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Blog Name: Matthew @ RoF's blog

China destroys human rights lawyer for "picking quarrels"
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0
11 January 2016
Pu Zhinqiang, one of China's most prominent human rights lawyers, has been banned from practising law after being found guilty of "picking quarrels and provoking trouble".

Mr Pu had previously represented Ai Wei Wei and a number of dissidents, and had recently criticised the government for its violent crackdown on Uighurs. The government's reaction was to bang him up without trial for 19 months in the Beijing Number One Detention Centre. Which sounds like a pastiche of a movie with Maggie Smith and Judie Dench.

Mr Pu was given a three-year suspended sentence just before Christmas. For picking quarrels. Seriously. Has China gone back to the middle ages? Are they going to parade him round the street in a scold's bridle? Has Beijing ordered a consignment of ducking stools? Apparently the charge is used to silence anyone to whom the Communist Party takes a dislike. Last year this included a group of women who were protesting against being groped on public transport.

     

The conviction means that Mr Pu can no longer represent his clients. It sends a clear message that not only will the government go after dissidents, it will also go after their lawyers.

I'm not quite sure where this leaves the likes of Dentons and KWM, firms which employ thousands of Chinese lawyers, all of whom have to swear allegiance to the Communist Party. And in a week when trading was suspended because of the collapse in the Chinese stock market, and the country's chubby, boiler-suited neighbour announced he had tested an H-bomb, you'd think the government would have bigger problems on its hands than one principled lawyer.

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Wiggin staff to cycle the world
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5
06 January 2016
Staff at media / tech firm Wiggin are circumnavigating the globe on bikes to raise £100,000 for charity.

Well, sort of. They're actually cycling 18,310 miles on static bikes based in the firm's offices, so they'll avoid the tribulations of storms, dysentery, pirates, unwary lorry drivers etc. that would afflict more intrepid fundraisers. But it's a fair old distance, they only have 180 days in which to cover it and it's all for a good cause. The money will be shared evenly between four chosen charities: Maggie's Cheltenham Centre and Great Ormond Street Hospital, which are local to the firm's offices, and Alzheimer's Society and Autistica as their chosen national charities.

     

The "wheelie big challenge" (see what they did there?) kicks off on Monday. Anyone wanting to chip in can go to http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/wigginswheeliebigchallenge


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Out of office of the week
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2
05 January 2016
Thanks to the reader who sent in this out of office from a lawyer in New Zealand:

     

For some reason I immediately thought of this:

     

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Disembowelled by a boar at Gymkhana
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0
05 November 2015
Gymkhana is one of my favourite restaurants. It's everyone's favourite restaurant. Restaurant magazine rated it the top spot in the country last year, which means it's impossible to get a table unless you're Heston Blumenthal or a Bollywood star. Everyone else has to beg and pray for cancellations.

I had been taken there to lunch by Eversheds' Lee Ranson, and to Lee's embarrassment and amusement I badgered the poor lady on reception until she relented and gave me an evening table. So I found myself there last night, squinting in the sepulchral gloom of the crowded and rather odd room, all dark panelling and nick nacks and bad prints of colonial India, a cross between a county pub and a high street curry house.

The slightly shonky decor is irrelevant. The food is some of the best I've eaten anywhere in the world, and the smell of it has you salivating as soon as you step through the door. There's lots of game - muntjac biryani, venison chops, wild board vindaloo. I'd eaten pretty much all of it on previous visits with the exception of the vindaloo, which the manager had warned me was unbelievably hot. I looked up at the stuffed and mounted head of a boar on the wall next to me. It was surely a sign. At least it seemed like one at the end of a very large and very dirty martini. I ordered it, along with a mint and pomegranate raita to try and take out a bit of the sting.

Plate after plate arrived, each more delicious than the last. Huge tiger prawns seared in the tandoor, minced goat with chilli and onion, perfumed butter chicken. Then the vindaloo, chocolate brown and glistening.The animal on the wall gave me an imperious look as I fell on his relation's hind quarters. It was just incredible. Extremely hot, as advertised, but so rich and subtle and complex as to defy proper description. At least to a palate as untutored as mine.

