SEE YOU IN COURT: The saga of my parents’ split continued as we grew up in our stately home, although their behaviour was anything but stately for most of the time! Seven years of arguing and fighting were about to come to an end and the solicitors had finally agreed on a date to go to court. We carried on helping my dad to run the Hall and he still went to his boat in Caernarfon at weekends to get away from the house but we were all getting weary of it now. We were young adults and wanting to get on with our own lives. After five years together we were hoping to get married at some point so we were glad that it was finally going to be sorted out one way or another.
Gavin was now involved with a band who regularly supported The Jam so he was often travelling around the country with them. Piers had been sent to a local boarding school so we saw even less of him than before. My mum continued to live in the West Wing Apartment and was now seeing the singer who sang at the banquets. My dad sat on his own most nights with only the parrot for company. When he found out about the singer it started a fresh load of outbursts from him as he now felt that the pair of them were trying to take his house and business off him! He constantly ranted on about it and often threatened to shoot the singer with his gun – I don’t think he would have done but then again, with his temper, who knows! This latest twist in the story did nothing for my dad’s sanity and my mum was still hoping to have him committed and kept making appointments for him with the psychiatrist. Once again, the Police were called every week informing them of the threats on the singer’s life and they eventually took my dad’s gun licence off him just in case anything did happen!
We tried to keep out of the way as much as possible and stayed in Burton all week, where we worked, and came home at weekends where we would meet up with our friends and party in the apartments out of sight and sound of my parents. One morning we came home at 8am after being out all night and met my dad on the stairs as we were going to bed. He looked surprised and said “You’re up early today aren’t you?” to which we just nodded and carried on to our bedrooms!
We consoled ourselves by spending a lot of time in the Meynell Arms, the local pub in the village. When we walked in of an evening, everyone was keen to know the latest updates on the divorce and we would spend half an hour telling them all the news – it was like a real life soap opera! On Tuesday nights a bunch of the local businessmen would all meet up for a drink. These men were all middle aged, respectable professionals but on a Tuesday night they turned into a bunch of mad men! We loved it of course, being young and wanting to forget our miserable home life – what better way than a bit of madness? And so, after quite a few drinks, these guys would decide to take sides and have a fight. They piled all the furniture up at each end of the pub to make a barricade then used fire extinguishers and soda syphons to squirt water at each other until one side ‘won’. As you can imagine, the mess was horrendous; water was everywhere! Every week the cleaner resigned and they would have to find another one. What a place!
But all this jollity didn’t put off the inevitable day in court. Birmingham Crown Court was where we all met to finally sort out this miserable mess that my parents had got themselves into. On the one side was my dad with his solicitor and barrister plus Kev and I for moral support. On the other side was my mum with her solicitor and barrister and one or two of the banquet staff for moral support. And so, there we all stood, our two little groups waiting in the corridor outside the court room. The solicitors were both giving out last minute instructions and conferring with their barristers on this and that. And then it was time; they called us in and we sat on either side of the room. Then an incredible thing happened – six people, each carrying a huge pile of paperwork and files, all walked in after us and put their loads onto a table at the front. It was unbelievable that so many letters had exchanged hands over the years – a small forest at least! The Judge looked at it all with distaste.
Each barrister gave their speech informing the Judge what their client wanted and how they should go about it. After they had both finished and lots of paper shuffling had happened, the Judge looked at us all and said, “There’s only two people in this courtroom who are going to make anything out of this sorry state – and that’s you (dad’s barrister) and you (mum’s barrister)”. He pointed at them both as he said it, as if they hadn’t already made a lot of money out of it!
“Now go outside and sort it out between you. I’m going for lunch now and I want to see it all sorted when I get back”. Well, what a shock! Files and papers were quickly gathered up as we all walked back out into the corridor. And then it began – the bartering and bargaining between the legal eagles as they tried to come to some agreement between the two parties in a ridiculous timescale – a lunch break! Half an hour to sort out the rest of their lives basically. I remember standing there, furtively glancing at my mum and her ‘team’ to see what they might be thinking, as the two groups battled it out.
Eventually they were done and we all trouped back into court. The verdict: my mum would buy out my dad and he would leave the Hall within six months, never to return. The Judge ruled that the legal fees and Piers’ school fees would be split equally between them. My dad’s collection of arms and armour were classed as domestic ‘chattels’ and were also to be split between them. This was the one thing he was afraid of which is why we had spirited most of the good stuff away via the graveyard!
The divorce was finally over but at what a cost – my dad paid dearly with the loss of his dream house and marriage and my mum lost her family as we were all fragmented and living in different homes now, rarely seeing her. The total cost of the divorce in monetary terms would have easily bought a small manor house in those days!
The Judge also ruled that Sotheby’s Auction House were to visit the Hall and value my dad’s antique collection. Shortly after the hearing the valuers came to the house; they walked in and took one look at the collection and asked what all the fuss was about. My mum’s face was a picture as they informed her that it was all reproduction and of little value! As mentioned in previous blogs the original items were safely tucked away in Kev’s attic!
Well, if nothing else, at least my dad had the last laugh!
Next week: 'Here Comes the Bride (Part 1)'
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