Jury Duty, Codeine Phosphate and Bitches

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Today I was strangely reminded of my jury duty at the Old Bailey in London. Yes, that’s right, only my jury duty could end up at the Old Bailey and turn out to be a murder case. What are the chances of being called up? My parents never were and my ex mother in law always wanted to be but never was. Yours truly gets called up three times. Yes, that’s right three times. I blame it on my constant moving. The first time I couldn’t do it but I can’t recall why. The third time I had a back injury (honest your honour) so couldn’t do it then either. But the second time, well, honestly I’m amazed after that they even considered calling me for a third time but they obviously take any nutter onto a jury. Well, they took me so that clearly proves it.
It began on the Monday morning and someone had already told me not to be late.
‘You’ve got to be there on time, so don’t muck around. You only need one security scare and you’ve had it.’
I dragged myself out of bed at the crack of dawn and got myself ready, my stomach fluttering with nerves and with something else. You’ll be thrilled to hear that the day before I had gone down with a stomach bug, okay a nervous stomach, if you believe my doctor. He prescribed Codeine Phosphate and said take up to 8 a day. Now, all I could think about was what if I get put on an IRA terrorist trial. I could be there for eight weeks. Even worse I may have to stay in a London hotel. Just the thought induced the stomach to complain. I quickly popped two codeine phosphate said goodbye to my then husband (I’ve had one before Andrew. I’ve decided two is enough. I’m too old to think about a third. Anyway I digress. Enough of husbands. I’m sure you have one of your own you could complain about without hearing about my two) after advising him I may have to stay in a hotel I nervously made my way to the station. I’m loaded down with Hello and Ok magazines, several novels, two newspapers and the Sunday supplements. I’ve been advised the chances of me even getting on a case the first day is very slim and I’m likely to spend it in the jurors canteen reading and drinking tea. Oh well, at least I will get paid for it. It will be the first time I’ve been paid for enjoying my magazines.
I arrive at the jurors entrance to the Old Bailey and am given a pass. I then proceed with lots of other people to a huge hall where there is a roll call. It’s like being at school. So far, so good, and no sign of a criminal or murderer but I suppose they are kept somewhere else. I’m led to a waiting area and given a cup of tea. Along with everyone else I pull out my novel and begin to read. I reach page 2 and my name is called. God, this isn’t right is it? I’m supposed to sit here all day. I follow a man along a corridor along with several other people and suddenly I’m in a court room. After a time, more names are called out, mine included and I realise I am on a jury. We are told that we are to judge a murder case. Well, after the word murder my whole body went into shock and my brain switched off. Oh my God, oh my God. We were informed that the case should last the duration of our duty which would be two weeks. I was on a case, on the first day. A murder case. This could only happen to me. Why couldn’t I get a motoring offence like the rest of my friends? Oh no, that would never happen would it? Not to yours truly. Well, I’m bound to bugger this up. Already the codeine phosphate is making me feel spaced out. That’s all I need. My doctor might have warned me. Any hope I had of returning to the canteen before lunch is quickly dashed when one of the barristers begins to outline our role in the case that is to follow. We are all given notebooks to jot things down (I’m later going to thank God for this notebook)
The defendants are rolled out, well not rolled out but you know what I mean. One has dreadlocks and the other is covered in tattoos.dreadlocks

I feel my stomach gurgle and quickly pop another codeine phosphate before the proceedings start. An hour later and the judge is fading in and out of my vision. Great. The second person takes the stand and begins to talk about the defendants and tells us their street names. I scribble the name snake man and numerous others into my notebook and try to get my fuddled codeine phosphate brain to decipher which names belongs to who. It seems life in the Notting Hill ghetto is a million miles from my little life in my nice little flat in Ilford. People don’t get gunned down there. Or if they do it has never happened when I was around. It is two o clock and the judge looks at his watch as a witness leaves the stand.
‘Court adjourned,’ he says.
What already? I’m on the end of the hard bench and stand up too quickly feeling myself sway slightly. I smile nervously at the steward who helps me down.
‘Tiredness,’ I say, while feeling totally stoned as well as constipated.
So endeth the first day. jury 1

