LegalEagleStar

… a kind of Legal Column

Archive for June 2011

Divorce in Ireland today in this Economic Downturn

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Divorce Cakes a_007

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When a marriage breaks down or a long-term relationship ends, it’s a tough time for everyone involved. It’s not just the couple themselves who experience the hurt and/or anger of the separation but also any children that either, or both of them may have, their immediate families and also close friends.  Of course, when a couple separates, it is not as simple as it once was. Today with the economic downturn the money is simply not available to effect a proper separation. People  didn’t need to worry about joint bank accounts and mortgages in the past.  When a relationship breaks down everything needs to be regulated. What were possibly at one time, simple everyday matters, have now to go through the long process of being sorted. Parties need to agree, or have a Court decide, custody and access of any dependent children; deciding where the children primarily live and what days and times the other parent may see their children; child and possible spousal maintenance; what will happen to the family home and any other possible houses or assets, pension entitlements, car/s etc. While an amicable breakup is desirable, it is not always possible and in many cases either one or both parties will look for the kitchen sink from the other. In  previous years, which at this time, seem somewhat of a blur, parties separated and huge settlements and significant maintenance were awarded. Cases were fighting for dates to be heard in the High Court. Nowadays, the High Court lists are quite slim with the majority of cases being heard in the Circuit Court.

There are now huge difficulties for lawyers trying to negotiate settlements even where an agreement is reached between the parties. To use by way of example, the following scenario. Say there is a family home and an investment property, and the agreement reached is that one party remains in the family home with the children, while the other party is to live in the investment property. It is agreed that each will be the sole owner of the respective properties and be responsible for that property’s mortgage while allowing the other party off  the mortgage. The Court rules the settlement, but then the Banks will not allow either party off either mortgage. This, even where the parties indemnify each other to the best of their abilities and with the best of intentions. Where one party later defaults, the Bank can still go after both parties and the settlement reached can effectively become worthless.

So, what do people need in a good family lawyer?  Some individuals falsely believe, that by going to one of the Big Named Law Firms, they are getting the best Solicitors and Barristers in the business. In the current economic climate, I believe that some firms continue to charge inordinate fees, when people are struggling to maintain one household, let alone two, which is the effect post separation. I believe this is unjust. While some cases involve more working hours than others and fees vary in this regard, I do not believe people should be paying more for one solicitor than another largely due to the name that appears on the headed paper. Unlike Solicitors, Barristers are a completely independent body and again, while some cases involve more time and paperwork than others, Barrister’s fees will, in most part, be the exact same whether acting for a Big Firm or a Small Practice. Many successful Family Law Barristers, contrary to common belief, act for everyone from the Legal Aid Board, to the local one man solicitor who employs two people, right up to the big firms who employ several hundred. In the times that we live in, it’s also important to remember, that while you do not want to be ‘ripped off ‘  and would like value for money, equally you must be aware of these so-called ‘quickie divorces’ where you think you are getting a bargain and the fees are very low. Later down the line however, you may find yourself in difficulty where transactions haven’t been completed or haven’t in fact been done correctly. In deciding what Solicitor to engage, you must think about yourself and what your needs are.  Some Solicitors and Barristers in the family law field have an aggressive approach, while others have a nurturing view. And then others, just effectively, say it as it is. Personally, I believe a down to earth, friendly, straight forward approach is ideal. I also believe that a party going through a separation has enough physical and mental strain going on in their lives, that an aggressive legal team can sometimes make matters worse and the hopes of a settlement between the parties becomes more difficult. While your legal team does not necessarily need to be your friend, you do need to be comfortable with them and be able to speak openly  in order for them to best meet your needs.

