Monday, September 12, 2011

Auntie Jo vs The Brixham Town Council

Occasionally in all our lives the moment arrives when we have to go to court. It is a horrible moment that most of us fear. I was taught at a business seminar never to go into business unless you are prepared to go to court and that for me has been good advice. The NZ courts are slow but fair and on the three occasions I have had to resort to them justice was done and in my favour.

A friend of mine has lately been hounded by a large company for a bill that she has paid threatening to take her to court unless she pays up again immediately. Pointing out that she has paid hasn't worked and this has reminded me of my Auntie Jo who faced a similar problem with The Brixham Town Council. Brixham is or was in the 1950's a sleepy traditional, picturesque fishing village in South Devon.

My Auntie Jo, Miss Thorpe was a character, some may say eccentric. She was a brilliant business woman who suffered from the Second World War where her huge London Secretarial Agency was taken over by the government lock stock and barrel with no compensation. Auntie Jo, a four hundred words a minute secretary was sent to a munitions factory in Slough. This elegant.intelligent woman lasted three days. At filing holes she was useless.

She ended up running a very chic boutique shop in Brixham called Variety Fayre. Brixham was the place to holiday in the fifties. Auntie Jo was very correct, all bills promptly paid so it came as somewhat of a surprise to find that The Brixham Town Council claimed that Auntie Jo had not paid her rates.

To make matters worse Auntie Jo's name was displayed on the Town Notice Board where everyone could see her name as a Ratepayer who had not paid her rates.

The town is small and everyone knew Miss Thorpe had not paid her rates. If the rates were not paid immediately Auntie Jo would be taken to court.  It was humiliating. Auntie Jo, aged 60 and a bit doddery and a dead ringer at this stage for Agatha Christie's Miss Marple accepted the challenge.

The day arrived,  Miss Thorpe was in the dock, The Town Clerk duly declared that the rates were unpaid. The judge looked seriously at my aunt and said patronizingly 'Now Miss Thorpe what is your answer to that?'

After a bit of a fumble my aunt produced her spectacles and her cheque book out of her handbag and then her bank statement. This took a few minutes then after a lengthy search through the cheque stubbs she looked at the Judge and said innocently 'Your Honour I seem to have paid the cheque on this date a month ago and here is the cheque cleared on my bank statement!'.

My aunt could be so naughty! I now know where I get my annoying streak from.

The whole court erupted in laughter! I can believe that my aunt gave a brilliant performance. However the judge was not amused and gave my aunt the telling off of her life for  wasting court time!

But it wasn't Auntie Jo's not guilty verdict was duly reported in the local papers and everyone then knew Miss Thorpe had paid her rates.

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