Friday, February 15, 2013

Bottom Patting - Is it Really Such a Crime?

John the Baptist pats women on the bum. Worse, John the Baptist says if they don’t like it, they should F**k off.
Small wonder he ended up with his head on a platter.
John the Baptist was the first acting role in which I saw Jeremy Irons. I was a young teenager on my first visit to London with Hope Baptist Chapel in Bridgend. David Essex was Jesus, but Jeremy stole the show as the soon to be headless prophet.
And he likes to pat women’s bottoms.
The story re-surfaced again this week, in a different context, and I confess to never having heard it before. But it’s the type of headline to instantly grab the predictable barrage of complaints in an age where, it seems, any sign of affection towards another human being is misconstrued as a personal, offensive and unwanted invasion.
Jeremy, I applaud you. 

I have touched men’s bottoms all my life and now, in my Fifties, hope I continue to do so. I like bottoms. Round ones. Square ones. Big cheeks. Small cheeks. They are usually the first part of a man’s physique that a woman looks at (if his back is to you, that is). I imagine those cheeks trouser-less; I have been known to try to make them trouser-less; I have also been known (less rarely) to force them to put their trousers on when they want to take my friendly pat to the next level. But I have never put anyone under threat by being the patter, or put any man under threat (I don’t think) being the pattee.
So why the big fuss?
In the wake of sexual scandals worldwide and, in Britain, the Jimmy Savile abuse of young people that came to light only after his death, everyone is running scared. Don’t touch, don’t grope, don’t try it on, don’t say Fancy a quickie . . . Don’t do or say anything that might be interpreted as an invasion of personal space – hygienic or emotional.
It’s out of hand – literally and metaphorically, and if you are of a pattee persuasion, don’t hold your breath; it doesn’t look as if it’s going to change.
We might be alone, Jeremy. But I saw where your last allegedly errant act ended up - as Salome’s dinner on a big plate.
I might still take the risk. I don’t have many bottom-patting years left – not without risking arrest, anyway; and I can always plead insanity. 

I’ll tell them John the Baptist made me do it.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Day I Saved the World in Paris

The difference between French and American humour was made very apparent this weekend. 

Actually, the difference between French humour and everyone else’s in the world was made very apparent. 

D’you know, I am going to clarify that still further. The French are warped.
So, I am sitting in a Paris bar in the Gare du Nord, celebrating the Welsh win over France in the second weekend of the Six Nations’ annual rugby tournament. 

There are a lot of very drunk, happy Welsh people and a lot of very drunk, sad French. 

I am facing the door. 

What happens next does so in a millisecond. 

I see a man with his face covered not only in a black motorcycle helmet, but also what appears to be a black mask under it. He is dressed in black leather, moves very fast, brandishing something in the air and he is yelling. My French is probably about 70% fluent and I understand enough to know that this is a hold-up.
I have no idea whether throwing yourself to the ground is the best thing to do in these circumstances, but it is what I do. And I suddenly hear myself screaming to everyone else to get down too, and words coming out of my mouth that I think might have been along the lines of: “Stay down, everyone! Give him what he wants!” In a language that may be French. Or Norwegian. Who knows. It is a gurgle of syllables; a sound of trapped terror.  
My voice is loud. Very, very loud. So loud, in fact, that it appears to stun the “gunman”, who turns out to be nothing of the kind – just a friend of the owner “having a laugh”.
The first I know of the jest is when I uncover my head, open my eyes and realise I am not dead. Not only that, I am the only person lying on the ground. And still speaking Norwegian. The Welsh are still drinking, but now the French are not sad; they are laughing hysterically at the woman in a little black dress, fishnet tights and Jimmy Choo shoes, prostrate before them.
They say that your life flashes before you when you think you are going to die. Mine didn’t. My instinctive reaction was to save everyone else. On an airline, when they tell you to “Fit your own oxygen mask before helping others”, I have always thought that it was stating the bleedin’ obvious. Why would you help anyone else when your own life was in danger?
Yet I went into rescue mode. I wanted to be a saviour, even if it meant that my own life would be sacrificed in the process. I felt strong. Invincible. I would be dead, but my actions would have saved a generation.
When I stood up (oh, how they were laughing, those bloody French), I went into shock mode. Serious, serious shock mode. My whole body started to shake, I was sobbing uncontrollably, I couldn’t breathe. I felt every fibre of my being convulse.
What sort of idiot, in these times, thinks it is funny to enter a bar – particularly on a day when there is a high profile event in town – and pretend to the assembled throng that they might be about to die?
Why does anyone think that is even remotely funny?

