Mr. Blog

Earlier this week, my Facebook page reached 500 likes, and I’m rather chuffed (or at least I was, until I realised a friend of my wife has over 25,000 Twitter followers…)

As my readership continues to grow at an alarming speed (alarming only in its sluggishness), I feel the need to recap slightly for those just joining us.

I am 38 years old, and a father of two boys (although I panicked recently at a comedy club, when asked by the comedian how old my children are, and having answered to the room that they are eight and four, he then asked me if I have one of each – to which my mind went blank, and I answered ‘yes’, assuming he meant one child aged eight, and one aged four).

I am married (sorry ladies – or gents who are that way inclined) and my wife is a teacher, which means she will be skipping around the house this evening, because her school is breaking up today until September, and the quota of obnoxious children she must deal with on a daily basis will drop considerably – from a couple of thousand, to just our two little shits.

For those of you not in education, let me assure you that, when a teacher protests – as is so often the case – that they earn this six-week summer break (longer in some cases), they really fucking earn it. This goes for all teachers (apart from maybe P.E. teachers, who, from recollection, largely do bugger all).

When I look at our two boys, and some of the other miscreants in the playground each morning, I can only sympathise with primary school teachers, and offer them my sincere gratitude for giving the rest of us a break each day. They deserve every single second of this summer holiday (together with a lovely present from all the children in their class – and, if you happen to be organising this for your child’s teacher, my suggestion would be all the alcohol you can feasibly carry, and a cushion to scream into, ready for September. Failing that, cold hard cash). Primary school teachers are saints.

In contrast, my wife teaches at an all-boys secondary school, but she – along with her colleagues – deserve just as much admiration and respect (apart from the P.E. department). Ok, they may not face the same imminent danger of being pissed or shit on that their primary school counterparts risk each day; but by secondary school this has been replaced by the very real possibility of being beaten up by an irate pupil instead.

Along with doctors, nurses, our armed forces, and the guy whose job it is to fit indicators to BMW cars (poor, pointless bastard), teachers deserve our utmost admiration for the often thankless work that they do.

I, on the other hand, work as a personal injury solicitor, and in contrast we are almost universally disliked. In fact, as far as Joe Public is concerned, we are only slightly higher up the popularity ladder than politicians, tax inspectors and traffic wardens. And people seem to listen to Joe Public (even though he strikes me as a bit of a prick at times).

Look, being a personal injury solicitor is not what I set out to do for a living, and I’m not particularly proud of it, but I worked damn hard to secure my law degree (and qualifications thereafter), and it pays the bills – so, for now, it is my life.  If I could change my occupation, I would, but I do (generally) like my colleagues, and we personal injury lawyers are not all ambulance-chasing predators like the press would have you believe. Just wait until you actually need one of us (and I pray you never do) before making your mind up.

Anyway, it will come as no shock that, if I had my way, I would write for a living. I love nothing more than making people laugh, and since I don’t have the confidence (or the material) to go into stand-up comedy, this right here is my passion. Posting on my blog every Friday, and uploading quirky little bits and pieces to my Facebook page in between, really gets me through the week. Nothing makes me happier than finding something amusing, then discovering lots of you do as well.

You may think that, with ‘only’ 500 followers after a few years of writing, I am largely wasting my time – and you would probably be right – but truth be told, I was just as happy writing my blog when I had a fraction of that number (although, having said that, if my readership did suddenly multiply overnight to tens of thousands, I wouldn’t complain).

Unfortunately, only those bloggers who amass a serious following can hope to make a living out of it, and with two young kids to feed and clothe, and a wife with a shoe-addiction to cater for, I cannot afford any career changes just yet.

Besides, whilst I have only really practised Personal Injury litigation since qualifying as a Solicitor, at least it’s not dull. Ok, corporate law at a city firm is where the big money is, but it strikes me as incredibly dull, and at least – to a certain extent – working as a PI lawyer does offer some comedic potential.