What are you paying for?  You may see your bill at the end of a case and wonder how this figure appeared? Initially, a Solicitor will take your  instructions, explain the different options open to you and then write to the other party involved, informing them of your intention to separate and regulate matters between you. If you agree on a Separation Agreement, the Solicitor will draft this up and you will not need a barrister, nor will you attend Court. A Separation Agreement is in effect, a contract between the two parties and any breach thereof is a breach of contract. If the parties agree to a Judicial Separation or Divorce, in many cases a solicitor will brief a Junior Counsel (barrister) and, in some cases, a Senior Counsel also. The Barrister’s role is to draft the appropriate Court documents and deal with any Court appearances which, in some cases may just be one on the day of the hearing or, in other cases, where interim orders are required and/or where the other party is reluctant to participate in the case. In the latter scenario, Orders to compel them to do so, or have Orders made in their absence may be required.

Unfortunately, relationships will break down in good times and bad. Today we are in unprecedented times and the legal profession must respond to the needs of their clients in a way that reflects the true values in our society. Those values have unfortunately been decimated by the few in our profession who represent the vested interests of those who control our society. It’s time that the legal profession asserted itself in the interests of all who serve the interests of the citizen and lead the demands for true reform and oppose the obscene vested interest groups who seek the ruination of our society and the downgrading of the rights of our Citizens. Elsewhere in the world today, it is the legal profession who are at the forefront of reform in the interests of the citizen and who suffer in such a cause. In Ireland  it should be no different. The politicians today are looking after the interests of the IMF/EU and the Banks, so there is a clear conflict of interests with the concerns of the Citizen.

Those who are unfortunate enough to suffer relationship breakdown in these troubled times deserve to be represented by us in the legal profession, having regard to the considerable strains that people are now enduring. Yes, the strain on relationships is now far greater in such troubled times. There are those that pull together in times like these but bad relationships will certainly not survive the additional stress they must endure today.

LegalEagleStar , Thursday , 30th. June , 2011

My Blog tomorrow deals with Divorce in Ireland today in this Economic Downturn

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Divorce Your Speed

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Today in Ireland, unlike in prior times, the unfortunate person faced with Family Law Breakdown is facing  a dilemma. Irish Banks and Building Society’s are refusing to rearrange mortgages and in so doing are frustrating the terms of many a Divorce. Also, what lawyer should you instruct? Do you pay high fees to Big Name Firms? Are they worth it or are they ripping you off? What is the Barrister’s role in the process and how do I get the best to act for me?

In tomorrow’s Blog I will give my views on Divorce in Ireland today and shed some light on the whole legal drama.

A Pint of Harp, Smoking a Cigarette while sitting at The Bar… and criticising Gerry Adams !

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Harp

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Every Tuesday evening, without fail, my pal drove from Terenure to my Office in Fairview,  where we would have a chat, sort out any computer problems, then head across the road to Kavanagh’s Pub or down the road to Meaghers, for a few Pints. Many a time we had to return to the Office to finish off some techie stuff, working through the small hours and, on more than one occasion, we ended up in Jury’s Coffee Dock, Ballsbridge for Breakfast. Those days were in the late 1980’s and come the Drink Driving Laws, we decided it would be safer for him to arrive by Taxi to my house and then we’d walk to my Local. By this stage my pal could not get his favourite beverage, a Pint of Harp, anywhere in Dublin, bar the Airport and used to content himself with whatever lager was on tap that night. He was also a heavy smoker, about 60 plus a day of Non-tipped Players Navy Cut. He said they’d be the death of him. Then the Smoking Ban was brought into law by Michael Martin TD and so he could not have a smoke with his ‘substitute’ Pint. This upset him i.e. the loss of a Pint of Harp and a smoke at the Bar.

