Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Much to say, of which “safely home” is perhaps the most important – but I think the bear deserves pride of place today.

Thomas-the-Elder is going to be called to the bar on Thursday. The bear was for him:

When I, good friends, was called to the bar
I’d an appetite fresh and hearty,
But I was, as many young barristers are
An impecunious party.

I’d a swallowtail-coat of a beautiful blue,
A brief that I’d bought of a booby,
A couple of shirts and a collar or two,
And a ring that looked like a ruby.*

I didn’t attempt to buy a brief, and I failed on “a collar or two”, but the rest was there, including two shirts from Marks & Spencer. The ring was difficult. We had tried several antique shops which hover on the edge of being junk shops – the best sort – here in Edinburgh without success. We visited Electric Avenue in Brixton when we were down in London in the spring. No luck.

But I found it, during the Edinburgh Festival. The normally pleasant terraces beside and around the National Gallery, above Princes Street Gardens, are at that time hideous with crowds and people selling tacky things. My husband and I were hurtling along, as far as hurtle was possible in such a press, from one art exhibition to another, when I saw what I had been looking for – a ruby set in a ring with six small diamonds, mine for £2. I hung it around the bear’s neck on a cord.

But the thing that pulled it all together was the bear’s wig – I will be forever grateful, Shan.

Thomas was very pleased, and I think he said the bear will be taken to the Calling, and may appear in the photographs. (Lincoln’s Inn spelled Calling so, with a capital letter, in the sheaf of paper they sent Thomas specifying how he was to be dressed and how behave on the day.) He – Thomas – isn’t allowed a wig for the actual ceremony, but may wear one for the photographs afterwards.

He was born with a condition called “malrotation of the gut” – the first of several grandchildren to expand our medical vocabularies – and needed a life-saving middle-of-the-night operation when three days old. [Apparently the intestines, in early pregnancy, form outside the foetus, and are put in place with a flick of the Divine wrist which occasionally goes wrong.] It has ever since seemed slightly improbable and very wonderful that we have Thomas at all.

*(W.S. Gilbert, the Judge’s Song, from Trial by Jury)


  1. What an excellent story, and a wonderful gift.

  2. Congratulations to Thomas-the-Elder, and congratulations to you too, for getting so many references covered in your gift!

  3. Anonymous4:01 PM

    My own brother, who turned 70 yesterday, had surgery at the same age for peloric stenosis--the anaesthetic of choice in those days was brandy. (The surgeon later founded The Abstainers Insurance Company).It is amazing what the wee ones can survive!
    And the bear is destined to be a great favourite in chambers, I'm sure.

  4. I like the Judge's Song....and, happy to be of service! Best of luck to Thomas-the-Elder, miracle child.

  5. Anonymous8:15 PM

    Congratulations Jean, and Thomas-the-Elder!

  6. Congratulations to Thomas-the-Elder and his Calling to the Bar.