On Trump’s watch, let’s not forget that the Taliban didn’t control Afghanistan and Russia didn’t invade Ukraine, nor did China routinely fly into Taiwanese airspace. Although Trump was addicted to tweeting childishly, the world was more peaceful on his watch. A prospective nuclear exchange was not, as it is now, a possibility.

 

And we should be fair to the Donald, for on multiple occasions Trump demanded that other NATO countries paid their fair share for their own defence, reasonably asking: why should US taxpayers pay a disproportionate sum to protect Europe from Russia? And most presciently, Trump repeatedly advised Germany not to rely upon Russian gas. If only Germany had listened, Russian might not have felt emboldened to attack Ukraine. He was a vile embarrassment, but on the international stage – and I cannot believe that I am writing this – the world was safer with him in the White House.

 

I won’t comment on Trump’s tenure from an internal US perspective, for I don’t feel suitably qualified to express a fair view. And, before any reader point it out, Trump was wrong on environmental issues.

 

I remain troubled that my friend – J – with the very best of hearts and with impeccable motivation, inadvertently killed dozens of frogs. Conversely, Trump – whom I detest on a personal level and was most probably erroneously motivated – performed acts worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize. Obama received a Nobel Prize for his vision and oratory, but deeds are infinitely more powerful than words. Internationally, do we need Trump again? Do you feel safe today? I don’t.

 

I am compelled to conclude that the world is even more complicated than I had thought. Good people can – by commission and by omission – cause mass suffering and, conversely, dreadful human beings can do so much good. My homework? To re-evaluate what I look for in a leader.

 

CategoriesLegalHealthThought of The Day

Ignore the Bedside Manner    

During my 18 years practicing law, I have worked with hundreds of lawyers. I have also hired, managed and fired quite a few lawyers, too. Through my work I have also trained a few hundred doctors, and sued over 100 medics for medical negligence. And with my never-ending – and very boring – chronic health dramas, I have been treated by dozens of medics. I’d like to think that I have sufficient authority to express a view about doctors and lawyers. But the principle upon which I will write applies to most realms of work.

My thesis is: that the bedside manner of a professional is usually misleading to their client or patient. Yet most patients and clients simply don’t get this. The best example of this is Dr Harold Shipman: his wonderful bedside manner masked his 250 murders. Even after news of his crimes came to light, many residents of Hyde, Manchester said that they would still have had him as their doctor, because he was so lovely.

And just because a lawyer answers the phone and replies to emails in a timely manner, it doesn’t follow that sound legal work has taken place. Sure, it is a good sign that correspondence is courteously and quickly dealt with, but it doesn’t indicate that the advice has been accurate. The legal advice is the key element, not how it was presented. And just because a doctor appears understanding and thorough it doesn’t follow that their advice has been appropriate. Professional regulators only ensure a minimum level of professional competence – that’s all. Professional indemnity insurers charge higher sums to incompetent professionals, but remember that Dr Shipman wasn’t priced out of the market!

Over the years, I have witnessed incompetent lawyers, who have prepared a case poorly, only to succeed in their case, to the joy of their client. Conversely, I know of excellent lawyers, well prepared in their case, who have lost, to the ferocious disappointment of their client. In the first example, praise is misplaced and, in the second, criticism is unwarranted. Even the outcome doesn’t tell the full story.

When training medics about clinical negligence law, my number one tip for avoiding a claim is to ensure that they are transparent and extremely helpful with the patient who had just been damaged through their negligence. The last thing that a patient wants to do is to sue their doctor, even if the wrong kidney had been erroneously removed. Evasive, unhelpful doctors are the ones who bear the most complaints.

Many people don’t know this, but lawyers have forever been duty-bound to report to their client errors which have damaged their client. Rightly, we fess-up when we have blundered. However, in medicine, astonishingly, it is only since 2014 that medics have been subjected to a duty of candour. Yet the public trusts medics more than lawyers. Another example of misplaced trust.

In my experience, the only – though far from fool-proof – way to improve the odds of seeing the right lawyer, or medic, is to ask other professionals for their recommendations. And if you can get a few recommendations, from various professionals, then this will improve the odds that you are to see the right person for your issue. Ask the professional: if they had the [insert type of legal case or symptom] that you have, who would they want to see and why? And even if you see the very best professional, you won’t know if they are having an off-day.