On a trip we both took to Texas, he insisted on flying into Houston as there was a Firing Range he wanted to visit. ‘Top Gun’ was the name of the establishment. He was a crack shot and this was clearly in evidence when I observed him in action. The owner of the Range and him struck up a great conversation as they had a lot in common. For my part, I took more interest in their T-shirts and purchased one for my daughter, a bodyguard, to wear on the Firing Range she practises on in Slovenia. We took this trip back when Hurricane Rita was heading towards Texas. The night before, I had explained to him that in Texas they were really proud of their State, so if asked if he’s been there before that the answer was a definite ‘No‘. He’d been to the United States on numerous occasions before but I felt I should warn him. Despite my warning he proceeded to Chat Up the Bar Maid and after her serving me my lovely Pint of Shiner Boch, a good Texan Beer, she asked him what his pleasure was. He hesitated in ordering but continued to chat to her. Then.. ‘Have you been here before’ she asked. He replied  ‘Yes, I had a girlfriend in Santa Barbara (California) for many years’. Upon hearing this she promptly walked away and refused to serve him. I had to order his beer for him for the rest of the night.

The following day, I had a call from a pal who advised me to get the hell out of Houston as The Governor of Texas, Rick Perry was about to order the evacuation of the City. I relayed this to my Pal who insisted on finishing his meal before taking up the challenge of driving us both to San Antonio to be out-of-the-way of the Hurricane. I always enjoyed his company, not his driving so the journey was, well eventful so to speak. But, I move on… Just north of San Antonio is a fantastic Outlet Mall located in San Marcos. After hours of shopping we headed into a Local Bar for a Pint, or two. Imagine his surprise when he saw, that behind the Bar, was a Tap labelled Harp. Well, I decided that I’d be the designated driver while my pal proceeded to drink the keg dry. He was a staunch Irish Republican and did not approve of Gerry Adams at all. He though he sold out Republicans and, whatever my own views, we had many a heated debate and this session was no different. Needless to say he engaged all the locals in this conversation and sang Irish Rebel Songs for hours and we really had a great Night. I though we’d be in trouble though when he called the local American Football Team ‘Pussies’. As he was an avid Rugby fan, he told all that ‘real men didn’t wear all that padding’. To my surprise, we were not ejected or set upon but warmly welcomed by all present. On that trip it became obvious to me that everything wasn’t right with him. He spoke about his ex-girlfriend from California so much so, that I attempted, on more than one occasion, to get him to call her. He wouldn’t and well, he was annoyed that I was trying to bully him into doing so. He was a very private guy and one hell of a friend. The type of friend who would drop all to come to your assistance regardless of how inconvenient it might be for him.

A couple of years ago he phoned me. No, it was not a Tuesday, but a Friday and he asked me if  I’d like a Pint. I was tired after a very long week but said ‘Yeah, I’d love one’. An hour later the taxi dropped him off at my door. He looked great and was in great form. We headed to my local pub where we enjoyed a few pints. He listened to me moaning about the economy; the way that people had changed; that everyone was now a European and had no time for their fellow countrymen; and such like. He was calm and composed and while agreeing with me on most issues, said he didn’t like the way the Country was at all. That times had indeed changed and that he didn’t like living here any more. That the country was a disappointment to him and wondered what those that had died fighting for the country would make of it all. We finished up the night at my house where we had a Pizza delivered; he had the usual chat with my daughters of whom he was very fond and he gave his usual rendition of Republican Songs for the benefit of Lulu, my daughter’s African Grey Parrot, who really loved him. A great night was had by all and the usual Taxi Firm arrived about Three in the morning to drive him home.

Some days later, my cousin, his best pal, telephoned me and asked if I was sitting down. He then told me that our pal was dead, having shot himself through the head. I was numb and still am to a certain extent. My cousin still hasn’t got over this event. I think back and wonder, if there was anything, anything at all, I could have done …

 

 

LegalEagleStar , Wednesday , 22nd. June , 2011.

An Irishman at home with ‘The Spirit of Texas’.

