Sunday, 22 July 2007


The garden has been devastated by our long wet summer and the recent thunderstorms that have lashed it.
There are cabbages with no hearts; lettuce that’s bolted and won’t come back; spring onions rotten from the root upwards; potatoes with unidentified spots and scabs; spinach that’s gone to seed; flowers with deadheads.
My garden needs some gentle nurturing, attention and sunshine to coax it back to splendour. It will recover but maybe not this month or next. Of course, it’s going to get better eventually; it’s a matter of time.
On my part I’m off to find my own sunshine as I leave for warmer climes tomorrow. I shall resume this blog when I return, full of fresh inspiration and ideas!

Saturday, 21 July 2007


Teenage boys – who’d have them by choice? I should know by now: arguing with an adolescent only ever leads to raised voices and do you ever win when he always has to have the last word?

Come to think of it, why, in this nanny state of ours, don’t babies come with a health warning stuck to their foreheads? “CAUTION this little bundle of joy will turn into a belligerent teenager!”

It always amazes me, and I suppose demonstrates the full extent of parental love, that I have so many clients who want to argue over their children. Indeed I can’t recall a case where both parties have sought to reject the kids. If Outdoor Man and I ever went down the road to separation however, I speculate that Apprentice Man might just find himself in that novel position.

“Staying together for the sake of the children,” is an oft quoted phrase. Properly interpreted, does it actually mean: staying together for the sake of the parents? Neither parent should be expected to take on the sole day to day care of their children; it’s unfair – they’re extremely hardwork.

Friday, 20 July 2007


So the BBC has committed adultery...

It has cheated and lied to the Great British Public and allowed its reputedly fair phone-in contests to be adulterated. It's a national scandal. Are we shocked? Stunned? Surprised? Angry? Sad? Do we just accept it? Were we expecting it? Were we suspicious? Did we know?

Thursday, 19 July 2007


Last week I was driving back to the office from court when Radio 2’s Drive Time started. Chris Evans began the programme with the following quip: “A good lawyer knows the law; a great lawyer knows the judge!”
It set me thinking…
When you have been practising in the same location for 25 years it is inevitable that you know the Judges you appear before. In my case they were nearly all professional colleagues, solicitors in other firms with whom I had a good rapport and one of my partners even left the firm to become a Judge too. I suppose one day I might even find myself appearing before one of my former trainees! Hence my vested interest in being nice to staff for, if only the quip were true, I could be repaid several times over.
The trouble is and I tell you quite sincerely, it doesn’t make the slightest difference. Once upon a time, my opponent advised me before we went into the court room that it was the Judge’s birthday and as a longstanding personal friend she wanted to stay behind after the case to hand over a card and small gift. As there were no clients present (we were arguing over a technical legal point) and the present was well secreted in the bottom of her bag, I confirmed that I had no objection. In Court I’m proud to say that I decimated my opponent's arguments, the Judge found in my favour and awarded costs to my client. It was what could be described as annihilation. Nonetheless my opponent still gave the Judge the package; I have to confess that in her shoes I might have been inclined to discard it in the first bin I came across. Instead she took defeat on the chin. After all, we and the Judge were just doing our jobs, and friendships exist outside of the courtroom not in it

Monday, 16 July 2007


Outdoor and Apprentice Men have made it home in one piece. They didn’t get as far as the West Coast of Scotland though, but after 3 nights at sea in Force 7 winds were glad to scurry into the welcoming mouth of the River Tyne and have left the boat there to resume the voyage in a few weeks. They were exhausted and it seems very, very hungry as they completely emptied the fridge when they got back, proceeding to eat lunch, dinner then breakfast all in one sitting. Clearly they are to be congratulated on pitting their strength, wits and, in Outdoor Man’s case, experience against the elements and coming through relatively unscathed. Would that we could all weather storms in the same way.

Sunday, 15 July 2007


It’s Sunday but I went to work today to catch up. I suppose that’s what could be described as commitment. I’m in partnership and partnerships demand commitment. If you can’t give it or you feel you’re not receiving it, any partnership is in trouble.

Saturday, 14 July 2007


According to the Home Office:

  • One in four women and one in six men will be a victim of domestic violence in their lifetime with women at greater risk of repeat victimisation and serious injury.

  • 89% of those suffering four or more incidents are women

  • One incident of domestic violence is reported to the police every minute

  • On average two women a week are killed by a current or former male partner
    Domestic violence accounts for 16% of all violent crime

Sections 1 and 12 of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 came into force on 1 July 2007. Thus the breach of a court order forbidding the use or threat of violence or from entering a property or specific area, is now a criminal offence punishable by up to five year’s imprisonment.
The sending out of a clear message that domestic abuse will never be tolerated in any situation is welcomed.
The civil courts, of course, already had powers to attach powers of arrest to orders and to commit to prison for a breach (essentially for civil contempt).
Resolution is concerned that criminalising the breach of non-molestation orders could have unfortunate consequences:

  • It could deter sufferers from making an application for an order. The main concern of a Domestic Abuse sufferer who applies for a non-molestation order is to stop the abuse and some will not want to set in motion proceedings that could result in the perpetrator having a criminal record.

