Stuff happens. I was arrested for a criminal offence and was on bail for three years before the case against me was dropped in a UK Crown Court. I was confused, angry, in fact, mad as hell, so I tried to be creative and ending up writing two books about it. I intend to include abridged extracts here on Medium. It might be of use or interest to someone some day.
Here’s the foreword:
Why, and for whom, have I written these books (Parts One and Two)? Let alone, published them? Well, this story is for both me and you, the reader. My intention has been not only to record events as they happened in an attempt to exorcise an unpleasant experience, but I believe that elements of the story might be of use to the reader. For, but for the grace of God, goes anybody, even you. Or your spouse. Or son. Or daughter.
A general note: Some reviewers who have read early drafts have said that the narrative is too dispassionate, suggesting that I need to describe how I felt more. In order to sympathize to the narrator, they have said, the reader has to like him. I understand and respect the argument, after all it is in good literary tradition, so where I could I have incorporated the feedback. But frankly, I have not written these books to make friends or solicit sympathy. To my mind the important thing is the reporting of events and how they impacted my everyday life. Of course, I vent my frustration and I recount elements of the ensuing madness, but once the seriousness of the situation became clear, it was necessary for me to adopt a cool, methodological approach to the pickle I had found myself in. I needed to absorb and analyse details, advice and endure the drama of police interviews and court appearances — ultimately to survive long enough to see closure. Getting emotional served no purpose. In fact, it was not in my interest. If I felt myself getting angry, frustrated or just despairing, I concentrated on breathing and taking the long view. I pushed emotional reactions aside saying to myself — that’s for another day. Arguably, dispassion acted as a bulwark against the insanity of the situation and helped to keep my head functional, by which I mean: putting a defence strategy together. To engage with the frustrations and anxiety was to submit to them. I had to play the long game. (In fact, I am still playing it.)
So, for the reader, I hope these books chart the steps and describe the challenges of answering a criminal charge in a court of law. Anybody of a certain age knows that life is, to a large extent, a lottery. In this respect I accept that the events described herein constitute the rubbish hand I have been dealt. I don’t ‘massively’ resent it, but I feel obliged to get the story ‘out there’. I invite you to listen and learn. At the end of Part Two I give some tips to those caught in a similar predicament. To those readers who don’t think the tips are relevant to them, I suggest you make a mental note of my words anyway; you might perhaps thank me one day.
I have also included (in Part One) descriptions of a number of short overseas breaks. Though not directly relevant to the legal narrative (one reader even suggested taking them out) they were important psychological interludes to the misery. The breaks were reminders of another life and provided moments of peace, perspective and reflection. I have therefore kept them here (in Part One) both out of a sense of indulgence and a hope that they allow the reader to take time out from the enclosed miserable business. I’ll give you warnings when they occur and you can skip the chapter if need be. No offence taken.
Owing to the nature of the charge, I referred to my troubles as my ‘Pickle’ — a term borrowed from a work colleague who found a family member in a tussle with police. In time, the madness, craziness of my existence could not be disassociated from the Pickle and so the term became ‘Crazy Pickle’ — a term shortlisted for the title of the book, but it was not deemed catchy enough. I tried various other connotations for the books’ titles, none were totally satisfactory or media-friendly. Finally, I plumped for a line from the movie Network.
During the three years of bail (and before the case was dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service) I went a bit crazy. Was the madness my own making in a perfectly reasonable world? Or was the world a type of hell? A place where sane people go mad? Or was I angry and vexed to a hellish degree? Perhaps all of the above. Which leads me on to another observation. Where does one look for respite from (or sense in) the madness? For me, it was to be found in tarmac and road repairs. Or sometimes in the sky, black cats, the cosmos or whatever one describes as other-worldly. (Part One introduces this theme.)
There are three main players in this story. Me, Thames Valley Police and a German woman (a girlfriend of a former housemate) known here as Anna T. Mannheim. The story is a possibly a life-defining event. I say ‘possibly’ because it isn’t over yet and, depending on how things pan out, it might just be an irritating, costly, draining episode.
Part One charts the day of arrest to my standing in the court dock two and a half years later. Part Two starts with me standing in the dock in front of three Magistrates and covers my trial preparation up to the point the case was dropped — two weeks before a scheduled Crown Court trial. (Part Two actually concludes with a few weeks of re-acclimatisation to the normal world and my ‘final thoughts’ and advice for the reader.) The books are designed to be standalone, so the reader does not have to read both. However, reading in sequence might give a fuller picture (and would increase the royalties to me and help recover the losses incurred from my Crazy Pickle, [insert Smiley Face]).
In summary, two things: Remember, I describe events and share experiences in the context of how I dealt with them. They would be different for you. I’m not your friend and I am not trying to be. Secondly, brace yourself, parts of the story are an unpleasant, challenging read. When I first broke the news of my criminal charge to a friend, he replied, ‘God. Of all the things. Why couldn’t it be … murder?’ I know, I replied to him, I wish. So, reader, if you want a pretty story there are other places you can go.
Names have been changed to protect the innocent and guilty.
As for me, some people describe me as a closed book. Difficult to read. Whether it is a chilled, low-key nature or a variation on ‘bitchy resting face’, I don’t know. As far as I am concerned, I’m an open book.
But after all of this you might still be left wondering ‘why?’ Why write up such an episode and open oneself up to lewd insinuation and the doubt of others? Aside from the exposé of Ms Anna T. Mannheim and police methods and inefficiencies, it would surely leave a cloud hanging over the author? And you are most probably right. But there is one final element to the answer to the question ‘why’ and it is possibly the most important — fear. If anything were to stop me (or anybody) from publishing a similar story, it is because of fear. But here is the ‘but’.
I know deep down that if I didn’t complete and publish this work there would come a day — my last — when I wished I had. For on my deathbed I, like many others before me, would be laughing in the face of fear, because fear is all about repercussions. If I didn’t publish the book now that last day of mine would also be a day of regret. At the moment of one’s passing one cannot be fearful of the repercussions of things not done in life. A lifetime of cowering ‘literally’ serves no purpose. So, in anticipation of my deathbed …. I present to you, Mad As Hell (Parts 1 and/or 2). So read on and live the three-year story not one reader would volunteer to experience for him/herself. One final word of advice (before the final chapter): know that one day you will too laugh in the face of fear. Just make sure it is not a day of regret too.
MAD AS HELL (Parts 1 and 2) available on Amazon and in bookstores. Further extracts and articles to follow on the law, mental health, court appearances, in fact, the whole three-year, life-defining episode.