The train from Paddington is fairly crowded, but we have a table between us. He is about thirty, in a rugby shirt with a neat beard. “That looks antique,” I said, approvingly, of his briefcase: it is thick stressed leather. It would not start a conversation unless he were happy to join in, but he is: he shows all the papers in it. He has a busy Christmas break ahead.
He clerks for a judge, and has files to assess before he returns to London: are there grounds to justify hearing an appeal? He finds that the cuts in legal aid may have increased the number of appeals: there are far more litigants in person. This saves no government money, because the cases take twice as long. On immigration cases, there may be more claims, as before someone might not appeal if legal aid was not granted, but now, knowing a few people who have taken a case themselves, they have a go. One woman had been housed in one town, near people from her country but not those who spoke her language or shared her Christian denomination. She wanted to move to join her community, but as her only ground for a challenge was “homelessness” her claim was hopeless. He sympathised, and wished that something could be done administratively.
Employment cases will be reduced, though, with the huge increase in fees for lodging a claim or fixing a hearing.
He loves London, and cannot imagine living anywhere else. It would just be too small. He had a year in New York, and imagines that he could get fed up with that; but in London you are in your own particular village within it, which has a human scale. He would like to use it better, more concerts, more theatre, and art exhibitions, but does not get round to that.
He recommends Mahler’s sixth symphony. It is profound. It contains the three hammer blows of fate: the end of his marriage to Alma and his daughter’s death- and one other. G would go anywhere in Britain for a performance of it. He played the trumpet in youth orchestras. As a brass player, he has great affection for John Williams: other composers use brass as the fanfare section, but Williams gives the brass melodies. When about to go to university considered schools of music; but it is difficult to make a living and he judged he did not have the wholly exceptional talent needed to live well. As a trumpeter, given the choice of one night playing Shostakovich or six nights playing for The Lion King, he would have to pick the musical.
His phone rings. “Do you mind if I take this?” Oh, of course. I open my kindle intending not to listen in rather than covering up my listening in. I fail: his friend tells him he is getting married, and asks him to be best man.
He did a year of journalism school before being called to the bar, and appreciates a particular Guardian interviewer, who can put a character on the page. It passes all understanding. Later, I see he is a PhD candidate.
Looking at the Vavatch Orbital site, I felt envy. This is a man’s student site, and he has packed his third decade with interest and achievement. I choose to change that to appreciation. I delight in his enthusiasm and his good will.