All this assumes that the patient, or client, has ready access to other lawyers or doctors in their social circle, usually as part of their middle class advantage. Of course, online reviews and your own instinct have some place in judging the merits of various professionals, but know that, unless you are an expert in the field yourself, you simply don’t know whether your professional is any good.

 

So, good luck!

CategoriesTechThought of The Day

Mark My words: The World Has Just Changed Forever

Like many forty-something-year-olds, I spent the first 18 years of my life without the internet, or a mobile phone. In the last quarter century of online usage, like most people, I have had my mind blown by some of the online developments. Google Streetview remains most impressive.

 

But nothing has shocked me to my core as the artificial intelligence tool, Chat CPT. I beg all the readers of this blog to have a play with this free tool. I have barely scratched the surface of its capabilities.

 

Life on earth will never be the same again, as mainstream, free AI has just landed. Ask it anything. Try it!

 

Some examples below:

 

My question: Which jobs are most likely to not be made obsolete by AI in the next 20 years?

 

It is difficult to predict with certainty which jobs will not be made obsolete by AI in the next 20 years, as developments in AI and automation technology are constantly evolving. However, there are some jobs that are less likely to be automated, such as those that require creative or critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and social skills. These may include jobs in the arts, education, health care, and social services. Additionally, jobs that require a human touch, such as hairdressing or massage therapy, are also less likely to be automated. Ultimately, the best way to protect yourself against job automation is to continually develop your skills and knowledge and stay up-to-date with the latest trends and technologies in your field.

 

My question: Write a rhyming poem about Rosa Parks meeting William Shakespeare in space

 

Rosa Parks and Shakespeare meet in space, A moment so out of place, But as they converse, they both see, That in each other, they share history.

Rosa, the civil rights queen, Who took a stand, and made a scene, And Shakespeare, a master of words, Whose plays and sonnets are still heard.

Together they marvel at the stars, And all the planets that are far, They ponder the mysteries of the universe, And the paths that they both traversed.

Rosa speaks of the struggles she faced, And the courage it took to take her place, Shakespeare listens with great care, And offers words of wisdom and repair.

For in their conversation, they find, That they both have fought for what is right, And though they come from different times, Their hearts and minds are intertwined.

So they continue their chat in the night, Two trailblazers, shining bright, Rosa Parks and Shakespeare in space, A meeting that will never be erased

 

My daughter’s question: Write a poem about Andrew Gray and Truth Legal

 

Andrew Gray is a man of truth, A lawyer who knows the proof, He fights for justice every day, In a world that can sometimes be gray.

With words and laws as his tools, He fights for what is right and true, He stands up for the weak and oppressed, And never lets injustice go unrest.

For Andrew knows that truth will win, And that justice always finds a way in, He stands strong and never falters, For he knows that truth will always conquer.

So let us all learn from Andrew Gray, And never be afraid to speak our truth and say, That justice and truth must always prevail, And that with courage, we can never fail

…………………

 

I bet you are wondering about the weird image which accompanies this blogpost. Well, I used another AI tool which generates free images. Try: Stable Diffusion.

In this instance, I asked for an image of “3 Quaker lawyers eating food”. Not bad, heh?

CategoriesHealthEnvironmentInternational AffairsTravelPolitics

The Sick Man of Europe

(Written during take-off from Tenerife South, Airport)

 

Travelling on a rickety bus in rural Thailand, back in 2000, I had my only epiphany. The vast distance from home – turbocharged by the cultural punch in the face that South-East Asia delivers with aplomb – afforded me 20:20 insight into how my life was going, and what the future might look like.

 

And it wasn’t a pretty picture.

 

For context, I had just finished my second year at university: a year I could barely recall due to too much booze, insufficient studying and little progress on the friend front. Frankly, I was a mess. As I realised, to continue on that trajectory would lead only to a 2:2 degree – or worse – with the resulting deleterious impact upon my career.

 

Encouraged by the bone-jangling bus – where only moronic backpackers sit at the back, being the most bone-jangly seats – I made myself a solemn promise. On return to the UK, I’d get my act together, and achieve a 2:1.

 

One year later, it was mission accomplished.

 

Travel does that, doesn’t it? It provides the gift of perspective. Perhaps perspective is the best reason to just go – and to go anywhere. And it’s from my literal vantage point, as I type, 30,000ft up, zooming away from Tenerife, that I feel confident to write the following.

