Next week we’ll come to the final chapter of a story crazy enough to rival Catch 22 and Alice in Wonderland.
It started with a call from the Fairest Authority in the Land (F.A.i.L), travelled across the Atlantic to the States, back across to continental Europe, and concludes next week in a court case where we’ll see the Competition Authority and the largest companies in the travel industry on trial, along with my sanity.
Jump back four years and you’ll find me sheltering by a wall in a pub car-park in Land’s End, the wind and rain sweeping in across the sea, my phone pressed tight against my ear to try and catch what these Fair people are telling me. I can just make out that they want to see me as a matter of urgency.
They would, of course. That part of the story was pre-written. I had reported industry-wide corruption, alleging a vast system of benefit cheats and arranged marriages, with lesser charges of racketeering, cannibalism and incest. There was no way this could be swept under even the deepest of legal rugs.
That night, after the warmth of a few ales dissipates, I will very nearly die of hypothermia in a sleeping bag and tent entirely unsuited to gales and driving rain, but I wake knowing that a story is coming together and it’s entering Hollywood territory.
The press were enchanted by my tale and more than one paper wanted to run it as a modern day ‘David & Goliath’. As much as I liked their enthusiasm, that wasn’t how I wanted the story pitched.
For a start, the original David wasn’t a snitch, nor did he take shelter behind an Authority with the power to whack Goliath so hard in the wallet he’d be living off food stamps for the rest of his natural born life. The journos got my point, toned down their copy, and even the less dramatic version made it to the front pages.
The middle chapters will have to wait for ‘The Book’. For now we jump forward three years. I’m sitting across the perfectly fair table, drinking perfectly fair tea, conversing with perfectly unreasonable people. They’re trying to convince me that the trio they’d investigated off the back of my complaints had put forward a compelling defence claiming they merit disability allowance on account of their being obese.
I may not have put it quite so mildly but I remember proposing that the defendants shouldn’t eat so much greasy food. The Fair Office told me it was none of my business what their clients ate. ‘I’m not worried about what they eat’ I said, exasperated. ‘I’m concerned that they’re claiming benefits and they’re not even married!’.
“To the extent that no evidence has come to our attention to evidence that assertion we have no reason to question our team” came the baffling reply. Perhaps seeing my dejection they tried to soften the blow for me.
“You can get married too”.
“I don’t want to get married!”
“Well, now you can. And you can even pawn your engagement presents”.
“If you don’t want to you don’t have to. We’re just saying you can if you want to”.
“But the others aren’t married themselves. They’re just masquerading as married to get benefits. I thought you got that”.
At this point the team of fair people all rose, held hands, and sang their chorus:
Show us evidence that they’re not married.
Show us the evidence.
(Repeat, ad infinitum)
With that ridiculous tune ringing in my ears I left the Fair building, dazed and confused, and determined to walk away to preserve my sanity. I hadn’t foreseen this part of the story and I planned to write myself out of it immediately.
And I really thought I’d made it, my normal ‘Truman Show meets the Big Lebowski’ life resuming, when I was approached by another giant, a gentle one this time, who also didn’t want to get married. She asked me to join her in an appeal. I politely declined, said she didn’t need me, that my part in this story was over.
Or so I thought. Weeks later I saw that this brave lady giant was taking the Fair Authority to an even Fairer Authority still and, more remarkably, the first Fair Authority was being defended by the original ’3 Goliaths’. This was truly horrible. It was like I’d summoned up the courage to shop the three biggest bullies in the school only to find the teacher I’d reported them to in bed with them.
This was a new and unexpected twist which I couldn’t ignore so I was back in, supported by a remarkable team of barristers and lawyers, all kindly assisting me without cost. Together we dredge through the legal detritus which has been building up all these years and for the first time in a while I’m feeling supported and optimistic.
But there’s also a nagging doubt in my mind. I’m writing and writing, crafting this entirely new chapter, but I can’t see where it’s going. I suspect I may be losing the plot.
As of now, I’m only just waking up to why I can’t win this case. No-one wants to see their teachers in the dock, defending themselves against the charge of ‘irrational and perverse’ behaviour. If they’re defeated, then what? Do I have to go back to school and show them how they should do their job properly or do I risk them swanning off again with the bullies and coming back with something more absurd than they did in the first round?
I’m going to see this chapter through because I have to and I know that, whatever happens now, I can take comfort in the knowledge that there’s already a blockbuster movie here.
Even if it’s not likely to be the classic fairy tale of Good winning over Evil there’s more than enough material to play with here. This screen-play can blend the rational with the insane, fantasy with reality, feature a bit of glamour and a lot of pot. I’m picturing “Erin Brockovich meets Cheech and Chong”.