  • Perpetrators often say the allegations of abuse are false. They may not want to run the risk of allegations of breach resulting in criminal proceedings and may, therefore, choose to contest the injunction application.

  • The criminal justice system may struggle to deal with breach of an order as swiftly as the civil courts have; often within 24 hours. Also if the breach is denied will the case be dealt with on that occasion or adjourned for only a matter of days or weeks for a hearing, as in the civil court?

  • Whilst the criminal court will have power to make a restraining order when convicting or acquitting a perpetrator of any offence, the domestic abuse sufferer will not have legal representation and will be unlikely to be in court if the perpetrator pleads guilty. Will the court, therefore, have enough information about the sufferer's personal circumstances to frame the order in the most appropriate terms?

Friday, 13 July 2007


Little Girl moves up to secondary school in September and today was her induction day. As she was the only child attending from her present school, I had made special arrangements with the teacher in charge of the day (who is also a fellow governor and known to me). He had agreed that the bus would pick her up from our village rather than her school which was more convenient for both us and the bus company; confirmed the time as 9.30 am and indicated that all I had to do was get her there.

Last week another teacher from the secondary school visited Little Girl at her present school and confirmed that she would be picked up by bus between 9.15am and 9.30am.

We duly presented ourselves at the appointed place in the village at 9.14 am and, as you will already have guessed, the bus had been at 9am, picked up two other children and then gone without her. I was furious, not least when I was told that the teacher in charge had been on the bus himself!

Well there was no point me driving the 10 miles to the secondary school, as Little Girl was extremely nervous and clearly did not relish the prospect of being dropped off, with no idea as to where to go nor whom to speak to. Whilst I know that it may not have been like that, I had to agree that it seemed far more sensible for me to take her to her present school for the day. From there the Head Teacher, equally as perturbed as me, contacted the secondary school, calmly ,which was not something that I could have done, and cajoled the person she spoke to into getting a member of staff to drive out and collect Little Girl.

It seems that there are times when you can’t even rely on the people you know; they can and do let you down, even when it's unexpected. However, there’s always another good Samaritan ready to step in and offer help, if you let it be known that there’s a problem.

Thursday, 12 July 2007


The new motor moved in last night. Totally refined, grey, suave and sophisticated. That’s not quite how the sales literature described it but car manufacturers either lack imagination or else don’t write their brochures for middle-aged women.
It arrived complete with a bouquet of flowers on its front seat; this car certainly knows how to treat a girl. It also came with an array of gadgets which I’m sure I’ll be making use of before long.
I confess, and I giggle at the memory, to being locked in a lengthy embrace with its steering wheel immediately we got the opportunity to be alone together.
It has taken up residence in my garage as if it has always belonged there. A little different to what I’ve been used to over the past few years, but we’re working hard at getting our commitment just right. I was a bit peeved that I had to rearrange a few things to accommodate it in a way that suited us both, but we overcame that hurdle with acceptance on my part. After all I was too excited by its arrival to let a few plant pots and garden tools get in the way of the potential for a fulfilling relationship. I just know we’re going to have a long and happy time together.
Please wish us luck.
For the next instalment go to one-good-turn-deserves-another.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007


Plan early and put the kids first. That’s the advice for separated families this summer from Resolution, which says that thousands of children’s summer holidays are ruined each year by warring parents.

For some people, the idea of two summer holidays might seem like a dream come true, but the reality for separated families is often very different.

Putting the children first is the key to happy summer holidays.

Family holidays - whichever parent they are spent with - should be something to look forward to, but for children caught in the crossfire between separated parents who can’t agree on who takes the kids where, summer fun can quickly turn into summer misery.

Resolution has the following advice to help separated couples make summer holidays a success:

  • Make your holiday plans early to avoid clashes, arguments and upset later.

  • You may no longer be together but you are both still parents and should think about your children’s needs first. Talk about arrangements together, with a view to sharing both the pleasure and the responsibility.

  • Don’t ask your children to choose between you. This risks putting the responsibility on them when the adults should make these difficult decisions.

  • Do allow children to express opinions about how they want to spend their holidays and listen to their views without putting pressure on them. When you’ve made the decision, explain it to them so they know what’s going to happen.
    Do make sure your children also have an opportunity to spend time with their friends over the holidays.

  • Don’t make it a ‘who can book the best holiday’ competition between you and your ex. The likelihood is that what your children will want most of all is an opportunity to spend some time with each parent.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007


Apprentice and Outdoor Men have been away for 10 days now on one of their extreme adventures. This time they are sailing from the East Coast of Denmark to the West Coast of Scotland on a small yacht.

Friends ask if I am missing them. Of course I am, but I have to tell you that their absence has its compensations. Certainly meals and the general drudge of housework are much easier in a smaller household and the washing and ironing routines have been bliss without a pile of men’s shirts to process. There are no arguments over loud music, TV channels, windows open or closed, whose turn it is to put the wheelie bin outside the gate for collection or who ate the last chocolate biscuit. Also I seem to have more time for myself.

