Archive for March, 2007

I am no longer able to go to The Bollo on Sundays for lunch because the owners have decided they wish to encourage the well heeled young children of Chiswick to bring their hyperventilating parents to the pub to have a ‘Sunday Roast’ – and have, accordingly, banned smoking until the evening. This does not trouble me at all. Sitting in a pub with children, adoringly encouraged by yummy-mummy and stressed out banker-daddy, to scream, shout and run about, has little appeal. I simply went up the road to The Swan where the few children, who accompany parents for lunch, do not seem to have consumed quite the same number of E-numbers and appear, to my non-tutored eye, to be relatively normal.

I was fascinated by a report in The Sunday Times describing a new device, called a ‘Mosquito.’ The Mosquito gives out a piercing (and very unpleasant) noise, audible only to young people in their teens and early twenties and is being ‘deployed’ by some Police forces to disperse gangs of hoodies and yobs from ‘hanging out’ on street corners etc etc. [Some Chief Constables are holding back on deployment for fear of human rights issues.]  These devices cost £500.

I then turned to a short article, written by Ariele Leve, describing the pain she experienced, after having a filling replaced, when her gold lower filling came into contact with a silver upper filling. The different metals created an electric current. This reminded me of my own recent ‘self dental surgery.’

A couple of weeks ago, a crown on one of my front teeth came out when I bit into a piece of toast, at breakfast, at my café of choice in Chiswick. It was a simple matter to repair. I simply bought some superglue from the newsagent up the road and stuck it back into position – a delicate operation which I made a complete hash off. Superglue is powerful stuff. My tongue stuck to the crown – but, thankfully, I was able to prise it off. Although the crown was now at a slightly different angle, I decided that a visit to the dentist could wait. Three weeks later, the crown came out again. This time, I had to drill out old superglue from the crown with a needle to get the crown back onto the post at an even vaguely sensible position. After pulling my thumb and forefinger apart, I checked the result in the bathroom mirror. It was ludicrous. I looked like a crocodile and had to telephone a local ‘Non-NHS’ dentist to arrange an appointment. The receptionist was a bit baffled when I explained the nature of the problem. She expressed the view that sticking crowns back into my mouth with superglue was not a good idea.

The dentist, a charming woman, rolled her eyes when I explained to her what I had been up to. I sat down in the chair, reclined, and was given a pair of bright yellow safety glasses to put on. A young dental nurse, standing nearby, could barely contain her laughter as I decided to assist by pulling the crown off myself while the dentist looked at a rack of temporary crowns. I like being involved.

I was not given any opportunity to choose my own replacement crown – which was, in the circumstances, probably wise. Fifteen minutes later I had a perfectly fitted replacement crown. The dentist smiled, told me that it would be best if I left dental surgery to her in future and wished me well.

I turned my attention to another article: “Dons say classes of 100 now common”. It may have been the restorative effects of the Tempranillo… but, given that universities are now charging £3000 fees, I just had to laugh when I read :

“One Vice-Chancellor conceded that some universities ( were creaming…sorry, my interpolation…) cramming..students into a lecture theatre for some subjects.”

The article stated… “You can make a profit if you teach in large lecture groups and do nothing much

The article noted: ‘First year law students experience some of the biggest classes.”

“There is only one hall that will take 400. Law students are often in the medical faculty” said one academic. “The students who can’t get into the main room have to listen to the lecture relayed into an adjoining room.”

I’ve been involved in legal education for twenty-five years. I know exactly what the universities and private sector organisations are doing… they are ‘maximising assets.’

Frankly…this is a disgrace. Law is one of the cheapest subjects to teach. No laboratories, no expensive engineering equipment, no practical exercises which require major expenditure to run, no ‘patients’. Law academics are not well paid. Law libraries are relatively cheap to stock with books – especially in this era of electronic resources. . Vice-Chancellors rub their hands in glee at the prospect of running law courses.

See The Times Online story

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Quiz nite…and Saturday thoughts…

I am at The Bollo. The England v Kenya cricket game is about to begin. I have a glass of Rioja to my right, Silk Cut to my left and I have just eaten a fiery Penne Arrabiata. All is, thus, good with my simple world today. Although I am not a woman, I can multi-task … OK … multi may be taking it too far… but I can drink Rioja, watch the cricket, smoke and blog at the same time.

Last Wednesday I attended a ‘Quiz Nite’ at The Bollo. Our team has racked up two wins, two second places, won five free drinks and two bottles of champagne. It may not be riches beyond the dreams of a City law partner or a coughing Major – but it is a way of ‘monetising a bit of leisure time’!