In the US, he would have been shot on the spot.
In the UK, he would at least have been arrested.
But, more than anything else, the thing that worries me is: Why did nobody else react?
I lived In London during the worst years of terrorism. In the UK and, having been living in LA for nearly three years, I am acutely aware of the necessity of being vigilant at all times – 9/11 transformed the US in that respect. Lone bags, people acting in a shifty manner, things that don’t quite add up – I watch everything very closely. Yes, it’s my job as a writer to do that, but I also think it’s our job as ordinary citizens to try to make our environment as safe as we possibly can. As Jerry Springer says: Look after yourselves – and each other.
Talking of Jerry . . . I wondered whether my work as a TV critic made me extra-sensitive to these particular circumstances or, indeed, events in general: reading high drama into everyday situations that might pass other people by?
Possibly. Probably. But, to me, it is still an act of total stupidity to play a gunman – ever.
I have been trying to laugh it off and it has made a good story; but really, it ain’t that funny. The good news for all my friends and family, however, is that they know when push comes to shove, my instinct is to put their lives before my own.
Call me St Jacqueline. 

Or buy me a pint. 

Just not in Gare du Nord.

The Day I Saved Paris (the place, not the woman)

“This dog is black, but that dog is white.” 

I had been in France just two weeks in 2001 and that was all I had learned from the daily Berlitz class I signed up for. I was in a group with two young American women who took four hours one morning to establish that when the teacher said “hier”, she meant “yesterday”, and we were talking in the past tense. “Je suis . . . “ they kept saying, the present first person that they insisted on using in response to every single question about anything. They would have taken a lot longer than four hours to establish the move to the past tense, had I not screamed, shortly before lunchtime and fearing another morning totally wasted: “IT’S THE PAST TENSE FOR GOD’S SAKE!” which endeared me to no one.
The teacher was annoyed that I had introduced any English into the proceedings, but not as disturbed as she was when I led the two Americans astray one afternoon and we enjoyed a lunch that finished about 2am the following morning in a local bar.
Each day, we had to come to class and say what we had been doing the night before. I decided to confess: “J’ai bu trois bouteilles St Emilion” (I drank three bottles of St Emilion). “Non, non, non, trois verres” (glasses) corrected the teacher. “Er, non. Trois bouteilles.” “Non! C’est impossible!”
As it happened, I learned more of the language in the bar that one night than I did in the classes, where, in addition to being able to describe the colour of different dogs, I was now able to say that they had four legs, two ears and liked to go for walks. At the end of the course, I felt just about confident enough to order a coffee, an orange juice and a shandy. I didn’t drink any of them, but it was marginally useful to know that, if so required, I could order one for somebody else. Where Berlitz and all the language books I bought to assist me fell down, was in their failure in teaching me how to say: “There is a man on board who says he has a bomb.”
I had always wanted to pull the emergency cord on a train and had come close so many times, usually on the First Great Western between Cardiff and Paddington when, in the days of smoking in public places, somebody lit up in a non-smoking carriage. I once came close to pulling it when someone refused to stop using his phone in the quiet carriage, too, and was probably just one can of Strongbow away from doing so; but the inate knowledge that you pulled the cord only in a state of real emergency, such as one that was a matter of life or death, always held me back. That, and the fact that First Great Western replaced cords with a box involving hammers, double-sheeted glass and incomprehensible instructions. 

I never dreamed that the first (and only) occasion (to date) that I would pull an emergency cord would be on the Paris Metro. Nor did I imagine that I would bring the whole underground system to a crashing halt with a security alert that sent half the Paris police force running down into the confines of the Rue de Bac station, guns at the ready. Alcohol had been consumed.
It had been a normal sort of day. My Auntie Barbara and Uncle Brian were over from Canada in the summer of 2003, and we had just been to the Champs Elysses in the 1st arrondisement, where we saw the largest railway exhibition ever to be mounted on a road (we had come across it by accident; I had no interest at that moment in any locomotive other than one that could take me to a bar quickly). Next, we went to Montmartre, where there was a food and drink fayre, the kind that can be found in villages and towns over France all year round. There were dozens of wine growers, as there always are, encouraging us to sample their wares. 

