Thursday, June 23, 2011

New York - Part Two

So. My phone is lost. I completely turned my hotel upside down to see if it was in the room somewhere. But no win. I'm VERY annoyed at myself. Nothing that a drink won't fix though :)  

A short stiff drink to keep the hangover at bay and I soon head out for lunch with Parg & Co but with no phone I wasn't able to locate them when i got to the restaurant. I walked up and down several times. So I sat down and had a drink at the bar while going through my (now vital) printed out maps and planned the rest of my holiday hoping Parg & Co turned up soon. 

The barman is from Leeds so he helped pass the time. Nearly an hour goes by and i decide to give up. I pay the bill and out of nowhere Parg pops up behind me saying they'd been at the back of the restaurant all along WTF. Don't know how i missed them. 

After a lovely cheese toasted sandwich and a cocktail I headed off to try and find the World Naked Bike Ride event being held in major cities around the world simultaneously. I had been to the London one a few years earlier and it was a great laugh (see blog post from 2009). Unfortunately i never found this event and blindly walked around for ages stopping off for drinks occasionally. I later found out when I was back in London that it was cancelled due to rain being forecast.

I took the subway down to Wall St to have a browse around there. Their subway system is not too different to ours. But the trains are bigger and air conditioned. Less frequent though, and not as comfortable inside with hard plastic seats. Only a few stations have a board up with the train arrival times which was frustrating, but they were reasonably frequent, no more than 10 mins waiting. I’d been on the subway on Friday rush hour too, and it was nowhere near as packed as it gets in London. Instead of names for their lines, they are labelled a number or letter. A very simple subway system to understand.

Interestingly, their turnstiles (ticket barriers) go both ways at all times. You can imagine that would be a problem during rush hour with two people both going at the same turnstile.

Saturday night i met up with Parg & Co again in a little bar called The Magician where we noticed Mike Myers! Aka Austin Powers. Im a huge fan so i stared  at him and his table a bit. We left soon after and i waved at him as we went past, getting a wave back.


By now i was feeling absolutely fucked. Three nights of heavy ish drinking, along with light day time drinking to ward off each daily hangover had now caught up. Hands shaking. Dodgy stomach. I was actually limping too cos of all the walking (probably about 5 miles of walking per day). I couldn’t even eat cos of the nausea. I was quite the state!  But the show had to go on and me and Parg headed up to the Bronx for the zoo there. I was so tempted to have more drink to sort me out but i had to stop at some point or i might have spontaneously combusted.

The zoo wasn’t as good as i expected. You had to really wait around for the good animals as they were quite in the distance or hidden in their caves or something. 



After the zoo we headed to Times Square which is pretty much Picadilly Circus + Leicester Square multiplied by 10. Not suitable for epileptics.

Got back to the hotel early evening and just lay in bed, falling in and out of sleep all night with the TV on letting the body recover from 4 days of physical and mental punishment.


Fresh and rehabilitated, I was resurrected like Christ himself for the final day. Started off with the Guggenheim Musuem which was thoroughly disappointing as nearly all of it was shut. No idea why. Stunning building though. 

One room was cool though, the wallpaper was made up of wads of 1 dollar bills. Each wad must have been about 20 dollars. I couldn’t even guess how much money the whole room contained. (Cameras weren’t allowed so i got this image from Google).

A quick google search tells me $100’000 !!! Holy moly!!  It says some dude one an art prize for something, along with that $100k. He decided to create his next piece using that money. Im not that arty myself but it was quite amazing to see that room. Wouldn't you love to set that room on fire?

I then headed off to Central Park along the huge lake. Full of joggers! Not a fatty in sight. It’s a beautiful park. Absolutely amazing amongst such a busy city. Its wonderful how they’ve preserved this huge park in such a busy city. I was very impressed with the amount of open and green spaces within Manhattan, whether its just small (yet beautiful) parks, dog parks, or kids parks with swings etc. London is embarrassing in comparison. London is the true concrete jungle. And not in a good way.

The Speedboat tour was next. I was really looking forward to this and it completely excelled my expectations. Absolutely thrilling! It went up to 45mph at times, throwing you left and right and up and down giving you that butterflies in your stomach feeling. Water occasionally splashed from the sides on to everyone.

