Tuesday 26 February 2013

Forget the coffee, I think it's a dry sherry while the roast burns...

Community Court V. Hippo.  Post trial report and verdict.

Two hours in, I knew I was dead…

Well that was quite a long day.

I went in there with my head held high, sat in the chair they indicated to me, crossed my legs and lit a cigarette.  I did not want to honor them by over dressing for the occasion so I wore a safari suit.  I was annoyed when I could not find my cravat and incandescent when I found that the dog had chewed the belt for the jacket but then decided that the open necked loose fitting blouse approach was probably best.

I don’t know if any of you read Ursula’s blog.  I’d be surprised because she is barking mad.  I really would like to leave a remark or two on her blog occasionally but I am so often left dumbfounded.  Without the faintest idea what she is on about, it is hard to formulate a comment.

When I  returned from the kangaroo court, I discovered a load of emails and several comments left on my blog post wishing me luck and giving me advice.  The venue was changed at the last minute but I still decided to perambulate through the neighborhood rather than drive.  Marcia would easily be able to survive an impounded husband but an impounded truck would definitely affect the bottom line.  The last piece of advice I saw before I left was from Sir Owl of The Wood.  He suggested I armed myself with ashtrays.  Clearly he has recognized these as my weapon of choice.  Sadly, although the pockets of a Safari Jacket are capacious enough for several, I have but one ashtray and that had been impounded as evidence.  Besides, they would have ruined the lines of the suit.

Ursula’s advice, which I only read after the event, was to leave my joke book behind.  This I had done as I was under no illusion what might become of me if the decision went the wrong way.  Although this was a community court it’s decision, should they determine I was guilty of attempted murder, would leave the police with no option but to bang me up and investigate and that could take years.

This isn’t the first time I have had a brush with the Angolan legal system.  I first met Dominic’s mother in 1995.  In order to get about a country busy bashing itself to death I used UN light aircraft.  To get a seat, I had to book in at the UN Flight Section of the World Food Program.  She worked there and I couldn’t help but notice her.  It appeared that she and her female colleagues also noticed me.  In fact it was her friend who had the real crush on me but as it so often works out in these situations the one who really fancied me, missed out. In those days I was still fit and slim and dressed in jeans.  Jeans shirt, jeans jacket and, of course trousers.  In the bush jeans are easy to wash in a river, robust, dry out quickly and don’t need ironing.  Everything I owned was carried in a small rucksack slung over my shoulder.  Whereas everyone else calling in to the Flight Section arrived in air-conditioned Landcruisers, I pitched up without a helmet on an old Ural motorcycle which eventually, as I was a frequent traveller to all the hot-spots, I was allowed to park in the hangar so it was waiting for me when and if I got back.  The girls called me the ‘Old Hippie’.

These were light aircraft so I was only allowed 10 kgs of baggage.  Most of the passengers were self-important UN officials from Geneva or New York so they would argue furiously about such a feeble baggage allowance.  After all, in the resolution of all the world’s conflicts, these people were impotent  important.  So it was no use asking them if they would take a package and deliver it to some poor bastard employee of theirs who had been months in the thick of it and really needed a Red Cross parcel.  Since the heaviest item in my kit was only ever a bottle of whisky, I was always happy to oblige and once they realized that I didn’t just dump the parcel at the arrival airfield and presume it would somehow find its way to its intended recipient, I tracked the person down and delivered it myself, I became a regular courier, made a lot of new friends, and got myself a beautiful girlfriend who would be the mother of my first child..

I felt sorry for the fact she had to walk from home to the nearest UN bus stop so as we were by then a bit of an item, I offered to buy her a second hand car.  She went for a reasonably priced Nissan Blebird which looked in good nick.

A few months later, she asked me if she could sell it as she had enough saved up to buy a 4x4.  We weren’t married, it was her car as far as I was concerned, she could do what she liked.  What I didn’t realize though, was that she sold the car to a colleague at work on the ‘Never-Never’.  She broke two fundamental laws regarding used cars here.  Firstly, only ever sell them for cash on the nail, Caveat Emptor.  Second, never sell a used car to a friend.

Three months later she confessed to me that while the guy had paid a two grand deposit, he had not made a single payment to service the outstanding six grand debt.

