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Archive for June, 2007

Charon M.D. talks to smokers direct…

Charon MD is one of Charon’s brothers…. we are not close and his latest photograph (Left) did not help me when I tried to identify him when he rang the doorbell at my Staterooms in West London. However… I am pleased to see him and… this is what he has to say:

I am conscious (but only just… for other reasons) that many of you will be contemplating the question as to whether you should quit smoking tomorrow – when the ban on smoking comes into force at 6.00 am on Sunday 1st July.

As a lifelong smoker myself, I am equipped to give advice on this. I should make it clear that ‘lifelong’ may be an exaggeration… but given that my Mother smoked during the very act of conception (of course she didn’t….) it is not unreasonable for me to make this claim, even though I did not start inhaling directly, through smoking a cigarette, until I was 15. The fact that I happen to spend my time operating on people and dispensing prescriptions to malingerers is neither here nor there and, as my brother Charon the blawger advises… “nothing in what follows should be constituted as the giving of actionable advice, nor be relied on and, as you are not actually paying me a fee, you should consult your own doctor for specific advice about your own particular smoking problem.”

Smoking is one of the great pleasures in life – to those of us who enjoy living life on the edge. I am reminded of Wendy Liebman’s quote: “People always come up to me and say that my smoking is bothering them… Well, it’s killing me!”

But then of course we have a rather odd quote from Brooke Shields: “Smoking kills. If you’re killed, you’ve lost a very important part of your life.” This is the Paris Hilton school of thinking.

One wanders how the course of World war II would have gone if Churchill’s private cigar stock had been destroyed when Dunhill was bombed during WW II. This is what Churchill had to say: “My rule of life prescribed as an absolutely sacred rite smoking cigars and also the drinking of alcohol before, after and if need be during all meals and in the intervals between them.”

And now, to the question of advice: The only truly effective way to stop smoking is to stop. You can spend money on hypnosis. You can buy patches, plastic cigarette holder style nicotine replacement inhalers, try Zyban (But see a Doctor first on this one) or you can lie to yourself and pretend that you have given up.

Here is a stop smoking advice site

I hope my advice has been helpful. I leave you with this quote from Bill Hicks, an American comedian: “Here is my final point. About drugs, about alcohol, about pornography and smoking and everything else. What business is it of yours what I do, read, buy, see, say, think, who I fuck, what I take into my body – as long as I do not harm another human being on this planet?”

I shall, together with Charon the blawger, be outside in God’s air… smoking with all the others, bagging all the outside seating in pub gardens and directing non-smokers to the spare seating and tables inside. In the winter I shall simply wear a smoking jacket and Homburg hat) … and, you never know… I may just meet someone interesting while I am out there, while my non-smoking friends sit inside watching our coats.

I shall, of course, be on the look out for smug non-smokers who start gloating. Smokers are law abiding. We shall, I am fairly sure, obey the ban… but we are still, I hope, militant enough to respond to gloating by non-smokers? It is somewhat ironic that smokers will now reclaim the great outdoors as their own 🙂

Oh… and finally… let George Bernard Shaw have the last word: “If you eliminate smoking and gambling, you will be amazed to find that almost all an Englishman’s pleasures can be, and mostly are, shared by his dog”

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I write from West London…

I write from The Bollo, Silk Cut lit, a glass of Rioja to my right, on this last day of legal smoking in enclosed public spaces.

The rain continues to fall and I have decided to spend my afternoon writing and catching up on the events of the week. And what a remarkable week it was.

First, we had Ruthie being interviewed on the Today programme about snobbery and exclusion at the Bar. Ruthie went to South Bank University, applied for pupillage, was told that she was competent to do pupillage but was rejected by Chambers because her university was not acceptable to Chambers – it would not fit with the ‘Chambers notepaper’. John Humphrys countered with the perfectly reasonable point that perhaps it was less a case of snobbery than a desire for Chambers to recruit the best from the best universities which, of course, include Oxford & Cambridge. It is difficult to counter such a point – although Ruthie did her best to. Listen to her interview with John Humphrys. Enjoyable interview. As a tribute to the good old days of the BBC… I wore a dinner jacket to listen to this wireless interview.