It’s not that I would ever laugh at a client’s injury (well, not often), but sometimes, every once in a while, you encounter a real character. Someone, almost so obscure or ludicrous in their personality, mannerisms or actions, that they might as well be one of the Mr Men.

In fact, if we ignore the obvious personal injury associations with the likes of Mr Bump and Mr Clumsy, then I can more or less give you a real life example from my sixteen years in the job, for most of the others (whilst preserving client confidentiality, obviously). I’ll just select a few though…

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Some would argue that all personal injury claimants are greedy, but the law is designed to recompense those who have been genuinely injured as a result of negligence, to restore them to the position they should have been in, had the injury never occurred.

However, one client, many years ago, phoned me having received the medical report which detailed his minor back injury (of six months’ duration), to explain that he had watched a documentary on injury litigation in the United States, and had valued his own case at £1.5m. I had to let him down gently (by asking him to write out £1,500,000 on a piece of paper, and then start removing zeros until he reached £1,500).

Also known as: Mr Unrealistic Expectations

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Ok, it’s a different interpretation of the word ‘wrong’, but I once had a client phone me and throughout the call he sounded distracted and his voiced strained. After a full ten minutes of discussing his case, I then heard a flushing sound, and he asked me to hang on a second while he ‘wiped’. Now, that’s just plain wrong (bear in mind he phoned me).

I didn’t stay on the line long enough to discover whether he was also Mr Messy.

Also known as: Mr Inappropriate

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The client who complained, after just four weeks, that his case was ‘dragging on’.

Also known as: Mr Impatient Prick

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Not everyone knows the phonetic alphabet, and some of the ‘alternatives’ I hear are often comedic, but one particular client, whilst trying to spell his own surname, suffered a bout of impromptu Tourette’s: “S for…..erm…. shit…. sorry that’s all I could think of. T for…. damn…. erm….. twat? So sorry about this. My mind has gone blank….” I stopped him when he got to ‘C’.

Also known as: Mr Sweary Pants

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I was once approached outside the office by a creepy looking man, in a long black trench coat, who asked if I could arrange a restraining order for him. Apparently, my negative response did not dissaude him, and he went on to explain he was a satanist, and wanted a restraining order against ‘all Christians’. Seriously.

When I explained that I am in fact a personal injury solicitor, he then questioned whether that meant I had lots of photographs of really nasty injuries – and mutilations – in my office, before letting out a groan like he was aroused.

Also known as: Mr Fucking Creepy

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How about the elderly gentleman, who, when asked for photographs of the pothole which caused his accident (to see if we could accept his case), chose to also send me rather graphic shots of his mangled penis?

When asked for an explanation (bearing in mind I had spoken to him just once), he told me that, at the time of his fall, he had gone to collect the morning newspaper in just a dressing gown, and when he tripped it had flown open. For a few, glorious seconds, he had soared through the air (very much like a flying squirrel, I should imagine), before crash landing, his shrivelled old man junk making sweet love to the pavement as he skidded to a stop.

Also known as: Mr Geriatric Exhibitionist

Mr Happy

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I am yet to discover a client who fits this one.

Oh, and before I go, let’s not forget the females…

Little Miss Naughty

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I once had a client who wanted to pursue a claim against the care home where she worked, but not only was liability for her accident denied, her personnel file revealed an unexpected twist. Seemingly, the care home in question had one particular resident who was notorious for asking female members of staff to – for want of a better phrase – pleasure him.

Naturally, most had politely declined – except for my client, who was caught mid-act, and promptly dismissed by her employers on the spot (before becoming, very swiftly, an ex-client).

Also known as: Little Miss Woodpecker

And that’s just a small selection of the people I encounter on a daily basis, so I think I have earned a bloody holiday too.

Fortunately, we’re going away next week, so there won’t be a blog entry next Friday, but – fear not – I’ll be back the week after.

Unlike all those sodding teachers.

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Every Blog Has Its Day

This week’s entry is being hurriedly typed the day before, because I feel the need to tell you about the legal conference I attended on Wednesday.