One of my favourite photos from the speedboat:

I had 2 more hours left before i had to be at the hotel to be picked up by a shared taxi to head back to London. I walked around closer to the Intrepid Air and Space Museum, which is pretty much just a giant aircraft carrier with a Concorde as one of its exhibits. Didn’t go in though cos of queues.

Saw this lovely fountain there, quite similar to the one outside the O2 in Greenwich. It danced around inviting kids to jump in and run after it. It gave me a chance to play around with the camera settings before deciding to stop as there were too many semi-clad kids in the fountain and i probably started looking like a paedo. 
Back to the hotel i went. I love this thing under the bed:


The taxi driver was a cunt. Moody. Easily irritated. Drove like a maniac too. He'd cut people up and then smile. He'd barely respond if you asked him something and tut at times. Big black fella though so you certainly didn't wanna mess with him. At the end, he got our luggage out of the back for us, and he's like "Where's my tip??" to all of us. HAHA. I'd heard about people like this how they demand a tip. I gave him $3 to the bastard, which was about 12% (15-20% is usually the accepted rate), to avoid getting my suitcase thrown on to the main road. Not sure what the other's gave.

I was aching all over by the time i got to the airport. And there was 3 hours left til take off. Nowhere to even sit!! Had a bit of food to kill some time, then noticed a Spa place and got myself the most orgasmic 30 min foot and leg massage. They lay you down on this amazing massage chair which does your whole back and neck area, whilst some chinese woman did my legs/feet.  My feet sooooooo needed that. I came out completely revitalised.

When i got home, i remember i had all these google location services activated during my trip so i checked out my history and was amazed how much it had logged my location:

From that i was able to deduce i had left my phone in the taxi when it dropped me off to the karaoke bar on Friday evening as the trail showed me getting to the area where the bar was, then going back down south.

I got the shock of my life on the last day at the hotel. The bill. Which had the cost of the phone calls i had made to my mobile (where it went to voicemail). $15 per call WTF. That's around £9. I had made around 10 calls in total over 3 days hoping someone would turn it on and i could contact them.

Ah well. NYC done.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

New York - Part One

MY FIRST EVER SOLO HOLIDAY! And, apart from India (which kind of doesn’t count), only my 3rd ever holiday. Shocking much? I expected to learn a lot, and, from a person who has previously lost his whole families passports a month before a holiday or who has previously dropped his spectacles in the toilet, I expected a fuck up or two.

I had a 10.30am flight so i planned to wake at 4am, leave by 6am, get to Heathrow at 8am, drop baggage off, then meet a friend at Heathrow who works there (hello Arvind!).

It wasn't the best of starts. I ended up sleeping at 2am as i was doing last minute minor planning like printing out maps and addresses and so on. You will later see why these were a life-saver.

My momma woke me up in a panic “Are you late? ARE YOU LATE!?” (in Gujarati).  I looked at the clock and it was nearly 5am. My phone alarm hadn’t gone off for some reason. I fucked that up.

It was okay though. I still had plenty of time. Just not enough to double check i hadn’t fucked anything else up before leaving. Apart from my passport. I triple-checked i had that. I left a little after 6am, and arrived at the airport 8.15am. Called my friend and he said to drop baggage and then call him back after i’m more in to the airport.

I dropped baggage off, carried on in to the airport, went through security in to duty-free and then called him back.

Him: “You've gone in too far! I can’t get through to that area!”.

Whoops. I fucked up. Oh well, I had a browse around duty free. Needed a wallet actually as mine was an embarrassment. Saw a few nice ones but didn't quite have the gazillion pounds required. Off to the plane i went.

I had checked-in online the previous day but all the window seats were taken. Booo. So i just chose a seat near the front close to the aisle and in view of the toilets so there’s easy access. The front row itself was already taken. I realised why when i went to sit down. FULL OF PARENTS WITH MULTIPLE BABIES.

WAAAAAAAAA WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA all through the bloody flight!!

I fucked up!