The clich├ęs of Montmartre are best enjoyed on a Sunday, when, despite the increased number of tourists and dodgy artists drawing them, it still seems to provide a haven, a place suspended in time, in its old streets and lamp-posts lighting up rows of steep steps at dusk. Relaxing over a long lunch and taking in the view from the steps of Sacre Coeur, of the whole of Paris stretched out below, including the Eiffel Tower, which lights up at dusk, is one of the most enjoyable activities the city has to offer. We ate at the tiny Au Virage Lepic in the rue Lepic, which is less touristy than the many Prix Fixe restaurants in the main square, and if you manage to get a seat you can pass away hours admiring the paraphernalia on the walls and shelves while sampling the best boeuf Bourgignon in the city.
Topped up with more sample wines from the stalls, we took the bus from Montmartre to Pigalle and caught the Mairie d’Issy metro that would take us to Rue de Bac, the closest metro to my apartment on that line. The carriage was crowded, and although we found three seats together, we were prevented from taking them because a man with a case was taking up two seats: one for himself, and the other for a large black bin liner. I wanted to sit down, but worrying that he was carrying something delicate that could not be moved, asked him what was in the bag. 

“A bomb,” he replied. I laughed nervously, but his face remained impassive. “And the case?” “Another bomb.” He was reading a newspaper written in a language I thought looked like Arabic, and in the wake of 9/11, I, like many others, was nervous of anyone of even slightly Arabian appearance who didn’t have a copy of The Times in his hand. And if someone of that appearance is running round the country telling you they are carrying a bomb, you tend to take it more seriously than you might once have done. 

We decided to move carriages, one at a time at each stop. But I was still worried. In Britain, you could be put in prison for making hoax calls or joking about carrying bombs; in my eyes, he had already committed a crime, merely by the suggestion of it, and what if he really was going to blow the place up? I returned to our original carriage to check that the bomber was still there. 

“He’s reading an Arab newspaper,” whispered my aunt, fully entering into the drama of the situation. I was cautious at being spurred to action by the assumptions of others and recalled the last time I had been encouraged to take action against an alleged miscreant in 1995 in Bath, where I was then living - this time, over lunch at the Theatre Vaults pub. There were Wanted posters up all over town, as the police, who had been trying to catch a rapist for over a decade, at last had a likeness. They were warning women to be wary of men trying to lure them to night clubs, as the rapist had been doing, and so, when a man joined us at our table and started asking us if he wanted to go with him to a club later on, bells started to ring. The more time went on, the more he resembled the man in the poster. I went to the other side of the bar, where the gay men hung out and asked them to look first at the poster and then at our new friend. “It’s him! It’s him!” they screamed. Never ask a gay man for an objective opinion if there is a drama to be made out of a mini-crisis. “You should call the police!”
I looked again, from poster to villain, villain to poster, and back again. Yes, I agreed; it was definitely him. I went back to my seat, grabbed my mobile and went outside to phone the police. I didn’t have the local number, so dialled 999, which gave events an air of urgency they didn’t actually warrant. I explained that a stranger had been acting suspiciously, trying to whisk us off to night clubs, but urged the police to take just a subtle look.
Within the minute, three coppers in full uniform were in the pub bar, demanding that the interloper go outside to answer some questions. They interrupted the man’s rendering of a Verdi Requiem; he had just come from his choral group and was excited about a forthcoming concert, the details of which we would never hear, because he came back crying and wanting to know who had shafted him with such a cruel joke. He left us to our guilt and, when we sobered up, noted that the man in the poster bore a greater resemblance to The Muppet Show’s Fozzie Bear than it did to any living human being.
So my record when it came to policing the streets was not a good one, and my inebriated judgment certainly dubious in deciding who to rope in to support my case. But my aunt and uncle were sure we had got our man, and with thinly disguised mounting hysteria, turned to me with anxious faces, expecting me to take action.
Right. I had a plan. We would go to the far end of the carriage, away from the bomber, and wait for our stop. Then, and only then, would I pull the emergency cord (I wasn’t that stupid; I wanted to get home, even if was not necessarily going to be in one piece).
We moved up the carriage until we reached the last door before the driver and, when the train stopped at Rue de Bac, I grabbed the cord and pulled. Heck, it felt good. All eyes turned to me immediately, angry passengers clearly convinced I was the proverbial train nutcase. I turned desperately to a French woman standing beside me and tried to justify my actions. As all British people do when they don’t speak the language, I shouted way too loudly: “L’HOMME DANS LE TRAIN – IL M’A DIT IL A UNE BOMB!” 