The next day was even more exciting if that is at all possible. I took two codeine phosphate in the morning. My stomach was fine but I preferred to keep it that way. I don’t want to be raising my hand during a crucial evidence moment do I? Oh no, best to take precautions. We wait and wait in the corridor outside the courtroom. Something is holding things up. I tell another juror I have to go to the loo. I like to get everything out of the way so I can concentrate. I follow the sign to the ladies and enter. I’ve only been in there five seconds when the door bursts open and two stewards fly in. I hold my hands up in fear.
‘Out,’ they shout.
I look around to see who they are shouting at and realise it is me.
‘I’m just going to the loo,’ I say shakily.
‘Not in here you’re not. Anyone can approach you. You’re a juror. Didn’t you listen to the rules when you started. All jurors use their own toilet.’
Oh my God, I could have been approached by a member of the murderers family. I could have been murdered in the loo. Not how I had planned my end. I nearly pass out from the shock. I instead pop another codeine phosphate thinking this is bound to upset my stomach.
Back in court. Ten minutes in and I’m confused.com. They keep talking about Snake Man and then Tutu, Rocka and Bo Bo. I’m seriously losing track of who’s who. Then the photos come round. I can barely look. It’s easier to throw a few more codeine phosphate down. During lunch I discuss the case with another juror and she helps clarify and says it will all become clear during the summing up. After lunch we return and watch as the defendants girlfriends give evidence. They pass our bench and the woman who calls herself Snake Man’s bitch stops and gives me and another woman juror a long intimidating stare.
‘He’s my man and I’m his woman, got it,’ she says while on the stand ‘And he aint done nothing and no one better say he did. I’m his bitch and I’ll do anything for him. He aint murdered no one.’
That’s about the only testimony I’d been able to understand so far. All the rest had been in street slang and could have been a rap for all I knew.
Oh dear.
I feel my knees knock and the woman beside me clenches her fists as the witness passes us to leave. But then continues to stare at us intently from the public gallery. At four, court is dismissed and I look down miserably at my scribblings. We leave by the jurors door and the other juror named Helen hangs onto my arm. Waiting outside are the bitches.
‘Oh God,’ says Helen.
‘Just walk,’ I say.
I’m starting to think an IRA case and a London hotel would have been preferable. At least I would have got home safely. We take the escalator down to the underground and she asks if I would meet her at the station tomorrow so we can walk to court together.
Four days in and the judge dismisses the case against one of the defendants. I’m starting to feel a great sense of relief. If he does the same with the other defendant we are home free. Day 7 and the defendant still stands in the dock and wonderful news, the judge is going to sum up. I look up at the public gallery and see the other defendant who was let off, enter and sit down. I look to the defendant who stands in the dock to my right. The judge starts summing up and I begin to relax and start to take it all in when my eyes are pulled to the dreadlocked guy in the gallery. He slowly slides his hand into his jacket. My heart almost stops beating. Oh my God, he’s going to shoot the guy in the dock. My eyes fly from him to the other guy and I freeze. What if he misses and shoots me. Oh God, this is the worst day of my life. I’m going to be in all the newspapers tomorrow. I can’t take my eyes off the guy in the gallery. If I prepare myself, I can duck or something. I feel the perspiration run between my breasts. I wipe a bead of sweat from my forehead and take some deep breaths. The judges voice disappears into the background. I wait with bated breath for the guy in the gallery to pull out his gun and fire. It feels like my whole life flashes before my eyes. It doesn’t seem to matter that I’m missing the summing it. I’m not going to live long enough to help with the verdict anyway. Then the dreadlock guy removes his hand. I hold my breath and feel myself tense. Codeine Phosphate are no good now. A  bottle of wine is what I need. wine for jury

He places his hands in his lap and continues to listen to the judge. Oh no. He doesn’t have a gun. I turn back to the judge who is talking about the gun used in the crime and I start making notes. Just as well I did as that was the critical piece of evidence to which we made our decision. We found him not guilty, due to lack of evidence. I survived to see another day and did eventually go to the loo again you’ll be pleased to know. I set off back home to my man; after all I am his bitch.

