It was March 2005. While sitting in my study at home after a morning of gentle paperwork it was time to check recent emails before going into work in the afternoon. At first it was a bad bout of indigestion, perhaps I just needed to take a nap or a green chewy antacid thing, so both were tried. But no. After about half an hour it was apparent that I was having a heart attack - a myocardial infarction as the medics would say. One artery supplying blood to my heart was blocked causing the part of my heart muscle that relied on that particular supply of fresh blood to be starved of oxygen and to die. I had heard heart attacks described as "like having a giraffe stand on one leg in the middle of your chest". That's not wrong as far as I can tell, never actually having had a giraffe stand on any part of me with any number of legs.
In a way the most difficult part of the event was phoning for an ambulance for myself. Had I been present when someone else suffered similar chest pains I would have called 999 with alacrity. It's rather different when it's you and the hope remains that it is indigestion even though it's obviously a heart attack. Just a good fart is all it will take to prove your self-diagnosis wrong, so you don't pick up the phone until the pain is almost unbearable.
Eight days in hospital and the knowledge that I'll be popping pills for the rest of my earthly had a profound effect. One conclusion I reached was that I had to stop work, so I did. The decision was made easier by the fact, for fact it is, that on returning home I opened a file in a pending case and broke out in a cold sweat at the thought of having to present that case in court. Perhaps my work was a convenient scapegoat for the recent trauma, but a terrifying cold sweat is not something you forget easily. So I retired.
It was easy enough for the first three year or so. There were things to do, assets to rearrange, final taxes to pay and many other things beside. Once they were all done a gap was apparent. For the first time in my adult life I had nothing to do. That is rather a strange sensation when you have spent your life being more busy than you can really manage. It is no coincidence that I then started this blog. For more than a year my need to do something was satisfied and then I realised I had said everything I wanted to say. Actually that is only part of the picture. I had opined on all the subjects that matter to me but I also knew that blogging was a distraction in my need to do something, a temporary and infrequent solution.
Last week an old friend asked me to cast my piggy eyes over the papers in a difficult case he had in the Court of Appeal. It involved an area of law that has always been of special interest to me since I lectured on the subject more than a quarter of a century ago. What fun it was. A couple of days in the library to make sure all recent developments in English, Australian and Canadian law were understood, preceded two days of discussing the issues and developing a "game plan" for the presentation of the appeal. By happy coincidence while I was on library duty I ran into the QC who heads the set of Chambers from which I used to practice. After the usual pleasantries he declared that he wished to persuade me to come out of retirement and return to the practice of the law. As usual his timing was impeccable. Working on a really interesting and difficult case took me back to what I enjoyed most. I needed no persuasion.
A few administrative things have to be sorted out and then I will be back at work, back doing what I do best (although I only do it moderately well). I have long been a believer in the old sayings, one of which is never say never. I did say never in 2005. On meeting old colleagues since then and being asked when I will be back "never" was the response also in 2006, 2007 and 2008. That was then. This is now.
Hi-ho, hi-ho it's back to work I go.