 

The UK is poorly, not irreversibly sick, not yet on life-support, but we are in desperate need of a reset. Deep down, I think all Brits know this. Naturally, we have much to be proud about; the high net migration figures is sufficient proof that we live in an enviable land. But we are on the decline.

 

……

 

One week earlier, leaving the UK, from Leeds-Bradford airport (which is it: Leeds, or Bradford?), is a traumatising, harrowing experience. A national embarrassment. Twice now, in a matter of months, I have nearly missed my plane due to the unfathomably lengthy queues to get through security. And neither time was I travelling during peak season.

 

This time, with the knowledge that another horrible queue awaited me, I had ummed and ahhed about having special assistance at the airport, for I had been feeling somewhat unsteady on my feet those preceding days. I opted against help. I’d brave it, I thought.

 

Big mistake.

 

Feeling like something that you would scrape off your shoe, standing for 90 mins, with heavy hand luggage, it was tougher than a marathon. And I’ve run two. All around me, patient Brits – and all other nationalities – queued without grumble, for this is the national sport.

 

Conversely, at the far busier airports of The Canary Islands, security and passport control is so speedy that I do not recall the experience. Financially, the longer people wait in queues, the less that they can spend. Intellectually and economically, how can British airport operators justify such a delay? And why should we highlight our incompetence to the world by making travel to the UK so disagreeable?

 

Anyway, after a mad dash to the plane, setting-off over gorgeous, awakening and misty Yorkshire, several – just a few – relentless, small wind turbines, brought me joy. But within an hour, my joy had turned to despair, for we were flying over rural Ireland, which was carpeted by far larger, functioning glorious wind turbines. Why does Ireland get it, but we don’t? Growing up, Ireland was the butt of every joke. But who’s the fool now?

 

Never forget that David Cameron essentially banned onshore wind turbines, and no Tory leader since has changed the policy since (though Truss had covertly planned to do so). Future generations will be rightly furious. I’m enraged now.

 

To compound my misery, arriving in Tenerife, I was greeted by legions of massive turbines, standing proudly, purposefully, environmentally. See: Brits are the odd ones out! Onshore wind is a no-brainer.

 

What’s more, wind turbines and airports aside, in The Canaries I have repeatedly observed that the traffic flows; the hospitals function; ambulances arrive, with the utmost haste; pavements pose no danger; parking is easy and free; the people are warm and polite; the children are driven and respectful (I witnessed a language school in operation); there are public electric charging points, unlike in Harrogate; inflation is lower; life is slower; and the general costs are cheaper. Sure, not everything is better, but this isn’t the world’s 5th largest economy I was travelling in.

 

And what really hammered home the difference between the two countries was a sign outside of a lawyer’s office which stated that the firm closed at 2pm every day! Just imagine that, lawyers.

 

Perhaps the Spanish mainland has the same sort of problems that we have in the UK; I cannot say. Possibly, until recently, the blank canvas provided by The Canaries – for they are volcanic islands – allows for more sensible policies, uncoupled to outdated ways. Perhaps what we need in the UK is a metaphorical volcanic eruption of our own; to let us start over, taking the best bits of the UK and scrapping the worst parts. Perhaps Brexit was that eruption. Only time will tell.

CategoriesHealthThought of The Day

Cuando In Tenerife

It’s 8pm on Saturday night. I’m alone, in Puerto De La Cruz, Tenerife. Two guitarists serenade the busy restaurant. I have a table in the corner, squinting at the TV, watching Argentina V Mexico in the World Cup. The delightful smell of garlic wafts over. The night isn’t balmy; it’s quasi-balmy, if you know what I mean.

I await la comida sin gluten. Wish me luck. My Spanish – though improving – lets me down, repeatedly. Perhaps I will be served a plate of gluten. Yummy.

I booked this trip on Thursday, for the Friday. Solo. I simply had to do something to arrest the deterioration in my darn (yawn) health.

As I type, a lady, twice my age, with pink hair, takes the mic and begins to sing in Spanish. She’s good. The audience – all Spanish – of a certain age, begin to clap in tune.

The steak is chewy, just about dead. In a first for me, here’s a photo, true Instagram-style. My new theory is that the health of the modern human is damaged if we depart too much from what our ancestors did. I doubt that we are meant to spend our working day on a chair, tapping away on a keyboard. I doubt that our brains are able to cope with the constant bombardment of emails, WhatsApps and tweets  I doubt that we should eat three square meals per day.