I also developed a nasty headache soon after taking off, which is probably due to the changing pressure. It’s happened before. But I had enough pain killers in my hand luggage that i was surprised security didnt question me. Along with caffiene tablets and piriton.

The in-flight entertainment on Virgin was fantastic. So many choices of the latest films and shows. I watched some Family Guy, Friends, and Peep Show in between trying to sleep. The noise cancelling headphones did a fantastic job of drowning out the waa waa’s. But then you couldnt hear the air hostesses as they walked through offering something every fucking half hour.

"No i don’t want tea!"
"No i don’t want coffee!"
"No i don’t want a bag of nuts!"
"No i … oooh wait, mini-pretzels? Actually i’ll try those."

I was a bit peckish and have no snacks on me. I’d never had pretzels so i was hoping i’d liked them but i didn’t. They were quite dry and it was like chewing rope. But i finished them anyway as i was hungry.

On go the headphones, off they go again until... “special meal for you sir?”

I had chosen the vegetarian indian meal. Was very curious what it was gonna be like. Rice and paneer!! And it was actually quite nice!!

Flight took 7 hours and arrived JFK around 1pm local time, with the pilot informing us that its 36 fucking degrees! (100F) It wasn’t so bad in the airport as it somewhat AC’ed.

I was looking forward to meeting the first Americans but what i got was moody airport workers. They took finger and hand prints and barely looked me in the eye. I felt like cattle. I then waited for my pre-arranged shared taxi-van type thing. The driver was way cool! Very charming and chatty with everyone. Some of the passengers (all brits) weren’t very nice though. Some were demanding they be dropped off first as there around 6 drops to make across Manhattan. I was last but happily so as i got to see a lot of sights along the way. The heat was something else though! It wasn’t even sunny but just SOO humid.

Had a nap and shower at the hotel before tarting up and heading out for my first evening meeting a friend of a friend named Christina. Started off at a posh Italian place called Eataly. Quite a cool feature about it was that it was one large open area and had several places to eat inside featuring the full features and varieties of italian food. Featuring things like pizza, different cheeses, pasta places, meat places. Lots of features in this feature packed feature. It was quite a sight seeing a line of fresh meat hung up in one area of the place and a billion types of cheese in another area. A place featuring wines and places offering pizzas and pastas (and other features).

It was way out of my depth though so i had to follow the lead of poor Christina who had to teach me the very basics like a 1 year old child learning to eat by himself. I warned her very early on that i am one of the most uncultured persons EVER. Bless her though, she was patient and not once did she tell me to fuck off.

She chose the wine and something called Bruschetta which came with wafer thin ham and some kind of soft cheese. Wasn’t quite sure how to eat it so i waited for her to take the first bit and then I imitated. She could have been rather mischievous here and told me im supposed to stick the ham up my nose, the cheese in my ears and the bread up my arse and I would have believed her.

Then we went to some sports bar where a few of her friends were as some major baseball game was on. I was quite eager to check out the atmosphere and it was as expected. Big sweaty loud men. Ordinarily i’d avoid a place like that in the UK, but it was cool to see it there. Loud brash new yorkers, sticking their fingers out towards the bar area with cash in their hands demanding drinks. Just like in the movies.
The barman was incredible. The sheer speed he was making drinks was amazing! He’d be facing forward and his hands would be flying all over the place, left, right, back behind him, to the side again, to the other side, grabbing the  required bottles needed to make the required drink. All free-poured. None of this silver measuring cups bollocks you get in the UK. Just BANG BANG DONE.

You ask for a vodka and lemonade and his hands shoot out to the left to grab a vodka bottle without him even looking that way. His other arm shoots the other way to grab a glass. Vodka gets poured and his other arm grabs ice. Lemonade poured at the end. He does all this without even looking at what he was doing! All the while, his feet were placing a ship in a bottle.

It was an early night for them as they had work the next day. I decided to walk home using my GPS to guide me as i was dying to see the streets seeing as it was only around midnight. Boy did i regret that the next day as my legs and feet were aching and i had so much walking planned. I checked the maps and it was around 5 bloody miles* i had walked.

*Exaggeration. It was about 3 miles.