We were one down – a composer who is particularly useful on music and films. Our team usually has six members. I knew we were doomed when my friend Codebreaker walked in. Well…he launched himself in…announced that he had been ‘ginned’ and crashed down into the seat. Codebreaker is a stout fellow in many senses of the word – at 6′ 3″ and 22 stone he is a force to be reckoned with. He had been to watch his nephew play rugby for University College Hospital. I won’t bore you with the solecism he committed but, he had to pay a forfeit and drink 8 measures of gin in one go. Medical students are renowned for their drinking. Codebreaker had already consumed 6 pints of beer. Pretending to be sober on the way back to West London (his sober wife, Derry, driving) he was dropped off at The Bollo. Derry arrived on foot, after parking their car, about ten minutes later. Codebreaker was seriously over refreshed, blurted out the answers loud enough for competing teams to hear, ignored the increasingly ‘dark looks’ from his wife as he went from Defcon 1 to Defcon 5, drank several more beers and amused me greatly. I refused to let him see our answer sheet eventually – because when I did, he repeated the answer in a loud voice – to the delight of competing teams who amended their answer sheets accordingly. A command performance. He had a hangover the next day. I have no information on any other injuries, self inflicted or otherwise, which may have arisen on the way home – nor do I have any information on the views expressed by his wife on his one man show at The Bollo that evening. Codebreaker will not be appearing at The London Palladium. I do hope, however, that he will reprise his show soon. Rating: 4/5


The mania for apologising. While I can understand the need for people to apologise for their behaviour – I got caught up in a conversation, last night, about The Abolition of Slavery anniversary. The range of views expressed on the breast beaters, tree huggers, politicians on the make and sundry others who have been apologising for Britain’s involvement in the slave trade 200 years ago was, to say the least, broad based and robust.

I’m sorry – but… I have come to the view that I cannot be held responsible for the acts of others or the government of my country before I was born. I do not hold young Germans responsible for the acts of their fuhrerfathers. Do we ask the Normans to apologise for invading our country in 1066?

(My ancestor, Ricard de Charon, was one such knight who got on the cross- La Manche ferry all those years ago, and is pictured in the Bayeux Tapestry, on horseback, with a glass of wine in his right hand, a duck in his left hand – and… frankly, a good thing he did… the locals were descending into anarchy; wearing wode, driving far too fast in chariots, bringing untaxed wines and beers over from the continent in absurd quantities, not repairing the central heating put in by the Romans (as required by covenants of repair and maintenance in their residential leases) AND… they had no idea where all those tax returns were …Christ… one of their Kings couldn’t even bake a cake properly… Yes… the Normans were a good influence.)

Nor will I apologise for Julius Charon, who invaded Britain in 40 AD, after misunderstanding Caligula’s instructions, and spent many happy months smoking spliffs in Brighton, with his mate Cameronius of the Etonii, before trying to drill the locals and losing their ‘hearts and minds’. Nor will I apologise for the appalling quality of his Latin in his book “Absit invidia – no offence intended”. I have written about this before.

What I will do is this: remember history and hope that we don’t make the same mistakes, or engage in unlawful and oppressive acts, in this country or overseas, in the future. Interesting that Blair finds it easy to apologise for Britain’s acts 200 years ago – but does not seem able to apologise for … [fill in’act’ to suit your political or emotional persuasion]

Unfortunately… rain has delayed play in the England v Kenya match. Australia are 84-o against South Africa. I am going to have another glass of Rioja…


UPDATE 15.30 hrs… GMT. Kenya won the toss and elected to Bat. Puzzling….. given the rain on the ground. I see a glass of Rioja coming towards me as I type…. excellent.

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Le Blog… critique et revue…

“The thing that’s wrong with the French is that they don’t have a word for entrepreneur”
George W. Bush, President of The United States.

UPDATE… I am grateful to Raymond P Ward, a US lawyer and well known blogger, for pointing out that President Bush did not actually say this… See here – the origin of the story is interesting!

Today, I begin my review of the week with two amusing posts by fellow law bloggers.

First… in the United States corner – we have Dan Hull of What About Clients? writing about the French: Link for story and quotation

“The French are designed by God to seem as provokingly dissimilar from the British as possible. Catholic, Cartesian, Mediterranean; Machiavellian in politics, Jesuitical in argument, Casanovan in sex; relaxed about pleasure, and treating the arts as central to life, rather than some add-on, like a set of alloy wheels.”

Cutting through the French line… in the finest traditions of Admiral Lord Nelson at Trafalgar…we have Corporate Blawg responding to Dan Hull’s original post.

