19 November 2008

Yes M'Lud

It was Guy’s appearance in court on Monday. The Grasse Magistrate’s Court. Not what they actually call it in French but that’s what it was. He didn’t seem too concerned despite the fact that nether J nor I were accompanying him. I had told him to be respectful and to rise and sit when told to do so. And I had also told him not to mingle with any undesirable characters outside the courtroom. ‘Keep yourself to yourself’, I’d advised. After all, if anyone should know how to deal with ‘the law’ then I should. When Guy got off the bus that evening, he was as cheery as ever. ‘How did it go’, I enquired. ‘OK’ but we had to leave the courtroom when a sensitive case came on’.

You see he had been on an outing to the courts. One of many really good school initiatives they run throughout the year. Guy’s already been on a week’s exchange trip to stay with a ‘typical’ family in Ireland and several times during the school term they’ll take them on visits to let them see what life is like ‘on the other side’. He’s got a week’s placement with an IT firm in January and no doubt there will be many more vocational visits in the pipeline. But he was particularly excited about visiting the courts. I suppose he’s picked it up from having to watch Judge John Deed on TV for the last 5 years. I haven’t the heart to tell him it’s not because his mother is interested in the law but because she lusts after Martin Shaw!

Anyway, my advice to him about the courts reminded me of a particularly amusing episode which happened to me (well I thought so) quite a few years back. I had already been told I’d been successful in my application for a job with IBM in Glasgow and I was working out my notice with the Passenger Transport Executive. I was driving my little green van somewhere to the east of Glasgow when I went through a red light. Now this must have been before cameras were deployed so I must have been spotted by a police patrol car. Eventually I got a letter telling me they would fine me £5 (I told you it was a long time ago) or I could attend court and plead my case.

Because of advice I got and because I’d never been to court before (honest guv) I thought it would be quite interesting to attend in person. Problem was when I got my court date it was on the day I was starting with IBM. Here I was, starting the job of my dreams and the first thing I was doing was going to court, albeit only for a motoring offence. I phoned my manager and said I had some personal business and that I recognised it was my first day and that I’d appreciate the morning off. It wasn’t a problem. He said we’d meet for lunch after I got back to the office.

When the morning arrived, I set off for Partick Marine Court where my case was to be heard. As it was my first day at IBM and I’d been advised on the dress code, I was resplendent in a brand new, navy blue, pin-striped suit, crisp white shirt and subtly striped tie. Shiny shoes and a brand new burgundy briefcase completed the outfit. Not knowing where the court was, I got to Partick quite early. I soon spotted it. It was like the Alamo. It was situated right in the middle of a piece of waste ground, its windows barred and filthy with broken bottles and rubbish of all sorts strewn around it. I stood there thinking that here was a judicial building dealing with Glasgow’s lowlife and the surroundings were completely in sympathy with the reprobates who would climb its worn steps to be sentenced. Then I realised I was one of them! I was laughing at the irony of it all when I felt a hand on my shoulder. ‘You’re new here. This your first time?’ I turned to see a guy dressed quite similar to myself, complete with briefcase. ‘Yes’, I said. ‘Don’t worry. Come with me. I’ll show you the ropes’, he replied.

He took me up some stairs , through a small door, up some more stairs and eventually into a dingy little room at the end of a corridor which I’m sure smelled of stale urine.

Once he’d hung his coat up, he introduced himself as Nigel and asked if I’d be going there regularly. I said I hoped not. ‘If  you come here regularly, you’ll have to chip into the tea and coffee fund’, he said. ‘And the magistrates usually finish about 11.30 so we’ll all be able to go off and have a curry up on Dumbarton Road’, he continued.

As I wondered silently what he was talking about, a smart woman appeared. ‘This is Jenny’, he said. ‘Jenny, this is ….sorry what’s your name and what case are you representing’?. ‘I’m representing myself’, I replied. ‘I’m up before the beaks for….’.

I never got to finish my sentence. In an instant, Nigel’s face turned a sort of grey, ashen colour. He grabbed my briefcase, thrust it into my hand and pushed me towards the door.  ‘This is the lawyer’s room’, he said. ‘I’m afraid there’s been a terrible mistake. Don’t ever come up here again’.

Later that morning, after the guy in front of me was given a £5 fine for riding his moped down the crowded pavement in Clydebank High Street and scattering pedestrians everywhere, I felt confident. When my turn came, I explained that I’d been carrying very sensitive equipment in my van (untrue) and although I had slowed down at the lights and, my front tyres had crossed them, I’d actually stopped before my back wheels had crossed the lines (also untrue).

'£20 fine', the magistrate said. 'And make sure you pay before you leave'. I reckon good old Nigel had had a word with m'lud - don't you?

No comments: