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Posted Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I will not be likely to shake the hand of Will Self: one never knows where it might have been.

click for origin[Previous Radical's Diary]

April 22, 2008 (Tuesday)
Windsor -- Putney (England)

I ARRIVE at Wandsworth County Court, at ten a.m., and sit in the waiting room -- like The Tank at the Vienna prison, but without the graffiti -- until lunchtime; I race up to the car, no ticket on it yet.

The case is finally called before Judge Amin (an Anglo Indian, I believe) at 2:30 p.m. She has read most of the relevant files, very fast, but with a shrewd grasp of what was going on at the Bed-and-Breakfast (B&B) in Kew. The judge is a very talkative woman who makes Tessa S. [a solicitor] seem positively taciturn.

She finds by four p.m. that because there were two perfectly reasonable but opposing interpretations of the cancellation clause in the landlady's agreement, it is a legal "uncertainties" case and the purported contract on which I am suing is therefore void, i.e., it had never existed. Therefore I can not sue for damages under it.

A fantastic own-goal by the landlady's own barrister Helen Reid -- twentyish, blonde, very female, just a touch of mascara (evidently anticipating a male judge) -- who had argued the "no case to answer" on the contract clause, without anticipating (as I did not either) the uncertainties point in contract law.

To add insult to injury, the judge then makes no Order as to costs, other than that I pay the landlady's bus fare today. What a slap in the face for her. She faces a £5,000 bill for legal costs (B P Collins [her solicitors] had already mailed and emailed the schedule of costs to me). Pink-faced and seething, the cute young barrister holds us up another half hour furiously wrangling with the Judge about this draconian No Costs Order as it looms into view, but Judge will not be budged; it was wholly unnecessary for them to build up these costs or even to answer my Claim, she avers, until shortly before the trial.

Barrister Helen Reid argues that I could never have obtained damages, as they are unrecoverable in a breach of contract case.

The Judge flatly and repeatedly rejects this point, and I do not even have to marshal the authority of Kemp vs. Kemp which A. has phoned through to me during the morning -- in a case of the wrongful determination of a contract, if the result is a forced eviction, a claim for assault and battery can be pleaded, in which case damages of "at least" £2,000 can be asked; of course I have not pleaded this, but it would have been worth the try.

The Judge bends over backwards to humour me, and although the second part of the case is never reached she makes plain that she is highly suspicious of the three hearsay statements provided [by the defence], and has even noticed the wrong dates on two of them. A most entertaining afternoon. I race back to the car at 5:15 pm, and by a miracle it still has no ticket although its parking fee expired an hour ago. A narrow squeak, all in all, I think.


April 28, 2008 (Monday)
Windsor (England)

I FIX the bugs in the financial contributions pages. Strings of loose code have infected some of them. Mystery how that can have happened.

[. . .] After he goes, I read the Standard. In its nether regions, I stumble, shortsighted as I now am, into an article headed "One epidemic we can't beat". It has oozed from the pen of that odious, self-satisfied, turtleneck-sweater wearing drug addict and Standard columnist, Will Self.

I cannot recall having read an article in this fine newspaper before which begins with such self-adulating, money-conscious pouring of excrement over himself and his readers -- if there are any:

BACK IN 1985 [he nonchalantly begins] I was an inpatient at a drug rehab in the West Country and had genital warts that required regular and painful treatments. Each week I went to the STD clinic at the nearby hospital, where a middle-aged consultant applied an acidic preparation to the glans of my penis. One day, while he was actually holding the afflicted portion, he remarked -- quite casually -- that the best way to rid the country of HIV/Aids would be to "castrate all you junkies -- and the queers, too".

You didn't need to have a well-developed persecution complex -- which I did, anyway -- not to find this a little aggressive.

Tough. His self-important heroin-fazed orbit had collided with that of a normal human being, a British doctor, whose job it is to pick up the pieces at taxpayer expense. Needless to say Will Self's latest novel, titled The Butt -- I suspect its hero is a Mr Götz von Berlichingen -- is to be published by Bloomsbury, the billionaire hawkers of the Harry Potter books.

At a time when the worried and the percipient are pleading with the media to sweep drug addicts and junkies, however "reformed", out of the limelight and back under the carpet, in the interests of the rest of us normal folks who want to bring up our children in a climate of decent living and honest labour, the newspaper editors and television producers seemed determined to push as much publicity and moolah in the way of Kate Moss, Pete Doherty, Will Self and the rest of these loathsome creatures who refuse to scuttle back under the flagstones whence they first crawled into our unwelcoming view.

Lord Beaverbrook -- Max Beaverbrook who founded the Evening Standard in the 1930s -- must be spinning in his tomb at the tastes of the latest owners of his newspaper. The Beaver once had a stable of the world's finest, and cleanest, writers. During World War II Michael Foot wrote for the Standard some of the most outstanding and independent articles that I have ever read (and Foot's book The Guilty Men is a classic); Foot is still with us, God bless his soul -- we shook hands once at a literary party before each of us could realise what we had done; and when I realised, I shook his hand again. I will not be likely to shake the hand of Will Self: one never knows where it might have been.

CAHAL Milmo, journalist grandson of the famous barrister, has published in The Independent an amusing account the Melbury B&B court hearing, and I post it with documents on the website during the evening, there being nothing worth watching on the box.


April 29, 2008 (Tuesday)
Windsor (England)

A READER asks about the Unterschriftenmappe: "Is this item still available? Can you also supply any information on the authenticity?"

I reply: "All the items come from the circle of Hitler's private staff who, I guess one would say, raked over the ruins of the Berghof after the RAF raid [in April 1945] and in some cases removed the items 'to safety' even before the raid. I am familiar with many fakes and replicas, but the handiwork on this one and the leather tooling is of a superior quality that in my judgment is unlikely to be of post-war origin."

10:45 a.m. I phone the computer repair shop, and arrange to bring the Mac round for instant diagnosis this afternoon, and a new keyboard perhaps. Some of the keys have worn right through. A new motherboard will be around £650, but it may be just the sound board that has fried.

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