William Donaldson's Week: Passionate and misunderstood

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THE GOOD news is that my legal fighting fund (in re myself and the little trollop who took me to the cleaners) now stands at pounds 9,857.77p - the 77p, as you'll have guessed already, having been coughed up by my friend Val Hennessy. Don't sneer. Every little counts.

The bad news is that I've blown the lot already. Nine thousand smackers down the tubes. Never mind. It's only money, after all, albeit yours.

I blame Mr Alway, who rang me on Tuesday just before I went to see my Uncle John in chambers. I told Mr Alway that a national tabloid, having discovered that the Jockey Club was in the frame (not to mention Darius Guppy's wife, the delightful Pat), had offered to finance the action - hoping thereby to get a squalid exclusive after the matter had been aired in court.

'Would the little trollop's solicitors, McWhirter & Bumscratcher of Bognor Regis, find that unduly provocative?' I asked.

'Forgive me,' said Mr Alway, 'But I'm up to my eyes here casting El Independo. Rachel Garley is still refusing to wear a blonde wig to play Frankie Fraser's friend, the lovely Marilyn. I've quite forgotten the latest state of play with regard to your baby and yourself. You've decided, have you, to hound the sweet, blameless girl to the bitter end - in a nutshell, to be an utter bastard?'

Hullo. Do what? I've never been called that before in conference. Out of the traps a hundred times with Peter Carter-Ruck & Co and I've never once been called a bastard. The merits of the case, yes, estoppel, discovery, full and better particulars, but I've not known ethics to be discussed.

I hung up on Mr Alway and, clutching the pounds 9,857.77p generously remitted by yourselves, managed - just - to compose myself before visiting my Uncle John in chambers.

'Ah Wilfred]' he said. 'How's Bobo?'

'William, actually,' I said. 'She's in the pink.'

'A difficult woman, your sister Bobo. My wife, Dame Mary of the PCC, tells me she won't be played in El Independo by Penelope Keith. And how's Charlie?'

Who? 'Charlie?'

'Your boy,' said Uncle John.

Of course. 'As fit as a fiddle, I wouldn't wonder.'

This was all very well, but it was costing money. They're prudent on the Scottish side of the family (when my father was in hospital, my Uncle Fred flew down from Glasgow already wearing his black tie and funeral suit, on the grounds that packing them would have cost him extra baggage) and my Uncle John no doubt had his metre running.

'About the case,' I said.

'Of course,' said Uncle John, who, in fact, was quite excited, I think, at the prospect of being back at the front-line, up on his feet in adversarial mode after so many years on the bench. 'What have we here? A letter from McWhirter & Bumscratcher of Station Parade, Bognor Regis. I thought your baby, after dumping you, had fetched up further west? Working her way along the south coast, is she? Next week Eastbourne, thereafter Deal? Ha] Ha]'

'Ha] Ha]' I said.

'Still, they'll not know much law in Bognor Regis. I'll clap them in a precedent. Colquhoun and Colquhoun before Mr Justice Parker (1927) at a guess, or was it Colquhoun and Carstairs? My law books, Miss Zamit, if you'd be so good]'

So far so good, but Uncle John suddenly produced a copy of last Saturday's Independent. 'About your column,' he said.

'In contempt, am I?'

'Not yet,' he said. 'And you were right to ridicule that fatuous Spectator essayist for putting Austin and Ayer in the same school philosophically. To make your point, however, you should have cited Austin's savage attack in Sense and Sensibilia (OUP, 1962) on Ayer's theory of sense data as advanced in his Foundations of Empirical Knowledge (1940).'

'I did,' I said, 'but Alice - Roger from Chicago's immediate superior - cut it out.'

'I'll take your word for it,' said Uncle John. 'However, in mentioning Austin's influential distinction between performative and constative utterances, it would have been happy in context had you given 'I find you guilty' as an example of the former. A colleague of mine, an ex- LCJ, relied on this when keeping innocent men banged up. 'If they're innocent,' he used to say, 'why are they in prison?' '

I should have brought up Reena, the mad alsatian, with me. She'd have sat on top of Uncle John and put a stop to this.

'About the case,' I said. 'You think I'll win it?'

'Without a doubt,' said Uncle John. 'But why are you hounding the sweet, blameless girl?'

I ask you. They've no understanding of passion, these thin- blooded lowlanders on my father's side of the family.

'Because I love her. That is obvious, I'd have thought.'

My Uncle John looked baffled. 'It's a funny way of showing it,' he said. 'So, you've decided to be a bastard?'

'She'll understand,' I said. 'I gave her Canetti to read, you see. 'This repetition, this rabid, unremitting reiteration is the homage grief pays to life. The silent endure too much.' She'll understand.'

'That will be pounds 9,857.77p,' said Uncle John.

So, we're back to square one vis a vis the legal fighting fund. In the circumstances, I'd be obliged if you'd carry on remitting.

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