I had arranged a 10am breakfast with my UK friend who is out there (hello Parg!) before she headed off to work. I hadn’t yet used the subway system so i got a taxi. The hotel has a doorman who is dedicated to ushering taxi’s. Spends his whole day near the kerb even when its raining just ushering taxis for hotel guests. The guy worked very hard. I feel bad i never got the chance to tip him. Check out the cool GPS systems every taxi has.

Stopped off at Union Park where i took a few photos of pigeons and squirrels. I bloody love pigeons.

Sandwich with Parg then on to my first official tourist activity. The Empire State Building. Along the way, the hangover and heat starts to hit me so i stop off at a little bar/restaurant at 10.30am that wasn’t actually opening for another hour but they were happy to serve me. They probably sensed my suffering. Such a nice cider. Weird orange colour though. And a strange teacup type thing. Proper sorted me out!

The queues at the Empire state building were stupid!  First thing was a lift up to nearly the top floor, my ears popped on the way. I got in to a room full of a winding queue, get to the end and in to another room and it’s the same bloody thing again. It repeated like that a few times along with a security section and a paying counter. All in all about an hour and a half of queues. Wouldn’t have been so bad if they served booze along the way.

The views were surreal though. I couldn’t quite accept the fact that i was 1’000 feet (300metres) in the air.

Me being me, i was reading about the suicides that have occured there. Only 30 since it was built 80 years ago. You’ll soon see why from the pics. The fence is massive and turns inwards. One suicide attempt was rather amusing...

On December 2, 1979, Elvita Adams jumped from the 86th floor, only to be blown back onto the 85th floor and left with a broken hip

The most annoying thing was having to queue to get back fucking down again. Wasn’t as bad but still took around half an hour to get outside. Out i went then on to the next activity, the 20min helicopter tour!  (Coming up in the next blog post).

This did not let down! Amazing ride all over manhattan and i got placed in the front seat luckily. I wanted to stay up there forever.

After that i headed to South Street Sea Port where i had the Clipper Tall Ship Tour planned. Had a bit of time so i decided to stop off for some food where they served me an amazing cheese toasted sandwich and the strongest motherfucking Long Island Iced Tea i ever had, and ever will have. It was absolutely horrid. I had requested no ice cos i wanted it a little stronger but boy did i regret that. One sip and i could have heaved. You can tell from the colour how little coke it had in it, It must have been like 20% Coke.

Two sips later (as you can see from the pic, how little i had drank at this point) and i was buzzing. There was no way i could finish this drink purely cos of the putrid taste. So i asked for a glass of coke and mixed it together.  Off i then went to the ship. (Photo of the ship from the helicopter ride)

This was wonderfully relaxing. The slow sail around the waters in the sunshine and the wind. The drivers invited volunteers to help pull up the sails. I had no intention of doing that. So i filmed it instead. I got chatting to the drivers (sailors?) in a drunken manner asking them stupid questions like  “Have you seen Pirates of the Caribbean? You remind me of the guys from there!”.  Blank stares i got back from one of them who looked a lot like Eidur Gudjohnsen. Moody bastards. He said he’d never seen the movie.

As we approached the Statue of Liberty, i bothered the other sailor and asked him what the statue meant to him just to start off a converstation. “What kinda question is that?” he said. I explained i was genuinely interested in whether its something that he had high regard for or whether he had gotten so used to it over the years he barely noticed it. He mumbled on about the history of it and how the French..... I wasn’t listening and soon made my way to the bar area to get another drink. The barlady was far more sociable. Probably cos she was drunk. She needed to be in order to cope with the other miserable sods she worked with.

After that was over i walked about a mile the long way back to the hotel, stopping off at a dog park. So many cute little dogs running around!! The owners were very sociable too.

Later on i headed off to meet Parg & Co at a karaoke bar, met her lovely buddies, sang Wonderwall with Parg, later on heading off to some shitty club type thing. Again, for some reason i decided to attempt walking home (it’s a drunken thing) but hailed a taxi about halfway home. At some point during this evening i fucked up. Big. Cos the next morning my phone was nowhere to be found. Arrrghhhhhh. It was insured though. I rang it a few times per day but it was going straight to voicemail. I had all my maps on that phone. It was what i had used so far to get around. The print-outs were a godsend!
Next blog post coming later this week.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Coco Jambo

Most of you should remember this song. I was looking online for an unlikely meaning behind the lyrics and came across a random comment from someone who made up his own meaning:

Lets have some fun with this.. Coco Jambo is a hot hot HOT smooth talking, man with some killer dance moves; he's a ladies man and nothing less. The worst part is that he's hot and he knows it.. BIG ego.. obvously! 

