My late paternal grandfather was a lawyer of some considerable repute. He was also a city alderman, served on countless committees, provincial boards, the library board and founded the bookmobile service in British Columbia. Pretty impressive dude. At least I always found him to be so.
However, in his long legal career he suffered one disappointment, but it was, to a degree, his own fault. He was never named Queen’s Counsel. This is, in countries that follow British jurisprudence deemed a great honour in respect to one’s legal services.
I asked him once why he didn’t get the nod. He said it was because he had the wrong politics – as in ‘not those’ of the governing party. Which could only lead me to believe that “taking silk” was kind of a kiss-ass award. And Grampa (see little teeny picture) refused to be a kiss-ass for anyone. Maybe that was foolishly bullheaded, but I respected it then and do now.
His attitude reminded me later of dear Rumpole in the wonderful Rumpole of the Bailey series on TV and it John Mortimer’s infectious books. Crusty old wine-tippling Rumpole wouldn’t suck up to anybody and he showed particular disdain for favour-seeking barristers who ‘took silk’, and treated them as being beneath his contempt.
Rumpole’s creator, Mortimer was, aside from being an infinitely readable and delightful writer, was also a barrister. And it was widely believed that Rumpole was his alter-ego.
But art doesn’t always reflect life. While Rumpole railed with contempt and disdain for the kiss-asses who were QC anointed, Mortimer actually was one (see photo). Well, as I have grown older I can understand his motivation in accepting the ‘honour’. For one thing it can bring some plum contracts to the firm if a goodly number of the advocate ladies and gentleman who toil therein have been so accorded. We do what we have to if it doesn’t ‘really’ compromise professional integrity.
But at the same time I admire Rumpole’s stance in the matter and it’s too bad my grandfather didn’t acquire a bit more of that attitude that says: Hey, it’s not really that important. And that thought can be applied to many things in life we might feel we were unjustly rejected over. Just say “fuck it!”. You’ll feel better.