My candle burns at both ends
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends -
It gives a lovely light.

Edna St. Vincent Millay, "A Few Figs from Thistles", US poet (1892 - 1950)

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Praise Be to Happy Endings!

It's been an awfully long time. An awfully, incredibly, amazingly long time. And yet days and weeks and months have flown by in the blink of an eye. The whole of the BVC year has whizzed by and with it, a whirlwind of mini-pupillages, marshalling, pupillage applications and examinations flurrying by.

And so it came to pass that out of 21 applications made, Josephine received 10 outright rejections, a further 4 (interviews-been-held-already-Chambers-too- discourteous-or-disorganised-to-inform-applicant-of-rejection) rejections, attended 7 first round interviews, was given the boot by 3, invited back by four, given the most fierce of grillings by two, misled the court in one (oh woe, oh woe, oh woe was Josephine - she'd made a note! on the top of her brief! Not to do that very thing!) and when the Day of Judgment finally arrived...

was offered -to her greatest delight- 1 pupillage.

Praise be to happy endings! And to even happier beginnings...

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

The Long and Winding Road

Well it had its swerves and potholes, blind bends, hairpin turns, adverse camber, black ice, thick fog, punctures, road closures, out-of-town diversions, traffic jams, pile-ups, unforeseen Ribena slicks, speed cameras, ludicrous speed limits in rural areas and over-zealous traffic police, chicanes, sleeping policeman and dare I say it, even flooding... But Josephine tested the brakes, avoided any head-on collisions and managed - just! - to stay on the road.

Today she has reached her destination, or at least the next Service Station along the way. Exam results were released a day early and she has been commended for her map-reading efforts. She awaits the paper confirmation in tomorrow's post with some trepidation: it is entirely possible there has been a terrible mix-up. But just for now, she's going to put her feet up, have a nice cup of tea and take stock of the journey so far and where it's heading. Then she's going to check the oil, change the tyres, fill the tank up with petrol and pack a picnic before zooming off over the horizon. Josephine isn't even sure if there's a map for the next bit so she might, - Heaven forfend! - just might, ask for directions along the way.

Just please, nobody ask her to do a parallel park...

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Back to the Drawing Board (or the Future)

Josephine received a letter from a set of Chambers yesterday, announcing that her application for an assessed summer mini-pupillage had been unsuccessful. It ended on a rather unsettling note:

"I would like to wish you every success in your search for the future."

And there was I thinking I was applying for pupillages and mini-pupillages...

Monday, 25 June 2007

Josephine spotted with amusement (June edition of Counsel, page 6) a possible essay title for the August resit examination in Constitutional and Administrative Law:

The Society of Labour Lawyers is holding a discussion on a written constitution - "Technicolour dream coat or strait-jacket?"...

And now.
Josephine is going to spend the rest of the afternoon doing Something Useful.

God's Covenant With Noah (Genesis 9)

8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: 9 "I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you 10 and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth."

12 And God said, "This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. 16 Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth."

17 So God said to Noah, "This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth."

18 It has been raining non-stop since exams finished. Josephine is absolutely sick to death of the pouring rain.

Advise the parties.


It's ten to three and Josephine can't sleep. So she's listening to one of her all time favourite songs on loop. Josephine has a slightly addictive relationship with music: she can listen to one song or a very short playlist of songs over and over for days at a time until she is sick of it and can't listen to it again for months. Last week it was Portishead and The Police. During exams it was The Lark Ascending, Buffalo Springfield's For What It's Worth and Edwyn Collins' A Girl Like You. Before that was a protracted period of Joni Mitchell, Ravel, Neil Young and Crosby, Stills and Nash.

This week it is Fleetwood Mac's Sara.

It's definitely a Desert Island Disc. It's possibly even a one-last-song-before-I-die.
An "Oh-go-on-then, just-another-six-and-a-half-minutes...", mourners-grooving-in-the-aisles-at-my-funeral sort of song.

Probably won't be mentioning that in my applications for pupillage, but just thought I'd share. Music sounds so much better through headphones.

In the dark.

Friday, 22 June 2007

A Lady of Letters

Josephine is seething. So much so that she feels moved to Write A Letter. Yes, tomorrow morning bright and early she is going to sit raging in her overcoat and pearls and give what-for! Josephine objects to being dealt with by a trained monkey or a machine when she calls a Customer Service Helpline to speak to a real, live, reasoning person. One wonders if the introduction of Prison Video Links will one day be augmented by Interactive Voice Response Systems.

"You are charged with an offence under s.66 of The Sexual Offences Act 2003. How do you plead, guilty or not guilty?"

"Not guilty."

