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stop a programme of spraying designed to keep hydro towers clear of undergrowth.
The spraying agent was Tordon 10K. Naturally, until his very
untimely death in 2007, Bob always called me “Tordon”.
We weren’t short of lawyers with an interest in constitutional law. Professor
Robin Elliot, from UBC, was another of our travellers. Upon our return
from China, he promptly became one of Canada’s leading constitutional
scholars, and for two years he was executive assistant to the Chief Justice of
Canada. Robin proved himself to be an easygoing China companion. I knew
he would be because he and I and a couple of others had once road-tripped
from Vancouver to Mackinac Island, Michigan. In China, Robin distinguished
himself by his reserved but always interesting conversation, by his
huge moustache (he’s still unshaven) and by his icy stare, which belied (and
still belies) a warm constitution (pun intended).
Bob Edward’s running joke about my name reminds me of Ray Paris.
(This is an aside because Ray didn’t travel with us to China.) In the early
1970s, when I was still at law school, Ray and I somehow ended up on the
same softball team in what was then the seriously competitive Vancouver
Lawyers’ League. I was the shortstop. Ray played second base. We weren’t
exactly Tinker to Evans but we were pretty good. (I can’t remember who
Chance was.) At that time, Ray was a very highly regarded prosecutor. Later
he became a particularly shrewd judge of the Supreme Court of British
Columbia. Every single time I appeared before him as counsel, and there
must have been at least 20 occasions during his 25-year judicial life, he
intentionally mispronounced my name—and he did it with a big smile on
his face, knowing there was nothing I could do about it.
Bob Edwards wasn’t the only Victoria lawyer on our Chinese journey.
Jack Scott-Harston, Q.C., also from Victoria, was the senior member of our
group. Jack had been born in 1912. He was a lovely man. One day, when we
happened to sit together for a long bus ride into the countryside, he told me
a little about his life. He’d been brought up in what he called the “Far East”,
where he was sometimes taken to school on a sedan chair. He’d studied law
at Oxford and (I learned this later) had worked for MI5 during World War II.
In practice, he was an expert on the law relating to wills.
I have never been back to China. Somehow I missed all the development
that began a few years after we left, and I was astounded to see, from
Olympics coverage in 2008, how fundamentally the urban landscape, and
the people, had changed in only a generation.
1978 China—our China—was a few cars, no more than four or five at any
given time, on a great expanse of pavement in central Peking; bicycles
everywhere; the 11- or 12-storey Peking Hotel towering over every other