Love and courtship rule

A few months later the man and the widow were back in court, but this time round, they were there to say 'I do'.


Let’s face it, the judicial system is as dysfunctional as a portable toilet on the last day of an arts festival out in some countryside town. I’ve been to some of those festivals and, as a journalist, I’ve attended more than my fair share of court cases. So yes, been there, done that, got a box full of T-shirts.

But there is one element of our judicial system which seemingly still works like a charm: the small claims court. Designed to settle small disputes – hence the name small claims court – these courts are quick, affordable and quite often much better than a trip to the circus.

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As a journalist, the small claims court was where I found some of my most off-beat stories. I distinctly remember one case where an elderly widow who lived in a block of flats sued the person who lived directly above her, for a new carpet.

As it happened, the person living above the old lady had a parrot, who was confined to a cage on the balcony. The parrot was very much “lacking in table and bathroom manners”, argued the lady, and the mess was described as intolerable.

The old lady would spend a lot of time on her balcony, as it was the only way she could “get out a little”. The mess created by the parrot would, “as dictated by gravity”, find it’s way down and this resulted in her carpet on the balcony being completely ruined. Quite a dilemma for the presiding officer.

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After hearing arguments from both parties and studying the photographic evidence, he took a few minutes to apply his mind in private. His verdict was quite extraordinary.

The owner of the parrot, an elderly man who lived alone and had only the parrot for company, was ordered to compensate the lady for her carpet, but the commissioner also instructed him to ensure that the lady’s new carpet remained clean.

In a stern voice, he “suggested” that the man visit the lady as regularly as he could and vacuum her new carpet, and only cease when he no longer had the parrot.

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Well, a few months later the man and the widow were back in court, but this time round, they were there to say “I do”.

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