The practical reality is that there is a league table of universities, with Oxford & Cambridge at or near the top in pretty well every field of scholarship and research. Not unreasonably, recruiters to leading law firms and Chambers will seek to recruit from the top universities in preference to middle or lower order universities. That is the way of natural selection and competition.

Ruthie, however, has a point and it is this point which the legal profesion can do something about – if it is so minded. Many of those who are able to secure a place at a top order university come from privileged, middle class or wealthy backgrounds and have, more likely than not, enjoyed the very real benefit of private education. giving them a competitive advantage, over those less advantaged, in terms of getting into a top order university. The BBC covered this in an interesting news item.

The BBC reports than 70% of judges enjoyed the benefits of a private educationa t our leading public schools and 78% come from Oxford & Cambridge. I believe in competition but I also believe in socialism. The two are not, as some may feel, mutually exclusive. I shall return to this and the question of diversity and access – a theme I am working with others on in another guise.

And so… we have a new government of all the talents.

Cyclops, The Highwayman, Broon…whatever you care to call him, ascends to the role of Caesar: with no glowering Chancellor, or other power base, skulking in the sidelines to subvert, disrupt or be blackmailed by. Early days, but the inclusion of Admiral West as a Security Minister and retaining the services of the politically independent Lord Stephens is likely to prove a significant boon to bolster government in the field of security and counter terrorism. Less interested in the Business Council which is, to my eye, is a piece of ‘froth’. The government has always been in a position to draw on advice – presumably? Cameron is likely to be under some pressure now. The Independent, today, suggested that it was time for cameron ‘to do serious’ and give the ‘sunshine’ a bit of a rest. Osborne continues to be deluded into believing that The Tories will have a better chance of winning an election with Blair gone. The fact that Brown is unlikely to be a great orator at the Despatch Box may well prove to be a benefit. Do we see the beginnings of a return to government by Cabinet and power and prestige being returned to Parliament?

And now… that the Rioja is hitting the spot… to other matters…
First… advice from my brother Charon M.D.

Don’t urinate on a jelly fish sting. Urine has absolutely no effect on jelly fish stings and you will almost certainly find yourself getting some pretty strange looks from others nearby or receive unwelcome attention from the British Transport Police. Go immediately to a restaurant and ask for some vinegar. balsamic vinegar may also work, and you can order some bread and olive oil while you soothe your sting.

It came as no surprise to find that Charlie Falconer was dropped as Justice Minister and LC. Surprised only that he hung around waiting for the summons for directions – but as I am not privy to his thoughts or ways, I am not able to comment further. Jack Straw as LC without going into the Lords – a first working of the Constitutional Reform Act in this context… as a judge friend of mine pointed out to me. It was not, as it happens, necessary for him to do so – but he does enjoy giving me of his wisdom and on most occasions it is useful to receive it. Is the A-G role soon to be reviewed? is change in the wind, in terms of power?

And… if you would like to read an interesting review of Taking Liberties by Lawyer-2-be…here it is.

I had no idea it was the 200th anniversary of Garibaldi’s birthday. Thank God for The Independent for carrying this breaking news today.

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Blaise Pascal’s aphorism in the title seems a reasonable one to cite on the start of the Brown government. I eschew ‘era’, ‘new dawn’ or any other cliche – because Brown is regarded as a serious politician, who has expressed the desire to preside over a government of all the talents, return to the idea that Parliament should play a more prominent role and do his utmost. I have bookmarked the Prime Ministerial / 10 Downing Street website… for future quick reference. [If you fancy a quick pictorial tour around Downing Street – have a look]

Webcameron, predictably, called for a general election. It will be interesting to see how a Brown government deals with the Judiciary, encroachment on civil liberties, ID cards, Prisons and, on the latter part of the aphorism above – how it handles the Iraq issue in terms of continuing deployment of our armed forces.