It’s still 0-0.

All day, I have been thinking about how long I have felt so rough. For the last two years, if not longer, for every waking minute, I haven’t felt quite right. Sometimes, I’m at 90% health and nobody could know anything was wrong. At other times, I’m down at 20%. That’s quite the thing, isn’t it?

I don’t know whether to treat this illness as a battle, a marathon. Or, I wonder, perhaps I should make peace with it. Certainly, many parts of my life have been better for me and my family since I couldn’t work as I once did. Certainly, many aspects of life are worse. I don’t feel sorry for myself. But I would like to run again.

The Stoic in me knows that I shouldn’t expend any energy contemplating matters outside of my control, but elements of this illness appear to be within my control. Surely there’s a cure? So I should keep fighting, right?

Then I realise – again – that there’s no medic who has my back. Nobody is trying to make me well. It’s all on me. Chronic illness is unsexy; and ones caused by big pharma aren’t being fixed by big pharma, because there’s no money in it. Oh, and it’s better for them that’s there’s no admission of blame  

The guitarist duo start to play the Spanish classic “Cuando, Cuando, Cuando”. When, indeed.

Messi scores.

CategoriesHealthHarrogateThought of The Day

Pooper-Scooping

It’s 11pm, in the Autumn. On the Stray, it’s raining hard. As ever, the wind is unforgiving. The streetlights are off. Underfoot, mushed-up leaves. I’m soaking, particularly my feet.

 

Despite multiple commands to “do a poo-poo”, the dog looks at me, bemused, his orange flashing collar makes me nauseous.

 

Then, at last, we have action! Thankfully, mission accomplished, over a pile of leaves: which always makes for easier scooping.

 

With the handy torch, on my phone, precariously balancing between my knees, successfully I scoop-up my prize, depositing it in the nearby bin. Good dog: he usually does it close to a bin. “Yes, you can have plenty of biscuits. Let’s go home.”

 

Although I hated every nappy I changed, and although, until recently, I hated pooper-scooping, today I’m loving it.

 

These little, irrelevant everyday things – tasks which I hitherto despised – have now taken on a whole new joy, because I can now do them, after so many months of uselessness on my part.

 

After 42 years of living mainly in my head – living in the past and, more often, living in various futures – I’m learning to live in the moment, as Alan Watts repeatedly advised us to do. Life is now! Revel in it. Life isn’t in the future! Forget the past. Delight in the now. And pick up the poop.

 

CategoriesInternational AffairsPolitics

Cuban Missile Crisis 2.0

We are living through a more dangerous period than the Cuban Missile Crisis, yet nobody is talking about it.

With Russian ground forces getting pulverised, with its air force still without air superiority, with its navy hiding and with 300,000 poor conscripts mobilsed, Russia is in a jam of its own making. Russia is losing: it is no longer a conventional war threat to NATO countries.

Last week – the same week as Putin road-tested his nuclear capabilities – Russia blamed the United Kingdom for the following:

  • Training the Ukrainians in how to create a dirty bomb.
  • Deploying personnel on the ground in Ukraine, which directed a number of successful drone attacks on the Russian Navy.
  • Blowing up Nord Stream 1.

In addition, in a speech, Putin highlighted Liz Truss’s nuclear sable-rattling during the Tory leadership contest. This is war talk.

In normal times, such allegations would be all that sensible people would be talking about. But we are in a de facto war against a nuclear nation and still people are not talking about how we have become, after Ukraine, target number 2 in the world. Not only are we supplying Ukrainians with weapons, but we are also training tens of thousands of their conscripts here in the UK. It seems to me that we are way beyond just waging a proxy war against Russia.

I am not arguing that our policies are wrong, rather, I am highlighting the fact that we are an increased risk of annhilation and yet this is not what people are talking about. During previous threats of nuclear catastophe, some people stockpiled food and built nuclear shelters.  But why not now?

Before the conflict, Dominic Cummings blogged about the possibility of a nuclear accident triggering a war. He wrote:

“The cumulative probability of disaster grows alarmingly even if you assume a small chance of disaster. For example, a 1% chance of wipeout per year means the probability of wipeout is about 20% within 20 years, about 50% within 70 years, and about two-thirds within a century. Given what we now know it’s reasonable to plan on the basis that the chance of a nuclear accident of some sort leading to mass destruction is at least 1% per year. A 1:30 chance per year means a ~97% chance of wipeout in a century…”

During peace times, we have become accustomed to living with the risk of a nuclear accident wiping out mankind. Oddly, in times of war, it seems that, for most people, the calculus has not altered. I’ll level with you: I am worried, particularly as a Brit living near a US spy base – Britain, island nation, severed from Europe both physically and politically.

