In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Never Surrender.”
There were a few prompts on the suggestion page for this latest exercise on the blogging101 course, but this was the only one that got a reaction from me.
I have a strong sense of “justice”, I hate unfairness and I hate authoritarian incompetence – and sometimes – I get my campaigning hat on, as you may have noticed, if you’ve read any of the posts in my “how ridiculous” category!
My Dad was a solicitor (lawyer for you yanks), and he was fond of the saying – a quote from Dickens I hasten to add –“The law is an ass!”
He had a practise in Kensal Green, a predominantly mixed race area of London, from about 1955 – 1977, when he passed away.
I’d occasionally go with him ‘to the office’ on Saturday’s, when I was a teenager. He was that old fashioned kind of law man, that you never encounter these days. He had an enormous old desk, in a very cluttered office, with a couple of clerks, and a long term bossy secretary who ran his office for him, and whose name escapes me just now, but I got to know her quite well.
I was supposedly there to “do some filing”, and I think I even got paid for it, tho’ I never did very much, and had no idea of what office work and the law entailed. (Boring, was what I though at the time!) Actually, I was probably there because my mother wanted me out of the way for some reason.
Spending time alone, with my Dad, was a very rare occurence, and we both enjoyed chatting on the drive there and back, and cautiously got to know each other. I never understood at the time, that he wanted to get to know me, and he wanted me to get to know him, and this was his way of doing it.
One of the things written on the brass plaque outside the office, apart from his name and his proud boast that he’d got a degree from Oxford – BA(Oxon) – a real achievement for a poor valley boy, together with LLB, legal qualifications, – was
“Commissioner for Oaths” – its a strange ‘legal term’, and I can’t tell you exactly what it means, even now. But its something about having papers witnessed and stamped. Maybe immigration papers, as there were plenty of immigrants in London even in those days, and other official forms, I don’t know.
But what I remember very clearly was that, one Saturday morning, I happened to barge into my Dad’s office whilst he had a client there – a ‘no no’ in anyone’s book – and found him chatting with a down at heel Jamaican man, who’d come in to have some papers sworn. He’d spent about an hour with him, explaining the law about something, and I hadn’t realised he was still there.
What I barged in on was a scene I will never forget. The man asking what he owed, and my dad said,
“put a couple of pennies in the charity box for me will you, and we’ll call it quits.”
And then they shook hands.
The man could never have paid the legal fees, but this way he kept his dignity and his self-respect. He’d paid his way, and helped someone else too. My dad showed his compassion, his wisdom, and his humanity in that small act of kindness – a side of him I’d never glimpsed in the hurly burly of family life.
It didn’t stop me arguing with him during my teenage years, but these days, I can’t remember what the arguments were about, but I can remember his actions that day!
So, rather than say, as I thought I was going to say when I started this piece – something banal like
“Never Surrender Your Fight For Justice”
What I’d prefer to say, in the name of my Dad is ….….
NEVER SURRENDER –
YOUR HUMANITY, AND YOUR COMPASSION FOR OTHERS!
His name was (a version of) Solomon, and I am proud to be Solomon’s daughter.