Ya ya ya coco jamboo
Ya ya yeah
Ya ya ya coco jamboo
Ya ya yeah
Sing it everybody

Regardless of his ego.. what can I say.. ladies love him! They all fall into this purely euphoric state every time CoCo Jambo even looks their way, and he's so amazing that once you dance with him, he's got you hooked in the worst way. Your emotions run wild as you feel as though your are taken out of this world into a fantasy-like dream. When you come back down from a high like this there is no better feeling. PURE infatuation at its finest

Put me up, put me down
Put my feet back on the ground
Put me up, take my heart and me happy

In an attempt to seduce CoCo Jambo in return, the ladies play into their sexiest personas and stroke his ego by whispering his name as they come close together. He responds by pulling them even tighter and making them feel like they are goddesses.. they scream and shout with excitement and joy and he twirls them around. Now, for the story line's sake, if you call a man Columbo, it's like the biggest ego stroke a man can get. Co Co Jambo craves this type of attention; in fact, it is Co Co Jambo's mission in life as far as his status and ego is concerned to make every lady think of him as the sexiest man alive. 

As we get close
You whisper "coco"
I hold you in my arms and you say "jamboo"
Scream and shout, turn and say "columbo"
Now I gotta go so coco

Leaving so soon though Co Co?? OF COURSE! He's a ladies man! It's on to the next woman once he gets what he wants and has his way with them. The ladies are nothing but a delicious "treat" to him that he can have when he wants.. satisfying and gone when he's finished.. she starts whispering his name with desire and instantly satisfies him..

When I hold my baby tighter she says i do it nicer
i like my chicken with rice and lemonada
and That's what you get when she shouts out jamboo
Now I gotta go so coco

Oh and you betcha he's conceited.. basically he's thinking to himself in third person: Alright.. now that she's absolutely into me and I got what I want, it's time to go to the next one.. so Co Co, lets go!

But do the ladies care?? HELL NO! He's Co Co Jambo! And they join in singing..

Ya ya ya coco jamboo
Ya ya yeah
Ya ya ya coco jamboo
Ya ya yeah

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My Dad the Super Hoarder


My dad is a super hoarder and collects all sorts of junk he just finds lying around on the streets. Even peoples skips. He shoves it all in the garden. He's become far worse since retiring a few years ago. 

We decided to have a massive clear out of all his junk. We couldn't believe some of the items. A bunch of TO LET signs (for houses). WTF. Not a single sign, but a COLLECTION??

We also found a GATE he had probably taken from a skip. 

We found taps too. I remember one night he was coming home from the pub around midnight. he was dropped off by a friend outside our house. Instead of walking in to the house, he just walked down the road. 

He then arrived a few mins later with a huge tap in his hand a bit like this one :|

When we had our kitchen re-done last year, he didn't want to throw the 30 year old cooker away. He placed it in the garden.

He also put the 30 year old worktop in the garden and used it as a random shelf against the shed. All it did was gather leaves adn spiders and snails. 

He's put up random wooden poles along the left and right of our garden and connected string between them so we can use them as extra clothes lines :|

We gathered all the junk and put it in the middle of our small garden, ready to dump in to a skip once it arrives:

Click to enlarge

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Flip-flop burger

Today morning i left my hotel room and got to the entrance to head to work...

...before realising i was in my fucking flip flops. Not only that, but in socks/flip-flop combo. 

Also, yesterday evening i went to a chippy for dinner. 

"can i have a chicken burger and chips please"
"chicken burger, is that just on its own?"
"ummm. yep" (wasn't sure what she meant)

i get home. she had given me just a fucking piece of chicken and no bap or nothing. JUST A FLAT PIECE OF CHICKEN. 