‘Well go and see your boss then’, I said.

‘I did but he said it was not a matter for the UN and that the UN could not get involved in local issues.’

Well that sounds like yer typical slope shouldered, lily livered limp dick UN official.

‘Can you have a word with him, please?’ 

What the hell did she expect me to do, stick my Makarov in his face?  I told her to stick a complaint against in at her office and get a lawyer to write a letter to him saying he either coughs up or gives her the car back.  He actually had the audacity to come and create a fuss at my place of work.  I told him to fuck off.  A couple of months later, he gave her the car back.  In bits.

‘Just put it down to experience’, I told her.  It had already cost over 500 bucks in lawyer’s letters.  Imagine how much it would cost, and how long it would take, to get him to court.  And to what end?  The court, unable to fathom the ‘He said, ‘She said’ shit would just say, ‘Put it down to experience’.  I know it rankles but sometimes it really is better just to walk away, a little poorer perhaps, but a heck of a lot poorer.  I tried to explain to her what a Pyrrhic Victory was but I don’t think it helped her sleep any better.  I couldn’t see why she was so hot and bothered, it was my money after all and I had, by now, bought her a brand new RAV 4.

We were married, finally moved into a decent house in one of the smarter neighborhoods of Luanda and she fell pregnant with Dominic.  I flew down to Cape Town, bought a nice house in Constantia overlooking the vineyards, put my step-daughter into St Cyprian’s, employed a Gentleman to drive her around in the Mercedes I had bought her and returned to Angola to work.  In due course she gave birth to Dominic in the Constantiaberg clinic.  I had flown her mother and my mother down there for the event and she thanked me my being late to pup.  Have you any idea what it was like for me living in the same house as my mother AND my mother-in-law?

So there I was, back in Angola, family safely tucked up in Cape Town when the house guard told me there were some gentlemen in the street who wanted to talk to me.

‘Invite them in’, I said.

They issued me with a Summons.  My wife AND I, were jointly charged with fraud, a crime carrying ten years in gaol if convicted.  To say I was confused would be an understatement worthy of a man whose Sang was so Froid, there were icebergs in his arteries.  Then they arrested me because I had failed to answer two previous summonses.  I pointed out that I had never received either of the first two summonses.  They had no answer for that neither could they tell me what it was all about, they had only been instructed to find and fetch me.  They took me to the same police station where, a year before I had as part of my duty as a foreigner living in Angola been obliged to register myself.

I must have Irish blood in me because with the luck of the Irish, it was the same Chief Inspector who had almost fallen off his seat backwards when I walked into his police station a year before saying that in accordance with Angolan law, I needed to register at the police station responsible for the suburb in which I lived.  ‘No foreigner EVER does that!’ he had said at the time.  I formally signed the summonses, received my copy and instead of being banged up, was allowed to leave.

My wife was in Cape Town suckling my only son so she wasn’t around to help me.  I asked my boss if I could go and see the Angolan lawyers my employers had on retainer.

‘This is very serious,’ they informed me with due (and expensive gravitas), ‘You are looking at ten years if convicted’. 

‘But what have I done?’ I asked.

‘We’ll need to make an application to the Criminal Court.  In the meantime, you will need to deposit US$2,000 in cash at our offices no later than tomorrow morning.  You did the right thing to come and see us’.  Lawyers ALWAYS say that, don’t they?  I didn’t even get a cup of coffee.

A week later, remarkable only for my lack of sleep, they came into the office, called my boss and had a meeting.  So much for client confidentiality, after all, my employer’s weren’t paying the bills in this case.  Ignoring me completely they informed my boss that a year before I joined his company, I had committed fraud.  I had ignored two summonses and had now been arrested, cautioned to appear, and been released.  My boss, one of the sharpest tools in the box and the best administrator I had ever seen looked at me.

‘I haven’t a fucking clue what it is about!’ I protested and then, somewhat wimpishly added, ‘Honest!’

‘What are the charges?’ my boss asked quietly of the lawyers.

‘Fraud!’ they exclaimed in unison, ‘Ten years in jail!’

