Charlotte and the Brothers Grimm; part I


Charlotte had attitude and flair. Discreetly gay, but highly intelligent with a wicked sense of humour and a unique dress sense that made  eyebrows rise in astonishment and admiration, she was ideally suited to work on our floor. Few young women in her position would have lasted more than a week in our stressful environment dominated by excentric, demanding males, working under pressure in almost monastic isolation.

As I was soon to find out, everyone called her Tom-Tom. Why? She was the bush telegraph of the floor. If you wanted to know the inside story about something, or someone, you asked Tom-Tom. The accuracy of the information she came up with was astonishing, her network of informers formidable, and her uncanny insights amazing. So, when I wanted to get to the bottom of Grimm Friday, I knew exactly what to do. The opportunity presented itself soon enough.

I arrived quite early on that Monday morning, but Tom-Tom was already at her desk. As the personal assistant of our head of chambers and two other senior barristers, she had her work cut out.

‘You’re early; good,’ she said, reaching under her desk. ‘Came in this morning. Your brief; here. Conference in Marcus’ room, 8 am sharp.’ With that, she pushed a large ring binder across her desk towards me. ‘Better get stuck into it.’

‘By the way, I wanted to ask you something, Charlotte …’ I said.

‘Call me Tom-Tom,’ I hate Charlotte. Fucking terrible name.’

‘What’s Grimm Friday?’

Shaking her head, Tom-Tom just looked at me with her huge eyes accentuated by breathtaking green eye shadow and almost theatrical makeup. ‘You don’t know? ‘

‘No idea.’

‘Buy me lunch and I’ll tell you.’

‘You’re on.’

Like any good PA, Tom-Tom was well organized. She had booked a table in a small bistro nearby. Looking stunning in her tight-fitting black dress, pink designer scarf and dazzlingly high red stilettos, she was waiting for me at the lift at 12: 45 sharp, as arranged.


‘Champagne?’ I asked, after the waiter – who appeared to know her well – had shown us to a table by the window. I suspected that Tom-Tom liked to be seen. Fortunately for me, I remembered that she was partial to champagne; lots of it.

‘I like your style,’ she said. ‘Not bad for a baby barrister.’

I ordered a bottle of the good stuff. We were off to an excellent start.

‘Grimm Friday. Everyone seems to know what it means, except me. And having apparently hosted one in my room last week – albeit in absentia – I would really like to know too. Reasonable, don’t you think?’ I said, coming straight to the point.

‘Tradition,’ said Tom-Tom, taking a sip of champagne.

‘I don’t follow.’

‘You’ve heard of the Brothers Grimm?’


Sure. German storytellers; eighteenth century. Hansel and Gretl, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty …’

‘Correct. Grimm Friday has quite a story of its own …’

‘Tell me.’


Tom-Tom held up her empty glass. She was obviously enjoying herself.

‘I see, you want me to suffer a little longer,’ I said, reaching for the bottle.

‘Not at all. Just teasing the new boy on the block.’

‘Doing a great job …’ I mumbled.

‘Did you say something?’ I shook my head.

‘Well, here it goes. Once upon a time, there were these three friends.’


To do this story justice, I must pause here. It’s very late, and I’m sitting in my attic thinking about Tom-Tom. It must be the music; I’m listening to jazz. Tom-Tom loved jazz. She was without doubt one of the most complex, and fascinating women I’ve met. Not only did she help me in my legal career, but she knew about my writing aspirations. I used to experiment with short stories at the time – this was almost 30 year ago – which I used to show her. She never made fun of this. On the contrary, she became my best critic, supporter, and years later, fan. I owe her a lot.

Strange how music, more than almost anything else, can trigger memories of people long gone, and bridge the yawning gap of time. I think I better finish this story in the morning. And besides, this post is getting too long anyway. So, look out for part II; next week’s post. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Good night.