07 December 2012


If I write this right, it's funny.

For some weeks now ive been trying to pin my attorney down to take me to a notary for swearing an oath that i'm telling the truth about maman's Will being *her* will and not some forgery ive concocted to do my bro out of his rightful mess of potage. Then i send the notarised doc for my bro to sign that he isn't doing the dirty on me, then the pro gets bated and maman's invested quizillions are released and we split it 50/50 and mince around snootile e'er after.

We finally make it to the Notaire's and walk past her office who looks up and waves us to sit down.

Reassuringly dumpy and stern with dismissive expression that I like in my notaries.

We are finally beckoned in and I stand to attention as my avocat explains all and the notary peers over her bi-focals and asks questions and i bob and simper.

The notary suddenly exits without explanation and I thrill further to this high and mighty treatment.

Suddenly a whippet of a girl enters, exchanges kisses with my attorney and sits down at the receipt of custom, pulling my papers to her and running her finger down, stopping here and there and asking questions of my attorney. They are the most accurate proofreader's queries and sensible questions ~ What is a commissioner of oaths, why can't the British vice-consul be doing this? What does 'land vested in the said deceased' mean? Who is this Peter Holmes and why is he down as living in Italy? I tell her that the Vice-Consul does not do oaths. Since when? Since a few months ago. Whippet barks an order and one of the quietly assembling minions slips out. It is like a great doctor attended on his tour by acolytes. Think James Robertson-Justice, except Whippet is petite and JR-J was large and grand.

The minion returns and there is a quick exchange during which Whippet fixes a searching laser gaze on me.

"The vice-consul no longer handles Wills"

'As I said.'

"You said Oaths. This is the oath, this is your mother's Will, where I sign and you sign." Ulp and blimey.

"What does 'make Oath and say' mean? I suggest that it means I read it out loud, but my gal disagrees, it being in learnèd legal lingo that no one will understand.

Oh poh poh, the sharp look at my lawyer from Trixie Notary ... asbestos peels from the ceiling.

Then begins the charade resembling the marriage ceremony in 'Love, Actually' where Rowan Atkinson wrestles with the complicated order of marriage service. The notary queries many archaic phrases and I pronounce them in my fluting tones - "to the best of my knowledge information and belief ['what is knowledge information? There should be a comma, no?' I salute her sharp eye and she fixes me an appraising gamma ray. I decide, no toadying flattery.]

'Which remained settled land notwithstanding such death', 'exhibit in the Court a full inventory of the said estate and render an account thereof ...'

Somewhere down the line I am reading so much of it and the assembled company are all lip-synching along that I suggest I start again and actually DO swear the whole oath aloud. I see the Whippet thinking, 'Good idea, then when i'm next in court with this sort of damfool British document - and Hizzoner is struggling - I can volunteer "I believe it is pronounced thus etc etc ... I believe there should be a comma there ... So I start reading it in my Balliol George Sanders accent and everyone cranes forward to hear this rare Shakespearean performance.

At one point, the notary, who has a front seat over the text, tells them to stand back, reminding them that this is a serious legal matter, not the local amateur dramatics.

I articulate every vowel and pause portentously on every comma. When I end, there is a tense silence and exhalation of breath as if I am a visiting Ricardo Burton and have pulled off a rare feat of diction.

You had to be there, you really did.

The notary starts to sign but my nervous rep says something that stops her midway on her first swoop of the signature.

It is a silly question and Notarina gives her a dirty look and returns to sign, but she has to make a re-swirl so as to continue where she was rudely interrupted.

I joke that she has to make a practice running jump to maintain the fluidity.

She gives me such a beaming smile, as if "So you understand." I think

'Hotdamn, you're hot! I bet you keep the men dying for that smile'.
The acolytes missed it but they titter.

Once outside, I comment to my lawyerene who replies

'Ohh don't talk of that matter. You see how angry I make her? She has to find her signature again. But you speak so well! You see how they all listen? They never hear such good English - and your voice, so strong and with commandment'

It has started to rain and I offer my umbrella, a strangely intimate few minutes as we walk back to her office. We brush cheeks outside her office and agree to keep in touch.

"But you're always in court with your phone turned off."

'I give you my special number'

"After six years?"

See what a bit of Larry Olivier can do?

"Why, may not that be the skull of a lawyer? Where be his quiddities now, his quillities, his cases, his tenures, and his tricks? Why does he suffer this mad knave now to knock him about the sconce with a dirty shovel, and will not tell him of his action of battery?"

Can you hear me in the back? She had.


Simon Baddeley said...

Sublime! That I had been there - a mere fly upon the notary wall (:)) But 'Not a jot more, my lord' This is your bestest piece ever. Cut and print!

Corfucius said...

too kind

Corfucius said...

have tightened n corrected.

Simon Baddeley said...

I love the way Greeks with their sublime foundational language are honouring ours within the layers of gentle teasing and self mockery. A joyful Anglo-Hellenic anecdote...It's domestic. Feels like we are family...especially now (Graham Green touch) the consul doesn't do oaths. Oh yes can the Greeks pronounce the plural of 'oaths' Ha! While they punish us with inflexion we get them on our absurd spelling and pronounciation.