The French woman let out a little scream that acted as a trigger to spread panic further along the carriage. When the doors opened at rue de Bac, I leapt out and went to the front of the train to speak to the driver, who was also rather put out by the unscheduled stop. She said she had a timetable to meet and she had to get to Montparnesse, so what was the hold up? 

“L’HOMME M’A DIT IL A UNE BOMBE!” I cried again, panic now rising in my own voice on a par with that which was spreading through the whole train. Suddenly, there were bodies and noise everywhere. A group of German girls with rucksacks emerged from the middle of the train and started running frantically for the exit; frowning faces were leaning out of doors, asking each other whether they should run or risk being blown up; an old woman with a Chihuahua practically broke the poor thing’s neck as she yanked it off the train and up the station steps. 

The word “bomb” travelled from carriage to carriage; movement was everywhere, panic spreading. I ran back up the platform to check whether my bomber had joined in the melee, but he was still sitting there, oblivious to the terror he had created around him. I ran back, struggling against the tide of chaos and madness where, just five minutes before, there had been utter calm and an easy route on the train’s way to Mairie d”Issy. 

The unfolding drama now convinced the driver that she should call security, and very quickly a woman in uniform arrived and I once again became fluent in French. “Dans mon carriage, l’homme m’a dit il a deux bombs.” It was definitely two bombs now.

 “And he can’t speak French or English,” said my uncle, even though the bomber had only spoken four words to us. “And he’s reading an Arab newspaper,” added my aunt, helpfully. 

The official asked if the man was still on the train and I dutifully led her to where he was sitting, now with his black plastic bag on his lap. Apart from him, the carriage was empty, word having quickly spread that the whole of Paris was about to go up in smoke.

 I don’t know what happened next because no one asked me for a statement; I, who had foiled Al Qaeda’s latest mission to annihilate the west, was redundant and ordered away, along with the last straddling passengers. We left the station and made for the nearest bar, meeting, running in the opposite direction down the Metro steps, the Paris police force, batons and guns poised for action. 

We ordered a drink and contemplated our adventure. Had I done the right thing? I think so. If ever I was going to pull an emergency cord in life, this was the time to do it: one small pull for mankind, one great haul in the battle against terrorism. My bomber deserved to go to the guillotine for posing a threat, irrespective of whether there had been any intention behind it. 

My aunt, uncle and I toasted our victory with a fervour not seen since the Storming of the Bastille in 1789. An hour later, we were not quite so confident of the validity of our actions or our pigeon French. Maybe he had said that his bum was on the seat.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

FFF - Fight For Fellatio!

The brilliant David E. Kelley has taught me many things in life, not least now to write the best series on television. But I never expected to learn about fellatio from him.
But sitting in the UK tonight, watching a repeat episode of Harry’s Law, this is what I learned from the character Harry (Kathy Bates): fellatio is illegal in Georgia. 

Geez! They even know how to spell it there?!
I was gobsmacked. Actually, that’s a bad word. I can doubtless be arrested even for uttering a word that smacks of (oh god, there I go again) . . . of lips . . . or things they might do.
Not only is it illegal in Georgia, it is illegal in 11 other states, including Florida. That’s the one that distresses me the most (there are a lot of blokes there. All off my list now. Sorry, guys).
So, here’s what I learnt from Google:-

Georgia code section 16-6-2 provides a 1 to 20 year mandatory sentence for any adults consenting to "any sexual act involving the sex organs of one person and the mouth or anus of another" (The latter’s okay; I can do without the crusties). Married couples are not excluded from this law.

Most states have repealed the law but it is still illegal in the following:

North Carolina
South Carolina
Puerto Rico

To be honest, I’m okay with all of them, but I met a few cute guys in Florida, and now it seems I have to kidnap them on American Airlines (and probably pay for them too, not to mention  get up for the 6am flight to get it cheaper), just to get them to California to make my oral hygiene legal.
What’s it all about? 