Monday, November 22, 2010

My Twenty Seconds of Fame

I'm watching Football Focus on Saturday morning (a popular national show about football on terrestrial tv). I notice the two guests are Mark Lawrenson  and Martin Keown (Arsenal legend!!) sporting a new shaved head look. So I randomly post the following tweet along with a picture.

About 10 mins later, this happens...

Dan:    Talking about haircuts, we've had this tweet in from neo peo. You'll like this Martin. *reads tweet*

Martin: Well that's very kind of him! :-)
Mark:   Scuse me scuse me. Oozit from??
Dan:    neo peo
Mark:   NEO.... PEO.... wossalldattaabouutt??? :-|
Martin: He sounds a bit wrong doesn't he! :-D
Mark:   The world's gone mad. 
Dan:    Lawro's not really up with twitter.
Mark:   No. :-|

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Jury Service - Part Three

Third and final post. Let's start with more about how crappy this place is. I went to the canteen to get a coffee. The machine does it automatically. Coffee. White. You then add in sugar and extra milk if you like.

Three sugars in mine. I take the lid off the milk container to add a little more. A fucking fly flies out. Yeah I'll pass on the milk thanks.

And on Friday i believe it was, when it was raining quite heavily outside, the roof starts leaking in the jury waiting room in a few places. One of the jurors put a bin underneath it haha. What a shock the cleaner is gonna get when she (or he) empties it.

Over the next few days, all three defendants, a senior member of WH security team, as well as 2 policemen involved in the police raid on the flat, took to the stand giving their account of what happened.

A true account of the events was slowly becoming clear to me. Tania had gotten hold of these QuickCash vouchers. How she obtained them, the prosecution wasn't sure. But she had access to the branch keys whilst working there, and possibly had knowledge of the alarm codes. It was suggested she had aided the burglars in their robbery.

But she had a problem. These QuickCash vouchers had to be applied to an online WH account then withdrawn in-store using photographic ID. She contacted Jessica and told her she had won some money gambling online. She told her she was unable to withdraw it as current or ex WH employees are not allowed accounts. She asked her to help her out by making an account under her name (Jessica's) and withdraw the money for her. Tania created the account herself asking Jessica for her details and then asked her to go withdraw it for her.

She did the same with Evelyn. And crucially, Jessica and Evelyn didn't know each other and yet their police interviews matched. There was also a number of circumstantial pieces of evidence that together made the ultimate difference.

As the case was coming to a conclusion, I had a little glance towards the dock and noticed Jessica was rocking to and fro, from stress or anxiety I imagine. She was the youngest of the lot at 20, student and a part-time singer. She had the most to lose from all the defendants.

A friend of Jessica's took the stand to give a character reference and also to support Jessica's claim that she and her knew Tania. Quite a ballsy young lady this one, pointing straight at Tania confirming she knew her. Very confident. At the end of her statement, one of the lawyers asked her if she has ever been arrested.

Jessica's Friend: "Yeah"
Lawyer: "What for?"
Jessica's Friend: "Umm, assaulting a police offer" she mumbled quietly.

Half the courtroom broke out in muffled laughter.

After about 4 hours of deliberation, which i am definitely not allowed to write about, the verdicts were unanimous.

Tania, guilty.
Jessica and Evelyn, not guilty.

As the verdict for Jessica was read out, she screamed YES in delight. So much joy from her and her family. It was quite a satisfying feeling knowing you cleared two peoples names. No reaction from Tania.

The case finished just before lunch time and we all went out separate ways. After lunch back in the waiting room, we all sat together and one guy comes and tells us in his cockney accent...

"You missed out there guys. Jessica's family celebrating in the pub down the road with champagne and everything. I didn't realise. One minute I'm having a pint and the next everyone's hugging me and giving me drinks. It was quite awkward. I only went there for a quiet pint!!!"

One lady mentions she wants to go. Several times. So at the end of the day, two hours later, we thought we'd pop in. It was the most surreal moment in my life. Jessica and her mother went around hugging every one of us about twice each. Her mother in particular was a picture of relief and mentioned that whilst all three defendants had been sitting in the dock together, Tania was making regular threats towards Jessica.

