Change in Plans Can Be Good

Matt Paul ’13 – Riley and I were all set to make our presentation; we had known for some weeks that we would have to present over the Inns of Court, one of the most historically enduring features of the English legal system. We had done preparation before the trip and the night before; we knew that there were four inns, what each one was called, where they were, what their function was, even the types of people that were likely to join them. Riley was especially ready to present their role within the English legal system as whole, and how the inns provided specially trained advocate barristers with training and a legal community. I had focused more on the history of each of the inns and how that continued to manifest itself today.

We should have known that our grand plans to lead our group would have to be adjusted. We had already had two guided visits in England, both of which had been different than expected. On Sunday we had made the train ride to near the coast of England to visit the battlefield of Hastings. We had a wonderful visit, but ironically, we were provided with a guide who was doing his first tour of the battlefield, while having with us one of the worlds leading historians on the battle (Professor Morillo) and two students (Rob and Jake) who had been researching the issue on their own for the past several weeks. As our guide said, “This will probably be the easiest guided tour that I ever give.”

Subsequently, at Monday morning’s tour of the Tower of London, after being provided with a virtually silent guide at Hastings, Patrick and Michael found themselves silenced by a guiding monopoly that put an end to their tour with a force that befitted the harsh history of the Tower. As soon as they were hitting their stride, telling us about the central tower building that gives the castle its name, a beefeater briskly informed us that guided tours were only allowed to be given by sanctioned tour guides.

So after this history (or might one in the spirit of our law class call it precedent?) Riley and I should have known that a wrinkle might be thrown in the plans of our guiding plans. That wrinkle was named Joanne Lee, the British guide of our tour of “Legal and Illegal London.” While there were initial worries about the potential cheesiness of a tour with this name, these worries were soon put to rest by this small but knowledgable woman who had in fact used to practice English law as a solicitor. Like most of the English we met she was full of jokes, but this in no way compromised her expertise. And, while this knowledge was very interesting, especially combined with her personal experience as a solicitor, Riley and I spent much of the tour mentally or physically checking off information from our list of information. By the end of the tour every one of our points of research had already been covered by that incredible woman! And yet it was impossible to be upset, despite the destruction of our dreams to be tour guides. The tour was beyond fantastic, from the information, to the sites, to the anecdotes. The weather was a bit cold, but beautiful (and rare for London) afternoon sunlight created big shadows with the magnificent, historical buildings that highlighted our tour. By the end we were all ready for a warm room and comfortable chair, but no one would have argued that it hadn’t been a wonderful afternoon led by a fantastic woman who it would be impossible to begrudge for stealing our thunder. As I have heard so many times of the past few days, cheers!