I don’t think it was an icy stare he gave them (I couldn’t really see as I had averted my eyes from him and had fixed my gaze on the lawyers such was my eagerness to know why my life was suddenly crashing around me).  An icy stare would have frozen them to the spot.  I think he gave them the briefest glimpse of the fiery hell that awaited them if they continued to jerk him around.

‘What   Did   He   Do?’

‘He sold a car with the wrong engine in it’.  One of them confessed hurriedly.

‘I see’, replied my boss.  ‘Thomas?’

‘I still haven’t a clue what they are on about!  I have never even owned a car here much less sold one…  I have only ever bought cars for my wife… hang on a sec…  What car are they talking about?’

It was the Nissan Bluebird.

Once I got a glimpse of all the court documents that I had paid $2,000 for, I could see the timeline.  Immediately AFTER my wife left the UN and started the new job I had arranged for her with a drilling company the manager of which just happened to be an old motorcycle racing pal of mine this git had initiated court proceedings against her listing her address as Care Of the UN.  For good measure, even though he knew at the time I was still only her boyfriend, he had thrown my name into the melting pot as well.  Having failed to answer two wrongly delivered summonses, I was already guilty as hell.  The argument was that I had sold the plaintiff a Nissan Bluebird that actually had a Nissan Stanza engine fitted.  A Nissan Stanza is the hatch back version of the four door Bluebird.  As far as I was concerned, the engines and drive train were the same.

Corruption is rife here.  It is not a question of the law; it is a question of either who you know or how much money you have.  Blessed with both, some people get away with murder.

I had none of the former and very little of the latter.

The lawyers suggested a plea bargain.  We would confess to the crime, pay compensation and spend no more than six months in jail.  I sacked them.

First thing I had to do was track the car down and pray that it had not been overmolested.  At the time of the War Over the Car, I had been working for a provider of ‘hard’ security services which was why back then I had a Makarov I was licensed to use and was increasingly regretting not having done so.  When the car came back all stuffed up I had given it to my side kick, a police inspector assigned to me so that if in the course of my duties I shot anyone he could write the report and everything would be OK. His reports always made brilliant reading.  I was still learning Portuguese at the time so I had to ask him why he started them all off with ‘Era uma vez…’  Apparently that is Portuguese for ‘Once Upon a Time’.   I had also given him all the car documentation and had no copies.

Having retrieved copies of the documentation, having physically confirmed the chassis and engine numbers matched the documentation I went to Nissan Angola and asked them if they could confirm that there was no difference between a Bluebird and a Stanza engine.  They told me that of course there was.  Bluebird engines are fitted to Bluebirds and Stanza’s to Stanzas.

I rang my brother in Germany.

‘I’m facing ten years in nick for fraud’

‘Only ten years?’ he asked, ‘can’t have been worth the effort, especially if you can’t even get away with it’

Within 24 hours, courtesy of Nissan Germany he had the complete build sheet for the car.  The engine fitted to this particular Bluebird was the one it left the factory in Japan with.

Let us forget the fact I still hadn’t got a lawyer and the court appearance date was already peering over the horizon; I had another, far more serious problem.  My wife.

She had also been summoned.  If all this went badly wrong, she also faced time inside.  I had sent her to Cape Town, setting her up nicely so that my son could be born in a decent clinic (and good job too, she was in labour for eight hours and it turned out the umbilical cord was wrapped around Dominic’s neck) and grow strong in a civilized environment well stocked with nutritional kit from South African supermarkets the shelves of which were groaning under the weight of healthy produce the likes of which the Angolans were not to see for over another ten years).  I was slow off the mark reproducing.  When Dominic was born, I was already forty years old and mildly surprised that my tackle still worked.  The thought of my son having to be handed over to a wet nurse or do time inside an Angolan jail with his convicted mother made me sick.

I could have just bolted.  I had a house in Cape Town, we were all nicely set up and, given my line of work, I would have quickly been able to arrange another well-paying job anywhere in the world except Angola.  They had confiscated my passport but, let’s face it, the lack of one is hardly an impediment to international travel for the determined.  Especially in Africa where they are too dim to realize that most international businessmen have more than one and a few hundred bucks in cash at immigration on your way out deals with the lack of an entry visa.  At one stage I had three passports.  Two of them were in my name.  But even without a single passport, I could easily have pitched up on my Cape Town doorstep.