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San Antonio - The Alamo

Image by teachandlearn via Flickr

Texas is unlike Ireland, in so many ways. While we speak the same language, well kind of, the whole mentality of the Texan is so unlike us Irish today. I have no doubt that they would not ‘lie down’ as we appear to be doing as regards the Banks and Big Business. The spirit of The Alamo is alive and well in Texas. We Irish fought in the Battle of the Alamo and many people in Ireland are unaware of this fact. Not so in San Antonio, where they remember that we stood shoulder to shoulder with many races in their fight for independence. And yes, Big Business is alive and kicking here with a ruthless efficiency. I for one would be occupied full-time in supporting workers rights and might well not be though of too highly as a result. That said, there is a work ethic present here that would put a lot of us to shame.

When I was young, growing up, I was aware of a sense of National Pride. Unfortunately with the onset of the Celtic Tiger our national attitudes changed and not for the better, as far as I’m concerned. There was also a kind of Tribalism that prevailed between Dublin and the rest of the country. For the average ‘Dub’ we were aware of Dublin playing in Croke Park against, well a Country side. I at least, knew of two other Counties. As my father was a Dundalk man he brought me to see the Mighty Down playing and that got his Northern Blood flowing. I was also aware of the Wee County, Louth but I have no recollection of ever seeing them play. In Texas, yes they are Americans and proud of  it,  but first and foremost they are Texans. When you see the Stars and Stripes flying outside a Company Headquarters, it will invariably be accompanied by the Lone Star i.e. the Flag of Texas. Sometimes the Lone Star stands proudly on its own. Many a proud Texan tells me of its history. The Six Flags of Texas… under Spain, France, Mexico, Independent Texas, Confederacy then United States. To this day, although this is disputed by many, I’m told that Texas has the right to secede from the Union. Whether this is correct or not it doesn’t stop many from displaying this as a car bumper sticker when they are angry with the direction the US is taking if they consider it not in the interests of Texas. Where we display, or did in past years, stickers saying ‘Keep Dublin Tidy’, their campaign states ‘Don’t Mess with Texas’.

Their attitude to crime is very black and white. If a crime is committed they go after the criminal with speed and efficiency. Child and Police killers get no mercy and these are deemed capital crimes to which the death penalty applies. I am very much against the death penalty as I believe violence by the State is obscene and that one person executed in the wrong is one too many. I understand where the Texan mentality comes from though. Life can be very hard. People have to work long hours to provide for their families. But there is a great sense of community which extends into looking after those not provided for by the State. People volunteer and as a result they have great pride in their communities. There is a certain old-fashioned attitude prevailing which I admire i.e. respect for each other. Whatever your status you’ll be address as ‘Sir’ or ‘Mam’. Nice to hear some manners spoken again. I have fallen in love with this  State, or Country, if you take that view, because of its people regardless of its Vast open spaces with its Huge Sky. I would never get a sense of  claustrophobia here, as everything really is Bigger in Texas.

As we plan to head back to Dublin shortly, I look around at the land with its wild deer, snakes (of 999 varieties), wild cats, bobcats, scorpions, and every type of bug you can imagine, and myself and family, including my grandson ‘Toes’ will miss this place. I head back home and I wonder sadly why we Irish have laid down and let our sense of Irishness and pride be taken away from us. I am certain about this, that unless we wake up and soon, we will be living in an anonymous Province of Europe where none of us will feel we belong. Already we have lost too many of our  young people to foreign lands and these were our future. What future can we look forward to now ? What will it take to wake us up again as a Nation and regain our sense of National Pride ?  Until then, I can only hope that I can spend as much time as possible among the Texan people who have made me feel, well at home here among the people of the Great State of Texas. Thank You Guys and Gals for this real sense of  ‘ Home’.

 

LegalEagleStar , Tuesday , 14th. June 2011 .

San Antonio, Texas.

Written by LegalEagleStar

June 15, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Toes, Mass and the end of the World.