In a week when people are getting hysterical about equal marriage for gays, why is no one screaming about equal fellatio rights for a dozen states in the USA?
And who is policing it? In divorce cases, does it classify as “marital coercion”? Blimey, all we get in Wales is half a Stella, a crack to the back of the head, our 10ccs and we’re happy.
The first night I was introduced to fellatio was in car registration number TB0 440H. I remember the night very clearly because it was the first time I came into direct contact with an adult penis: an adult penis while travelling at 30mph in a white Ford Estate, more to the point. I hadn’t seen a penis since I had taken baths with my brother a decade earlier, much less handled one. I had tiny hands anyway, so coupled with my complete lack of experience, anything put in my palm was going to look and feel like a Tyrannosaurus Rex. 

Once I had got to grips with the fact that sex clearly involved multi-tasking (zip, steering-wheel, gear change - I confess to having been more than a tad nervous: no, abject terror, would be more accurate),  I realised I had to start revving it up.

Then, just as I was getting used to my new job, I received what felt like a crack to the back of the skull (it was probably just a gentle shove, but I was finding co-ordinating my actions with worry about breaking the speed limit difficult to cope with; my terror of breaking the law has always over-ridden everything in my life). 

At crack number three, the penny finally dropped that I was required to get my head down and put the Tyrannosaurus Rex in my mouth (which was even smaller than my hand) and I had to get munching.
Four and a half years of sexual activity taking place almost entirely in a car (the first Ford was traded in for a silver one of the same make, registration number MUH 853P), I would become an expert in co-ordinating hand-brake, steering wheel, motorway driving and consuming anything Tyrannosaurus Rex threw my way at inopportune moments. 

Small wonder I developed a highly developed technique, if not what some went on to call in later years, in the UK press, an obsession with blow-jobs. 

I will continue to FFF (Fight For Fellatio) in those 12 backward states. 

Florida, you thought 2000 was bad. 

You ain’t seen nothing yet.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Six Nations - Here We Go Again

There are few things I miss about the UK when I am in LA, but the Six Nations rugby tournament is one of them.
It’s still possible to watch it over there, of course, but today I’m rather glad I will be sitting in a Welsh hostelry for the 1.30pm kick off between Wales and Ireland, rather than the King’s Head in Santa Monica at a gruesome 5.30am.
Not that the King’s Head didn’t have its advantages – bumping into the divine Matthew Rhys in his Welsh rugby shirt being one of them – but there is something that just feels so wrong about shouting at that time in the morning.
This year, Wales has all the Blues away, which means trips to Paris, Rome and Edinburgh. It’s much better than the years where they visit just Dublin and Twickenham. I last went to the former in 2008 and remember just two things: nearly fainting with excitement when I spotted Brian O’Driscoll in the Four Seasons Hotel, and crawling across my bathroom in the same hotel when I was struck down with a very bad bout of flu.
I visited Rome during the Six Nations of 2005 and declared, when I arrived home, that there was “nothing to see” there. It wasn’t until I returned there at the end of a cruise that I realised I had managed to miss every ruin. My camera was full of pictures of penises, though, snapped outside the ground as men relieved themselves al fresco, owing to the city’s inability to provide adequate facilities.
Full bladders used to be a problem in the old Arms Park in Cardiff in the years before seating. Men simply used to urinate around you (the East Stand was particularly bad), uttering a “Sorry love” before filling their bladders up again with another gallon of Stella, thereby creating the problem all over again. At least when my bladder was full, I asked to be lifted over the heads of spectators in order to make my way to a proper toilet. 

Only once in my entire life did I have to improvise a toilet, when I was on a two-hour journey on a train that had no facilities. I made a little nest out of a newspaper someone had left and went in that. So far, so good. The problem was that there was more liquid than there was nest and I was required to throw the first sitting (as it were) out of the window; or, rather, the problem came when I realised, nest cupped in both hands, that I had not yet opened the window. Struggling to contain the contents of said nest, I grappled with the window and chucked the receptacle with my best discus arm. It was unfortunate that the train hit a particularly vicious wind tunnel at the time and I ended up wearing the nest, plus most of its contents.
Queuing for toilets is the thing that ultimately stopped me going to rugby internationals. Although I was in New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup, I no longer go to Six Nations matches – or, rather, I go to the cities where the games are, but watch in a pub. It means I don’t get cold, I can use the toilet without having to pass pools of urine and vomit en route, and I don’t have to miss three tries while I wait in the eight man deep queue for a drink.
And so, here we go again. Six Nations 2013. It’s a beautiful sunny day in Cardiff (that alone is something to celebrate) and it’s just over two hours to go until kick off. My bet this year is on England to win, although France, my adopted team, can always be relied upon to put a spanner in the works, as they did in New Zealand against Wales.
Meanwhile, in the US, it’s a big weekend for the Superbowl. I never did find out what that was, other than it involved a lot of men watching TV and shouting a lot. 