Running, though, was not the answer.  I had to clear the family name.  She was my wife and now with a son, they were my family so, for better or worse, I would stand by them.  They were Angolan.  My entire wife’s family was in Angola.  She should suddenly become a fugitive, stateless, unable to return to her home? There was no way I was going to allow them into the clutches of the Angolan authorities.  Trouble was, I hadn’t got a fucking clue what to do and the clock was ticking.

While all this was going on I still had a job to do.  I was pissed off with the standard of service I was getting from the security service provider so I arranged a meeting with the owner.  Now I liked this guy.  When I first met him he drove a Ssangyong Musso.  After the expulsions of all the expatriate security men and realizing that I had managed to hang on, he offered me a very reasonable percentage of the contract value if I could swing the international clients his way.  We are talking lots of million dollar contracts here.  I did not hate him for that, it is after all, the standard approach here in Angola and, I guess, elsewhere in the world.  Everyone I had spoken to had offered me a similar deal.  But there was something about him that I liked.  I felt sure he could provide what I wanted.

‘I tell you what,’ I said, ‘if you give me the ten percent you are offering me as a reduction on the contract value instead, buy some new vehicles dedicated to us, I’ll call it quits’.

‘Ah,’ he said, the 'Maneira Inglés’ 

The English Manner.  Here, twenty years ago ‘The English Manner’ amongst the Angolans was a synonym for ‘Honesty and Integrity’.  Not entirely sure what’s happened to that since.

Anyway, I was sitting in the guy’s office berating him about the reliability of his response vehicles and the execrable English of his control room operators when he asked me what flea was really chewing my nuts, so I told him.

He was very angry with me.  He called his secretary in and ordered her to fetch someone else.  While we waited, he continued to berate me.  Why hadn’t I told him IMMEDIATELY!!!  Didn’t I realize that this was SERIOUS?  I could go down for TEN years!!!! 

Ten is a good round number.  By this stage I was a shadow of my former self.  I wasn’t eating and I was drinking far too much.  Sleeping was something I remembered doing as a kid but clearly, in the absence of my Teddy who, only known to me was an outstanding kick boxer and could keep all demons at bay, I was having a few problems.

I was quite depressed.  Not least because everyone I spoke to about this appeared evidently confident I was somehow responsible.  While one should be grateful either way, for various subtle reasons, there is a distinction between friends assuring you that the charges are without foundation and will be disposed of accordingly, and the attitude I found prevalent here suggesting ‘you’re a guilty bastard, you old rogue but we have the connections to get you off’.  They were going to get me off but on what grounds?  And at what cost? 

Oh it wasn’t the money.  I’d have gladly sacrificed anything material to protect my family but I was stuck between the most ancient rocks of Africa and an even harder place.  By accepting their help, knowing such a course would flout due legal process, I was effectively conceding my guilt and the debt I owed a system I despised.  My wife thought I was mad but as I tried to explain to her on the phone, I just couldn’t do it.  Had the Ministry of Justice, looking at the evidence, decided there wasn’t a case to answer so it did not need to go to trial, fine.  But they had told me that because I had failed to show for two summonses and was now out on police bail, only a trial could provide closure.

‘OK’. I told my mentor.  ‘I want to go to trial, but, I want to answer the charges by myself’

Family and face in Africa is very important.  In a lot of cases it causes what the rest of the world call corruption and they, the Africans, see as merely obligation.  I say ‘merely’.  Here it is a bloody serious obligation.  Often, the whole family saves and clubs together just to send one family member to school.  If he makes it, he doesn’t just earn just for himself, he earns for a vast, extended family.  It’s the way it works here.

Now, with a very weak hand, I was going to play them at their own game.

‘I am the head of my family’, I said.  ‘If any member of my family commits a crime I, and I alone am responsible.  If you want to help me, make sure I can appear in court and answer singularly for my family and if there is any debt to pay, I pay it.’

‘Are you sure?’ he asked me.

‘Actually, I am scared witless’, I told him, ‘but this is a matter of Honor.  The whole thing is a crock of shit, what’s the worst they can do to me, bang me up for a couple of years in Bentiaba?’

‘Ten years’ he said.

‘For a Nissan engine?’ I replied.

