Legal characters: the scary one
When I first started in the law, as a humble articled clerk (remember them?) I was allocated to a department headed by a dour partner who had, on his door, the equivalent of traffic lights, which he would switch on and off as appropriate, so you knew when it was safe to knock.
It was very formal. He insisted upon being called by his surname. By everyone. I suspect he might even have done that at home. When given the green light, you had to enter the heavily-carpeted, wood-panelled sanctuary of his office, (which had not one, but two chandeliers) and quietly walk up to his desk, whilst he would ignore you and conceal his face behind a strategically-placed desk light.
Some days you might happen to bump into another member of the department there. It wasn’t a place to swap pleasantries.
It was rumoured that he had had a secretary fired, because she had twice had the temerity to address him by his first name.
He always got in at 7, on the dot. His job was to check the department’s post, so God help you if you were late and had to do the walk of shame. There was no point in making any excuse.
Sometimes, unexpectedly, he would completely wrong-foot you and actually speak, but mostly, he would just get on with his work. He never raised his voice. In fact, the more displeased he was, the quieter his voice became. One day, when collecting my post, he held out his hand, “I think this letter is for you”. I looked at it and felt sick.
A letter purporting to be from “ Tweezer Tweezer & Hitler, Solicitors” A beautifully designed spoof letter carefully crafted by my then boyfriend, a graphic designer. Not knowing the post procedure, he thought I would find it exceedingly amusing to receive a lovingly cleverly -written spoof. It looked authentic, and went on to praise my talent at avoiding work and shopping – offering me a position in the firm “in recognition of my vast experience in retail property in the West End”. Ha ha.
However hilarious it might seem, the appearance of the name Hitler in the confines of a Jewish firm is not going to be everyone’s idea of a joke.
My mouth went very dry. The colour drained from my face. Not a word was ever said about it. To this day, I will never know whether he thought it was actually funny and now, sadly, it’s too late to ask.