I know what you are thinking, and, yes, finding the humour in a legal conference, is about as likely as finding an immigrant at the UKIP Christmas Party; but I found it, and I want to share it with you. Besides, I had bugger all else to write about this week.

I only found out that I would be accompanying my boss to the annual *firm name removed* Conference that morning, by which time I could not make any alternative arrangements for getting there and back – I had no choice but to drive into Manchester.

This wouldn’t normally bother me, but I knew there was a drinks reception and meal later in the evening, and if there is one thing you need to survive a stuffy legal conference, filled with sinfully boring lawyers (I feel justified in making this generalisation, for I am one), it is the numbing properties of alcohol. If you can imagine undergoing root canal surgery without anaesthetic, then attending a legal conference without booze is very much the same: it is always preferable to be completely numb (and, if possible, unconscious).

As I parked up outside the rather lavish hotel, desperately trying to avoid hitting the very expensive-looking Bentley and Audi on either side of my filthy went-to-Norfolk-at-the-weekend-and-the-kids-destroyed-it VW, I decided this was not going to be a fun day.

Having signed in, I attached my hastily-prepared name badge (they had to re-write it, when I explained that my surname is not, in actual fact, ‘whore’), and was then told of all the excitement the organisers had planned, starting with the opportunity to ‘network’ (verb: to walk around talking to boring people you don’t like, whilst trying to sound interested).

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Better still (sarcasm), each time you visited one of the twenty or so businesses dotted around the room – and, by way of illustration, the most interesting (by some margin) was the company selling photocopiers and office furniture – you got a little stamp in your book. Then, at the end of the day, the person with the most stamps would win a prize. Hooray, we were back at school.

Adopting my very finest fuck this attitude, I did eventually (and reluctantly) go and speak to a few businesses, but only because there is a limit to how much Facebook you can check on your phone before people start to notice, and also because I was drawn to their shiny freebies, like a kleptomaniac magpie.

I collected a power pack and plug-in fan for my phone (for those times when you need to make an important call, but find yourself both low on battery and warm of chin), only to discover that the various ‘universal’ connectors didn’t apply to my particular Samsung.  Silly me for having only the second largest selling phone on the planet. Ah well, it was probably for the best, as the fan would have lacerated my face at some point anyway.

Despite succumbing to their enforced business socialising, I did however manage an uncharacteristic act of defiance, by refusing to secure a single stamp in my little book (only to rue my rebellion later on, when I discovered the prize for collecting the most stamps was £100 of Amazon vouchers).

As an additional dollop of salt, into the fresh wound that was my increasingly disappointing day, I then discovered that the Manchester United squad (plus Jose Mourinho) were apparently having a pre-match get together in the next room, and the Bentley I had carefully avoided in the car park, probably belonged to one of them. Opportunity missed.

Having survived the hour-long networking session – which, in my opinion, was 59 minutes longer than necessary, but improved slightly by a buffet lunch that was not only tasty, but which offered the perfect excuse to become temporarily mute – we were then called into the large conference space.

The layout immediately struck me as ‘Wedding reception meets Tory Party Conference’, as there were several white linen tables, encircling a stage adorned with glass podium, pale blue uplighting, and the overwhelming stench of snobbery.

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Once we had taken our seats, and following some rather awkward introductions from the host firm – which involved no fewer than four people, who took it in turns to introduce one another, and then say the same thing, amid short blasts of music between them – it was time for the main event.

Following a brief cacophony of what I believe was Coldplay, the first session involved one lawyer ‘interviewing’ another, in a Parkinson-esque chat show format. This was actually quite entertaining, but only because the interviewer didn’t care what he said – although even I winced at the Fred ‘The Weatherman’ Talbot joke, which alluded to his extra-curricular activities with boys, during his time at Altrincham Grammar School in the 1970’s.

Next, after some deafening R&B, came a Q&A session – which was set up like a ‘Comic Con’ film panel, only without any interesting guests, subject matter, or questions. In fact, all the panel really achieved, was taking it in turns to talk about their own achievements, to try and seem more successful than the speaker before them.