With power cuts expected this winter, hospitals in dire straits and with Tory Austerity 2.0 en route, these are the most precarious of times. I can understand why people would want to leave. One perverse crumb of comfort is that, as Putin expects, the difficulties Europe will face in winter might tip the balance towards settlement. Secondly, though nobody noticed, read Sunak’s words about Ukraine as he stood outside Number 10 as Prime Minister:

“…after all the dislocation that caused in the midst of a terrible war that must be seen successfully to its conclusions …”

Now contrast those words with Lizz Truss’s leaving speech regarding Ukraine:

“We must be able to outcompete autocratic regimes, where power lies in the hands of a few. And now more than ever we must support Ukraine in their brave fight against Putin’s aggression. Ukraine must prevail.”

Barely, imperceptibly different, but different in emphasis. Perhaps I am reading too much into it, but my estimation is that Sunak will be less hawkish on Russia and will likely prioritise the economy over Ukraine. If so, hopefully a negotiated settlement can be reached.

Whilst this plays out, I shall remain dismayed that my fellow countryman are disinterested in the risk to us, here in the UK. But As Twain puts it: “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

CategoriesInternational AffairsPoliticsThought of The DayBusiness

Seven Recent Observations 

  1. On the Budget from Dumb and Dumber

As I highlighted in my penultimate blog, Truss is an ideologue. She doesn’t hide it. Her recent budget was a piece of work: never has a new Prime Minister committed political suicide so quickly. I will, though, defend Truss to some extent.

During the unfathomably and unforgivable leadership campaign, during which we had no functioning Government, despite being mired in crisis, and with Reckless Boris taking two holidays – holidays he could have taken following his jettisoning from office – few people would have noticed that Truss said in an interview that the ideological, swingeing cuts to the State between 2010-2015 carried out by – until this week – the worst Chancellor in British history – George Osbourne – went too far. That is an understatement, but she was right. Those cuts triggered a double-dip recession, a rarity in post-war Britain, because they damaged confidence in the economy (as well as diminishing the State’s massive spending power). I shall award half marks to Truss for understanding half of the lesson from that period and having the guts to say so.

For me, campaigning against those wicked cuts in or around 2010 remains something that I am proud of (though I might have gone too far by making our baby deliver leaflets in the winter).

andrew gray cuts

To her credit, Truss understands that economics – and I studied it – is no science. Truss knows that modern economies, particularly ones built on the service sector and the housing market, react to psychological factors, more than anything else. Hence her misjudged budget of boosterism on steroids.

This was not the time for financial imprudence, as Sunak kept telling the Tory members, but they didn’t listen. Cuts to taxes, particularly to stamp duty, with the hope that this will stimulate our economy, would always be counterproductive if the independent Bank of England had to rapidly increase interest rates to stave-off a run on the pound. This last week has wreaked havoc to the nation’s economic psychology and guarantees an end to Tory rule, with Labour enjoying a massive poll lead, even though they have nothing to say.

Although flawed and damaged goods, at least it was Truss who had to handle the Queen’s passing. My guess is that Reckless Boris’s tenure embarrassed the Queen. It remains fascinating and more than coincidental that she died so quickly after the ejection of Reckless Boris. Classy to the end.

  1. On Dealing With Putins

Having litigated for 17 years, I have learned a thing or two about disputes, particularly about the psychology of a dispute. One memorable and nasty piece of litigation I was involved with, reminds me of the situation facing Ukraine today.

In my case, the Defendant had all the appearances of a smart, sophisticated and logical opponent, but they then made decisions which dumfounded my colleagues and me. As a litigator, we are taught to put ourselves in the position of our opponents, in order to second-guess what moves they will make. In this case, our opponent made illogical and self-defeating moves. Rather than emboldening us, we were left – and still remain – bamboozled. Settlement followed due to the erratic nature of our opponent, despite the weakness of their position. The litigation was hellish but as Robert Louis Stephenson once said: “Compromise is the best and cheapest lawyer.”