"Thank you. I'm showing you pleaded guilty to a charge of aggravated criminal damage under s.1(2) of the Criminal Damage Act 1971 is that correct...?"

Friday, 15 June 2007

More Law in a Box

And just when Josephine was wondering what to do with herself next, twenty-one back copies and the current edition of the Weekly Law Reports arrived. It was like all her Christmases come at once: no moment in her life could ever be as exciting ever again.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Josephine's Jolly Day of Adventure

Like the last of a bottle of wine left over after a tremendous party, Josephine is feeling rather flat.

Exams are over, and all of those things that seemed Terribly Important and Distracting during the revision period have actually now revealed themselves to be rather dull. Weeks of self-imposed social exile and revision confinement having come to an unremarkable conclusion (where were the ballet dancers, the fireworks, the flamingos?), Josephine is at a loose end, and where less than a week ago there weren't enough hours in the day, suddenly some two thousand of them stretch out empty and unstructured before her. What to do?

Yes, as might anyone feeling the sorry absence of revision schedules, exam countdowns and timetables, Josephine decided to Make A List. Determined not to be consumed by the anti-climactic gloom of the post-exam wasteland, she resolved to dust off her wings, straighten her stripes and become a busy little bee. And so, thinking it would be a great shame to miss the possible Ruin of a Lord Justice of Appeal, Josephine decided to spend a jolly day of adventure over in the City of Westminster Magistrates' Court. And what an adventure it was.

Armed with a much-improved playlist not featuring a single .mp3 law lecture and a book to read over lunch, Josephine set off. [Amongst others set aside during the revision period to be read at a more leisurely pace after exams was a novel by Hugo Rifkind (the title of which had slipped Josephine's mind) and another by Mark Thomas. Needless to say, on digging the book out of a pile of papers it was decided that brandishing Thomas' As Used on the Famous Nelson Mandela in the public gallery might be marginally less imprudent than Rifkind's Overexposure. It seemed, some hours later innocently asking for directions to the Magistrates' Court from an armed policeman outside 10 Downing Street, that The Magic Faraway Tree would, in fact, have been the most sensible choice.]

By the time she arrived on the steps of the court, the show was over, the Naked Judge had been acquitted and the television reporters on the pavement were waving injudiciously phallic microphones in the faces of various Important-Looking People in Suits. Consequently, Josephine spent a stifling afternoon in a wood-and-glass box at the back of one of the courts watching Joe Public getting a bollocking from a magistrate in a lively-coloured shirt, while an American woman in the row behind her gave a muttered running commentary to her male companion peppered with expletives about various players on the judicial stage before us. In a brief interlude between defendants, we were even treated to a rendition of a rudely re-worded cabaret song: so pleased was she with her musical venture that we were treated to several repeat performances, of which one was sung at half-speed in order to make a note of the new lyrics in the large notebook balanced on her knee. The afternoon's proceedings ambled on with all the efficiency and urgency of a building project in a Spanish holiday resort and, several hours later, Josephine made her way home rather more competently than her way there.

As it turned out, the Mark Thomas was an appropriate choice: Josephine encountered no less than six armed policemen in her attempt to locate the court, spotted several protesters waving banners outside the Palace of Westminster, and the first two of the afternoon's cases concerned Parliament Square protesters apparently in breach of the terms of their licenses to use loudspeakers. There's something almost life-affirming about the amusement afforded by naturally occurring coincidence.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

And you know it's bad...

...when you start spotting your fellow students in the doctor's waiting room. Particularly when you had no idea previously that either of you lived in the same location. And that you're both carrying statute books.

There are snakes, ants that sting and other creepy things...

in an Eng-lish coun-try gaaaaaa-ar-den!

Yesterday afternoon's exam venue should have been really quite charming and characterful by comparison to the battery farm over in Docklands. But Josephine awoke yesterday morning completely out of sorts with a thundering migraine and an upset tummy, such that the whole ordeal was really rather traumatic. Not only was it hotter than Daddy Bear's Porridge, but the loud and intrusive intermittent bleeping of a lorry reversing at intervals up and down the road outside for at least an hour was more than a little irritating. The provision of bright glaring-red scrap A4 paper on which to make notes (who on earth chose that one out of all the possible colours in the stationery cupboard?) only seemed to exacerbate the pounding headache such that the overall strain of the experience seemed monstrously overwhelming.

Suffice to say, the acrobats were really only a minor distraction while Josephine hacked her way through absolutely appallingly muddled and not-in-the-least-bit-coherent answers concerning the matters of easements and freehold covenants: so entangled in dominant and servient tenements was she, she would not even have noticed had they been more gainfully employed in a re-enactment of Whittaker v Minister of Pensions.

