The hidden role of pre-menstrual syndrome at the bar ... Man-flu seems a perfectly acceptable ground for non-appearance ... The role of the hot-water bottle ... Junior Junior on secret women's business
ONE of the drawbacks of being a barrister is that you can't outsource your job.
Like wedding photographers or top class surgeons, you can't wake up on the morning of a hearing and decide you aren't bothered to go to work.
In fact, if you wake up and you are sick as a dog, you still have to drag your sorry tail to the court and put on a show to remember.
The only excuses for not turning up are death, paralysis (at least paraplegia – even then the ease of acquiring a wheelchair would be factored in) or gaol.
So, the other morning when I woke up with the worst women's pain of my life and a court appearance in two hours, I knew what was going to happen.
I managed a semi-shower, but no breakfast. I put on my most comfortable, but court-appropriate, outfit and I filled a hot water bottle for the trip.
Normally, I'm pretty fussy about my appearance. No lady barrister is seen operating in a man's world without looking her best.
But, there I was traipsing up King Street holding a hot water bottle to my abdomen.
I arrived in chambers and promptly hid in my office with my hot water bottle until 15 minutes before court.
Time to leave.
I put the hottie on my chair and picked-up my handbag.
Then, naturally, I burst into tears.
In my time at the bar I have never once cried in chambers - welcome to the charming world of PMS.
Who knew that sanity could be contained in a rubber bladder? Knowing that the hot water bottle would be cold by the time I returned from court was just too much for my hormone-addled brain.
I considered sticking it up my dress and trying to look a little pregnant during my appearance.
The fear of it dropping out of my skirt and having to explain myself was too much to bear and I left the bottle where it was.
The appearance itself was mentally painless. And a good thing too as severe abdominal pain tends to be a little distracting.
I promptly returned to chambers, wrote my report for the day and then disappeared - home to bed.
I wondered how my male colleagues cope with illness. Everyone knows man-flu causes males of the species to be completely incapable of movement or rational thought, so how do they make it to court when really afflicted?
I once had surgery. My surgeon popped his head in the same afternoon, for a little under 10 seconds, to let me know all had gone well and he would see me tomorrow to go through everything.
Tomorrow came, but my surgeon did not.
The nurse contacted him, to be told that he had man-flu.
I found it odd that no one batted an eyelid that he had failed to keep an appointment due to a mysterious ailment.
Needless to say, I was discharged home never having seen him again.
Maybe at the bar a quick call, man-to-man (barrister-to-judge) is sufficient to have the daily list reordered to accommodate the sorry soul.
I suspect that such accommodations would not be forthcoming for creatures such as me, regardless of how forward thinking our profession believes it has become.
Until the day that PMS is as acceptable an excuse as man-flu, for missed appointments or rescheduled appearances, our profession will not have achieved gender equality.