Litigation is a form of war – war in a legal context, and with some rules, which are zealously enforced. War, on the contrary, is not really bound by any enforceable law. My view is that the situation for Ukraine is, sadly, unwinnable. The threat of nuclear escalation is real: what might deter a tactical nuclear strike is the prevailing wind. Of course, Russia isn’t going away any time soon and any successor to Putin might be more competent as well as being equally determined to seize Ukrainian land. In international affairs, bullies with nuclear weapons succeed – that is realpolitik.

Absent any new world policeman – which of course is prevented due to the Russian veto on the Security Council – a rapid settlement is urgently needed. Although I have seen not one single report of recent settlement talks, the only signal of a possible settlement is the Truss-Kwarteng budget. If peace is declared, the real – and psychological – world-wide boost, will promote financial growth internationally. In that case, the Truss-Kwartang budget was clever, but premature. (For clarification, absent an immediate ceasefire, the budget was lunacy.)

  1. On Doing Business Deals

From my experience as a lawyer and an entrepreneur, I can tell you that exchanges of emails, or letters, is the worst way of negotiating business deals. If you can, do it in person, when everyone has eaten and had enough sleep. The written word can be poison. The same word spoken always lands more gently and is therefore more conducive to finding agreement.

  1. Thoughts on the Queen

By far the most interesting analysis I have seen on the passing of the Queen was from Professor of Psychology, Jordan Peterson, here. Peterson was delivering a live Q & A when the news of the Queen’s death landed, so he had to think on his feet. To cut a 14-minute monologue short, Peterson’s key point is that the alternative to a constitutional monarchy is an elected Head of State. Peterson said that most people cannot handle the fame of being Head of State, pointing to Donald Trump, who acted like a Tzar. To have one family, albeit a financially hyper-privileged family, carrying the burden of fame and constitutional power, solves many of a nation’s difficulties. I don’t like the idea of a monarchy, but perhaps the alternative is worse.

Peterson’s second point is that there is wisdom baked into our monarchical system. He said that the Queen was able to intimidate the 14 Prime Ministers who served under her – and listening to former PMs talk about her, it seems that Peterson was onto something.

Would I want to live with a President Johnson? No. Would I like to live in a country with an elected President in addition to a Prime Minister? Probably not. Who is the President of Germany? Exactly. On the countless times that this nation was embarrassed internationally by Reckless Boris and now by Truss, at least these two were not our only figureheads.

But would I bow to a Queen or a King? Never. Would you? I should add that I pity the royal family: just imagine having your relative’s funeral televised for billions to see. No thank you very much.

  1. Magic Mushrooms and Philosophy

Someone recently told me of the psychedelic effects of eating the “right” type of mushrooms – mushrooms which grow throughout Yorkshire. For clarity, I don’t support, nor recommend, such actions: it seems dangerous to me, as well as being illegal. The description of the mind-altering “qualities” reminded me of my recent experience of Nietzsche’s key findings (I know this sounds pretentious.)

But I challenge any reader not to be thrown by Nietzsche’s ideas, particularly that of nihilism. Nothing clears my mind better than a batch of Nietzsche – the YouTube videos do a superb job of summarising his work, as his writings are, for me, mostly impenetrable. This quotes sums up his work for me:

“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.”

Meditate on that if you will: imagine that there is no right way – no right way, of anything, of being, of thinking! All value structures fall away: now that is mind-altering!

  1. On Onshore Wind

Over the last few months, I have become increasingly interested in onshore wind. With the country facing an energy crisis (years in the making), we must remember that it was Cameron’s Government which made onshore wind virtually impossible, due to their draconian planning regs. This point was hammered home by opposition MPs during the recent House of Commons fracking debate.

But what was most interesting about the debate on fracking is that – not once – did Jacob Rees Mogg let on that anything would change in relation to onshore wind, despite the barracking he was taking. Then, the next morning, without fanfare, his department declared that they would permit onshore wind. You couldn’t make it up. At last, commonsense has prevailed.

  1. On Inflation and Crypto

Where has all this inflation come from, people are asking. Simple: although I have seen wildly different figures, between 40-80% of all dollars in circulation in the world – remembering that dollars are the world’s reserve currency – were printed since Covid. Digest that fact.

This printing of money, deployed by most countries in the world, is the main factor behind inflation. High inflation is no surprise. If there is an iron law in economics, then is it that the printing of money will eventually lead to inflation. And when there is inflation, coupled with low interest rates, there is no point putting money in a bank account, hence why people buy assets, which then inflate prices. High inflation post-Covid was obvious.

