There’s a sense of permanence about Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Little has changed for centuries. That sense of timelessness is in every Tudor brick, every tiny doorway and in every leaded window. Near by stands the solid Temple Church. Red, warm brick, soaring spires and at the main door a brazier throwing out dramatic flames. Warm, yellow light spills out of the church door.
During the day these buildings bustle with an ant-like intensity. It’s not necessarily noisy but grindingly busy and efficient. In the law chambers the quiet rustle of pages being turned can be heard as documents are studied. People, clothed in grey or black, with just the hint of white at the throat, or around the cuffs, move around purposefully.
Now, as evening falls, on this Spring day, a stillness settles deeply over this ancient place. Pale green lawns, tinkling fountains, golden yellow daffodils, and pink and white blossoms, relieve the coming gloom as the sky turns milky with hints of darker grey. Change can be smelt in the air which is now slightly smoky and chilly. It is light enough at 5 0 clock to sit on the benches and just watch the slow wind down of the day as people move from work to leisure.
In the nearby square men and women walk in their formal clothes to local bars and pubs, to loosen ties, undo top buttons and get on with the business of relieving the day’s stress as alcohol glides, spills and slurps down throats. Some amble over to the tennis courts.
Jane comes out of the chambers of Henry Ainsworth QC and walks across to the square, noticing with quiet pleasure the joggers, tennis players and people just sitting and relaxing.
At 42 Jane has worked all her adult life for the legal profession. She has been legal secretary to Henry for almost 20 years. She told friends that if she was a stick or rock they would find the words ‘legal secretary’ written right through the centre. Her soft brown hair is still in the same curly perm that she arrived in all those years ago. Her face is lightly lined but there is a humorous tilt to her mouth and lovely soft green eyes gaze reflectively around. Jane looks what she is, dependable and hard-working.
As she sits, she notices Henry walking across the grass. Now in his 50s, he is a big man turning paunchy. Evidence of his love for long lunches and too many whiskies. ‘Stress busters’ he calls them.
Henry notices Jane.
‘Jane! Whatever are you doing? Why aren’t you on your way home?’
‘I’m just enjoying a few moments Henry. It feels so fresh. Spring’s here’.
They are perfectly at ease with each other, which is the result of a long working partnership and knowing the boundaries.
Henry knows that Jane lives with her elderly mother in Bethnal Green. Jane, rather humorously, has told him that the area is ‘becoming ‘trendy’ and ‘happening’. But Henry also knows that Jane’s mother depends on her daughter for everything.
Standing there idly watching her he finds himself wondering what she does in the evenings or on the weekends. This surprises him because he isn’t given to introspection. His is a mind that dwells on facts, evidence, proof ‘beyond reasonable’ doubt’.
So surprising himself, Henry sits down next to Jane.
‘I’ll sit a minute. You’re right, it is a lovely evening. Nice to get a breath of fresh air’.
He spoke as if he was proving the case for the prosecution.
Looking at Jane specutively, he asked, ‘What will you do with yourself this evening Jane?’
‘Well, I ‘ll have a nice soak when I get in, wash my hair, make sure mum’s alright and then I’ll go out’.
Henry was startled and quite forgot himself.
‘Go out, wherever will you go?’
‘Let’s see. It’s Thursday so it’s my tango class tonight’.
For once Henry was totally non-plussed.
‘Tango class’ he said slowly, ‘really?’
‘Well why not?’ laughed Jane ‘I love to dance’.
Again, Henry found himself taken aback. In all the years Jane had worked for him he had never known, or indeed asked, about her interests or life outside chambers. But then he thought ‘I have noticed she has a very trim figure, but I thought she probably went to a gym or something’.
‘I dance’ he said looking down at his feet as if they had rather betrayed him.
‘Really, where do you go Henry?’
‘There’s a place just up Kingsway. They have Latin dance evenings. Very civilised’.
The two work colleagues looked at each other in amazement.
Jane recovered first and said, ‘I can just imagine. I bet you’re light on your feet Henry’.
She stood up. ‘Well, I must be getting along. It’s been nice to chat about something other than case law Henry’.
Then totally uncharacteristically she grinned at him and he saw how she might have been as a young girl if time had simply not passed her by.
‘Maybe we’ll take a turn around the floor one of these evenings Henry’.
Henry stood up.
‘Beyond all reasonable doubt Jane’, and he swept her a rather elegant bow.
‘See you in the morning. Goodnight now’.
As Henry turned and walked across the grass, he thought he could smell change in the air.