“The British are designed by Darwin to seem as provokingly dissimilar from the French as possible. Protestant, Practical, Productive; cynical in politics, Aristotelian in argument, experimental in sex; intense about hedonism, and treating the arts as peripheral to life, being more focussed on science, global responsibility and the issues that make humanity prosper rather than celebrating being part of a catatonic clique of inward-looking patriots.”

Good stuff, gentlemen. Salut! As I am a Scot with republican tendencies (but waiting for the return of a Jacobite King…?)- “To the King across the water.”

I have been busy podcasting in the last week or so: Podcast 5: Dan Hull on US Lawyers and the work life balance, Podcast 6: Toby Davey, Barrister 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square on being a barrister, his work as an Immigration judge, wine and fireworks and Podcast 7: Dr John Birchall on Writing good English for law, business and other professionals.

It has been a strange week: We learned that Pakistan cricket coach, Bob Woolmer was murdered, The Great Train Robber, Gordon Brown, cut 2p off the rate of income tax (The Tories wailed as Gordon trampled over their wicket), It snowed / sleeted in London, The Lords rejected proposals to abolish juries in fraud trials, A council took a local farmer to court over accusations that his pigs scratching their backsides caused damage to protected trees… and finally… teenagers who skip school or college face a £50 fine and a possible criminal record under plans to increase the education leaving age to 18

So to the world of blogs….what are they up to?

Tim Kevan, Barrister Blog has an interesting post on the difficulties of telephone hearings, Batgirl is pondering about the difficulties of finding time to blog and anonymity, Justin Patten, Human Law has an interesting comment about conflict resolution in the UK, John Bolch, Family Lore has a wry dig at the DCA (Rightly, in my view) about their response to the legal aid protest by lawyers last Monday, Geeklawyer’s blog has been restored to health (with a new look) and he returns to form with pre-occupations about Ruthie’s birthday – but he was also gracious enough to ‘pimp my podcasts’, Lawyer 2 Be wrote a very interesting piece on diversity at the Bar, Legal Beagle is back and writes about ‘Turbulent Times’ at the Criminal Bar, Legal Scribbles has given his last Land Law Tutorial until October and has some useful advice for students who are about to face the examiner.

Lo-Fi Librarian continues to provide useful material and sees the lighter side as well with the information that “Juries are more likely to find less attractive defendents guilty than they are the prettier ones.”

Pupil Blogger reflects on Kids in court, sitting in the front row, reserved for Silks. Nearly Legal has a very useful piece on ‘the Age Bar’ -a useful read for all mature students contemplating a career in the law, Legal Spy is thinking about getting an even bigger BMW to irritate the senior partner! and Binary Law has a very useful post “Does IT matter?”

Finally… a blog I always read – despite the fact that I know little about criminal law – simply because Bystander JP always has interesting material about the human condition – as he sees it, daily, in the Magistrates Court. This week, he sentences a young man to his first prison sentence. I quote: “This chap was a young man who had been given every possible non-custodial disposal and had failed them all. You name it, he’s got it – drugs, drink, family problems, illiteracy, the lot. As he was taken down he called out “I’ll get worse”. He could have a point.The Magistrate’s Blog

UPDATE 15.30 hrs: … I am now at the Bollo watching the cricket…. rain delayed play – so viewing Australia and blogging, as may be apparent from the above. All I wish to add, for Dan Hull, who was kind enough to comment on this post: ….is Cry God, for Harry, St George and England for today we march against the French… again!

Bon chance…

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Right to roam…

The ‘sneering’* face of George ‘Don’t call me Gideon’ Osborne filled the television screen. He looked over at the Labour benches. There weren’t many Labour MPs in Parliament. The Great Train Robber / The Highwayman / Stalin, whatever you care to call him, wasn’t there… *(A Press report used the term ‘sneering’)

It must be pretty depressing for a Shadow Chancellor to find 13 of Labour’s finest doing their best to fill the government benches and the Chancellor doing something more interesting than listen to Osborne’s response in The Budget Debate. “Yes, well,” said Mr Osborne “I suppose you’ve got some people here but not really the quality.”

Moving on…because Mr Osborne has not said anything so far during his time as Shadow Chancellor of the slightest interest to me. To other matters. The Lord Chief Justice has faced the press for the first time. He repeated his view, made in a lecture recently, that there was little point in detaining geriatric lifers in prison at £40k a go and then turned his attention to the increasing use of on the spot fines by Police officers for a range of offences, including theft and assault. Lord Phillips tok the view that this ‘ diversion’ was not appropriate in cases of assualt where the matter should be looked at by the courts to ensure that measures were taken to stop re-offending. On the spot fines? A rather unpleasant slippery slope in my view. I am not at all comfortable with Police having power to issue on the spot fines for crimes involving theft or assault. Also… there is the question of work for criminal lawyers.