Other friends ask if I am concerned for them, especially for Apprentice Man who’s never undertaken a voyage of this nature before. Am I curious to know what they are doing? Obviously, but in German Bight and Fisher there have been gale warnings; in Forties, Cromarty, Forth it’s been variable 4 or 5 increasing 6 or 7, sea state rough.. Would I like what I might hear? It can get extremely uncomfortable on board, and the North Sea is a mighty big place for a little boat.

So what strategy have I adopted for coping? In the first 2 days I sent text messages but I received no reply, which only added to the anxiety. So, to be honest, I’m trying extremely hard not to think about them; not to look on the net at the Shipping Forecast; not to call or text them on their mobile phones or radio. It’s easy when I’m busy, but temptation can lurk in quiet periods and my imagination can run away with itself if I permit it. Instead they have called me; 3 times to date. It’s better that way. In the meantime with Little Girl back on her feet (see July 7th’s entry), we’re planning non-stop treats by way of distraction for ourselves.

Monday, 9 July 2007


I am in the middle of changing my car for a younger model. Unfortunately the tax, insurance and MOT on the old one all expired on 30th June. So, it was with a heavy heart that I evicted it from the garage and dropped it off at the dealer’s whilst still awaiting the transfer of my “cherished plate” (the DVLA’s term, not mine) to the new vehicle. In the meantime I confess that it is me who keeps being spotted around Durham and North Yorkshire at the wheel of another. I know it’s fickle and I know there will be better times ahead, but here and now I can’t survive without a car, so I’m “using” one (see pic above).
I’ve discovered that I have definitely been in a rut. Obviously a lady of my age gets stuck in her ways and at first it was a shock to the system; changing down to go up even the gentlest slope; half an hour to reach top speed; no central locking; no electric mirrors; no electric windows; spongy brakes; the list goes on.
But you know what? I now know that good looks, a smooth ride and black leather aren’t everything. Of course they’re exciting when you first have them but my temporary stand in gets me from A to B and does everything you really need from four wheels. Yes I still get emotional when I see a car that resembles my old one but it’s only taken a week and I can feel it’s part of my past and not my present or future. Time is healing the void and I’m even getting to bond with the little under-powered, bouncing Ka. Lovely paint job too, even if it is reminiscent of Sainsbury’s!
For next instalment see moving-in-together

Sunday, 8 July 2007


Little Girl has been ill. I got a call from school on Thursday to collect her and when I did she was running a high temperature and looking decidedly unwell. So it was straight to bed and a restless night when she was uncomfortable and my concern kept me awake looking out for her. At first this sudden illness had taken us both by surprise and even a little shock; Little Girl is rarely ever poorly you see. Then a bout of anger crept in as she realised that she might not recover for a school trip the following day or worse still a Brownie event today.
The next day she was no better. “My tummy’s so hot, you can probably fry bacon and eggs on it,” she remarked. I wasn’t sure if she was hallucinating but decided not, when she declined my offer to try.
She became unrealistic as to her recovery time and also entered classic bargaining mode: “Maybe if I stay off today and miss the school trip, I’ll be that much better for Brownies on Saturday” she stated.
Of course, a working mother’s worst nightmare had descended. A day of commitments and nobody to look after her sick child.
Luckily our next door neighbour was able to help and I went off to the office feeling guilty for leaving but convinced that I had no choice. When I got in yesterday evening, Little Girl was sad.
“I’m not going to be better for tomorrow,” she wittered through floods of tears.
The depression lasted all evening as she drifted in and out of sleep.
This morning she was still under the weather but acceptance had materialised. “I’m just not well enough to go.”
In the space of 36 hours we’d embraced, albeit at only a superficial level, a whole range of emotions that arise at times of separation, loss and bereavement. Fortunately she’s now out of bed and recovering.

Thursday, 5 July 2007


I watched the programme on Cherie Booth (aka Blair) last night and was intrigued by a comment that her father made. He was being quizzed about the effects of his leaving the family to set up home with another woman, when Cherie was only 8 years old. He confessed that he regarded himself as a failure as a father, but asserted that his leaving had probably had a positive effect on Cherie in that it had made her stronger. I wonder…


MPs debated the new Child Maintenance Bill for the first time in Parliament today, and Resolution is lobbying for parents to be allowed to take their own enforcement action.
The Government created a system where the only way to enforce child maintenance was via the Child Support Agency (“the CSA”) – the result is a debt mountain of £3.5 billion in uncollected maintenance.
The Government is promoting voluntary agreements between parents for child maintenance to avoid overload on its proposed new version of the CSA, C-MEC. Resolution says there will have to be a large number of voluntary agreements if C-MEC is not to be overwhelmed.
Yet the Government is not proposing that such arrangements will be enforceable. So couples unable to agree or enforce a voluntary arrangement will still have to go through C-MEC.
If the Government is serious about empowering parents and reducing the burden on C-MEC, they should ensure that those who choose to are free to use the court process to enforce their own maintenance arrangements.
Where the Courts are already examining the minutiae of a family’s finances for the purposes of divorce, the most cost effective and practical course would be to enable them to cover arrangements for child support payments too.