It has all gone horribly wrong. My attempts to unravel the mystery of Doris Brazil’s yuletide mail drop and the whereabouts of my own JP2 bottle opener (missing since before the Catholic church fell into international disrepute–a fact which may come to be pivotal in pending court action) have forced a rift between me and longtime friend Spud Hughes.
Spud is now threatening legal action and sent the following stiffly worded note this morning:
Astonished. Aghast. Such a despicable accusation.
I have no truck with papacy, given their predilection for small boys.
Lawyers have been informed. And The Contessa, now running an organisation of highly paid English Barristers, is opening a conversation. The Lead Lawyer is a Catholic of high standing and will not be best pleased.
Batten down your hatches…….
Oh dear. Upon reflection, it may have been unwise to post what should have been a private correspondence, but in my haste to warn Doris of possible wrongdoing and in my (continuing and understandable) distress over the loss of the papal bottle opener I threw caution to the winds and now Hughes has turned to his silk (not for the first time as Kelsey Grammar’s ex once remarked of her husband). I shall try to make it up to him of course but the Contessa and her briefs are not to be trifled with and so it has to make sense to marshall my defenses in case the case comes to court.
Your Honor, I rise to defend myself in the case of Hughes versus Crone. Unlike my learned friend, I have no access to highly trained counsel and am relying on encyclopedic knowledge of Rumpole of the Bailey, and your innate sense of what is just, right and true to see me through.
This case centers on whether or not Mr. Hughes was libeled when I suggested in a letter to a third party published on my popular weblog that he may have helped himself to a bottle opener featuring the dear infallible face of Pope John Paul 2 and that further he may have then sent this item to one Doris Brazil.
As your honor knows, to be libelous a written statement must create a negative impression in the minds of reasonable people. It is of no consequence whether or not the statement is true. This case is therefore concerned not at all with whether Spud had or has ever had the Crone’s JP2 bottle opener, but whether reasonable people would think badly of him if he had taken it or passed it on.
Mr Hughes’ complaint seems to rest on the fact ( I choose the word carefully) that he has no truck with the papacy and therefore would have neither wanted nor gifted the bottle opener in question. In truth (another useful word) my reasons for suggesting that he might have taken possession of the bottle opener are nothing to do with love of the Vatican and this was never alleged. If your honor were to join the thousands who regularly read my weblog, you would know that I cite 1) love of beer 2) mistrust of Prods 3) a grudge involving misuse of a potato masher for an undercooked root vegetable as the reasons why I mention his name in the context of the missing bar accessory. I note that Mr Hughes does not deny that these feelings are his.
If anyone loved JP2 your honor, it was me. I went to see him in Dundalk when he visited Ireland in 1979. I went to see him at St Peter’s on Christmas day in the mid nineties and brought home the bottle opener in question as a souvenir. I am known as a connoisseur of kitsch and so others, far from fearing they would merit negative attention from reasonable people, immediately began to covet the item. May I approach? (shows the judge numerous notes from Doris Brazil in which the bottle opener is mentioned, and the verb to covet used). The bottle opener disappeared from my Itchy Ankle eyrie when the Pope in question was still very much alive and before the recent worldwide unpleasantness. All reasonable people would have wanted it. No negativity would or should surround anyone who took it.
Your honor I must ask you to please ignore Mr Hughes’ recent note in which the pontiff–sorry, I mean the plaintiff–was expostulating (does this make him an expostulant?) about his no-longer current relationship with the Church of Rome. This is a red herring about old red socks designed to deflect attention from the real wrongdoing here–the misappropriation of a valued kitchen tool with both sentimental and antique value.
Your Honor, I shall not seek damages against Mr Hughes. I note that the Rome Gift Shop now has JP2 bottle openers back in stock (ready for the beatification) and these have been marked down to a bargain $19.99 plus shipping and (wholly appropriate) handling. If Mr Hughes sends a replacement forthwith I shall consider the matter closed.
I rest my case.