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, 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.

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