Guido Fawkes’ blog, a blog I enjoy reading, has an interesting piece on Quentin Davies’ defection to Labour: It is worth a read. I shall only give a brief excerpt… because you may well enjoy visiting the blog in future. Guido asks… Who made a statement like this?: “the Chancellor has been losing control… His projections… have been consistently wrong. He has been wrong about both revenues and expenditure… The Chancellor took risks… he is imprudent… a great worry… very worrying… he simply wanted to win the next election—if he can… it does not matter what happens afterwards…

Anyway… we all wait… even if we have little interest in the day to day world of politics, for Brown’s Cabinet announcements. I suspect that there will be more than a few lawyers interested in what Lord Falconer will be doing tomorrow… or, perhaps, even, tonight.

***

Meanwhile… on this historic day… pleasing to note that our world of blogging continues to throw up fearless activity – and I am impressed! Ruthie, Geeklawyer co-blogger, and blogger in her own right (See Ruthie’s Law), goes on a serious motorbike course…. and enjoys it. I raise my hat. Good stuff.

Right.. time for two glasses of Rioja… and then a night flicking through news channels for news of the Cabinet. Living on the edge tonight!

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Defections and departures…

As Tony Blair leaves office and Brown is called to the Palace to be invited to form a government, Quentin Davies MP defects to the Labour Party after writing an excoriating letter to David Cameron – the text of which is a good read.

Here is a taster: “Under your leadership the Conservative party appears to me to have ceased collectively to believe in anything, or to stand for anything. It has no bedrock. It exists on shifting sands. A sense of mission has been replaced by a PR agenda.”

Legal Week notes the departure of Lord Goldsmith and speculates on whether Lord Falconer will follow: Story

A return to the Bar for both men would, in the light of their experience gained in government, be fairly well received one would imagine.

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Food for thought on a Monday morning…

Half an hour of reading blogs early this morning threw up some interesting material.

John Bolch and Martin George have been considering the difficult constitutional issue of whether judges make law. Martin George considers the Purity Ring case and sides with the school authorities in a well reasonaed analysis of the issues.

Simon Myerson QC takes a moment to reflect on the main issue for Lord Goldsmith’s successor which affects the Bar – “the ‘world-class prosecuting service’ which is (allegedly) the CPS.” Nearly Legal considers the “criminal behaviour” of a firm in North London. The firm is to introduce shifts so that it can do away with overtime or out of hours pay. Belle de Jour discusses the new Brown era and wonders whether the Lib-Dems were shortsighted in not allowing Lord Ashdown to accept a position in Brown’s Cabinet. Head of Legal analyses YL v Birmingham City Council, an important case on the Human Rights Act.

Justin Patten, Human Law Mediation, as always, has some useful commentary on mediation and the literature being spawned by this area of legal practice. Lawyer-2-Be discusses the BSB provisional report on deferral of Call – of interest to future BVC students.

Geeklawyer co-blogger, Ruthie, has her own blog for serious analysis of matters relating to criminal law and practice. Early stages but useful to those studying or practising in the field. See: Ruthie’s Law

PJH Law continues to provide useful analysis of employment law. This week: Dismissal or resignation?

Prisonlawinsideout has a piece on Gordon brown supporting the proposition that convicted prisoners should get the vote.

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Sporrans and other animals…

On the day when a Scot becomes leader of the Labour Party and the next PM on Wednesday – kilt wearing Scots are now going to have get a licence to wear their sporrans if they happen to have a sporran made out of dead animals. The BBC reports that sporran wearers are going to have “to prove that the animal was killed lawfully before they will be issued with a licence.” The maximum penalty for wearing an illegal sporran is fairly hefty – the usual £5000 and six months in prison.

Mon dieu… I am reporting on law… on a Sunday evening. I had to wear a kilt on Sundays for 10 years while I was at schools in Scotland between the ages of 8-18. I am pleased to say (despite being a Scot) that I am not remotely interested in brigadoonery or tamfoolery – and a Kilt with a black dinner jacket and bow tie is not, to my eye, a pleasing spectacle. Rob Roy would be turning in his grave, as they say, if he was alive today. [Somewhat bizarrely, I found, when googling ‘sporrans’, a story about a sporran maker who has taken to making porn movies.]