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Ring, Ring. Hello, “Hi Tom. What’s the weather like out there?” It’s dark, I respond. It’s, it’s eh, 4:30AM. “You must be really having a Great time, up at this time… Hold on M wants you. Glad you’re enjoying yourself”. Eh, I’m asleep ! No answer… I’m obviously on Hold. “Hi Tom, G says you’re having a great time. Lucky you. What can I do for you?” Uh, You phoned me ! “You’re a terrible man. Did you get Fed-Ex to deliver that back to Dublin?”  But, I told J that I sent it Monday. Should be delivered Thursday, that’s tomorrow. “You’re funny, that’s today. Read your Blog the other day and looking forward to seeing that haircut. It sounds rough.” By now I am convinced I’ve been dreaming. A nightmare actually. OK, I say well work hard, see you guys… sometime. “OK, Thanks for calling.” …….

Toes with his Hat

The day after the World was supposed to end at 6PM here in Texas, we headed to Sunday Mass at St Joseph’s Church in Spring Branch. As Toe’s (my grandchild) Dad flew back to Dublin on business the day before, the question was whether to bring Toes, as he’s only 16 months old. We decided to risk it. Toes had acquired his first Cowboy Hat a few days previous and insisted on wearing it. This is the child that had refused to wear a hat or cap since birth but had decided to look like Grandad. So into the Church we went just before 10. After a little persuasion he handed me his hat and we put it beside mine, on the seat beside us. When Fr Jimmy, an ex-cop called all the children onto the alter a few minutes later Toes wanted to go up so his Mum brought him. Of course when there he sat beside a good-looking Blonde and pushed Mum away. So, Mum returned to sit beside me and Toe’s Uncle. We were apprehensive as Toes can sometimes Yell, Scream, Cry and suchlike but he was behaving himself and obviously falling in love with the Blonde Girl beside him. Not ever an utterance of his only word ‘Assse’.

Fr Jimmy told of his experiences the previous day. He asked the children what a priest wears. Black trousers, back Shirt, and Roman Collar. He said he was so dressed when he went into the HEB Store (like Tescos except about 50 times larger) to get some groceries. He had decided to take a short-cut through the Wine and Beer Section where he was stopped in his tracks by a young lady. “Hey Father. Don’t you know the World is going to end at 6PM tonight?” He replied that No, he didn’t think it would. The young lady engaged in conversation on this subject with him for some time when he noticed a large crowd had gathered. One lady asked him what time Mass was at. He replied 5PM. She asked him would he not start it at 5:30 so that everyone would be in the Church come 6PM. Fr Jimmy replied that she obviously had not attended one of his Masses as he’s only be about half way through by 6 ! Then a group of young Guys who were buying beer to take with them Tubing (They sit in the tube of a car tyre and raft down the rivers) asked him to Bless Them. Fr Jimmy obliged and a few minutes later observed them leaving and one guy says to the other, ‘Hurry up Guys, it’s 2 now. We only have 4 hours left”. Fr Jimmy concluded that being dressed in full Catholic Priest Uniform walking through your local HEB on the Day the World is supposed to end, is not a great idea !

To be fair to Toes he was very good. Never uttered a word, well that’s a slight lie but was so very well-behaved. Well, I am the proud Grandad.

We just got a phone call from a friend’s wife saying that the snake that had taken up residence in their pond was just seen with her daughters pet Frog in his mouth. ‘C’ has now resorted to hitting said snake on the head to try to rescue the frog while daughter (6) is going berserk. It could only happen in Texas !

LegalEagleStar , Friday , 10th. June 2011

San Antonio, Texas.

Solicitors Mutual Defence Fund Debacle

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equality

Image by saxarocks via Flickr

Many years ago when I heard about the formation of the SMDF,  I was excited because I felt this was a great idea that my Professional Body was endorsing something by Solicitors for the benefit of Solicitors. Great idea. I immediately joined and remained with the SMDF until I observed practises which I disliked. I aired my views and this resulted in one of their senior Solicitors telling me that if the SMDF didn’t cover me then nobody would. I took exception to these remarks and immediately contacted the late Padraic Smith, Insurance Broker who arranged an Insurance Policy for me, at a fraction of what I was paying in Premiums to the SMDF. Remember it is a Defence Fund, not a Policy of Insurance. At the end of the following January I had a visit from The Law Society. This was not a problem and a very nice gentleman carried out an inspection of my Accounts. Upon completion I asked if this was a random visit or were they looking for something in particular. I was horrified to be told that The Law Society had been advised that I was practising without Insurance and I was told (He said “Don’t quote me”) who had reported me. I was horrified, no I was disgusted.