I departed imploring the staff for a rematch, writing down dates and handing over business cards, and slept the sleep of the stuffed and slightly pissed. Until 4am, when the boar decided to wreak its revenge from beyond the grave and rose, Lazarus-like, in my stomach to gore me for the next three hours.

 

I lay doubled up in agony, sweating like a horse until my infant daughter greeted me with a beatific smile and luxuriantly full nappy. As I changed her I wanted only death. As I then visited the smallest room I thought my wish was about to be granted. I write this mid afternoon and have only just recovered.

But it was that staggeringly good I'll be ordering it again. Even if I've got more chance of seeing Jeremy Corbyn singing Land Of Hope And Glory than of bagging a table this side of 2016.
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WON'T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN?
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11
28 October 2015
I went to my niece's first birthday party on Sunday. It was lovely. She is lovely.

There were lots of people there with small children and many who were pregnant. I chatted to one such expectant mum, pregnant with her first baby, and noticed that she was wearing a badge. On closer inspection it read thus:

"KIND THOUGHTS AND POLITE WORDS ONLY PLEASE. MY BABY IS LISTENING!"

It might have been a joke. It might have said in very small print underneath "and if you don't like it then you can go fuck yourself". But I very much doubt it. I felt the vomit rise in the back of my throat and tried to resist the almost overwhelming urge to launch into a filthy Derek and Clive skit about the worst job I ever had, removing the lobsters out of Jayne Mansfield's arsehole.

Thousands of refugees who managed to avoid drowning over the summer are now about to freeze to death over the winter. Presumably that's fine as long as they don't do it within telepathic range of this woman's foetus. Rough sleeping in London has increased to Victorian proportions over the last couple of years. When this woman steps over the homeless I'm sure they focus on kittens and sunsets to ensure that little Tarquin doesn't run the risk of developmental impairment. And I hope none has the audacity to mutter an expletive within ten yards of her bump.

 

I may be being unkind here. It's entirely probable. Boris's stupid cycle highway is being built outside our office, a workman has been drilling under my window all day and I am feeling ratty. Nor do I mean to show any lack of respec' for the magic of pregnancy and childrearing. There is something wonderful about an expectant lady and the "baby on board" badges on the tube are brilliant. If only for saving me from a repeat of the situation in which I found myself some years ago, when I gave my seat to a woman who was obese rather than pregnant and who loudly scolded me before bursting into tears.

But seriously, "kind thoughts and polite words only"? How smug and tragic and pompous and awful is that?


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Lido - a boutique in Bristol
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3
23 October 2015
After a dog of a meal in Notting Hill, an absolute delight in Bristol.

Off to Devon for a long weekend (at the Cary Arms in Babbacombe, which is fantastic, but that's another story). And we broke up the journey with lunch in Bristol. I really like Bristol. Not too big, not too small, lovely countryside, close to Bath, lovely Georgian houses. And a fantastic little restaurant called Lido.

It does what it says on the tin. It's an (extremely cold, according to my three-year-old daughter who had a post-lunch dip) open air pool hidden behind a ramshackle terrace and a dodgy-looking pub. There's a bar downstairs serving what was described as tapas but which encompassed everything from patatas bravas and jamon iberico to tempura fried oysters with oriental dressing. And the restaurant upstairs, where you sit and look out over the (very beautiful) pool and changing huts. The tables around us were populated by businessmen in smart suits and ladies in towelling robes and flip flops with wet hair and glasses of champagne.

 

I'd been introduced to Lido a while ago by my chum Peter Morris at Burges Salmon*. The food was first rate then, and it is absolutely storming now. The open kitchen has a wood-burning oven and turns out a combination of Spanish and North African dishes. Lots of octopus, iberico pork, chickpeas, harissa, okra, all that jazz. Very much like Moro, only cheaper and with a better view. It was a Radio Caroline of wine lists, all the greats. They made an ice cream wih chocolate and stout. The staff were lovely. I told our waiter that the meal was so good we'd have to come back on our return to London.

