Ian Hamilton QC

I WENT into the Parliament House the other day for the first time in many months. Entrance is through a Tardis into another world where all sense of reality is forever forgotten. This is the centre of the universe. Nothing circulates, not even the blood. Here the whole world is in a monstrous state of stasis. People are born, pubesce, adulterate, senesce, and die, and nobody notices. The place is always changing yet ever the same. Generations pass but the people never differ. The Parliament House of Edinburgh is proof positive that Darwin was wrong. Homo Parliamentus Domus is incapable of change. There is no evolution. He, and now she, are damned to spawn exactly the same species down through all eternity. Thank God they're not real.

Yet there are many wonders in the Parliament House which are worth describing. I crossed the Great Hall to get to the library. Dr Who was warming his bottom at the fire outside the law-room. He's an interesting fellow Dr Who. They say he wrote the first edition of Gloag and Henderson, the book that's been pirated by all the Professors of Scots Law ever since. ''Good morning, Ian!'' he called, and was immediately shushed into silence. You aren't allowed to raise your voice in the Parliament House, not even Dr Who, so I went on my way. I had something to look up in the library. I wanted to find the date when Stevenson's Mr Hyde had been Dean of Faculty.

The library is a long corridor. There are many desks in it and at each desk sits an old man or an old women, tap tap tapping at a lap-top computer. Oh, yes, I know they're not old in years. Some of them were born quite recently, but even as bloody brats they popped out old and wizened. Soon they were wiping the mother's milk from their lips and citing a case from Thirteen Rettie into the maternal cleavage.

No-one knows what they're writing on these machines. There cannot be enough legal issues in the whole world to be covered by such a battery of artificial intelligence. My theory is that they're all trying to keep up with Donald Findlay. They're all writing novels. Donald has written a novel, the first from any Member of the Faculty of Advocates since the pen fell from the dead fingers of Robert Louis Stevenson. It has taken a member of the Criminal Bar to succeed RLS. Mind you, Stevenson had as great a scunner at the Parliament House as I have. He escaped to the South Seas before you could say ''avizandum''.

But if all the OAPs in the library aren't writing novels maybe they're writing letters of congratulations to Donald. Imagine! He's the first of us to have written a novel for 100 years and still we call ourselves learned counsel.

These laptop computers are an innovation. They've only been with us for 10 years. I bet there was a fine stushie when the first woman advocate brought in the first machine. (Of course, it would be a woman. Women are always first. Look at Eve. Women even invented sex and gave us men a guilt complex to go with it.)

''You'll ruin your practice,'' she would be told. ''No self-respecting Edinburgh solicitor will ever accept work unless it's done by a quill pen. Besides, what will happen if everyone wants to do the same as you? Then everyone will be bringing in computers. It will open the floodgates.''

I left the library and went to the Clerks' room. This is where a solicitor calls when he wants to employ an advocate. The place was deserted. St Stylus would have been at home here, but there wasn't even a hermit. Maybe the place was too rich for hermits. No expense had been spared. The carpets tickled me right up to my oxters. Whoever had had the ruling of the purse had spent prodigally. A fatted calf wandered past, and bedded itself down on a great leather armchair. There were couches everywhere. Was this one of Edinburgh's famous massage parlours? No. All these antique desks would have no place in a house of pleasure. They would remind the punters of work.

Everywhere there were television screens. This place made Bill Gates' fortune before he sold a byte of software elsewhere. The only thing lacking was anyone to look at the screens. Meanwhile, banks and banks of telephones rang and rang and rang, and went unanswered. Suddenly, a man appeared in running shorts, breathless, and carrying a cleft stick with a message in it. I approached him to ask where everyone had gone, but he had no time to speak. ''Don't ask me, mate,'' he cried. ''I'm only a Glasgow solicitor looking for counsel for the High Court.'' I left him to it.

Down in the dungeons, something stirred. I found a steel door. It bore the legend: ''faculty services limited. All hope abandone ye who enter here!''

''Is there anyone there?'' I cried, and a damp voice sprouted from a basement window.

''Help!'' it shouted. ''Get us out of here.''

I hardened my heart so that I might have been an Edinburgh WS. ''When can you get me my fees from the Legal Aid Board?'' I asked.

The damp voice rose again. ''**** your fees!'' it cried. ''Who can get us out of here?''

''I'll get you Donald Findlay,'' I answered, but there came only a groan in reply.

Like them I had no hope, so I returned through the Tardis to reality. Hell itself will be a holiday from yon dreadful place in Edinburgh's High Street.