His man came in.  He tossed him the file and said, ‘Go to the Ministry of Justice, identify the process and have the girl’s name removed from it’.

He turned back to me.  ‘Seriously, that’s all you want?’

’Look at it this way,’ I said, ‘She is Angolan.  If she has a criminal record, she is stuffed.  If I go down, I’ll spend a bit of time inside and then they’ll expel me, you know that.  I’ll go off and work somewhere else, she’ll get the house in Maianga and we’ll meet up anytime we want in Cape Town, so what’s the big deal?  I want the right to face the court and defend myself.’

This guy does not drink, he doesn’t smoke and he certainly does not use the Lord’s name in vain but I could have sworn I heard him say, ‘Fuck Me’.

I had appealed to African law and they agreed.  As Head of the Family, I argued, I answer for my Family so at the appointed hour I appeared, was duly re-arrested, finger printed and manacled.  I wasn’t entirely happy (largely because they confiscated my hip flask and fags) but I knew it was me and me alone that was standing there and not the mother of my boy.  She and the boy were safe in Cape Town, probably eating waffles with ice cream in Cavendish Square for all I knew but they were safe and that was good enough for me.

It is difficult for me to make an accurate comparison between a UK court room and an Angolan courtroom from the client’s point of view.  Many times I have been called as an ‘Expert Witness’ to Crown Courts in UK but I just answered the questions posed to me with absolute honesty (once much to the obvious frustration of the prosecution, I was only ever a witness for the prosecution, but what these buggers failed to appreciate is that our job, as they reminded us as we took the stand, was to tell the truth) and avoided looking at the guy in the dock.  I noticed enough, however, to recall that there was a dock, a place for a man to sit, a rail for him to lean on.  But I never experienced it from the peculiar perspective of a man facing a beak. 

What I got in Angola was a box.  Not a box to sit in but a small box to sit on.  With my arms manacled behind my back, like I was some sort of axe murderer, in the middle of the floor.

Trials of any kind tend to be a bit of a draw for those dismally bereft of anything vaguely recognizable as a life in any country but I have to confess that a chained up white man in Africa was justifiably quite a draw so I could excuse the fact  the courtroom was packed.  Sadly, because of the resultant heat, I was sweating like a rapist and feared such obvious discomfort hardly stood me in good stead.  Bereft of a lawyer, they had trawled the local kindergartens until they found someone who could, as near as dammit, tie his own shoe laces.  Seeing him sweating more than I was, I felt marginally reassured.  By this stage, dear reader, one should understand that I was beyond suicidal and, being already dead, was merely a dispassionate observer.  Not so dead or dispassionate to fail to recognize that handcuffs are jolly uncomfortable.  I can handle the pain, don’t get me wrong, but at my age, if you have to go, you have to go so you end up shouting at your minders offering them the choice of unzipping the flies, reaching into the Y Fronts and grabbing the tackle to point it in the right direction or releasing the damn cuffs.  They cracked first time.  This is a Man thing.  Heterosexual or gay, no man wants to swamp his trousers in court and even jailors understand this.

I had passed over my carefully compiled defence file with notarized translations into Portuguese from both the German and British Embassies as required and all supporting evidence.  The car as sold was as it left the factory, just with a few more miles on it.  This would all be over in five minutes.

It took a week.

The judgement, when it was finally delivered to the hollow eyed suicide risk sat on a box in the middle of the courtroom was simple. 

I was not guilty because, as the Judge pointed out to remind those present that he was Wordly wise and had travelled abroad, it is common practice to swap out a bust engine for a serviceable replacement from the same manufacturer.

‘BUT IT’S THE SAME FUCKING ENGINE!’ I wanted to scream.

This all started off costing me eight grand for a car.  My first wife sold it in on credit with a deposit of two grand and never collected the rest.  The car when we got it back was not worth it so I was down six grand.  The guy took us to court to get his two grand back.  I paid seven and a half grand defending myself and although pronounced not guilty, I was not awarded costs.  When I rang my wife and told her she could relax, it was all over and it was safe for here to visit Angola again she told me that she hadn’t been worried because she knew I would find a way around it.