And we did. As Michelin would say, it may not be worth a special journey but it's certainly worth a detour. If I lived in Bristol I'd be there every week.

*And also, as I have been asked to point out, the lovely David Shufflebotham and Alex Flatman, then at BS, now at OC, sorry for the ommission chaps...

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Invasion of the body snatchers
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0
15 October 2015
Thanks to the reader who sent in the website of Dutch firm Spirit Advocaten.

 

On the downside it's not clear how the firm will now be able to bill for Susanne's time. On the upside she'll be able to play with Romy's telephone wire and crap under her desk. And at least she hasn't been turned into a sandwich.

 

Unlike the poor beast who fronts up BPP.

 

 
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Casa Cruz - daylight robbery in Notting Hill
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2
15 October 2015
Casa Cruz is a new Argentinian restaurant at the wrong end of Notting Hill. Apparently it is very fashionable and reservations are hard to come by. Some friends had managed to secure a table for four last Thursday evening and asked if wanted to join them. Why not. As Thomas Beecham said, try everything in life except for incest and country dancing. And Casa Cruz.

An overcoated doorman in a bowler hat opened the door, a massive, shiny copper affair which might have worked in a brothel in Mayfair but didn't suit a converted pub opposite a housing estate. Inside was more copper, lots of gloom, sulky looking hostesses and a perfectly serviceable martini.

Upstairs to a dining room with yet more copper and moody lighting. There were plenty of empty tables. Those that were taken were occupied by people who looked like they consciously avoided food.

Which would have been a wise choice in the circumstances. My starter was raw tuna and avocado chopped up and unceremoniously dumped on a plate. It looked like baby food. It tasted of tuna and avocado but with too much wasabi. It cost £17. To buy, that is. I'm guessing it cost about 20p to make.

The main courses. £32 for a steak. And the steak doesn't come with anything at all, you have to order a couple of sides. £9 for three small pieces of charred brocolli. Seriously, nine quid. That's a markup of about eight million percent. A similar price for a couple of potatoes. £50 for meat and two veg. More than that for a bottle of indifferent Malbec that could be picked up at an off licence for under a tenner. That's got to be the most egregious example of Argentinian robbery since the 1986 World Cup.

     

We ate our dinner under the gaze of some of the occupants of the estate opposite who were smoking cigarettes on the walkway. I imagine they would cheerfully have eviscerated me with my own steak knife. I wouldn't have blamed them. I've lived in London all my life and am used to the juxtaposition of ostentatious consumerism and extreme poverty, but I've rarely been a part of one as odious as this. At least I wasn't charged for my side order of self-loathing.

The restaurant is owned by an investment banker and is clearly designed to attract them. One of our number has the kind of job in the City that would get a pig's head forced on him outside a Tory conference, so fell squarely within its target market. And he was as unimpressed as I.

There are probably just about enough trustafarians in that part of London to keep Casa Cruz going for a while, but when they move on to the next shiny thing I can't see how it can survive. Maybe it will revert to being a pub. Or a whorehouse. Anything would be better than this.
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Exclusive: Clydes scoops merger with Simpson & Marwick
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16 September 2015
Clyde & Co is merging with Simpson & Marwick, Scotland's sixth largest firm and the largest insurance firm in the UK.

The firms confirmed that they were in talks earlier this year, and an announcement of a full merger is expected later today. S&M's eight UK offices will be rolled into Clydes' 38-strong global network, and they'll adopt their larger partner's name. In the insurance world, this is a marriage of two very big beasts.

    Two big beasts yesterday

Insurance rivals Kennedys will be seething at Clydes having managed to pull this off: S&M walked away from a merger with Kennedys in December 2013.

a Read all about it on Friday.
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Why banks need lawyers
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2
10 September 2015
I spotted this on the tube back from work the other day:

     

Yes, yes, it's massively anally retentive but "we've also picked up a lots more awards"? Seriously, a major bank spends millions on an advertising campaign and doesn't run it past a proofreader?

Any lawyer would have spotted this from 20 paces. Well, maybe apart from these guys.


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