Winston and the fire warden; part I


 To have your case adjourned on Monday morning after having worked through the entire weekend with little or no sleep, is every barrister’s nightmare. Sadly, that was exactly what had happened to me on that occasion. I was staring down the barrel of a week without work. Bugger! Disappointed, I walked back to my chambers.

When I opened the door to my room, I noticed that the small portable TV which I kept on top of my drinks cabinet to watch the cricket was on. That’s strange, I thought, walking over to the cabinet to turn off the TV. Before I could reach for the switch, I heard a strange growl. Looking over my shoulder, I saw a small, dog, eyes bulging with disapproval, staring at me. At first I didn’t trust my eyes, but when I turned around to face the strange visitor, there was no denying it: there was a dog sitting on my Chesterfield, watching television. Quite small, but feisty with a head that was a little too big, tiny ears, and a squashed nose that suggested that he liked to chase parked cars, he was snorting and making other obviously hostile noises. When I tried to reach for the switch again to turn off the TV, the growl became louder, and the hairs on his back began to bristle. Realising that confrontation wasn’t an option, I began to slowly back away towards the door.


Tom-Tom was busy as usual. She excelled at multitasking. I waited until she came up for air after answering several calls at the same time, before stating my case.

‘There’s a dog in my room watching television,’ I said calmly. Tom-Tom stared at me, just as the dog had done moments before.


‘What are you doing here?’ she asked. ‘You’re supposed to be in court!’

‘I wish I was; adjournment.’

‘Shit! Come with me and not a word to anyone.’ With that, Tom-Tom got up, and hurried down the corridor towards my room. ‘Cyril’s wife came in half an hour ago with that wretched dog; Winston. She was on her way to the dentist and wanted to leave Winston with Cyril for an hour. He’s in court, so she left him with me!’

‘And you parked him in my room and turned on the TV to entertain him. Is that it?’ I said.

Tom-Tom looked at me sheepishly and shrugged. ‘He likes television. You’ve got to keep him in there until she gets back.’

‘You’re kidding!’

‘Name your price.’

‘I should be in court running a case; instead, I’m back in my room doggy-sitting?

‘What’s that?’ said Tom-Tom, pointing to the open door of my room. ‘You left your door open? Jesus!’

Winston was gone.

Tom-Tom was becoming hysterical. ‘You let him out!’ she shouted.

‘Calm down; he couldn’t have gone far. Let’s find him. You go that way, I try the other side.’


A barrister’s floor on Monday morning is pandemonium. The reception area was full of instructing solicitors and their anxious clients – standing room only – and the floor clerk was trying to answer a dozen questions at the same time.  Thankfully, the dog wasn’t there. Relieved, I hurried past. As I turned the corner, I just caught a glimpse of a curly tail disappearing into one of the rooms to my left.

Looking frantic, Tom-Tom came running towards me from the opposite direction. ‘Have you seen him?’ she asked.

‘He’s just gone into Clive’s room,’ I said, pointing to an open door. Coming closer, we could hear voices.

‘My God. Lady Ashburton is in there with her solicitor; important conference. Do something!’

‘What exactly did you have in mind?’

‘You’re the barrister; improvise!’

‘It’s not my dog.’

‘It’s our problem.’

‘Oh no. It’s your problem.’

‘You owe me.’

That was true. Tom-Tom surely knew when to call in favours. I went down on one knee, pretending to tie my shoelaces, and keeping my head down, I peered around the corner through the open door into the room. What I saw wasn’t encouraging.

Lady Ashburton sat on a chair facing Clive’s desk with her back turned towards me. Her solicitor sat next to her.  Clive sat behind his desk, facing the door. Thankfully, he was reading something and didn’t look in my direction. The really disturbing bit, however, was lurking under Lady Ashburton’s chair directly in front of me.

‘Can you see him?’ whispered Tom-Tom anxiously.

‘I can, but it’s not looking good,’ I said, standing up.

‘What’s he doing?’

‘He’s chewing the strap of Lady Ashburton’s handbag.’

‘Oh my God! No one noticed?’

‘No. Not yet.’

‘What are we going to do?’

‘I have an idea; come.’


I mainly said that to comfort Tom-Tom. However, something had crossed my mind, but I needed a little more time to work out the details. It was a daring plan. To find out what it was, and how it turned out, you’ll have to bear with me, I’m afraid. All will be revealed in next week’s Post.