Give me rugby any day, just not at a time when the birds are still asleep.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Judging Alex - Take Three (The Happy Ending)

Now, look. You don’t have to read this. 

So any of you people out there telling me to go get a life (yes, I know life is short and I should shut the hell up and go sell candy floss on Venice Beach or whatever) . . .  SHUT UP.
This is the third part of the trilogy of my misplaced interview with the brilliant Judge Alex and, believe it or not, some people are genuinely interested in hearing how it ended (see parts one and two for those of a narrative bent).
Or, rather, let me tell you how it didn’t end.

In the absence of a recording, my imagination had the chance to concoct many things. Not only was I engaged to Judge Alex (we have yet to break it to his wife), I was married to Robert de Niro, who proposed to me while holding two bananas (okay, it was a dream, but WTF was that about?) and I was a grieving widow at the tomb of Marlon Brando. Well, me and a horse’s head, but you get my drift. I was very, very stressed.
Los Angeles does strange things to me, but anyway, back to Part Three of of iPad Loss: the Movie . . .
FINALLY, I got hold of a police officer in some godforsaken part of Florida, who went to the address displayed by Find My iPhone (or Pad etc). No answer. She informed me that she had spoken to the neighbours and that the person in question travelled a lot. I liked this officer. She was giving it her all, which made me think this was the biggest case she had ever been given. “There are four houses on this block”, she told me, with ill-disguised incredulity. “No kidding!” I responded, unsure whether this was a good or bad thing for me.
Was he, “the perp”, I ventured ( I watch a lot of TV)  a “bad” person. Silence. I quickly realised that in the US, there were things I was not able to say such as . . . “Was he/she a . . . ?” You see? I can’t even print it.
Having imaginatively administered smelling salts to the officer, after my politically incorrect question and establishing that the “perp” did not appear to be a dot dot dot dot dot dot (honestly, I swear they were calling paramedics to the officer, such was the impertinence of my question), the officer admitted that no, this did not appear to be a “bad” person. Not the kind of person who would steal a Judge Alex Voice Memo, I ventured. Er, no. But, should I wish to call back over the weekend (when the officer was away), I should feel free to ask them to visit the perp (my words) again.

I wasn’t hopeful. So, plan two. The brilliant actor and presenter Stephen Fry (who happens to be a friend of mine – though not in the Biblical sense LOL #geddit?) has over five million followers on Twitter, so I thought it would be a good idea to ask him to Tweet about my dilemma. He did. And how they responded! I was an idiot for not having backed everything up (I had); I should speak to Apple (Geez! Even my mother does not talk to me as often as these people); I should check iTunes (DUH! I am not a moron!).
Then, amidst it all (the needle in a five million people haystack), the answer: iPad only backs to iPad, not to iPhone (thanks to Apple et al, for all that wrong advice). But, then, not so good – it doesn’t back up APPS.
Wrong! I bought another iPad and ticked back up 13th January 2013 (interview had been 10th January). I watched. I waited. The clock ticked. It was the longest 10 minutes of my life.
And then. There it was. They were. Seventy five minutes, plus another . . . oh, who cares. My Judge Alex was back. His voice. His laughter. In my excitement, I nearly pressed “Delete” - but, reader, did not (you will be glad to know).
I have spent the past seven hours boring everyone person who stood still long enough, informing them of my love affair with the iCloud, to which I owe my life, my sanity.

Thank you, Mr Steve Jobs, for looking down on me and saving me from ignominy. 

And thank you, gorgeous, dear Stephen Fry, for your lovely words - yes, life really does sometimes reward good people – and for your kindness; life is 100% better tonight than it was yesterday.
As for Judge Alex, I am back in the dock (in my dreams), where I belong. Handcuffs optional.