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The things nightmares are made of

It’s been over a year since we had the builders in. That’s the right phrase isn’t it? I’ve only finally recovered. I think I will be scarred for life. But I have reached that stage where I could actually consider having builders in again.

At the time though, my excitement at having an extension I have to admit dwindled by the day.

I stupidly escaped to Cambodia for three weeks in the vain hope it would all be over when I got back. Instead I came home to a demolished kitchen and a living room that looked as though squatters had moved in. My lovely husband had shoved everything onto the couches, into corners, and in piles on the floor. I stared aghast.  The corner of the room that had once housed my couch and a little table with romantic candles now had a makeshift sink and washing machine. My living room in a matter of days had become lounge, kitchen, bathroom and junk room.

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‘The tumble dryer finally broke,’ says my husband.

It just gets worse.

‘But we’re on the way.’

To madness I find myself thinking.

‘The builders arrive every morning at 7, so you’ll need to be up.’

‘But I’m jet lagged,’ I whine.

Oh God, did I agree to this. Can we go back?

‘Oh and the bathroom is coming down today. Come and meet the builders and see the portaloo.’

Why is making it all sound so glamorous? I just want to lie down and die. I’m so jet lagged. I don’t want to meet builders.

‘This is Dan, and Steve,’ says Andrew introducing me.

My lovely garden looks like a building site. I look at the portaloo and want to cry.

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Lovely Dan
Lovely Dan

‘I need to lie down,’ I say only to find the bed unmade, Why is it men cannot make a bed? Is it that hard?

‘Well, there’s no point, we’ll be getting in it again later. ‘Says Andrew casually.

I groan.

Now, I should tell you I am one of those women who clean up as people work. If Andrew does DIY, I’m there with the vacuum cleaner, vacuuming the dust as it falls. I’m dead serious. I can start working and if there is some mess on the floor I have to remove it otherwise I can’t concentrate.

To top it all. I’m right in the middle of a novel.

‘How can I write?’ I moan.

Honestly I’ve never moaned so much in my life.

‘You’ll cope,’ says Andrew.

He’s very understanding as you can tell.

I take another look at the living room and decide we can’t live like this and spend the next few hours sorting everything out. Dan and Steve keep looking at me and I see fear in their eyes. Oh yes, things are about to change. I’m home now.

I had these builders in my home for six months. During that time I had five periods. It’s no fun, trying to change a tampon in a portaloo when the builders are sitting outside it having their tea break.

I wrote a complete novel with them here. It was ‘Pink Wellies and Flat Caps’

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Dan became my own personal little helper. He would run out and bring in the washing when it rained. He took in parcels for me and the whole six months had me calling, ‘Dan,’ numerous times.

Then we had a little holiday. Just a week but we were so stressed that it became an emergency to have a break. We stayed at a lovely cottage in Cornwall which had a bathroom and a kitchen. I was in heaven. While we were away we arranged for the heating people to come in to install our new heat pump…

Right, I need a minute, a cup of tea and a Valium if I am to carry on. Just the word heat pump reminds me of that horror. Forget Freddie Kruger and nightmare on Elm Street. Forget Norman Bates and Pyscho. Just think heat pump and a company called Verdalec. There I’ve said the name. I’ve actually said it. I have never wished evil on anyone but If I could perform spells on these people I would do it tomorrow.  We were doing well. Dan was wonderful. Steve was excellent. Kevin our main builder was brilliant. Everything was going according to plan and then along came Verdalec. There I have said it twice now. I emailed Dan to ask if they had been and whether the heat pump was installed. It took a long time for lovely Dan to reply. Of course, I understand why now. Finally, a text.

