What a lucky day for me back in 1980-something when Tony Metzer turned up to share the not very beautiful flat I was living in on the North Circular Road (For non-Londoners, the North Circular was then and is now a noisy, congested and very, very long road – always a big problem to get a pizza delivered).
Back in those days Tony was a pupil barrister, paying his way by marking exam scripts and I was a reporter for the Greenford, Northolt and Perivale Gazette, which was a bit of a mouthful when we answered the office phone.
But now I write books which need a certain amount of expertise on the criminal justice system. And Tony is a criminal barrister, perfectly placed to help out and kind enough to do so. He was the legal adviser to the makers of the brilliant BBC series Criminal Justice, so he’s used to guiding wild creative imaginations - although the writer there used to be a barrister himself so had a certain advantage.
For When I Was Joe Tony told me that I’d got the police procedure all wrong, and how to fix it. We’ve just had lunch to discuss Almost True during which he had to deal with vast numbers of plot possibilities and at least three potential trials, telling me what solicitors, police and barristers would and could do. His advice will be absolutely essential in working out the last third of the book.
That’s not the only reason that I was very lucky to have shared a flat with Tony. Not only was he the nicest flatmate imaginable, but when another room in our vast but hideous flat was vacated he suggested his sister Sylvia’s then boyfriend Richard should move in. And Richard was a fantastic flatmate too, given to returning from visits home with vast carrier bags full of M&S food and kitchen gadgets.
At Richard and Sylvia’s wedding I sat next to her boss. And - despite losing half my outfit on the way to the wedding and the waitress dropping a bowl of cream in my lap - we got on very well and swopped phone numbers. We’re coming up for our fifteenth wedding anniversary. Thanks Tony!