Triptych

A life x three
RE | Issue 21 | 2022

 

The water

 

The cool dark opaque of the gorge water holes

The kaleidoscope coral canyons of childhood snorkeling holidays

The burning chlorine following the blackline

Diving through the surf on a hot summer morning and feeling reborn

The adrenaline of sailing through walls of water off Fremantle, past the hulking loom of container ships

The glacial lunchtime pick-me-up in Lake Geneve

The silence of diving in a continental rift

An icy running river in the middle of the Vermont forest, washing covid fears away

The salt in my mouth and eyes and hair and ears, telling me I am home

 

The earth

  

The achingly dry, fine red dirt I learnt to crawl in

The squeaky white sand of my childhood beach, sunbaking next to Kangaroos

The cauterizing hot shale near the top of a smoking volcano

The cobbled alleys of the Inns of Court, worn down by a thousand steps

The ruins of Angkor Watt, Tikal, Petra and Abu Simbel, rising out of the ground and slowly returning to it

The crunch of the snow on a silent winter morning in Central Park

The burning sand I dance across on my way to the ocean, telling me I am home

 

The air

 

The embrace of woodsmoke in my parents’ home in winter

The earth-musty smell as a storm rolls in from the ocean

The conversation between the chapel bells ringing; floating into my study in Cambridge

The cling of yellow soupy smog in Beijing

The northern lights dancing across the sky off the Lofoten Islands

The cacophony of horns, and pungent smell of hot cooking street trash laced with hot dogs, in the middle of a Manhattan summer

The waft of roses in my grandparents’ garden

The smell of barbecues on the shimmering summer air, telling me I am home

 

 


 

 

I

 

I have seen André Previn dancing on the podium and I have listened to Jacques Loussier play Bach. But drama is the ultimate art form.

At school, I played the English Ambassador in Hamlet. Six lines at the end of the play, whilst the rest of the cast lay dead on the stage. A role so crucial to the action that it is frequently cut. I have seen countless productions of Hamlet but have long since given up thinking I will find one which matches the one in my head.

Terence Rattigan is underrated now, but his time will come.

 

II

 

It is buildings which interest me most. I vividly remember the first time I walked into the nave of Wells Cathedral and saw the great strainer arch holding up the crossing. It is both functional and beautiful in its simplicity. Which is why modernism has always appealed to me. If I could travel in time, I would go to Vienna around 1900: the city of Gustav Klimt and Otto Wagner, of Gustav Mahler and Arnold Schoenberg, of Arthur Schnitzler and Sigmund Freud. Or I might go in search of the Bauhaus, in Weimar, Dessau and Berlin; and in Belsize Park.

 

III

 

Novels can open our minds to the world. I was a schoolboy in the 1960s when I realized this.

I like beginnings: works of art which seem to spring from nowhere. I particularly enjoy the art of trecento and quattrocento Italy, from Giotto to Piero della Francesca. Art lost its way after Piero, which is why I prefer Siena and Urbino to Florence and Rome. It is the apparent simplicity which I love.

Bach was, and always will be, the fountainhead, but I could happily confine myself to the Haydn string quartets and count myself a king of infinite space.

 

 


 

 

Memories from a shy and earnest articled clerk who four decades ago knew nothing about business and only a little about ‘commercial’ law

 

The articled clerk

 

Failed McGregor hatches, spoiled cargos, and strawberry ice-cream

 

The passion a tax lawyer can feel for their discipline

 

The silence that two shy people can generate between them

 

The interesting personalities one encounters if one works for private clients

 

The client who brought his (previously uninformed) wife to sign the documents for the sale of the family company—a two-hour hiatus and a large diamond ring resolved the issue

 

The tax lawyer

 

The sadness of breaking up and selling one of the firm’s oldest clients

 

The (very elderly) client who introduced me as ‘this is L, she’s a woman, she does tax, it’s incredible’

 

The deals that are the culmination of all the skills you have acquired over your career, and where you can feel yourself learning as they happen—a German/Dutch energy deal and the shipping portfolio of a major bank come to mind

 

That, sometimes, practicality and common sense outweigh legal knowledge

 

That specialist tax lawyers have a shelf life if their specialist area disappears as a result of law changes or economic circumstances

 

Head of risk

 

That you can redeploy a skill set into a new highly technical field later in life, provided you have good people to guide and support you, and a management who trusts you

 

The joy that still comes in finding solutions to a problem

 

Be ready for anything, including pandemics and wars

 

Offering people a glimpse of your life outside work can provide a moment of escape, especially if it involves pictures of baby lambs

 

That people are the most important thing and have been the most important part of my life at Norton Rose Fulbright

 

 


 

With thanks to Jo Feldman in Australia and to Richard Calnan and Louise Higginbottom in England. Their brief was to write about their life in exactly 100 words x three.