The deed is done. Monster is now not only my legal son in any country in the world, but also his daddy’s. On the 5th of January 2017, in the High Court of London Town, my old manor, my stomping ground, Jake and I adopted my boy together, by order of The Right Honourable Judge Nice-Man QC.
One Autumny day last year I went to visit Rather Nice Lawyer in her offices to collect a stack of paperwork and ferry it to the High Court; this pile comprised our petition to adopt Monster. As I wrestled the pushchair through the Tube towards Camden I thought with glee of my next meeting, after the fly-by at the lawyer’s office; with Baroness King of Bow. After years of her helping and supporting me I would finally meet her and be able to thank her in person. Life has its own ideas though, as you know. The papers weren’t ready at RNL’s offices, partly due to her having a new PA who did not know my case nor exactly what she needed to provide me with. I waited in the reception area for my appointment and watched the staff coo over Small Fry for a cool hour, then spent an hour with RNL trying to establish where this document was and whether I needed to take that one, and what the hell had been dripped all over the other (it was tea, and I’m pretty sure it was me not them, but one does not admit a thing like that to someone whom one is paying £250 an hour and who has spent months preparing and guarding these documents). An agonising hour was then spent while the lovely but very new PA painstakingly photocopied six copies of absolutely everything – one for their records, three for the court, two for me. I tried in vain not to watch the clock and count down each minute that cut into my very short window of opportunity of seeing Baroness King and eventually admitted, as her small parcel of free time came and went and I still sat in Camden, that we would not be meeting today.
Three hours later I travelled from Camden, missed out Baroness King’s office, and made haste to the High Court which was by then due to close in an hour’s time. The stress of wondering whether I would even make it across the city in time and whether I would need to instead make another trip to London to complete this mission made me reminisce about Dar, and not in a positive way. In an attempt to make the ride more enjoyable, SF screamed for the 45 minutes it took us to get there.
After a short wait I took my turn, relieved, at the Children’s Services desk. I felt sorry for the other attendees, most of whom seemed to be locked in custody battles. With half an hour to go before closing time, I proudly handed the clerk my stack of documents and asked her to file an adoption petition on my behalf. She glanced at the top piece of paper and said ‘This is the wrong form.’
‘Um… are you sure?’ I asked, silently pleading in my head with, er, no one, because I’m an atheist. ‘Yep,’ she replied cheerfully.
‘Are you really sure?! My solicitor does this kind of case all the time and I very much doubt she has given me the wrong one. Could you check?’
‘Yeah it’s the wrong one. I know her, I’m surprised she’s made a mistake as well… Yes, I’ll wait while you phone her.’
I phoned RNL at her office, knowing as it rang that she would be instantly furious with me doubting her superior knowledge. She was. While she went off to get my file, the clerk brightly said ‘Oh it IS the right one!’
RNL came back to the phone and I grovelled and apologised, and grovelled more just in case. Then I had to ask her to fax a page (I hadn’t known fax machines were still in use) to the clerk because her new PA had omitted it. She was well happy about that and invited me round her house for dinner! Not.
Next the clerk, who revelled in having a job where she never had to think about anything she said before she said it, informed me that for the pleasure of submitting my petition I would be paying £170. I protested, reminding her that because I had paid that fee already when I submitted the request for permission to co-adopt, I didn’t need to pay it again. She disagreed and put on her concerned-for-you-but-can’t-do-anything-about-the-rules face. I had £6 in my pocket, about the same amount in the bank, and a grizzling, restless baby at my feet. I started to cry. She felt sorry for me and tried to comfort me. A colleague of hers breezed past and threw into the conversation a small but beautiful comment confirming what I’d said about not needing to pay again. The clerk took the petition and said that the fax had already arrived, and that I should go and have a cup of tea and wait for her to phone me about a hearing date. I legged it before she noticed that Small Fry had, during this time, scattered tiny bits of dried apple over six square yards of the carpet.
On the 5th of January myself, Jake and Small Fry attended the supposed first hearing of three with Judge Nice-Man. Monster had been ordered not to attend. Lovely Social Worker was there and so was a barrister representing the wishes of the child in question, which was strange as he had never met Monster nor even me before and was referring to Monster by his birthname. In the courtroom we all rose in perfect unison as Judge Nice-Man entered in an incredibly expensive suit. JNM asked each of us to identify ourselves, and listened patiently as we took turns to state our names and interest in the case, myself a little nervously. Then he grew more serious and gazed at SF wriggling in Jake’s arms. I had been ordered not to bring Monster along and now wondered whether I was about to get into trouble for bringing a baby into JNM’s court room. He pointed at Small Fry and slowly brought out his question: ‘And what… is that?’ He was well and truly on our side.
JNM asked the barrister to explain why Monster’s documents featured three different names at different points in time. The barrister, fresh on the case since twenty minutes previously, had absolutely no idea what he meant and was therefore about to look like an utter plonker. I considered letting him, but decided to intervene, asking the judge (are you supposed to ask for permission to speak or something?!) if I may explain instead. He assented. SF was busy chucking grapes all over the floor, but hadn’t managed six yards at this point.
JNM casually stated that as he had enough to go on, he could forgo the next hearing and simply make the adoption order now if we so wished. I gasped and stared up at him, and saw a twinkle in his eye. It was a set-up! ‘Would you like me to do that?’ he asked, a grin decorating his face, and I managed to quickly blurt ‘Yes please’ before I cried at him. Jake laughed at me, then wiped his own little tear away, and LSW wordlessly handed me a tissue while trying to hold it together herself. JNM told the barrister to write the order. We rose as JNM did, and he disappeared through a door next to his swivelly leather chair.
We left London and arrived at my parents’ house that evening for champagne which Farv magicked out of the air (and fish & chips – we are British after all). I started to relay the day’s events to Monster but he interrupted me when I mentioned a twinkle in the judge’s eyes. ‘Am I adopted?’ he asked quickly, and when I told him he gasped as well, said nothing, and then buried his face in Jake’s shirt so that we would not see his tears.