This year, all solicitors, bar the Elite, have had horrendous problems renewing their Insurance Policies. No help was forthcoming from the Law Society. In fact a colleague told me the Society had referred him to the SMDF as a Fund of last resort but had heard nothing back from them. Thankfully he finally got Insurance. There is talk of a New Policy to cover the profession but now I am told this will not take place this coming year because of one reason or another.

We are now being asked, like the Irish People were by Brian Lenihan to trust in him. That the Banks needed saving and we must Guarantee them. We now as a profession are being asked something similar by those who may well have advised Mr Lenihan on his course of action. Instead of the use of the word ‘collegiality’, Lenihan used the word ‘patriotism’.


We have heard both arguments as to why we should or should not Vote for the present Proposal. To ‘save our colleagues’ or not, some say. That is not my reading of the situation. It would appear to me, from a perusal of the very limited information now to hand that some questionable decisions were made by the SMDF as to investment of Funds etc. Maybe the SMDF Members should be investigating the operation of the fund and demanding to know what questions were put to Counsel and what they received by way of Advice. There are too many unanswered questions. To now ask the profession as a whole to Vote Yea or Nay without a full Brief is, I feel erroneous. A lot of Firms have made a hell of a lot of money in Legal Fees as a result of their acting in many Court actions for the SMDF. To now expect the average solicitor, who has been put to the pin of his/her collar in recent times to pay up is quite extraordinary. A lot of solicitors have lost their jobs and many of those who did succeed in getting Insurance Cover have had to dig deep into their own pockets to pay the premiums as many Banks have refused to fund the cost of this Insurance. Where was the leadership of The Law Society when we all needed help then? From the Memorandum of Vincent Crowley provided to us, it shows clearly that The Law Society want to ensure a Yes Vote at all costs. They cannot afford to lose face. They are telling the profession how to Vote not asking them for a Direction. Don’t get me wrong. I admire the majority of the people working in Blackhall Place. They are good people. My grievance is with the Elite, the politicians who want to control us and these people have great power. The majority should be represented not the powerful minority.

Remember when PIAB was proposed by Dorothea Dowling on the instructions of Mary Harney T.D., there were a lot of Conferences convened to discuss the Proposal. I attended one in Trinity College where Ms Dowling clearly set out the proposals and referred to PIAB as a ‘solicitor free zone’. Ken Murphy attended and spoke at this conference on behalf on the Law Society. He said that the Law Society had reservations about PIAB but were not simply against it. At the luncheon recess I was in the company of Ms Dowling and I spoke with Mr Murphy who responded to me that he and the Law Society didn’t agree with my views on PIAB. My views were to fight for the right of the citizen to bring their case before a Court instead of having to have it first submitted to a Government Agency. The introduction of PIAB has contributed greatly to the loss of jobs in the profession. Clearly, The Law Society showed no concern for them as they were “solicitors who advertised” and suchlike. As regards the change in procedure where Solicitors must now give a Certificate of Title to The Financial Institutions instead of the previous system where you closed the purchase at the Offices of the Solicitor for the said Institution, who will stand up and take credit for that disaster? That decision alone has been detrimental to the legal profession. How many jobs lost to the profession by that stroke of genius ? Hasn’t the Profession been brought into disrepute by the actions of some of its members who used this daft change in procedures to enrich themselves? A lot of us spoke about such a thing being possible many years ago but the Law Society was unconcerned.

