(aka Bike, est. 2007)
Copyright© 2017 Angharad
The weeks seemed to be passing like crazy possibly because I was very busy or getting old, as my children reminded me. I’d stolen an hour for Julie to tidy up my hair at the salon and then wished I hadn’t bothered as she was full of moans and groans about how Brexit was costing them extra for all their hair products, which were imported and with the weak pound....and so on. I tried to remind her I’d voted to remain, it was she who’d voted out. She’d forgotten that, then began a tirade about how Boris had misled her. Trying to lighten the discussion—which was rather one sided—I asked when she’d met Boris Johnson, our accident prone Foreign Secretary, who brings new meaning to diplomacy. Just as well, because he’s never heard the word.
“I didn’t meet him, I just watched him on telly and his bus.” By this I think she meant the one promising £350M per week for the NHS.
“If that’s what Eton and Oxford do to you, I’m glad I went to Sussex,” I chipped in.
Back at the university Diane noticed my hair cut and approved sort of, “Got it done in the meeting did you?”
“What meeting? There’s nothing in my diary.”
“Professor Agnew’s secretary called for you to attend at his office immediately.”
“Immediately after a cuppa, you mean?”
She glowered and went off towards the kettle muttering something under breath which could have been a complaint or some sort of spell to make me disappear.
Of course the tea was too hot to drink quickly and I almost took it with me to Tom’s office. As I entered, Pippa told me to go straight through and followed with a tray of drinks, so I had a second cup—things were looking up, but not for long.
“The Echo, that carrier of invective and misinformation, is counter-suing us regarding the Smithers’ case.”
I nodded my acknowledgement of the university solicitor and the deputy VC. “How come, Jason said we had a good case and had they printed a retraction instead of reissuing their lies, we’d have backed off.”
“Seems they have a new counsel who fancies himself.”
“They claim to have a witness who says he saw Smithers talking with his wife before the murder and he says Smithers was saying the university was making him ill,” offered the solicitor.
“Isn’t that hearsay?”
“Yes but it does us no good and any attempt by us to challenge it makes us look like bullies.”
“I gave Jason the instruction to seek and destroy when we spoke last night.”
“They’ve alluded to the fact that the wealthiest family in England are trying to stop the truth coming out.”
“That’s nonsense,” I said angrily.
“I know that, but many readers won’t.”
“The inquest hasn’t happened yet so how are we stopping the truth being shown?”
“It’s spreading rumours trying to influence public opinion, claiming that High Street Bank has mounted a campaign against them.”
“That is pure nonsense and what has it to do with the university?” I was having difficulty sitting still, I so wanted to punch somebody’s lights out, a certain John Jackson.
“They claim the bank practically owns the university.”
“But that’s an outright lie, the university is a charitable trust underwritten by charter or whatever, it owns itself.”
“Professor Watts, I’m well aware of that fact and have sent a letter to the paper demanding a retraction.”
“How likely are you to get one?”
“Pretty sure, but it’ll be amidst the adverts on page nine.”
“Simon has called in the Financial Services Authority or whatever they’re called to show that the bank has done nothing untoward or against the newspaper, though he also said they would sue if the lies continued.”
“Seems like a rather reckless thing to tangle with the local university and the country’s third largest bank,” said the deputy VC, “The one is much loved by the local people and the other is extremely wealthy and has greater resources than a muck spreading gutter dweller.”
“Are we much loved?” I asked unsure that we were.
“Oh yes, when we beat Oxford in the brownie points contest back in the summer, the locals loved it.”
“The only thing they beat us on is University Challenge,” declared my adopted father and I don’t think anyone contradicted his statement. I wasn’t aware we’d ever been on it, but then I don’t watch it having tired of Paxman’s sardonic and patronising comments towards the students. Just because he and Stephen Fry know every single fact about everything between them, doesn’t give him the right to make fun of hapless teenagers on television who have probably never been in front of a camera before and the temporary amnesia it can cause.
“The inquest is next week,” said the solicitor drawing us back to the matter at hand. “You’ll almost certainly be required to attend, Professor Watts.” It wasn’t exactly a surprise but I suspect it might coincide with half term at the convent. Perhaps if I bribe Sister Maria, she’ll pretend she’s forgotten and it won’t happen. Nah, she needs the break, especially from my kids who would drive a saint to drink after a few weeks.
The meeting eventually broke up mid afternoon and I went straight off to collect the denizens of the convent having told Diane where I was going, “That’s more than you did this morning,” she huffed at me. I left asking her to find out the details of the inquest from the coroner’s office.
Once at home, David showed me a recorded delivery letter summoning me to give evidence at the inquest. As an inquest is a coroner’s court, it’s difficult to refuse and I prepared to keep free the three days it suggested. Diane was going to love me.
“Can we come and watch?” asked Trish.
“Not while I’m giving evidence,” I said firmly, the last thing I needed was a twelve year old picking up the coroner on points of law.
“Meanie,” she called back, “I might be a lawyer,” she added. I was tempted to shout at her, ‘Is this before you develop time travel and nuclear fusion or after you find a cure for cancer and the common cold?’ I suspected she’d watched one too many court room dramas and thinks it’s all glamour and cleverness, whereas, it’s mostly hard work and cleverness and an ability to deal in minutiae, the latter being what often trips up a witness or criminal.
“I’m going to be the new Judge Rinder,” said St Claire’s answer to Isaac Newton as she breezed through the kitchen.
“Only because you like telling people what to do.”
“So?” was her rejoinder. I pointed out the foreman on a building site did the same but was paid less.
“Huh,” she huffed ignoring my whole argument in one exhalation, perhaps she will be a lawyer, she’s bright enough and at times detached from the humanity of others in order to prove her point—like some lawyers, who only empathise when they’re trying to sway a jury.
“What’s for dinner?” I asked David as I sipped the tea I’d just made.
“Oh wonderful, I love salmon.”
“Yes, boss, I had noticed.
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