Ultimately, Jessica and Evelyn were very naive in doing favours for Tania involving such large sums of cash (one withdrawal amounted to £4000) and they've learnt a very harsh lesson. A year and a half of the whole affair hanging over them til they were finally cleared.

What amazes me about the trial was how naked the defendants were to everyone in the court. Including their own family. Every possibly relevant detail was exposed. The defendants bank statements and general financial situation. Home address. Phone number. Relationship history. Sexual orientation. Previous arrests. Involvement with drugs. All these things were no longer private. I can't imagine the can of worms some of these details opened up for the defendants and their families. It probably isn't much of an issue with the cleared defendants with the joy and relief of being cleared overwhelming any other feelings. For Tania, who is likely to get a suspended sentence with an electronic tag, things will not be so well.

There were mentions of intimidation and possibly bullying towards Evelyn whilst they lived together. I don't think she'll feel safe for a long while as it didn't seem like she had the same level of support from friends and family behind her as Jessica did.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Jury Service - Part Two

Everyone i talk to about my recent jury service mention they'd love to do it. Let me tell how boring it is though. If you're not called on a case, and there are always a few people unlucky enough, you have to sit there in a silent room all day. No TV. You are sat down for a long time. You can try and strike up conversations with people, but you know what London is like. Many people like to keep themselves to themselves. But i found most are quite nice on jury service as its random members of the population, not the wanker-banker types you see on a tube or train during rush hour.

Even when you do get on a case, you are sat down for 3 hours listening to lawyers giving evidence in a language where many sentences start "Might I suggest..." or "I put it to you...".  They speak very slowly too, with a lot of gaps in between their sentences. This is intentional so that the stenographer (the person who types up a script of every word said in court) can keep up, as well as the jurors and judge who may be writing notes.

It's all veerrryyy slow. I have no problem keeping concentration in this type of environment. What i do struggle with is sitting still. As I do at work, long car journeys, or in the cinema, i slipped my shoes off and put my feet up, occasionally sitting cross-legged.

Of the people i spoke to, I noticed that the ones who found it most difficult were the types who had physically active jobs. One was a football coach. Another was a mechanic. They looked reaaalllyy fed up and stressed. As for Mr RightAngle Hunchback, he's retired. He was regularly nodding off. It's easier for the likes of me who work in I.T. and sit down most of the day anyway. I've not had to write so much for years though! My hand-writing is proper fucked now.

Anyway, back to the case. The judge mentions the charge in question with brief details as soon as the full 15 entered the courtroom. The charge is 'Conspiracy to Defraud' involving William Hill. If any members of the jury are currently employed or have shares in William Hill, or if you knew any of the three defendants, you will not be able to serve in this case due to conflicts of interest. It applied to none of us.

The prosecution started with the details. It is a complex case so bare with me while i try to explain it in the least boring way.

Three young ladies, Tania, Jessica and Evelyn, aged between 19 and 24, were on charges of conspiracy to defraud William Hill. We were given a massive pile of documents which would be referred to during the course of the trial.

He explained what William Hill was, and the different ways you could place a bet. You could do it all in store. Or online. If you do it online, you can either transfer funds in to your online WH (William Hill) account by credit/debit card or bank wire. There is another method not used so much nowadays where you go in store with cash and they will hand you a QuickCash voucher for the equivalent sum of money which you can then apply to your online WH account to place the funds in there. There is apparently no limit to the amount that a QuickCash voucher can be issued for.

Once you have applied the voucher code to your account, the funds have been transferred. You can then use this to gamble or print out a withdrawal receipt of a chosen amount and take this to a WH store and exchange it for cash.

The prosecution explained that in this particular case, the evidence can be classed in to two main groups. Direct evidence (facts, documents, CCTV, DNA, fingerprints, items found during property searches, etc) and Testimonial Evidence (evidence from witnesses, victims or the defendants themselves).

He started with the direct evidence. Tania used to work for William Hill but was sacked for gross misconduct involving falsifying documents. Apparently she issued incorrect amounts of winnings on three occasions. During her time there, she had a set of keys which she used to open up the branch on occasions of staff shortages. The prosecution states she had cut the keys for a copy of them which were for the robbery. When she was sacked she had to hand her keys back.

