Archive for August, 2007

I discovered today, from reading Tim Hames in The Times, that the August Bank holiday was ‘pushed through Parliament in 1871 at the behest of Sir John Lubbock MP, a prominent banker, archaeologist and author.’ Lubbock’s idea was that ‘allowing the masses to have the first Monday in August free would enable them to engage in reading and self-improvement.’ (A succession of non globally warmed, disastrously rainy, summers prompted a later government to move the holiday to the end of August).

Hames relates that that Sir James Lubbock was ‘aggrieved to discover that these modern day savages headed for the beach to get blotto instead.” It did not help Sir James’ big idea that no sooner was his Bank Holidays Act passed than public libraries declared that they would be closed on Bank holidays. Wonderfully British.

Now of course, we have proposals for a ‘British Day’ in late November where we can all celebrate being wonderfully British. Patronising nonsense in my view. Just give us another Bank holiday, between September and December, to see us through to the next binge drinking festival of Christmas and just let us all get on with the business of getting ‘blotto’ or… whatever we want to do on Bank Holidays.

Apparently, England and Wales has fewer bank holidays than most of our continental neighbours and even Scotland has one more bank holiday with St Andrew’s day (November 30) being a new holiday. Mind you… don’t the Scots also take the 2nd January off?

Plodberrys… the new technology to help Plod reclaim the streets of Britain

The Police are to be given Blackberrys to allow them to ‘maximise their time on the beat’. Plod will now be able to download all sorts of official information in their unceasing and unswerving drive to reclaim the streets of Britain. These ‘Plodberrys’ are to be equipped with a ‘poison pill’ to ensure that data can be wiped remotely at a moment’s notice should they fall into the hands of criminal elements. I would imagine that these hand held devices will also be useful for phoning through orders to local Cafes for bacon sandwiches. (Times 27th August)

Veteran film maker Stephen Frears did not find Jeremy Paxman’s lecture in Edinburgh on the systemic failure in British television to his taste.

“Paxman’s a vandal, a sort of Viking, an absolute savage. He should be taken out and shot. He’s like something out of Tom Brown’s Schooldays. Not Ned East either, not Tom brown. He’s Flashman, a beating prefect’, said Frears.

Well… I am reassured to know, as I approach the last half century of my current life, that articulate, reasoned and thoughtful debate is still being practised by film making luvvies. My Beautiful Laundrette? (Frears 1985) An ‘important’, life changing film, or just a piece of entertainment? Frears objected to the way Paxo treated Sir Richard Eyre who was droning on about the death of Swedish film director Ingmar Bergman.

Eyre opined on Newsnight that Bergman was one of the three or four greatest artists of the 20th Century. Paxo’s response ? “He wasn’t exactly box office.”

I have no idea why, as soon as people are dead, we have to praise them beyond reason. Why can’t we speak ill of the dead? They can’t sue us… and if we found these newly dead people not to our taste in life, why should we suddenly change our view when they have ‘carked’ – as the Aussies like to describe death?

The Times is ‘smokin’ today (27 August)… I came across a short piece about “Saga Louts”…

Apparently older people are now causing concern in medical circles because of alcohol abuse. Today’s ‘Saga Lout’ … the Times reports, had ‘acquired a taste for drinking at home during the 1970s and 1980s when alcohol prices dropped and it became more socially acceptable.’

The truth of the matter is, of course, that the British have spent much of the last 1000 years roaring…. An even modest, GCSE level, acquaintance with our history will show that topers and many variants of alcohol have been at the very heart of our history in time of crisis and peace. Churchill had a fondness for the stuff and ran a reasonable war fuelled by Brandy and other alcohol based ’sharpeners’.

A Dr Rice, one of the latest medical Roundheads to come out of the woodwork and call for a hike in the price of alcohol, has told the think-tank “Scotland’s Futures Forum” of his concerns. “Older people’s drinking has not had the same public awareness as young people’s drinking. These are important trends.” He says.

Well yes… I take Dr Rice’s point. I accept, as I am sure many of my fellow coffin-dodgers will, that older topers feel absolutely no need, after a moderate, medically approved, consumption of Rioja et al, to run into the streets of Chiswick, throw cones at passing Police Community Support Officers, totter around in white high heels, pass out on the pavement, and then get up and dance until dawn.

For my part… I like to be in bed these days by midnight… timed by a carriage clock sent by the Insurance company as a free gift to accompany the death insurance policy when one turns 50… and that is what I tell all the doctors.

Charon, after a great deal of thought, has also decided not attend any memorial services this coming week.

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The boys from the Bar stuff…

So…what have the learned friends been up to this week?

Well…first up… is a fascinating story in The Observer about a TV and Radio producer turned barrister, Bruce Hyman, who faces jail for perverting the course of justice. Mr Hyman, recently qualified at the Bar after a glittering career in television, has pleaded guilty ‘to attempting to falsely incriminate the husband of a client he was representing’ in a family case.

Briefly – Mr Hyman, it is reported, ‘emailed a bogus judgment he had forged to his client’s former husband, who was trying to get greater access to the couple’s daughter’.