No, I never thought I'd find myself saying it, but I shall be glad to sit in the cool expansive gloom of the ExCel Centre in Docklands tomorrow, aspirined up to the eyeballs and furiously scribbling about Equity and Trusts.

Disappointment and despondency aside, Josephine is looking forward to the resumption of relative normality in all but a few days' time, followed by a night of carefree post-exam celebration with fellow students, all of whom will be quite literally proclaiming their renewed freedom from the rooftops. Josephine has assembled her flamingo liberation-apparatus in eager anticipation of the event, and will be preparing her defence to a charge under s.25 of the Theft Act 1968 over the weekend.

Officially past the half-way mark, and now scrambling toward the finishing line...

Sunday, 3 June 2007 Common Law Prescription

The law will presume the grant of an easement if it has been enjoyed since time immemorial ie the commencement of legal memory in 1189. If, however, it can be shown that the use has lasted for at least twenty years it will be presumed that it commenced in 1189...

So... in the Eyes Of The Law, Josephine was born in 1186?

I take it all back. Never mind a common law prescription, Josephine is fast needing an NHS one. And as for the Law... maybe an eye-test?

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Off Games

Dear Captain of the Law Team,
Please excuse our Josephine from exams. She is unwell with trenchfoot...

Trenchfoot it is not, but Josephine is feeling decidedly iffy. It could be an allergy to land law, an intolerance to revision or - most likely of all - overexposure to traffic pollution from having her window open whilst working at her desk. Some might say it serves her right for not getting fitted for a gas mask.

Saturday, 26 May 2007

You're upstairs in the room with the coats...

and everyone's speaking Latin.

Before Josephine is inundated with corrections regarding her poor attempt at latin wit from regular contributors to Points of View do please note that, in the interest of accuracy, Accidental Law Student and I debated at length the possible declensions of "patria" and "lex". Alas, despite being awarded full marks in various examination papers culminating in an A at A-level, Josephine has a very poor grasp of Latin grammar indeed (this largely owing to her latin teacher's philosophy that grammar would "just come naturally").

As such, the only thing she feels able to decline are any invitations to residential latin courses over the summer vacation. No thank you very much...

Adrenaline II

Today Josephine got up, as her father would say, first thing of an afternoon and opened the curtains at 4pm to the End of The World: apocalyptic gloom and vile squally-grey rain. The only other option being land law revision, Josephine returned to bed to catch up on the remaining hours of sleep accumulatively lost over recent weeks and to generally chill out. The energy supply, it seems, was not unlimited.

Josephine has no doubt that she was herself pretty annoying gabbling away through case law on Occupiers' Liability yesterday morning on the bus into Islington. She apologised profusely to the lady commanding the seat-and-half-of-her-own next to her, before muttering quietly at some speed under her breath. But more irritating than "Coleman Bros...lion!...The Calgarth...slide down your banisters!...Laverton kebab!" was undoubtedly the portly, suited gentleman who proceeded to make unrelenting business calls on his mobile for the duration of the route to the tube, at a volume just a little too loud to be natural.

"Charles! Is now a good time to talk? Well I won't keep you long... [so obviously not, then, but I'll talk at you anyway] I've been thinking about carbon offsetting..."

He evidently thought himself to be exceedingly witty, repeating all of his jokes at least twice for the benefit of those at the back of the bus who perhaps didn't catch them on first utterance or, as Josephine suspects, because the poor sod at the other end of the phone had missed his cue to laugh the first time. What on earth did these people do before the invention of the mobile? Couldn't he have waited until he got to the office? And what exactly made him think we were remotely interested or impressed?

Of course, we were and after the fourth phonecall in fifteen minutes everyone was in complete awe: we all thought he must be very clever and popular and important and busy indeed. What a pity Josephine had an exam to get to and alighted at Angel otherwise she might have been tempted to stand next to him and make a couple of imaginative calls of her own...

"Algernon! Hallo old chap, how are you? No, no, that's quite all right, I won't interrupt your kippers. I was just giving you a tinkle to discuss the coy carp in the moat..."

So. Almost halfway through the War on Law and a brief revision interlude before the battle recommences a week on Monday. Josephine will resume her post at the revision parapet tomorrow for more fun and frolics from within the trenches of law-books, notes and folders gathering in her room.

Dulce et decorum est pro lege mori.

But for now, amused by the crying orgasmic girls mouthing his name in the audience, Josephine is going to return her attention to Pennebaker's film of Bowie's last performance as Ziggy Stardust at Hammersmith Odeon in 1973 on BBC Four. Sublimely unusual voice but by god, David, that's quite some swimsuit you're wearing...

