Mr. Humphrey Bore LLB – Barrister at Law
Humphrey Bore has lived in Reading Berkshire, for many years. Often interesting to talk to, but always regarded as somewhat eccentric, he has suffered for many years from an extremely noticeable compulsive disorder.
He was born near Cowley in Oxfordshire, to a well to-do family of engineers and manufacturers. His father and brothers – all keen amateur sports car racing drivers – were known locally as the Crashing Bores. At an early age, after finishing his schooling at Abingdon and then having come down from Oxford, he left his comfortable middle class existence in the home counties to pursue a profession. After some years, he finally became a practicing Barrister and found himself in chambers attached to the Court of the Admiralty. But having taken silk, he also took with him his family secret; an inherited compulsion, which was to cause him much unhappiness during his short but notable career.
London during the sixties was a time of change, and Humphrey Bore was no exception to all the other young people who had escaped the post-war restrictions and the innate conservatism of their provincial life. He had no interest in country pursuits, or his family’s preoccupation with motor cars.
For him, London was all that that he needed; money, parties, pretty girls, and the promiscuous intermingling of pop stars, fashion photographers, models, footballers, the outrageous aristocracy – occasional recalcitrant royalty – and the odd transvestite. One might say that he had everything that life could offer, were it not for his fast developing compulsion. And it all happened so abruptly. He remembered it well.
‘I remember it well. A spring morning in Notting Hill and then a sprightly Sunday walk to a local supermarket in Westbourne Grove; a casual request for a small cardboard box to put my groceries in, and then it happened! I couldn’t help myself!’
But, what was this indomitable force which drove the young Humphrey Bore to put this cardboard box on his head? He remembered that well.
‘I remember it well. I was stumbling around the supermarket bumping into things when this girl shouted over the phone to her boss – “Mr. Patel, Mr. Patel, there’s a bloke in the shop with a cardboard box on his head, and he’s just knocked over all the tins of peas and beans, you’d better come over here quick, before he does any more damage.”
After which there a silence, and then he overheard her say, “what do you mean what sort of box is it?,” she hissed, “it doesn’t bloody matter does it?” It was as simple as that.
‘It was an empty box of Cadbury’s chocolate fingers, if I remember rightly.’ A bewildered shadow covered his sallow face, as he recounted this first shocking incident, a distant look; as he relived the pain of the past. Then it was back to reality, and the saloon bar of The Ship Hotel in Reading. But what had made him come to live in Reading? What had driven him to leave London, the city he so loved? The story gradually emerged as glasses of Guinness were emptied.
He had laughed off this first incident, but after a number of similar experiences, a few weeks later Mr. Patel finally asked him to shop somewhere else, and soon Humphrey Bore felt it wise to move to some other part of London. But whilst his odd compulsion was developing, his career flourished at the Inns of Court and his reputation as a witty, elegant, and successful barrister often brought him into the public gaze, as he did battle with the rhetoric and banter of the central criminal courts, where he now found himself gainfully occupied, and getting richer by the day.
‘It was Mr. Al Fayed, who finally caused my downfall.’ Humphrey Bore wiped the froth of the Irish stout from his trembling upper lip.
‘I was stumbling through the Harrods food hall – with an empty box of gentleman’s relish on my head – when I inadvertently knocked over about half a ton of Beluga Caviar, and then crashed into a special presentation of vintage wines and Pate de Foie Gras, from the Bergerac region of France. After that I don’t remember very much!’
The court transcript said it all, but worse than that, the whole incident had been caught on camera, because, Mr. Al Fayed – who was being interviewed by a TV company concerning his relationship with the Sultan of Brunei – witnessed the whole incident, and immediately called the police. At this point the tears began to trickle down Humphrey Bores face, mingling with the froth on his chin.
‘When I came too, all I can remember was this man’s voice saying – “You’re nicked, and you better come quietly.”- I couldn’t believe it; it had happened all so quickly. I shouted you can’t arrest me, you don’t know who I am, and then the same voice saying – “I know that, sir, but that is because you have got a cardboard box on your head.”- It was then that I realised that my whole life would never be the same again.’
When the special police group had initially arrived at the incident, they had watched the strange goings on of the erratic and stumbling figure, and very soon realized that – in the hallowed precinct of Harrods Food Hall – decorum and tact would be required to restrain this particular miscreant.
Producing what appeared to be an oversized fisherman’s landing net, a highly trained Metropolitan Police Constable furtively crept up behind the meandering figure of Humphrey Bore, as he collided with yet another expensive rack of delectable and expensive tinned food. And raising the net high above his head, he swiftly brought it down, trapping Humphrey Bore in the net, and bringing him swiftly to the ground.
Reading him his rights the policeman in question was heard by some astonished bystanders to caution the recumbent Humphrey Bore. With considerable pride in his capture he announced, ‘I arrest you in the name of Constable Sidney Perkins, and anything you say will be written down in evidence, and probably spelt all wrong.’
This evidence was duly presented in the magistrate’s court the following day, and together with a copy of the CTV recording, he had no defence. He was properly fined and the magistrate ordered him to have a course of advanced psychotherapy.
It didn’t help him at all, but worse, his career now came to a sudden halt. Banished from the limelight of the Old Bailey, he was forced to return once more to his family home; to the Crashing Bores of Oxfordshire, and the inevitable truth.
‘It’s not your fault Humphrey,’ his ageing father had been more than understanding, ‘You see my boy, it’s hereditary. Your grandfather was thrown out of Boodles for having a coal scuttle on his head and you sister Clarissa, when she came out, was presented to the Queen with a plastic bucket on her head. It’s a family problem, don’t you see?’
He didn’t, and so he slunk away into obscurity, whilst carrying his peculiar physiological burden with him. Trying hard to find peace and anonymity anywhere in the world, it was many years before he finally discovered Reading.
Now you can occasionally see him shopping in Tesco’s – often with a very nervous store manager standing by – and sometimes in the market place by the Old Town Hall in the town centre. In spring and summer, he can often be seen with a fedora hat pulled well down over his head and in the winter, he is usually seen wearing his beloved balaclava.
But wherever he goes, in winter or summer, Humphrey Bore is always observed to be carrying a small cardboard box!
BY CHARLIE LOFTUS