Day 86: 22 July 2017
Sunday, 22 July 2018 14:06

I like to tell you stories from my fundraising career because I think people are intrigued by money matters, even more so when the story concerns money that people have given away. I was contracted by a school to raise a few million dollars for a new building, and began by asking people in the know who, in their opinion – to put it bluntly – was rich. Well, rich enough to give a big gift. Within a week, I had names of thirty families connected to the school, people who had the capacity to give sizeable gifts. It was not a matter of whether the people would give, I told my identifying sources, more if they could give a decent gift. There was a couple, supporters of the school but who didn’t have children there, whom a young teacher had nominated. Because of the teacher’s age, I left the couple until last. It was a Friday when I finally called them. I explained what I was doing, and asked if we could meet – no obligation, no arm-twisting. The man stunned me by what he said next. ‘It’s a pity you didn’t call sooner, because we just gave $1,000,000 to another school.’ I was shocked, yet overjoyed when they agreed to meet the following Monday, for a chat. Over the weekend, I pondered my approach with them. The man said they were paying their gift to the other school, over three years – extremely valuable information. When we met on Monday, I congratulated the couple on their gift to the other school, and then asked if they might give the same, three-year gift to our school, end-on. They agreed. A week later, the man phoned to say they were going overseas, but they’d updated their wills to ensure their gift intention to our school was honoured, should something go awry! ‘I also want to tell you that we’ve made your school one of the two beneficiaries of our estate,’ the man said. Having some inkling of the couple’s financial circumstances, I was gob-smacked. By my reckoning, our school is set to receive several million dollars. And to think that I’d left calling them, until last! Shame on me!

Day 84: 20 July 2017
Friday, 20 July 2018 12:08

On my bucket list I have: ‘No.7: Stand-Up Comedy’. Here’s how I hope it will pan out: Enters stage to loud applause, moves to card table, does familiar Tommy Cooper laugh. (beckons audience to increase applause, looks around) ‘Thank you; have we got time for more? (reaches for fez, places on head, looks stupid) ‘Who am I? (doesn’t wait for an answer, repeats the laugh) ‘How come whenever they build a new petrol station, they always find petrol underneath?’ (dithers aimlessly at card table, picks up items, puts them down, disorganised/flustered; holds arm up high, pumps it up and down in air) ‘Went to the doctor, told him it hurts when I do this’. Doctor said, Well, don’t do it!’ (drops arm, repeats signature laugh again) ‘Was in the dentist waiting room, reading the magazines. Wasn’t it awful about the Titanic?’ (looks at card table, picks up paddle-and-ball, puts them down again. Laughs.) ‘Dentist said my teeth were all right. Gums need to come out.’ (looks around, as if looking for ideas to entertain the audience, pats his pockets.) ‘A guy walks into a pub with a lump of asphalt on his shoulder. He says to the barman, “Give me a beer – and one for the road”.’ (picks up paddle and ball attached by a piece of rope; drops ball and tries to flick it up onto the paddle; it doesn’t work; has a second try, then a third; frustrated, he throws paddle back on table) ‘Last night I dreamt I was eating a five kilo marshmallow. When I woke up, my pillow was gone.’ ‘A woman told her doctor she had a bad back. Doctor told her it was old age. She said she wanted a second opinion. ‘Okay, you’re ugly as well.’ Ends.

Day 85: 21 July 2017
Saturday, 21 July 2018 11:17

Day six of the trial: The Sherriff explains to me in a whisper that today is set aside for 'legal argument', which doesn’t require the jury to be present. Within two minutes of entering the courtroom, His Honour extends bail for the three accused, until Monday, at 9.30am, and they leave. Now, it’s just the judge, six legal counsel (three for ’em; three against ’em), the Sherriff, and the four of us followers of the case. Naomi, a co-observer, is my go-to person for questions and answers; she’s a law graduate and is understudying defence counsel No.3. Her two friends are first-year law students, who’ve been coming to the trial each day, well, every day that I’ve been here, at any rate. Bear with me here, but it seems to me that today’s legal argument, on which His Honour must rule, is whether or not the setting-up of a particular roadside breathalyzer test unit – purposely to facilitate a search for drugs in just one local vehicle – was a legitimate use of police powers, or if it was a ruse and/or a sham (His Honour’s words). And, whether, as a consequence of the subsequent search of the car for drugs, which happened, the findings, the result of the search, the evidence, will be allowed by His Honour as admissible in the case. I’m learning all of this on the run, and I find it fascinating to watch defence counsel No.2 cite precedence, but then admit defeat on the point he’s trying to win the judge over. A lengthy pause ensues, during which the barrister in question seems to ponder where to go next. I have huge respect for His Honour. He’s a terribly clever cookie, and has the ability to sum-up, speak, rule, interpret things with an incredible degree of accuracy and succinctness, but also with simplicity. This is very much His Honour’s courtroom, and while he doesn’t tolerate any wayward behaviour (the other day, he directed a witness to stop talking!), he also shows unending patience. And yet if counsel from either side stuffs-up, he’s quick to pounce. It boils down to whether what took place on the roadside was a ruse, or a sham, or both.

Day 83: 19 June 2017
Thursday, 19 July 2018 08:46

Day five of the trial. Today begins with the lead defence counsel informing His Honour that he is continuing his efforts to obtain a certificate from the radiologist who saw defendant No.1 yesterday, and over whom health issues remain. The accused has instructed his barrister not only to get him excused from attending court, but to have the case adjourned altogether. His Honour retires to his chambers to allow defence counsel more time to obtain the certificate. Meanwhile, he asks the lead prosecutor to join him in his chambers. The jury remains out. The judge returns, and declares that the defendant may continue to be absent, but that the case will continue. The jury is brought back, His Honour explains the situation, and we then watch ninety minutes of closed circuit television footage of men coming and going from a shed. The surveillance footage is the most boring television I have ever watched, and I ponder its merit; I wonder how watching vehicles and people come and go from a factory necessarily amounts to criminal activity. Sure, a lot of men come, and shortly after, go, but so what? There is no commentary, just silent TV footage. It makes for mind-numbing watching. Today’s witness is in security. He admits to knowing one of the accused. But this guy got bashed-up, and can’t remember things. As such, he’s really not much value. He does, however, concede that it is him in the footage, but that he was there to make payments on a caravan he was purchasing from one of the accused. He is shown a statutory declaration, but denies he wrote it – or agreed what it says – or that the signature at the bottom, is his. [I must share with you that while I find court, and this case, fascinating, I’m a total novice at witnessing and reporting court events. Accordingly, when the prosecutor asks the witness if he is worried about his safety in giving evidence, I’m intrigued that His Honour jumps in, and rules the question out of order, saying she was treading on potentially-dangerous ground, because if the witness were to blurt out one particular answer, it could lead to a mistrial!]


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