A PARTICULARLY ECCENTRIC SOLICITOR IN CHANCERY LANE

One of the companions in the TV series "Doctor Who" - Turlough - was given his own spin-off book, "Turlough and the Earthlink Dilemma". This is my attempt at a sequel to that. I hope it'll work too, though, for people who know nothing of "Doctor Who".

It was an unusually rainy September, even for the town of London on Planet Earth.

Miss Cameron, the new headmistress of Brendon Public School, briefly removed the copy of The Welshman that she had placed on her head to see which building number she was up to. 39. She sighed – Chancery Lane was a long road and the building she wanted was right up the other end. She replaced the oversized drooping newspaper, once again partially obscuring her vision, and proceeded up the road.

After a few minutes she noticed the sound of an old-fashioned gramophone playing rather loudly. She recognised the tune instantly – it was the Eton Boating Song. Mr. Sellick, her predecessor at Brendon, had told her enough about the gentleman she was about to meet to let her know that the sound of the gramophone would lead her to an elegant Victorian building which had been painted a rather startling yellow. It certainly did. She couldn’t fail to see the bright yellow despite the wet newspaper. She went up to the building and rang the huge bell. A man with little round spectacles, long flowing red hair and a rather 19th-century taste in clothing answered the door.

“Good afternoon, Sir. I’m Miss Cameron, headmistress of Brendon.”

Rojam, the occupier of the yellow building, let Miss Cameron in. She looked in wonder at the mahogany, at the stuffed owls, at the gramophones and at the many, many old clocks left around the place as she walked around, now mercifully free of her newspaper. She was less surprised to see shelf after shelf of papers and books or even the occasional modern computer. What she wasn’t expecting, though, was that she would be ushered into a courtyard that had been covered with sand and which had a striped parasol above a table with two deck chairs around it and a beach ball on the sandy ground.

“Take a seat, Miss Cameron,” said Rojam. She sat gingerly down and was unsurprised to feel a little rain trickling down the back of the deck chair. Rojam sat opposite her and opened the file that had been left under the parasol. He produced the document which Miss Cameron had come for. It was all beautifully handwritten and meticulous in its details. Once again Brendon would be paid in advance for two of its students for the next term. Once again there would be a very generous donation added. Once again, though, the head of the school had had to come all the way up to London in person to deal with Rojam Rojam of Rojam Solicitors Inc. in order to deal with the affairs of two students. If Miss Cameron had had to do that for all her students she would have had no time left at all. But time – as her predecessor had warned her – was not something that Mr. Rojam ever seemed to worry about.

“Mr. Rojam…”

“Please, call me Rojam.”

Miss Cameron smiled and started again. She gently suggested that it might be better to conduct their business inside in the warm. Her host’s head fell and he looked very miserable.

“Miss Cameron,” he said after quite a pause, “I spent a great deal of time and energy yesterday – time which I could have spent doing other things – in putting this courtyard ensemble together. The previous head of your school always used to appreciate the different displays that met his eye out here. He was always delighted to take brandy and sometimes a cigar with me out here as we discussed business. I trust that that is not something which will end with your arrival in your post?”

Miss Cameron explained that she neither drank nor smoked but that she was very grateful for the trouble that he had been to and that she would love a cup of tea if it wasn’t too much trouble. Looking at the happy smile on her host’s face, she realised that she had said something right and so remained in place, stoically ignoring the horrible cold wet feeling down the back of her chair as Rojam disappeared to make some tea. She hoped she wouldn’t have to humour him for too long and thought wistfully of all the things she could be doing today. But Mr. Sellick had warned her about that. She would have to write today off and start organising the Lower Fourth’s new cloakroom, replacing the meningitis warning posters and doing Brendon’s pre-term fire drill tomorrow. She couldn’t help smiling at the idea that Mr. Sellick had enjoyed sitting in a courtyard in the pouring rain and admiring whatever art installation the extraordinary solicitor had put together for him. But Mr. Sellick had known how to use tact and diplomacy, particularly when school money was at stake.

Mr. Rojam re-entered the courtyard after a little while carrying a silver teapot, two tea cups, an elegant Victorian dish full of Jaffa Cakes, some sherry and two Champagne glasses. Miss Cameron was far too well brought up to challenge him on his choice of glasses.

“I know you said you don’t drink,” said Rojam. “But I thought you might have changed your mind on the way. Here is some sherry if you would care to take some. I certainly shall, if you’ll permit me, and here is some tea.”

Miss Cameron thanked her host kindly and they sat and drank tea for a while. Rojam soon moved onto the sherry. The charming, slightly overweight blonde-haired formidable lady before him was beyond all his expectations and as the drink started to flow more freely, he began to be a little freer about airing his thoughts. He told her several times what a very elegant lady she was. He also said, smilingly, that he came from the planet Trion and that he had never seen such a smartly-dressed lady there. Miss Cameron filled herself delightedly with Jaffa Cakes and tea and then, shrugging, decided to move onto the sherry to keep her host company. He wasn’t unappealing, she thought, even if he was completely mad.

When she suggested they go indoors she was rebuffed by a good old lecture about how much more oxygen there was in the average teaspoon full of fresh air than there was in the equivalent amount of indoor air, even in London.

Eventually, the telephone rang and Mr. Rojam went inside to answer it. A slightly tipsy Miss Cameron realised that that must be the two students to whom Rojam acted as signatory – Ralib and Nworb. She knew from Mr. Sellick that whichever student or students Rojam was signing for that term would always appear in person later on in the proceedings at Rojam’s insistence. Apparently this had all started back in the 1980s when a rather difficult but very clever boy called Turlough had been enrolled in the school. He had then mysteriously vanished. There had always been at least one student every term since then for whom Rojam was responsible. Miss Cameron did wonder if Rojam did anything else. She had never before met a solicitor who wanted afternoons and evenings to drag on like this.

“That was Ralib and Nworb,” said Rojam. “They’re at the station. I shall go and fetch them. Please remain here and feel free to eat and drink whatever you want. If it starts to get too late, you might want to stay here overnight. Anyway, I shall return presently.”

After he had gone, Miss Cameron muttered quietly to herself, “Yes, I think you do come from the planet Try-On!”

Why had Rojam, Ralib and Nworb got such silly names, she wondered? And what would the students be like?

Smiling happily, she poured herself a large Champagne glass full of sherry and got to work on another Jaffa Cake. She had ceased to worry about the water pouring down the back of her chair.

The End

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