‘Hi Lynda, yes they have been. They were everywhere so we couldn’t do much.’

Oh yes, anything to get out of working and having another tea break with doughnuts. Of course, I was later to discover that lovely Dan had queried their mess and had actually gone behind them to clear up so it wouldn’t look too bad when we returned home. Bless his cotton socks. Because I cannot begin to tell you what it looked like when we returned home and this was after Dan had cleared up. I walked into the living room and my stomach sank. I don’t know why. It had looked like this for some time now but after leaving the lovely cottage in Cornwall it just looked a hundred times worse somehow. I went upstairs to take our suitcase and unpack and must have groaned so loudly because Andrew and Bendy came rushing upstairs. If only cats could talk. Bendy would probably tell you he seriously considered leaving home. The poor little bugger had no cat flap and was forced to stay out all night. His food was left outside as there was nowhere in the house for it. His kitchen had gone, which had once been his sleeping place. Our little cuddles on the loo (best not to go into those) had gone, as we no longer had a loo. Plus these big burly men came every day and scared the shit out of him so that he spent most of his time under the duvet. I can tell you I came close to joining him often. We were now all staring at the hole in Andrew’s office door and the scratches along the stair wall. I leaned on the bannister for support and nearly went down the whole flight of stairs as it came away in my hands. Andrew rescued me. I stumbled into the bedroom for a good cry and then saw the black footprints up the bedroom wall leading to the loft.

Bendy explores the building work.
Bendy explores the building work.

‘I’m phoning Dan,’ said an angry Andrew.

‘It’s not his fault,’ I hiccup.

‘Come on let’s go into the summer-house,’ he suggested. ‘That’s our sanctuary.’

Now Is the time to hide behind the cushions. This is worthy of a movie, I tell you. The summer-house was the one place not touched by builders. A place to relax, escape it all. I opened the door, a cup of tea in one hand and my laptop in the other. I opened the door and gasped. Someone had been in there. You know how you just know these things? Of course there were the giveaway signs. Bearing in mind I had cleaned the summer-house thoroughly before going away. It wasn’t just a feeling that someone had been in there, it was more the dirty footprints that gave it away and the throw on the chair all messed up. Of course the mud on the carpet was a complete giveaway.

‘I’ll kill them,’ I cried.

‘Right,’ said Andrew with that look on his face when he means business.

Oh, why did I ever go on holiday?

Dan explained that there had been about six people who came to fit the boiler and heat pump. That they made some mess and that he queried it but they said some mess is to be expected. So Dan, vacuumed and did his best to put the stair bannister back.  Andrew then left a stroppy message on the answer phone of the director of the heating company. Two days later someone came to see me and the damage. We went upstairs and he looked at the door and the boiler.

‘Well you can see the size of that.’ He said.

For one awful minute I wondered what it was we were talking about the size of. Fortunately it was the same thing. The boiler.

There in moments in life when you have to bite your lip isn’t there? This was one of them. I chose not to bite mine.

‘Yes,’ I said.

‘Well it was difficult for the guys to get that in here. It’s a small cottage in all fairness.’

‘Yes but in all fairness, the guys could have removed the door,’ I said.

He looks thoughtful.

‘How can you be sure hour guys did it?’

Now I saw red. Was he blaming it on Dan or the other builders?

‘I’ve had my builders here for three months. Dan even tells me when he spills water anywhere. I somehow think he would let me know if he bashes my door in. Your guys did it.’

‘Okay, we’ll obviously pay for the damage but you understand that damage happens when things like this are done.’

Finally he went. After agreeing to the pay the cost of painting the bedroom wall and fixing the door. I then decide not to go away again while I have work being done in the house. Of course it stupidly didn’t occur to me that they could do just as much damage when I’m in the house as when I am out of it.

Even this sight of me doesn't drive the builders away
Even this sight of me doesn’t drive the builders away

To be continued…