Now, accused of attempted murder and sitting there in that Jango, on a plastic garden chair this time instead of a box, the Community Court judges in front of me and the hostile family of my ‘victim’ surrounding me, I was having a bit of a Déjà vu.

All the prosecution witnesses, and there were many, had their say.  It took ages.  Each knew they had the floor to themselves and an enraptured audience.  There was a brief pause while one of the witnesses composed herself, the memory of such brutality on my part having clearly upset her so, Carpe Diem; I asked the judge if they had any drinking water.  He told me they did and ordered proceedings to continue.  I lit another cigarette which immediately glued itself to parched lips.

One ‘witness’, Toto, berated me at length.  He invited me to imagine what the likely outcome would have been if the whole village had retaliated by attacking me and my family?  ‘After all’, he pointed out, ‘it is just you, your wife, and a boy. We are many!’  he shouted threateningly pointing his finger directly at me.  He then went on to say that I was thoroughly unjustified to attack a lonely citizen when we, meaning, I suppose me, Marcia and Alex, outnumbered them.  Them?  Oh yes, I remember, the guy that attacked my wife had two other guys with him although, to be fair, they did fuck off pretty sharpish once I started swinging the ashtray.  It says a lot for African wife beating men that they consider three of them against one old white man, his four year old son and young wife as being unfairly outnumbered.  Consider this, though, if there were so many witnesses present in the Community Court, all of them sympathetic to and testifying in favour of the plaintiff, just exactly how outnumbered were they in my Jango that fateful night?  As outnumbered as I felt right there and then in their court?  Of all the witnesses who had a go at me, I was most surprised at Toto.  He was the one that witnessed Marcia paying over the money for the disputed land that everyone now denies was ever paid but I guess he was just having a go at me because, as he subsequently claimed, I once attempted to kill him.  Actually, all I did was grab him around the neck and put him to sleep for a while because he was beating his wife to death in front of Marcia’s shop.  As I said to him when he woke up, do you what you like to her in your own home but you can’t smack a woman like that on my property.

We weren’t the only people in my Jango when the trouble started, but rather as I expected, none of them were present now to speak up on my behalf.  Not surprising really, they were all women so they don’t count here and they know damn well that careless words cost lives.  Or at least earn you a good hiding.  Joaquim, who is widely accepted as male was present but, if they were stamping medals for cowardice, he would get the equivalent of the Victoria Cross.

Everyone having made themselves hoarse shouting at me, the Committee then moved onto the reason for the argument, the question of the disputed payment.  The plaintiff’s bank statements, stained with blood as I noticed with intense gratification, were produced.

Still I kept my parched mouth shut.

These were waved around as evidence of Marcia’s fraudulent attempt to rob this honest citizen of forty one dollars and my complicity in this terrible crime by striking down this honest citizen when he, with all due respect and courtesy had attempted to secure his honest due.

That was when Marcia spoke. 

I thought she was going to go nuts.  She had been tense for a long time and as an ex bomb disposal officer, I really knew just how terrible it could be if she exploded in such a confined space.

‘Look at the date of the Bank Statement’ was all she said.

There was a big huddle as they all got together.  They muttered amongst themselves for ages but then finally had to agree that the statement they were holding in their hands, all three pages of it, was dated 2012.

Composing themselves, the Committee declared that the issue of the contested payment was neither here nor there and would, henceforth, be ignored but there was still the matter of me assaulting a citizen.

Finally, I got my chance to speak.  I looked over at Marcia because she had begged me to really, really try as hard as I could to keep my mouth shut.  I got the green light from her.

I stood up.

‘I am not fully aware of the reasons for the original confusion’, I said before pausing in the best Shakespearian manner, ‘but if any man enters MY house and assaults MY wife ( I paused again), I WILL kill him or die trying.’

‘Furthermore’, I continued, ‘Which man among you would respect me, a husband for not having defended his wife in his own house and which woman among you would not spit on my shadow for allowing her to be beaten by a Gatuno?’

Gatuno is a very inflammatory word.  It’s marvelous.  It’s a wonderful mix of Cunt and Bandit.

And then I sat down, lit yet another cigarette and glanced over to Marcia who was holding her head in her hands.  C’mon, after four hours I was gagging for a drink. There was Fuck all I could say that would make any difference and I was certainly not going to crawl.

