It was September 2001 and a trip to visit development projects in the Philippines prompted the unlikely step of going to a solicitor before departing.
The Twin Towers attacks had just taken place and there was a widespread sense of apprehension as to when and where there might be another deadly strike. The Philippine visit would include time on the southern island of Mindanao. It was an island where the extremist group Abu Sayyaf were active. Linked to al Qaeda and to those behind the September 11th attacks, the group was known for its murderous ruthlessness.
There was almost a sense of bravado in going to the solicitor’s office. With a plethora of options in south Co Dublin from which to choose, he had been selected for no reason other than his house, “Somerton,” bore the name of the town five miles from my Somerset home. He was a proper solicitor, an avuncular figure in a tweed suit sat at a leather-topped desk.
The will was simple, the entire estate would be left to my spouse, passing to our children in the event of her death.
“No particular legacies?” asked the nice gentleman. “No charitable bequests?”
Having no intention of being dead, adding details to the will seemed a superfluous exercise.
A couple of days later, watching a Bray Wanderers football match, there came an opportunity to advise the person appointed to execute the will.
“By the way, in the event of anything going wrong when I am away, you’re the executor.”
There was a moment’s silence. “Alright, but only until you find someone more responsible.”
The will seemed adequate for the Philippines trip in 2001, and then for Rwanda and Burundi in 2009; and Rwanda in 2010; and Rwanda and Burundi in 2011 and in 2012; and for Rwanda in 2015.
The logic was odd. There was almost certainly more chance of dying in Ireland in some dull and routine way than in some exotic death on foreign soil, but death never seems routine.
Walking from the solicitor’s office with two sheets of paper in a large buff envelope, it was hard to imagine that something so mundane might shape one’s posterity. It should be updated, revised, accommodated to the facts. Last year, when Covid began, there was a feeling that I should write a new will. I went to WH Smith and bought one of those do it yourself packs for £29.99. I never got around to doing it. Perhaps there is a deep-rooted fear that I might be courting death.
Perhaps there are still avuncular solicitors who would produce the necessary document for me..