Simon Brown serves up some more delights
Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood seems to have an inexhaustible supply of memoirs. The first 50,000 words — written entirely on his iPhone — were published in 2021 as Playing Off the Roof & Other Stories. At first, he says, Amazon classified it as a book about DIY construction.
That was followed by Second Helpings — which seems to have avoided the cookery department. Next week, Simon Brown will be launching his second volume as an expanded paperback, to be called Second Helpings & Last Scrapings.
The former law lord is now 86 and his additional chapters — 13 in number — include some with a distinctly valedictory tone. He confesses to a youthful indiscretion, real or imagined. He explains what a junior judge should do in court when the presiding judge starts snoring. And he tells a completely new story about John Maude QC, the judge who famously told one defendant that his act of gross indecency had been all the worse for taking place beneath the arches of one of London’s loveliest bridges and was said to have ordered an old lag not to drink any alcohol at all while on probation — “not even the tiniest glass of dry sherry before Sunday luncheon”.
More importantly, he speaks up for a former pupil at his chambers who, in Brown’s view, was judged more harshly than judges of his own generation had been:
Robert Jay arrived with a brilliant first from New College and, after a predictably successful year’s pupillage, clearly merited a tenancy…
As I proudly boasted in my original memoir, Robert later acted as the hugely impressive leading counsel to Brian Leveson’s long inquiry into press misconduct and regulation. Truly, he emerged from this as an iconic figure, assured of appointment to the High Court whenever he chose. This duly followed as did several years on the bench, winning many well-deserved plaudits along the way.
Until, catastrophically, he came to try a defamation case brought by a litigant in person who tried Robert’s patience to (or, as successive appeal courts later held, beyond) breaking point, so that ultimately an appeal against his judgment was allowed in excoriating terms. Robert immediately then withdrew an application he had earlier made for promotion to the Court of Appeal.
Having read all the judgments in the case, I can only say that I hope still to be around when Robert secures, as surely he must, his further preferment. Really he is far too able a lawyer, and too creative a judge, to spend his whole judicial career at first instance.
Moreover, I cannot help reflecting that had judicial patience… been regarded as an essential attribute of the High Court bench in my day, the senior appeal courts would then have looked very different. Indeed, it is highly doubtful whether my own memoirs would have extended much beyond their initial chapters.
One last party
And then, in a deeply moving passage, Brown compares his time of life to the final stages of a party, when the glasses are no longer being filled and even the bowls of nuts and crisps are empty:
Frankly, I have had my share of the canapés (indeed, rather more than my share). My glass has been filled quite often enough. My appetite for gossip is, of course, inexhaustible; but, that said, it is difficult to believe there remains much left that could still surprise, let alone shock, me.
And, altogether less inexhaustible, alas, are my energy levels: my ability to continue for long to stand and wander around, intermingling with others whom I can no longer always recognise and whose remarks nowadays I catch with only variable success…
It has all been the greatest fun. But, goodness me, after such a very protracted outing, how hugely appealing is now the prospect of home and a good long sleep. Thanks indeed to all my hosts and fellow guests. Fond farewells to each one of you. And, at long last, a heartfelt goodnight to everyone.
But not before the book launch next Thursday.
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