There was uproar.  The family of the victim went mad.  They don’t issue the Judges of a Community Court gavels so he banged his fist on the table to restore order.  A few were violently expelled which meant a break in the proceedings while the blood was mopped up from the floor.  I sat tight and finished my fag.

Order restored, the Judge summed up.  Did I not realize that the Angolan Government was, after decades of civil war trying to re-establish order?  After twenty years here was I still unaware of the mechanisms through which an honest citizen could derive legal redress?  And so it went on.  Apparently, seeing someone attacking my wife, I should have strolled down the road to the Coordinator’s house, got him out of bed and asked him to come back to my place and intervene on our behalf, presumably arriving just in time to take my wife to hospital, assuming it was still worth the effort.

I just let it all wash over me.  They knew the guy I hit was a git; he couldn’t prove a debit on his account in Marcia’s favour, it was all a load of bollocks.  I’d smacked the guy with an ashtray, a crime I freely admitted so I was going to go down.  So what?  A partisan crowd was baying for blood.  Let ’em fucking have it.  After twenty years in this shit hole, I’d had enough.   I drifted off back to a nice place, Belize.  I was twenty five years old and shagging the Mexican Ambassador’s girlfriend on the end of a jetty on St George’s Caye with Hazel O’Conner’s ‘Will You’ oozing out of the speakers when her sister surprised us and I died a thousand deaths of embarrassment until she invited her sister to slide in alongside us.  I was in paradise…  it was amazing… and then together the pair of them…

Marcia nudged me in the ribs.

‘Pay attention, they’re delivering the verdict’

The Judge rose from his chair and the jango fell silent.

‘Sr Tomas’.

His pause was miles better than mine as he prepared to pass Judgement:

‘Don’t do it again’


  1. I will come back tomorrow
    I have a spare hour then

  2. I'm glad the judge saw sense. Do you foresee on-going problems with the plaintiff and his community?

  3. Phew!

    NOW will you give up smoking?

  4. Seriously good news. As Mr Nabanas asks, how will this affect your standing in the community (all terms used loosely, naturally)?

    1. Everyone seems to be at great pains to wish me a 'Good Morning'. Maybe all part of a cunning plan, of course.

  5. There goes the local rehab. Now what?

    I would have been cuttin washers off my bung hole waiting for that verdict.

    1. Oh yeah, although 'fantasy will set you free' (Magic Carpet Ride - Steppinwolf lyric - Canadian rock band)

      Reality can lock you up.

      Watch your back... No need for a sequel.

    2. Washers off your bung hole?

      The mind bloody boggles!

      Being English, we restrict ourselves to admitting that our arses may, just may, have been going, 'Sixpence, Half a Crown'

      Admit it, you were whacked out on weed when you wrote that second comment of yours...

    3. Put a pucker in it huh? Believe that saying came from my old man - Yank Iron-worker speak.

      Think it came up after a day of sitting on high rise grain elevator in Duluth during a February chill. They had some big washers up there.

  6. After reading that I think I'll take up drinking. And Just to be safe would you throw away that ashtray please.
    Also You now have the honor of being one of only three blogs on my wife's favourites.


      I can't throw that particular ashtray away, it was fired in the Falklands and presented to me afterwards.

      If your wife, mother of the delightful babe, is reading my blog, I shall make best effort to clean up my language lest she swings at you with an ashtray saying, 'You Fucking idle SHIT! Do you have ANY idea how hard it is to raise a child, to give it the CONSTANT attention it needs? It is YOUR turn to make up her feed!'

  7. A cliffhanger indeed. It would be nice to think that was the end of it, but I rather suspect given the terms of endearment you lavished on the plaintiff, he may exact revenge in some form or other, which I would find slightly worrying. And I expect that if he did, you would ignore the judge's instruction. The whole "court" idea seems a little mickey mouse. And the natives seem a tad fickle with their loyalties, relying on the law of the jungle, and he who has the biggest fist, (which excludes left hands).

    Now, when are you off to the gulag en Ecosse? Perhaps you need to think whether this Angola malarkey is a good idea.

    1. Glum Glum Glum. There you go with all these negative vibes Man! Sit on your balcony, fondle your bull and suck on a spliff. Chill Man!

