Diana was at my door, “The police are here and I haven’t done anything.” “Recently. Are you here for her?” I asked the policeman and two others on the stairs. They were but it was nothing to worry about; Olivia, our liaison officer at RHP, the landlord, had asked them to make sure Diana was all right since her door was open and she was crying rape. Diana’s door’s always open and I hadn’t heard any cry of rape.
She wanted me present. The policeman stood guard by the door. One of the two others was a social welfare man from the Royal Hospital who said the charge against her of having a knife in public was likely to be dropped come sentencing day. The second was a doctor who prescribed sleeping pills for her. When I saw Kate waving at me through Diana’s window I excused myself and left. Diana came up later and we decided it was Bob who’d complained to cause her bother successfully and that the whole incident was characterised by officiousness.
At the last few minutes I improvised sandwiches. We had an anxious wait for the cab. The cabbie didn’t know how to get there and misread a sign to Clapham Junction but we arrived at court almost in time, Diana of course going for a fag regardless. The solicitor was late, making Diana nervous. He asked her about an earlier incident mentioned in a report and she set out on one of her interminable narratives that wasn’t answering his question and got stroppy with me when I tried to steer her to the wanted answer and, indeed, intervened. What did I know of her story! According to him it was two years before and I couldn’t think what it might be but certainly no knife-waving was involved. Angry outbursts yes. Was it the time she spent a night in the police cell? That was this time! (Some neighbour two years before had complained about her ranting and the police told her then not to again, patently to no avail.)
She was called to court while gumming a sandwich and was not to be rushed, complaining there were bones in it. “Seeds,” I said, “not bones.” In court she interrupted the proceedings and was told to shut up, politely. Undeterred she interrupted again to apologise to the solicitor for talking. He put a finger to his lips. I got a mention to do with the earlier incident I could not yet recall and thought his erroneous interpretation he was putting to the bench, so far as I could hear it, would sink her if she wasn’t already sunk by her own bolshiness. Anxiety was not diminished when the two outer magistrates shook their heads and off the three went to consider their verdict while we stood out of respect. Even I did. I was calculating if the worst came to the worst, I had the £20 return fare in my wallet and would use my pass to get back home, that I’d be all right, Jack.
The leading magistrate started with the seriousness of the offence and how it was being severely dealt with nowadays when made by young men – oh they know how to play it! – but this was an exceptional case and, to cut a long story short, as Diana often says but seldom does, she got a conditional discharge for one and a half years and a fine of £85 towards prosecution costs. It could not have been better, unless it had been for one year, as the solicitor jokingly commented, but Diana was traumatised and I stunned. The solicitor and I found out how the fine might be paid in the allotted seven days. Have I said Diana lost her purse and benefits card and has to have a new one before she has money with which to pay the fine? With Diana there’s always some problem she usually attributes to Adrian Glover, but she’s also pretty adept at solving any such problem, milking it even to the last squeezed drop.