He has mainly been concerned with blood spatter, mayhem, murder and other “such signs of affection”.
I have a great understanding of this character’s viewpoint as portrayed in the Rumpole series by Sir John Mortimer. I am a big fan and have read every available book.
Give this man a murder and he’s happy. Give him a divorce case and he’s on uncertain ground.
I don’t share Rumpole’s love for blood spatter, but I often find myself in this space, as hardly a day goes by when I’m not attending a murder trial.
On occasion, I spend time in the divorce courts. Although this is no laughing matter, one cannot help but have a good chuckle sometimes.
Like last week, when I stumbled across the divorce of a 75-year-old man and his 79-year-old wife.
The couple decided to spend their golden years together at a retirement village near Pretoria. They married in White River last year and then came home. But the husband said his happiness and plans to spend a quiet time at home with his bride were shattered. She had one-night stands with other men and, on a holiday to the Philippines, had an affair with one of the young men at the island resort.
He said she would drug him in the evenings with a calming substance. When he landed in ICU, she used his credit card to go on a spending spree.
He had lost all his trust in his wife and she was no longer welcome in his home. She, too, agreed it was better for them to divorce. Her reasoning was that they did not have the same goals.
While divorcing couples mostly cite lack of communication as the reason for their breakup, some sometimes reveal a bit more, like the woman who a few years ago told the judge that she could no longer cope with her husband’s affection for his 80 dogs. She was the one who had to clean the mess.
Then there was the lady who, after a few months of marriage, filed for divorce. I can’t recall her reasons, but I do remember her court attire. She took the stand in hip-hugging skinny jeans, cowboys boots and a plaid cowboy shirt. That night my friends and I went to a pub. Big was my surprise when I looked up to see the same woman, dressed in the same gear, dancing on the tables.
Always a jaw-dropper for me is when people try to hasten their divorce, telling the judge they were due to get married again within days.
I also recall the homely looking young bride who, after only a few months, filed for divorce from her cheating husband.
The woman appeared close to tears, as she told the judge she thought her marriage would last for life.
The kind judge gave her a paternal talk before he issued the decree of divorce.
It is also significant that many either divorce before three years of marriage or after 20 years - when the children have left home.
Although Rumpole had stuck to blood spatter and not matters of the heart, his wife Hilda, whom he called “She who must be obeyed”, would have it differently.
But for all their differences, they have remained together even after their son, Nick, had left for college.
Rumpole is content with having a glass or three of his favourite claret after a tiring day in court. And sometimes, if he is lucky, Hilda allowed him to get another bottle off the shelf.
* Zelda Venter is senior court reporter for Pretoria News.