Going Underground


At first, travelling on the underground in London was a novelty, crammed in with all the other commuters. But it soon wore thin as I watched the people who inhabit this environment. The elbower fidgets, turns the pages of a newspaper or fumbles in a bag while repeatedly digging you in the ribs. The take-up-too-much-roomer leaves their neighbour sitting at the edge of a seat with one cheek in mid-air. This sometimes extends to the double-seater, who sits on one seat and places their bag on the other. Continue reading

Pick Myself Up

Post114 copy

There was something surreal about my situation. I had spent a long time bedridden and turned my thoughts to other times. After my stint training to become a barrister, I applied for an in-house legal role at Underdog Bank in London, which was generally looked down upon by the big City banks. I got an interview, but had no relevant experience so I read a book on finance law and the first interview went well. I was up against it financially as I had a large student debt and no income. Michelle and I had bought a small end of terrace house in Watford and money was tight. We were close to defaulting on the mortgage. I landed a second interview and prepared by memorising large parts of the published information about the bank. Continue reading

Stumble And Fall


I have an appointment for a CT scan at a hospital in London called The Lister. Dragging myself out of bed, I turn the shower on and lean against the wall as the water gushes down. Mentally, I prepare for the effort I will have to put in. I’m stubbornly – or stupidly – independent and decide to go alone to Sloane Square tube station. I get on the train and sit on a seat straight away. But I am exhausted and feel sick. Continue reading

Hard Times


The procedure each time I went for a radiotherapy session involved collecting my file before going to the waiting area. I sat down with the others and a silent resignation to our fate. Flicking through my notes, I was met with indecipherable medical terminology. I am not sure if the doctors told me the stage of cancer I have. If they did, I was too dazed or messed up to take it in. Continue reading



I have to build myself up to leave the house and only ever do this for medical appointments. My life now is resting in bed, being sick and hospital. The sickness is all-consuming and I have no identity other than as a cancer patient. Getting to The Royal Marsden by tube is horrendous and the equivalent of doing multiple marathons, if you do marathons vomiting along the way. Somehow, I do it, puke on a street corner and carry on. I am put on a continual flow of anti-sickness pills and a course of steroids to help ease my ill health but the nausea remains. The oncologists tell me this is the period when I should start to feel better, which is alarming as my health is deteriorating. My time is spent in a foggy daydream. Continue reading

Puke And Pills


I spend most of my time in bed trying to watch films. It’s a worrying time waiting to find out if the radiotherapy treatment has worked. However, I begin to experience some of the side effects I had been warned of. Disturbingly, my eyes and ears are affected. I can see, but the vision is blurred. I can hear, but it’s dull and like trying to listen to someone speaking when you are underwater. This did not combine very well with watching films, or reading, or listening to audiobooks, or interaction with anyone. I look around and try to hear but it is all a bit pointless just now. Continue reading

Two Belly Buttons



Remembering my studies and legal training helps instil a single-mindedness, but I have to turn my attention to the present. I’m surprised I haven’t received any counselling to help me through cancer. I was told I would be contacted by certain agencies and offered support, but no one called. I was left to handle what was happening to me. In one sense, this was good because I had to rely on my own resolve and come out fighting. In another, however, I could have benefitted from a counsellor so long as it was a constructive experience. I heard stories about counselling sessions focusing on death rates and mentally preparing for the worst. I would have reacted really badly to that frame of mind. Continue reading

It’s Over

Post108 copy

My next and final pupilmaster was a total contrast. He was far too impressed with himself. His vastly superior level of detachment led me only to review old instructions so it was like working in a vacuum. He looked at some of the drafting and opinions I produced, but never gave any feedback and rarely talked except to express how brilliant he was. One day, we had a hearing on the South coast and he actually paid for a train ticket for me while he drove down alone in his hairdresser-style sports car. He bought it when he turned up to chambers one day and discovered the cleaner had a better car than him. It was proof this bloke was a monumental tool. Continue reading

Wig And Gown

Post107 copy

It was time to begin my practising 2nd six months pupillage, during which I was entitled to receive instructions from clients. However, chancery work was so heavy duty it would never happen. I arrived one bright, spring morning and walked up the stone steps to Four Oak Court, where I would complete my pupillage. I was soon introduced to my first pupilmaster at this set, Peter Clifford. He was quite short and wore an obligatory chalk stripe suit and large glasses. He greeted me with a smile. We talked and made our way downstairs to his room in the far corner of chambers. It was small and packed from floor to ceiling in all directions with books on shelves and makeshift arrangements holding lever arch files. He talked about the cases he was working on and gave me some papers to go through in a separate pupils’ room. In my comfort zone with a warm personality, things were about to change. Continue reading

Moving On

Post106 copy

I entered a period toward the end of my 1st six months pupillage when the barristers in chambers opened up a lot more toward me. I was chatting to a barrister in her room one day and asked her why this set of chambers usually took on Oxbridge graduates. “We stick with what we know,” she replied. Candidates like me were an unknown quantity. Continue reading