As a small child, I met a Holocaust survivor. (And again in adulthood, when Ben took me to an electrifying talk at his school given by Josef Perl.)
I saw in that survivor’s face a look of radiance I will never forget: as if every fresh breeze, every soft sunbeam, every birdsong at dawn or glass of water taken in freedom was gilded with the precious joy of life and freedom.
I found a similar energy when I met John McCarthy, another released from unjust imprisonment. (Even, indeed, some who have deserved their sentences: Jonathan Aitkin; friends Serena met when she did a tv series.)
Our former situation didn’t even begin to compare, of course.
But the joy did!
The dawn sun on our faces. The wood pigeons gurgling from the school poplars. The bright new belonging after more than four years of longing. Shaun like a teenager, with a new challenge.
Bink the most changed of all...
Important though her fortunes are, the heroine of our tale, we will return to Bink in a day or two. Because there was a little more business – highly relevant to a blog about mental illness – knitting up the sleeve unravelled by Shaun’s previous church.
The compensation payments were to be paid in three stages. This was the agreement Mark Jones had drawn up, which had been signed and was now legally enforceable.
(To digress briefly...
Mark had said, if he’d been involved from the beginning, he would have ensured the sum was paid as compensation, rather than loss of earnings. The difference being that compensation doesn’t attract tax or NI contributions, whereas loss of earnings does.
I didn’t set much store by tax, never having earned enough to owe enough to count on the finger of one boot. It didn’t occur to me it would matter.
When we discovered it did, we asked the church if they would do as Mark suggested. Absolutely not. They preferred to pay their own NI bill, rather than spare us a tax bill.
An accountant said there wasn’t much we could do.
But we had now learnt that you could get through three lawyers before finding a fourth who will fight for you. Why would you believe the first accountant?
Over a year later, the HMRC agreed that it was absurd to pay a clergyman more “loss of earnings” for one day’s unemployment than he could ever earn in a year’s employment. So we got a lovely windfall of all the tax back.
I don’t suppose it occurred to the HMRC to ask the church if it would like its NI contributions back.
There is a lesson there somewhere. About noses and faces and cutting things off things… I think spite even comes into that proverb somewhere.)
So there we were, receiving our payments in decreasing instalments. The lion’s share being the first. A bit sad, that we didn’t quite trust a church to stand by a legally-binding agreement.
Nevertheless and somewhat to our surprise, the first two were paid in full, on time, without demur.
The third, like the first two, was due on a Saturday.
And not there.
There is a kind of reassurance in life’s behaving as you’d expected.
So, yet another boring and energy-wasting battle ahead of us: I rang the church office at 9 am the morning after the Bank Holiday Monday, and said there seemed to have been an oversight.
What do you know? By lunchtime it had arrived.
Minus an ominous £500...