Please use your Vote, make up your own mind and don’t be taken in by the argument that there are no other options. We are lawyers and deserve better than being told that we must Vote without full disclosure of all the facts. How would you advise your own clients if they sought your advice on such a Vote?


LegalEagleStar , Tuesday , 7th. June 2011.

A Day in the life of an Irish Cowboy living in Texas, with Grandson !!

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State of Texas

Image by SMU Central University Libraries via Flickr

Woken early by crying Grandson. Lovely morning here in Texas, if you could drown out the sound of Toes. Toes is the name I gave him shortly after he was Christened as he had a fascination with his Toes. To get up and see to said child or turn over and hope that Mammy or Daddy will actually identify the cry of their beloved. OK, I turned over and went back to sleep. Yes I did but it became more impossible to ignore the cries. You know that cry which pleads with you, to your better senses. OK, eventually Mammy woke up and did the necessary.

Later on I decided I needed some therapy. While others go to the Spa and have massages and such like, Baldwin heads to the local Barbers Shop where a Korean Lady and her Texan Assistant always meet you with the same loving welcome…. “What You Want??” Eh, I could have said a Haircut but that would have been too obvious. Eh, usually get it cut, eh, with a Scissors (?). “What Number?” Em, now I knew what awaited me. My son years ago went from a Number 6 to a Nil Blade. Was the same fate awaiting me I wondered. OK said I, a Number 4. She replied “and ?” Well, was she asking me something else, but what?? Another Number !! OK, I replied Number 2. To be honest I hadn’t a clue what I’d just said or indeed ordered. Her Texan Assistant broke the ice somewhat by saying “Oh, I love your accent” . Great sorted. Nearly an hour later after having the sides nearly shaved but some hair, not much though, still visible on top, I went to stand up. “Don’t move.” I froze. Then the Texan took the hoover to me and literally hoovered my head, face and collar. I was then treated to a head massage, of sorts followed by a compulsive trimming of my Eyebrows. They both then looked me up and down and smiled. After more time showing me their masterpiece by the use of several mirrors I was released from the chair. To be fair to them both, I’ve never been pampered so much in my life. $10 was the Bill which I gladly paid plus a well deserved Tip before heading out to my son who said, Fair Play to you Dad. Some Haircut, with an evil grin on his face. My son had been looking after his nephew for the past hour or so and both seemed in good form. Thank God for small mercies.

As it was now nearing the unearthly hour of 10AM, I decided today was the day to get all those jobs done that took time. Well, we did have all day and Toes loves nothing better than a spin in the car. So I decided to get the Car Taxed and Inspected. The stickers on the Windscreen would soon alert the local SAPD that I was driving illegally. Well come June 1st that is. So off to collect my Caretaker’s Wife who is better than a Sat Nav. I might mention that without her I would literally drive around totally lost. In Texas if you take the wrong road you could end up in Mexico in no time at all. So my son, Toes and me drove over to collect said Sat Nav who calls me her ‘Twin Brother from Another Mudder’ as we were born exactly 1 hour apart back in 1958. I claim she’s the older twin but she doesn’t agree.