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Adrenaline I

Thank goodness for Adrenaline. But for it, Josephine might be dead!

Josephine went to bed at 4am. Josephine got up at 7am. Josephine did a three hour contract paper on caffeine, lucozade and alka-seltzer power. Josephine sat around forever again in silence again while they collected in the papers slowly again. And then Josephine got on the train again and went home again. Now...

Josephine can't bloody well sleep again!

Monday, 21 May 2007

What do you call a thousand lawyers chained together at the bottom of the ocean?

A good start.

Think Richard Strauss' Also sprach Zarathustra, Op.30.

Huge rolling reinforced-metal shutters glide upwards like something out of Apollo 13 to reveal row after row after row of desks, before sliding down again to lock almost a thousand of us in for over three hours. Our invigilator speaks to us over a tannoy. A string quartet plays outside. Josephine has never seen anything like it in her life. So many lawyers (and not enough pupillages).

It took over half an hour of sitting in silence for the invigilators to collect all the papers. It took almost a decade to get there, and almost the same again just to walk from the entrance to the examination hall. It took nearly twice that to queue for the toilets. The hall was freezing, it's somewhere out in the deepest, darkest Zone 3 wilderness, and the only conceivable way of getting there is by Toy Train. The trains and the platforms are barely big enough to hold a class of primary school children, let alone an army of law students.

According to the specifications detailed on its website, the exhibition space in which our examinations are held boast 32,250m2 column free space, partitioned floor space with movable walls, 10m high ceilings, 7.2m wide drive-in-doorways and 3 lane lorry way access. All of which proved to be invaluable in my first examination this morning: I don't quite know how else I'd have managed to squeeze in otherwise.

When time permits, Josephine will spew forth on the spelling and grammar inaccuracies that litter the course manuals published by her GDL provider. Most of them are irritating. Apostrophes as unwelcome as snails in ginger beer bottles, and all kinds of variants of the more common spelling errors. Of course, some of them are highly amusing. Two particular highlights during my revision so far this week:

12.8 Conflict between Article 8 and Article 10
"... In the former circumstances the press had a 'watchdog' role imparting information and ideas on matters of pubic interest."

17.3.1 Impossibility
"...Equally in Robinson v Davison (1871) LR 6 Exch 269 the contract was frustrated when a piano who was booked to perform a concert could not perform due to illness."

That really should be "which was booked".

One battle down, another 6 military operations to go.

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Oi moi. Eheu.

Josephine is at the end of her tether. If the paddock is 9 metres in diameter, and there are buttercups growing in the centre, how long is a piece of string?

Exams commence in 17 hours, 52 minutes and counting. Therefore never send to know for whom the alarm bell tolls; it tolls for me.

Monday, 7 May 2007


I've often been curious about the various techniques employed by fellow-students in revising for exams. Some of them have, in the past, seemed highly unproductive and others slightly crazy yet oddly profitable. It seems I am not alone in my current approach to committing case names to memory, using a system of flashcards which I believe to have been quite effective in learning music theory as a child. Of course, I have yet to see if my method will prove in any way successful until I have taken the scheduled exams in a couple of weeks.

In a conversation with Accidental Law Student (at a not-very-sensible hour on a Sunday night) on the pleasures and frustrations of trying to speak of life's clich├ęs in a fresh and unclich├ęd way, I was amused and slightly surprised at myself for dredging the word 'ostranenie' from the murky depths of my memory. It wasn't so much that I had managed to broadly recall a concept - that happens all the time: I had retained the precise Russian term along with all of the relevant associations I had attached to it, together with rather more irrelevant details such as the exact location and circumstances under which I had committed these details to memory. Of course there would have been nothing at all unusual about this had I spent hours, weeks, months diligently studying Russian Formalism: this, however, was the profit of an evening's agitated attempt to memorize all of literary theory the night before a second-year exam. Having failed, I fear, to recall anything else of worth from this last-minute endeavour I find myself wondering with some disillusion...

...what will be the single, utterly useless fact that I retain out of a few weeks' cramming on an entire year's postgraduate diploma in law?

Sunday, 6 May 2007

JE Penner

On Thursday, in an attempt to reset the hands of a somewhat disoriented bodyclock I went to bed at about nine. Notwithstanding several bedtime stories (Goldcorp Exchange Ltd and The Three Certainties, amongst other mp3 lecture favourites) I was still wide awake at midnight and not in the least bit sleepy, so I thought perhaps a little further reading on the finer points of creating a valid trust might have the desired soporific effect. Not so.

Professor Penner's work on the Law of Trusts makes for really rather enjoyable reading such that Josephine was still reading at 4am.

Perhaps next time a spot of EU Law might be more effective.