I was chuffed beyond words to be asked to write for LawyersLife. ‘But is there actually any interest in what I have to say?’ I asked dubiously.
‘Absolutely’, Rehna enthused. ‘People want to read things from real people, real experiences. You can be my busy yummy mummy of 4 kids’.
Wow. I was flattered but I agreed rather reluctantly. I don’t feel I really write very well. I can; draft orders, tick; position statements- yep; closing submissions- I ace these, but writing an article?! Also, did I want any more on my plate?
So, for those who don’t know me; I am a full time family barrister, mother to four children (10, 7, 4 and 2), wife, governor with safeguarding something or another and I sit as a Magistrate (JP, one of three rather than the old style ‘Stipe’ or DJ) in a busy criminal court in London. I also do a fair bit for Chambers; I organised the 42BR Quiz night in March and organised the 42BR team for the London Legal Walk.
See a pattern here? I can’t say no but almost did but for Rehna’s persuasive skills: ‘it can be as short as your Tweets or as long as you like’. Only time will tell whether anyone is actually interested in what I have to say especially when one of my top posts on Twitter was a pic of my then 6 month old in my red bag!
This article is long. Why? Because this week I was forced to stop.
Monday I saw my accountant before dashing to the Mags Court to do my sitting, followed by a trip to Chambers to do some work before meeting friends for dinner. In the background, I had a wee ache in the right side of the abdomen. It was dull; I thought I’d eaten something dodgy and didn’t have much appetite at dinner. For those who don’t know me, that’s unusual. I can eat ’till the cows come home.
Tuesday and the pain is still there, hurting more but again gets pushed to the back of my mind as I plan the week. Oh I’m not in court, so I book a hair appointment so that I can finally donate the hair to Little Princess Trust, I book a sports massage for my 10 year old and prep my case for the next day. By late evening, the pain hasn’t gone, so cue call to 111 followed by trip to A&E. Luckily I have my laptop, papers and iPad with me. Wait to be seen? 4-5 hours when I checked in. More prep for case. Blood tests back, which are a bit dodgy.. Seen by surgeon who asks me to come back for scan. Leave hospital 4.30am.
Wednesday: Husband mad dashes to London with my papers and my ninja clerks sort out cover for the case. I can’t thank my long suffering husband and my clerks enough. Kids’ activities all managed. Then off to hospital.
So here’s the thing. We all know #thelawisbroken but the #nhsisbroken too.
A&E looked like a court building I regularly frequent. The waiting area was hardly fit for purpose, filled with people in pain, not enough seats and broken chairs galore. There wasn’t even a water fountain/machine. Elderly folk groaning on trolleys lined the corridors and we were, on occasion, greeted with the sound of violent vomiting from a young chap who was obviously very poorly. There was clearly not enough staff, the system is underfunded and overworked. The people are lovely and try their best. They forewent their breaks just to crack on with their list. Like in the justice system, morale is at an all time low. They grit their teeth and get by, all the while being shafted by the powers that be. I feel so sorry for them.
When I had my scan, it was apparent that someone else got my notes written on their file and I got theirs on mine. Poor sod. According to my notes, the reason for my scan was that I had had my appendix out ten days ago and I was being scanned to check for inflammation and infection. Actually ten days prior I was running around like a blue-arsed fly and trying to prep a nightmare of a case that I’d rather not relive here (note to myself- still have to finish that attendance note).
(**Also note to myself, and for future cross examination purposes, none of the medical staff I ever saw made handwritten contemporaneous notes.)
So at 5pm I was told I needed an emergency operation which will be done at 7pm.
At 10pm, I was still waiting. By this time, I’m in pain, missing my kids, freaking about work, worrying about how 10 year old was going to get to her ballet lesson when she had her exam coming up and all the other crap that goes racing through your mind. All that and having not eaten for over 9 hours, I was ‘teary’. That’s code for being an emotional wreck. My husband visited as my mum and sister babysat the children. Husband was sent to find out about this op, which was proving more elusive than legal aid for an exceptional case. It wasn’t going to be until the morning and so I finally get to eat, after a few more tears.
After the op, I’m told that someone will talk to me about how it went when I’m more lucid. A day later I’m still waiting to be spoken to. And whilst lying here in pain, I took the opportunity to write.
Things I have learnt:
1. I do too much. It’s nice to be stopped and forced to slow down, even though the cost is much pain to the body
2. Morphine does not agree with me. I don’t know why some of my clients like it so much. Any hair strand test I undertake will be positive
3. Asking for help does not make you weak
4. An op on your tummy hurts more than having 4 kids naturally, even with stitches ‘down there’
5. I should give more credit to Husband and not assume he can’t cope. He can and he’s awesome
So, this is interesting, I’ve just been seen by docs now. They talk faster than me when I’m about to go into court, explaining last minute matters to clients. Apparently I don’t need to know details about the op or I might as well be a surgeon. However, if you tell me before the op that you’ll show me pics of whatever’s taken out and camera images from the op, that’s kind of what I expect to see afterwards? I’m not even sure if my records have been amended to show I haven’t had my appendix out twice. I feel like a nuisance and an inconvenience, which clearly was not their intention. It’s just another sign of a crumbling overworked system.
Never mind. I am finally out of here and off to rest… That’s if they get my paperwork and discharge papers ready. Girls’ sports day in an hour. Don’t think I’ll be running in the mummy’s race for some reason.
Just want to thank my Husband, family and clerks for being so supportive. Plus the two barristers from 42 who stepped in last minute to cover my cases. Thanks for all the emails and texts I’ve received with offers of visits and help. And to the solicitor who visited, with a cheese scone and blueberry muffin and an offer to take me home after discharge and didn’t judge when I looked rough as hell. I hate the hashtag #blessed, so annoying and pretentious but today I genuinely feel blessed, blessed that we have an NHS, a legal system, supportive colleagues and all. Thanks for reading
Signing off for the day
Oh just told that paperwork not done. I’ll have to accept the solicitor’s offer of a lift home and miss sports day. And sort out logistics for how all the kids will get to their activities this weekend…