“Everyone says how down to earth I am.”

With me, what you see, is what you get.”

“Yes, well, I made Partner at 27, something which is unheard of at our firm.”

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What made this even more unbearable, was the irritating woman sat next to me (you should never judge a lady by her age or size, so let’s just say she was mildly old, and mildly fat), who kept making inaudible comments under her breath, then chuckling away to herself.

To her right, were a couple from the same firm, and the sexual tension between them was frankly nauseating. Not only that, they had decided it would be appropriate to go to the bar beforehand, and bring cocktails in with them (honestly, he was drinking something with fruit in it, and she had a fucking Mojito). They then proceeded to chat loudly over all of the speakers, to the point everyone began staring.

Just when I thought our table could not get any worse, a *lady* arrived approximately 45 minutes late, made a very loud entrance (in a red dress that was way too short for someone clearly flirting with the menopause), and decided to plonk herself directly opposite me.

No sooner had she dropped her suitcase – yes, suitcase – under the table (by this point, I was certain she was a travelling prostitute), she stood back up, walked to the side of the stage in front of the entire audience, and plugged her phone into a socket to charge it.

Our table was honestly so embarrassing, I started looking for the hidden cameras, to see which prank show I was about to be a part of, and which of the characters around our table would turn out to be Ant and/or Dec in prosthetic make-up.

Shortly after 6pm, the conference was brought to a blessed close (despite an advertised finish of 5.15pm), but I still had the *pleasure* of the drinks reception and three course meal. Normally, I would have attacked the free bar with reckless abandon, to forget the horror of the previous three hours, but a free bar when you have to drive home, is like an all-you-can-eat buffet when your jaw has been wired shut.

Thankfully, after an hour of bonus networking (“I don’t feel I adequately explained how brilliant I am earlier, so I must find new victims to impress…”), we were called back into the conference room for dinner.

Then, when I thought the evening could not possibly get any more excruciating, the organisers had decided it would be *fun* to implement a seating plan and mix everyone up, separating those from the same firms.

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As a result, whilst my boss was on Table 7, I ended up on Table 10, with people I did not know, but felt sure I would instantly dislike.

As it happens, my dinner companions were all a vast improvement on our earlier table (lump was on the other side of the room, the cocktail couple were almost certainly naked somewhere, and red dress had presumably moved on to her evening job), but I was sat with people who all appeared to be in the mood for drinking, while discussing such enthralling topics as ‘so, what does your firm do?’

Fortunately, the lady to my right, who took no time in informing me she was on her first night out following the birth of her daughter three months earlier (at a legal conference – she knew how to party), was pleasantly entertaining. I’ll admit she lost me slightly, when she revealed the rather pretentious name she had given her daughter, but compared to Mr Stuffy (of Stuffy, Dullard & Boring), she was an increasingly drunken source of amusement.

My slightly-improved mood was then promptly ruined again, when the starter arrived. Look, I shouldn’t be ungrateful for a three course meal I hadn’t paid for, but who on earth thinks ‘Smoked Trout Mousse with Cucumber Jelly Cubes’ is appealing? Ok, lawyers can be pompous arseholes at times, but it takes a particularly obscure palate to salivate at what was essentially Fishy Porridge.

The main course, whilst a little cheesy for my own liking, was at least geared to the masses, as was the chocolate dessert, but nothing went down quite as well as the complimentary wine. Since I was obviously not partaking, I grew weary of the evening quite rapidly once the meal was over, and made my excuses to leave.

Even the entertainment of the prize draw (which saw one thoroughly-unimpressed man win a huge teddy bear), and the fact the two ladies hosting the evening had inadvertently worn exactly the same dress (much to their obvious disgust), was not enough to retain my interest, so I headed out to retrieve my runt-of-the-litter VW, from a car park that looked like a particularly extravagent episode of Top Gear.

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As a final insult, I knew United had already kicked off, which meant none of the remaining cars belonged to any players (they don’t strike me as the sort to car share), so I couldn’t even key one of the doors as I left.

And they bloody won.

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