Greenwash

The Times reports: “THE Prince of Wales has been found wanting in his efforts to save the world from global warming. Charles and his royal household have generated more than 1,500 tons of carbon dioxide in the past year, according to an independent audit.”

Excellent… I really must buy some more Highgrove lemon curd, and a few of those weird biscuits he makes when he isn’t being Prince Charles, to help him become more carbon neutral. Mind, you.. I am desperately worried about my carbon footprint from 1st July when I take my portable heater with me, wherever I go, to keep myself warm while I smoke outside.

According to The Sun a French mistress at Chesham School has launched an internet rant at her British pupils “claiming some are “little s***s” who should be SLAPPED. Apparently she posted her fairly robust views on the dimwit pupils and their little s**t breeding parents on her blog (Miss Frenchie’s World.’ The blog seems to have disappeared.) The French teacher is reported as saying: “You also have the little s***s’ parents who can’t believe their kid is a nightmare. What a shame that we can’t say, ‘Please slap him/her, tell him/her he/she is a little s***’. No, we have to be positive. That’s one thing we don’t do in France — if you’re rubbish, you’re rubbish.”

I have to agree… far too much pandering to talentless children by parents these days – especially at gastropubs in West London.. I have ‘seen with mine own eyes’… it is not a pleasing spectacle. I am going to encourage the owners of The Bollo and The Swan to employ this French teacher ( I presume she will need another job) as a doorperson to encourage these parents to take their children to Tootsies or some other child friendly and suitable environment.

And finally – for this mildly surreal Sunday evening… another story involving our illustrious profession. The BBC reports: “A senior Aberdeenshire lawyer has appeared in court charged with damaging 11 cars following a party at a golf club in Perthshire. Paul Hutcheson tore windscreen wipers from parked cars, causing nearly £1,000 of damage on his way home from his mother’s 80th birthday celebrations.”

I am now able to rest… and have a glass of Rioja… watch some documentaries… perhaps learn how to build a plane and then… to dream..

Buona notte

POSTSCRIPT

Harriet Harman elected as Deputy Leader of Labour.

“Mr and Mrs Awkward” as Quentin Letts described the Brown/Harman act. I’ll rest tonight knowing that Reactionary Snob has a useful take on the matter. Those of a nervous disposition etc…. avert your eyes. 🙂

I actually watched the BBC coverage of the ‘special conference’ this afternoon… I just can be bothered to write about it. The only interesting bit, to my jaded eye after voting Labour for 29 years, was Blair’s speech! You have to hand it to Blair – a performer… almost Roman, today… “Friends, Romans, countrymen… I come to praise Brown, not to bury him.”

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Saturday news

Lord Goldsmith has resigned – paving the way for Gordon Brown to take a fresh look at the role of the Attorney-General. The Guardian reports: “Mr Brown is considering stripping the attorney of his role in superintending prosecutions and making the Crown Prosecution Service independent. Such a change would mean no government minister would play a part in deciding whether to prosecute in the loans-for-honours affair, distancing the new administration from the embarrassing saga.”

Surely they aren’t serious?

Police are testing this absurd 3 wheeled stand up scooter which can run for 20 miles and has a maximum speed of 25 mph. Apparently it also has blue flashing lights and a siren. I feel a bit sorry for the copper pictured. No doubt he will be getting a bit of stick from fellow plod. Maybe the hoodies and other villains will collapse with laughter, allowing the officer to ride up, dismount and then arrest them. Bit difficult to see how the officer could then take them down to the Nick though.

***

And from Private Eye this week:

Citizen journalist of the week

Sam Mason, presenter: And now we go to Sean in Bristol. Sean, can you sum up the weather where you are in one word?

Sean: Cunt!

BBC Radio Bristol, 13 June

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