      It IS the end of it now.

      For the time being at least.

  8. Let that be a lesson to you. Don't do it again (unless you have to!).

    Have you considered living in Tunbridge Wells?

    1. Joking aside, I rather fancy Shropshire.

    2. I spent two years in Shropshire!

    3. Was that in Stoke Heath? Shit Man, you got form. Never saw no bruvver who did two on the bounce in Stoke Heath before. Respect.

  9. Egad! You have lived in interesting times, but not in the good way. May you now live long and prosper without legal intervention.

    1. Father told me that 'May you live in interesting times' was an old Chinese curse. Only now do I understand what he meant although, for the life of me, I cannot recall ever pissing off a Chinaman.

  10. Unbelieveable! I'm glad they couldn't hang anything on you despite their efforts.

    1. I shall donate my body to science so that they can investigate a coating slipperier than teflon...

  11. Perhaps Angola is coming along...

    You know, we in the Rule of Law lands (which includes many parts of California, though not the parts in which I grew up) tend to make snide little comments about its inflexibility, and how we long for the days of the local sheriff knowing folks and making decisions based on his years of great experience.

    To quote the local vernacular: bullocks. This here that a comrade had to endure is nothing more than that down-homey, good ol' boy attitude that we pretend we want.

    You know what we really want? Our spouses to be safe from fraud and assault. Or, barring that, we want the ability to bash the ASS-aulter's brains in with an ashtray, figurative or literal.

    1. I think I should put this ashtray on Ebay...

  12. Wow. That was some read. Knowing the end result first, I kind of suspected that you standing up for your wife would be the right thing to point out to the "court"
    It should have come with the coffee warning though.
    Have you checked out The Priory yet?

    1. I thought I had given more than just a coffee warning. This was a forget the coffee, settle down with a dry sherry and let the roast burn in the oven warning. That gives you at least three hours. Come on, noone can read that slow...

      I have not checked the Priory out yet. Castle Craig in Scotland are now offering me 'limited' internet access and their trickcyclist is going to ring me in the morning.

  13. That's one helluva story Maurice. You really do have a habit of living life on the edge. Good to see that justice can sometimes be tempered by common sense. I think the judge would probably have done the same thing and secretly admired your John Wayneness.

    1. Seriously, that is the only reason I got away with it.

  14. Against my better judgment of 'Better NEVER than late" I am here. Ich stehe auf der Matte. Now I need to gather the will and strength to do a Salto.

    Dear dog in heaven, Tom. What to do with you. Since you have never mentioned a sister I take it you don't have one. Please do adopt me and I will stand shoulder to shoulder with your brother in futile attempt to save you from yourself. And no, it's not as selfless as it sounds: I always wanted a 'von' in my surname since my father sold the title. Though a double-barrel name will do.

    What can I say? As much as I am a bitch you are clearly a nice guy and next time I need a car (like now) I shall run to you. I won't sell it on (one doesn't look a gifted horse in the mouth), neither will I bear you a Dominic to make up for my other shortcomings. So in terms of cost/benefit analysis I think you have done rather well with a woman whose friend fancied you more than you did her.

    That you had a threesome at the end of the Jetty (was it cold?) I shall overlook in honour of decency; though it beats me why couplings are usually to be supposed in twos: Let the other two do the hard work is my motto. So much more efficient. And no, I am not in the market: I am a nun. And they come in convents.

    Still, at least you aren't in pissy Pistorious pickle. I pity you, my dear Hippo. You live so close to where crimes of passion are committed through holes in the bathroom door. Give me Opera or Stratford-upon-Avon any time.

    Hugs, kisses,

    1. You can sell a 'Von' title? Ergo, this means one can buy one? This is outrageous.

      Ursula, two things. Well, two and a bit.

      Firstly, I now realise that if it flies, floats or fucks, it is cheaper to rent.

      Secondly, with two hot Hispanics on the end of a jetty in the Carribean, I can't say I noticed the ambient temperature.

      The extra bit is that you are barking mad.

  15. Chuffing excellent, if that was my first CO as judge I would have been given a weeks stoppage of pay and dont do it again.

  16. Give us some news!
    How are things going on?

    Hope you´re doing fine.


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