As an owner – and an advocate – of crypto currencies, my view is that crypto or other digital currencies soon to be deployed by governments, stand to gain significantly from global high inflation. So far, this hasn’t occurred. On the contrary, crypto is down this last 6 months, due to the strength of the dollar, because, in tough times, people buy dollars. But give crypto time.

If inflation remains a global issue, which I suspect that it will, particularly if Ukraine and Russia settle, my ignorant recommendation is to have a portfolio of crypto assets, if only £10 here and there, just to get a feel for how it works.

CategoriesLegalHealthQuakerismBusiness

Leaving my own law firm after a decade

(Due to poor health, three of my colleagues at Truth Legal are buying my shares in a Management Buy-Out. A few days ago, I gave a speech at our 10th birthday party in Hotel Du Vin, Harrogate. Below, is my speech, though, I have omitted all the personal comments that I made about my wonderful team, as well as removing the never-ending list of “thank-yous”. For posterity, I record here what I said that night. As with other speeches, I write down what I will say, just in case I get lost. Another time, when I have processed it, I will write more about this monumental decision.)

…………………………………………………………………………………………………….

10th party truth legal

Welcome, everybody, welcome to the Truth Legal 10th birthday celebration!

 

Somehow, we made it!

 

Wow, I’m honored that you all came here today to celebrate with us. Thank you.

 

I hope that you all have an excellent and useful evening, and that you drink the bar dry.

 

For those who don’t know me, I’m Andrew Gray. I’m the founder of TL and its my job this evening to explain how we got here and to say a gazillion heartfelt thank yous.

 

How did we get here?

I’m going to explain how we did it, and I’m going to introduce you all to our team, most of whom are here today. After all, a law firm is really just a collection of people.

 

When I left my last law firm, Thompsons, where I used to work with Navya, Sarah, Catherine, David and Julie, Hardev, Shabana, Joel and Sarah, I was either going to be at stay at home dad, or was going to set up a law firm.

 

Crazily, I was only four years qualified and my wife and I had two kids under 2, the youngest of whom just didn’t sleep. And still doesn’t sleep. It must have been the option to sleep in an office which made me set up.

 

I shall let you into a secret: as you would imagine, I calculated the costs of setting up a law firm and working out how far we could last on our meagre saving and on Julia’s maternity pay. I then added up all family outgoings. Although it would be a scrape, as Personal Injury law firms aren’t paid for a few years, I thought we’d get by. So, I handed in my notice.

 

A few weeks later, I realized that I had forgotten to take into account our mortgage payments.

 

So, TL only came into being because I can’t budget or count.

 

Why Truth Legal?

 

Because I am a Quaker. If you don’t know Quakers, think of Rowntree, Llloyds, Barclays, Cadburys and Waterhouse, Judi Dench. Essentially, we believe in equality, sustainability, peace, simplicity and Truth – hence Truth Legal.

 

For me, a law firm had to be about something more than just making money. I wanted a law firm that would take a stand. Be unpopular, if needed. Do the right thing.

 

And I believed it then and still today, that there’s no point in living in a democracy if you can’t use the laws enacted by our representatives, because you can’t afford a lawyer.  Access to law should be akin to access to the NHS.

 

(Here came lengthy thank yous to all the staff individually and to our friends, clients and suppliers)

 

Finally, before we talk about what happens next, let me tell you about our MD, Georgina Parkin. When she was a trainee solicitor, she took a new phone enquiry. She said that the caller was a “Secretary” and that the secretary was making the call with “a member”. When I pushed her, she said that the Secretary was a typist who does a variety of rolls in an office. The caller was a “General Secretary” of a Trade Union!!

 

Despite that blip, Georgina has been the safest pair of hands. She qualified quickly; became a director; then perhaps the youngest Law Society President; became our MD; became a mum; and then an equity partner. That’s a meteoric rise and we wouldn’t be where we are today without Georgina.

 

The Future

Initiated by me, because I am not able to work as I once did and I don’t want people generating profit for me, I am pleased to tell you all that we have agreed a Management Buy Out. Georgina, Louis and Navya will be buying my shares and I will become a consultant of the firm.

 

My wife asked me to not to quote Boris Johnson who finished with “Hasta La Vista Baby”.

 

So, I’ll finish with:

 

“In heaven there is no beer, that’s why we drink it here”