Memories and reflections

Two memories from my employment tribunal practice stand out. In one, the Respondent forged three letters which, if believed, were a defence to our claim. We sought a notice payment, and he forged the contractual statement of terms and conditions, to show the notice should be less. But the Claimant had retained her T&Cs, showing the date she started work there.

He would rather go to a hearing, spending considerably more on solicitors, than pay her her due under the law. He lied and cheated. And through her responsible action, I wrote a delicious letter to his representatives- we will settle now for payment of the claim in full, but if you go to hearing we will seek costs and press for perjury to be investigated. He paid up.

She had angina, and he had sacked her after six weeks’ sickness absence. Had he left her to cope with the changes, and learn how a GTN spray affected her, she could have gone back to work shortly after. The stress of the tribunal application stopped her recovery.

And the other: usually a defence to a claim would be accepted late, as it is in the interests of justice: the Claimant’s loss is only a few weeks’ delay, but if the defence were refused the Respondent loses their right to be heard. The motion to accept the defence late is usually a routine, with a pretty apology for lateness enough. I found the arguments why it should not be accepted late. I wiped the floor with them.

As I typed that paragraph I spoke two of the arguments I had used aloud into the empty room, with passion in my voice, controlled contempt suitable for the tribunal room. I remember them in detail. Eight years later these things still matter to me.

I am occupied, in my retreat, in my reclusive existence, with the nature of humanity. How do I see myself in my world? Those stories form a huge part of it. The wicked will fight like rats in a sack, without humanity, quarter, or thought of justice, for their own wrongful interest; but sometimes through luck and brilliance Right can win. A recent story I heard of a court action confirms that: a man resisting to the last moment, only caving when he saw the right must win.

I retreated from the monsters. I could create the brilliance and have the luck only intermittently, and the losses that I saw as My Failures, My Inadequacy, My Wrongness crushed me.

I am concerned above all with safety. There are monsters out there, which can hurt me. I sought safe spaces. Quakers seem nice enough, and I formed an ideal of what a Quaker meeting should be, a false view less and more than what it is really, of people conforming to an ideal humanity rather than being their whole humanity. Quakers were my safe space, then I found during the election campaign that Labour party members, campaigning, were good people too.

I am safe, day to day, retreated to my living room, but not month to month. All I have to do today is buy food, and if I do not I can do it tomorrow. And I am not providing for myself, so I am not safe. My income could be stopped any day now. And I find the safe spaces I sought are more complex than I knew, inhabited not by people following rules I thought I understood but human beings behaving in complex human ways.

I cannot predict what is going on. I can only see it. Or not see it, blinded by my understanding of what should happen.

So I look back on my experiences, and my perceptions, and try to force them into another framework of understanding. I face repeated set-backs. It could be recovering from my childhood, if I cease to see set-backs as I saw them then, as proof of my worthlessness, as the failure which kills me. The monster will get me and I shall die. Instead, I might see what I have lost, if I have lost anything. I have to see what is rather than react to what I imagine out of my complex internal illusions.

I have lost nothing. I have time, and my human gifts. Try again, fail again, fail better is the fashionable Beckett quote, now Keep calm and carry on, parodied from the beginning, is forgotten. Once more into the Breach! I am terrified, because it was so ghastly. I am depressed, which for me means seeing what I clearly must do, and having no motivation for it. Come on! I admonish myself. Action! Get on with it! I am crushed by my experiences. That was a source of judgment for me, proof of my worthlessness, though I assert- it really does not matter whether I underwent experiences which the most courageous, gifted and resilient person would find unbearable, or experiences a worthless, useless weakling should find unexceptionable- I am crushed by them. Can I create a new world?

I put the bin out this morning. It is sunny, and sunlight glistened through a long string of raindrops on the washing line. There is so much beauty outside my living room!

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