An interesting article in The Times today by Alice Miles: We are celebrating the 200th Anniversary of The Abolition of the The Slave Trade. Alice Miles makes several points: (1) Isn’t it a bit early to pat ourselves on the back? (2) What about sex slave human trafficking and child slavery in other parts of the world (3) The abolition of slavery was also an early anti-racist measure (4) only 15 non-white MPs (13 Labour) in Parliament against 8 per cent as proportion of UK population (5) Black boys don’t do as well as black girls, who do as well as white boys, but not white girls (6) Have you ever seen the Prime Minister or The Queen with black advisers?

Yes… we’re getting there!

Reminded me of a cartoon I saw in a paper picturing Shilpa “Big Brother” Shetty meeting the Queen and asking “Is there any racism here?” The Queen replied “No, Prince Phillip is away.”

I left Chiswick the other evening in a mini-cab enroute to an obscure part of London called Camden. Obscure, that is, to the Afghan driver who asked me for the postcode of the house I was going to. I told him I had absolutely no idea of the postcode. He typed the name of the road into his Sat-Nav device and we headed off in the wrong direction. I was reminded of the story of the woman who drove her £96000 Mercedes into a ford, obeying her Sat-Nav, and a host of other stories involving idiotic Sat-Nav users. Recently, some goon drove a party of children in a coach to Hampton Court in Islington, a grotty cul de sac, instead of the famous Hampton Court Palace – farcical. A year ago, an ambulance crew picking up an ill person near Ilford, Essex, for a local hospital; followed Sat-Nav for 400 miles and turned back only when they were on the outskirts of Manchester.

I told the driver that we were heading towards the North Circular. He confirmed that we were. I told him that I had no desire, at any time, let alone a Friday night, to go on the North Circular and that we would be better off going on the West Way down the Marylebone Road and heading towards Camden when we saw the signs. I had to be fairly blunt about my wishes before he agreed to turn the Sat-Nav off and, eventually I had to direct him much of the way after he started to veer south off the Marylebone Road instead of North. I was tempted to tell him to type in a postcode I know in Edinburgh to help him find his way back to West London. Instead I drew him a map to get him back to Camden High Street. I am fairly sure his Sat-Nav device was switched on fairly quickly!

As a biker I agree with plans to stop the use of Sat-Nav screens while on the move in cars. I have to watch the road on my motorbike – to stay alive. I feel it only fair that drivers should not be using mobiles or Sat-Navs while on the move. Here endeth the rant…

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Podcast No 7 and the plan for future podcasts…

The quote by E L Doctorow in the title amused me. I aslo have some empathy with this one: ” You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” ~Ray Bradbury

Yesterday, I interviewed Dr John Birchall. John came to law as a ‘mature student’ in his late thirties. As it happens, I taught him – and it does not appear to have done him any great harm. John does many things: a writer on litigation, etymologist with the Oxford English Dictionary, opera fan, wine drinker and he lives on a boat. He is currently involved in producing a DVD on ‘Good English writing for lawyers and other professionals’ . I interviewed him about his DVD project of course, but also asked him why he had such a passion for law that he sold his house to read for the Bar as a mature student. His answers were most interesting. His views on why it is important to write (and read) good English are worth listening to.

Here is Podcast No 7: Interview with Dr John Birchall.
My plans for future podcasts

Clearly, I can’t just interview people about why they blog – although I have a few more interviews lined up on this topic. I am planning to do a podcast a couple of times a week – if I can organise this – and want to talk to lawyers and judges about practice, current legal issues, the future of law. I will also, as occasion arises, interview non-lawyers about their interests if I feel this would be of interest to readers of this blog.

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Lawyer-2-be: Diversity at the Bar

You may be interested in Lawyer-2-be’s interesting post on diversity at the Bar – particularly in relation to mature students.  Worth a read.

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Today I interviewed Toby Davey, Barrister at 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square, Immigration judge, wine expert and firework maestro –  about practice at the Bar,  his work as an Immigration Judge and his extra-curricular interests.

Toby gave an interesting insight into the realities faced by intending barristers and , after considering what he most enjoyed about practice as a barrister and judge, talked about his fascination with fireworks. Unfortunately, I was not able to buy him a glass of Chateau Lafitte 1965 at a couple of grand a bottle.

Podcast No 6: Toby Davey on Law, wine and fireworks

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