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Sir John Mortimer in his own words

Sir John Mortimer in 2001
Sir John Mortimer was a self-proclaimed "champagne socialist"

Author and lawyer Sir John Mortimer, who has died aged 85, endeared himself to millions with his writing - and his frank views on life.


The creator of Rumpole of the Bailey wrote many newspaper columns bemoaning the strictures of modern times - and espousing a more carefree lifestyle. Here is a selection of his thoughts on his career, and the world around him.


ON HIS LEGAL CAREER
All the flower children were as alike as a congress of accountants and about as interesting.

No brilliance is required in law, just common sense and relatively clean fingernails.

To escape jury duty in England, wear a bowler hat and carry a copy of the Daily Telegraph.

People will go to endless trouble to divorce one person and then marry someone who is exactly the same, except probably a bit poorer and a bit nastier. I don't think anybody learns anything.

I found criminal clients easy and matrimonial clients hard. Matrimonial clients hate each other so much and use their children to hurt each other in beastly ways. Murderers have usually killed the one person in the world that was bugging them and they're usually quite peaceful and agreeable.

Knowing the law is not much help for an advocate. In fact it is a bit of a disadvantage. Cramps your style.


ON WRITING
The shelf life of the modern hardback writer is somewhere between the milk and the yoghurt.

I suppose that writers should, in a way, feel flattered by the censorship laws. They show a primitive fear and dread at the fearful magic of print.

ON HEALTH
I used to smoke and then I gave it up, partly because I don't like dirty ashtrays. But I forced myself to take it up again when the government said it would ban smoking in public places.

I refuse to spend my life worrying about what I eat. There is no pleasure worth forgoing just for an extra three years in the geriatric ward.

I've never actually been to a health farm or spa. For the purposes of research I visited one, but certainly didn't use the facilities.

ON POLITICS
Blair is a not very impressive politician, playing at being a statesman. Tell him to stop pretending to be a mini-Churchill and to calm down.

It's a very dour and grey world under Brown. It would be great if today's government ministers concentrated on something important rather than what we eat. You go to school to enhance your mind, to learn poetry and Dickens and beauty, not how to cook scrambled egg.

ON LIFE
One of my weaknesses is that I like to start the day with a glass of champagne before breakfast. When I mentioned that on a radio show once, I was asked if I had taken counselling for it. But I've not been drunk for a long, long time.

I think women don't want to be sex objects, but I'd love to be a sex object. My own ambition is to be loved only for my body.


ON GROWING OLDER
The time will come in your life, it will almost certainly come, when the voice of God will thunder at you from a cloud: 'From this day forth thou shalt not be able to put on thine own socks.'

Old age entails a good deal of sitting and staring into space. This is by no means an uncreative occupation.

Life in a wheelchair is not so dreadful. It can be a luxury when you're travelling. I get whisked through any of the queues. Everyone else has to wait to have their passport checked.

When you get to my age, life seems little more than one long march to and from the lavatory.


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