I drive past the Office where you pay the car tax with a smug look on my face as queues are not for me.The Queue is way past the door and spilling out onto the Street outside. My Sat Nav Twin directs me to a parking spot outside an unmarked Building. I had been here several times over the past few years and it always was a pleasure to do business. On entering through the side door I noticed there was a girl seated at both desks. One had a customer seated in front of her while the other lady was free. I usually say Hi and get a warm response and the usual ‘Oh I love your accent’. On this occasion however the lady who was free pointed me to the Take a Number Board. I took Number 14 and went where directed to take a seat and wait for said number 14 to be called. As I sat down the lady who was free gave me a frightening look. She let me sit for all of 10 seconds and then shouted “Next”. I looked around to see if there was someone in front of me, like the Invisible Man. Then I heard the words “You, are you deaf” ring out. Not a good start I thought but sure I’ll only be 2 or 3 minutes, just like last year, I thought. I then walked gingerly towards her as she pointed to where I should sit. My Sat Nav sat beside me while my son stood a safe distance away. Toes I placed on my lap. I then produced my Insurance and my Driving Licence as I’d done on numerous occasions before. She looks at them and then holds up my Driving Licence and says “What the hell is this?” My Driving Licence I said. I explained politely that I was Irish and lived in Dublin but that I had a home over here for vacations etc. She was unimpressed. I don’t think she believed one word of what I said. Remember now that I am in front of her desk in Boots, Jeans, Shirt and Cowboy Hat. She obviously had formed the opinion that I was a fraudster. She then asked whether there were any other Baldwins present. My son stepped forward. She asked him if he had a real driving licence. He produced his UK Driving Licence and she immediately said that was a real licence as she gives me yet another dirty look. At this stage I can feel cold sweat dripping from my brow. I then went to produce my Four Courts I.D. which would verify that I was a Solicitor. I then quickly thought again as there was a rather large sign on the door saying ”No Solicitors”. Not a good idea I thought. And of course I had left my Passport which contained an American Visa, well, back at the Ranch. At this point Toes decided to get involved and spoke. As his main word is Assse he uttered same with such passion that well, it didn’t really help my cause.

Suddenly she reached for the phone. At this point I thought, The Game is Up. She’s phoning the Police who will incarcerate me in the Local Lock-up. Poor Toes would see his Grandad being led away in handcuffs! I thought a quick call to my colleague Jim Adler, an attorney I trained with in Boston in the late 80’s would be necessary. He now calls himself “The Texas Hammer”. Yeah, he’ll sort this ‘Lady’ out. Or, what about the Governor, Rick Perry.  Sure he follows me on Twitter. He’ll definitely come to my rescue, won’t he ? But, to my relief I actually heard the person on the other end of the phone say ‘Yeah, no problem. Give Tom his Tax Sticker’. To say I was relieved would be an understatement. She then said she was prepared to Sell me the Car Tax but only on my son’s real Driving Licence. The Dublin Corporation Pink Driving Licence was thrown back at me and I was told under no circumstances to produce such a forgery again. That she would let me away with it this time. That it didn’t even look like a Driving Licence and was badly done anyway. I then paid her the grand sum of $54.30 and she gave me my Registration Renewal Receipt and Sticker. I left the office with my papers in order but a broken man, grasping Toes in my arms. But sure said my Sat Nav Twin, “she’s obviously not from Texas”.

Next port of call was a trip to this nice Mexican who ran an Inspection facility. I nervously walked in expecting the Police to be waiting for me. No, he was there ,a kind oldish guy. He took my Car Keys and 5 minutes later I was handed my sticker to say the car had passed and he even offered to put the 2 new stickers I had on the windscreen for me. I then paid him his fee, $14.20. The only strange thing was that he asked me what 8 was in German, for no apparent reason. I assured him I was Irish although I looked a local. Acht, I believe is 8 in German I said as I Thanked him and we went on our way.

A drive to Krispy Kremes was next as we needed some comfort food. Toes is 15 months old and not adverse to the odd bite of a Donut. The light was on as we approached so we knew we’d get some free donuts. On entering the building a young Mexican lad was walking towards the door eating a donut when Toes literally accosted him trying to prise the donut from his hand. Thank God the lad and his Mother saw the funny side of things. We bought a box of a dozen to bring home but Toes insisted on eating one whole one, on his own, even before leaving the shop. While driving home I got a whiff from the back seat and so though it only right to speed home and gives Toes back to his adorable mother.

At this stage I am contemplating an immediate Court challenge against Dublin City Council and having them explain before a High Court Judge why they had issued me, some 10 years ago, with such an obviously fraudulent document purporting to be a Driving Licence.

 

LegalEagleStar Friday, 3rd. June, 2011

San Antonio, Texas.

Written by LegalEagleStar

June 3, 2011 at 8:17 am

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