Three weeks after she was sacked, the store she worked at was robbed. There was no forced entry. The burglars had keys and had the alarm codes. CCTV wasn't active in the store for a number of weeks or possibly months due to some problems they were experiencing with it.

Another branch was also robbed within a few days. Another defendant named Victoria had already pleaded guilty and therefore wasn't part of this trial. She had worked at this other branch and had also been sacked for gross misconduct (details unknown). It was burgled in the same way although CCTV was available in that branch. Crucially, Victoria, Tania and Evelyn knew each other.

Other direct evidence. Tania, Victoria and Evelyn shared a flat during that time (a tenancy agreement was shown). Jessica lived about a mile away.

WH weren't aware those branches had been robbed, due to the stealth nature of the robbery, til a number of weeks later when their accounts didn't add up. Police then did a surprise search of the house many weeks later and a few of the stolen QuickCash vouchers were found in the hallway and in Victoria's handbag, identified by serial numbers on the voucher itself. The online accounts were created in Evelyn's and Jessica's name. They had to be legitimate accounts because when you withdraw money as mentioned above, you need to take identification.

CCTV footage of Evelyn and Jessica on different occasions withdrawing money from WH

I don't want all this to get too boring so I'll sum it up for what I've mentioned so far.

Defendants: Tania, Jessica, Evelyn. (Victoria already pleaded guilty).
Flat shared by: Tania, Evelyn, Victoria.
Sacked WH staff: Tania and Victoria. Tania had a set of keys to open up branch.
WH accounts that laundered money: Jessica and Evelyn.
Stolen QuickCash vouchers found in the flat.

The direct evidence was damning. 

He then spent three of the longest hours of my life going through a timeline of all the transactions and events IN A LOT OF DETAIL. Making special point of the time of each one. I'm not even ashamed to say i fell asleep on many occasions. Later i heard a few others did too, including Mr RightAngle which didn't surprise me one bit. Poor old guy. He nodded off on many occasions, often with his pen still in his hands and then it dropping as he fell asleep along with his head rocking to one side. One time he dropped a whole bunch of papers as he fell asleep and slid across his desk. 

They really ought to use some kind of software so that the information can be read out in an interesting voice like Morgan Freeman rather than the drone-like Prince Charles we were stuck with. 

Occasionally the judge would grant a short break if she felt it was needed. One on occasion, one guy fell asleep and snored. She then asked one of us to prod him awake then told the guy she was okay to give a short break to everyone if he needed one, but he said it was okay. I'm sure the sheer embarrassment of being sounded out in the whole court woke him up just fine.

We were at the end of day two and it looked a straight forward case to me. From what i'd heard so far, i was thinking all three guilty.

Now the testimonial evidence. And this made all the difference. Let's start with the police statements of each of the three. We were given HUGE piles of documents for this. Their police statements, the interview at the police station after being arrested. It was read out by the prosecution lawyer. I'll only mention the important parts.

Tania obviously denies any knowledge of any fraud. She mentions she knew nothing of Evelyn's or Victoria's involvement and that she had no idea who Jessica was. She says she was wrongly dismissed from her job.

Jessica stated an ex-boyfriend asked her to make an account as a favour and she didn't know why and that she was not aware of any illegal activities. She says she doesn't know a Tania. The police then let her know about phone records at which point she crumbled a little and admitted she does know Tania, who is a sort of friend of hers and that she had asked her to make an account for her as she had won some money but couldn't withdraw it as she is a previous employee of WH. She says she doesn't know Evelyn.

Evelyn said a similar story to Jessica. Tania had asked her to make an account. She said she doesn't know Jessica. 

I was pretty confused by now. I couldn't work out who was telling the truth. Jessica and Evelyn were either very very stupid girls getting themselves caught on CCTV and opening accounts in their own names. Or they were less stupid for helping someone launder money with Tania being slightly clever here.

Continues tomorrow. The boring parts are over and I'll have a few more interesting stories including finding a fly in the milk. The roof in the jury room leaking when it rained. And bumping in to the defendants in a nearby pub.