Hyman, apparently, went along to a computer shop in the Tottenham Court Road (as revealed by CCTV footage) to email the bogus judgment, believing that his email would be untraceable. The bogus judgment appeared to ‘bolster’ the father’s claim to greater access and the father produced the judgment in court, believing it to be genuine.

At this point, Hyman ‘pounced’ … ‘suggesting not only that the document was a forgery but that the father, who was representing himself, might have been responsible for faking it.’ The father then found himself looking the wrong way down the barrel of a charge of perverting the course of justice – and a possible prison sentence.

Hyman was caught because the bogus judgment email was traced to an address in Tottenham Court Road and CCTV stills, provided by the shop, showed Mr Hyman coming into the shop and sending an email from his laptop.

This is bizarre.

August seems to have taken a toll on the UK law blog world. Very little to report. Geeklawyer continues to write, as does John Bolch over at Family Lore. Victorian Maiden may well have been seduced by Tucker and is enjoying a post-blogging cigarette.(Although I note that she has returned to draw the line at Mr Hull (infra) bringing his emu on to Ruthie’s World.) Ruthie is off to the United States of America to meet Dan Hull of What About Clients?

I did a podcast with Dan Hull some time ago. He did not sound like Woody Allen then. Here is the podcast if you want to find out about the man Ruthie will be meeting.

Clearly, I am at my post… ‘semper eadem’… serving to the best of my ability; selflessly refusing to fly in an icepack melting/global warming aircraft to a land where one is faced with the moral prospect of buying food and goods produced by non ‘Fair Trade’ endorsed companies.

I have become so green I have even stopped lighting my cigarettes with a lighter. I watched a survival programme on Discovery Channel the other night. I now prepare a small fire, using dry moss and wood shavings, which I light with a piece of organic knapped flint and a bit of fools gold to create a spark. The fire under my table also serves to keep me warm while I sit outside the Bollo smoking.

I had a late lunch today at the Bollo, a Sunday Roast. It was good not to have to call in DEFRA inspectors, in white jump suits,  to assess the quality, origin or identity of what I was eating.

Another day of the Bank Holiday to survive… the heat… the scorching sun… I’m glad I read ‘Wilderness Way”.

I was flicking through my photograph albums the other evening and came across this picture taken a few years ago. I had been invited to give a keynote speech at a conference. Unfortunately, I had the Sunday morning 9.30 ‘graveyard’ slot. The audience were a bit quiet and not that responsive. Here I am, waiting with some of the delegates, trying to get a glass of wine at the bar. I can’t be sure, but I think the conference may have been in Blackpool.

Off to do a few more hours of work. Have a good one.

Nearly Legal also covers the Summer of our discontent and lawyers perverting the course of justice. Nearly Legal also notes the disappearing UK Blogs… in the comments section below. It is time for us to do what we can…


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A TV News crew outside a house in Chiswick, West London. Charon is reporting for CrisisNews, a 24 hour television news service.

“This afternoon I interviewed a young mother, who lives in a desirable residential area of Chiswick in West London, about the growing crisis hitting young professionals who are finding it increasingly difficult to get domestic staff. She told me, before she suffered a severe and distressing attack of hyperventilation ten minutes ago, that the crisis was spiralling out of control, that it was almost impossible to find domestic staff now in West London and that her nanny had just walked out without giving notice. Her doctor has just arrived. We were able to film the car pulling up and going into the gated estate… but we have had no word since on her condition.”

Newscaster: Charon, have we any word on the whereabouts of the nanny?

Charon: John… No… we phoned the manager of the agency … but he declined to give an interview and… so far… the nanny has not been traced.

Newscaster: Charon… this is a fairly recent crisis isn’t it?

Charon: Yes, John. Until recently the supply of migrant labour from Eastern Europe has been more than sufficient to keep up with demand … but now… young men and women from the former Warsaw Pact countries are setting up building and plumbing businesses almost as soon as they arrive on our shores and that has brought a whole raft of quite different problems within the building trade.

Newscaster: Charon… I have to interrupt… we are going live to our Westminster studio to talk to Horatio Hornblower MP who is taking personal charge of this growing crisis.

Newscaster: Good afternoon Mr Hornblower. Welcome to CrisisNews. Clearly there is a crisis. What is the government doing about it?

Horatio Hornblower MP, Minister without portfolio: This government believes in direct action. Gordon Brown took personal charge over the flooding crisis and, more recently, the Foot & Mouth crisis. I have been asked by the Prime Minister to look into this matter specifically, and generally, to see how we, as a government, can achieve optimality in the labour market to ensure supply equals demand and meets the needs of the British people.

Newscaster: Mr Hornblower… only six months ago a report by independent think-tank GrowWealthOffshore warned the government that the supply of cleaners, drivers, gardeners and nannies was not sufficient to meet demand. We are now seeing a growing crisis of confidence among the professional classes who say the government are just not doing enough. Only this afternoon… a young mother in Chiswick collapsed when her nanny walked out and she had to call her husband at his office in Canary Wharf. The husband is now being rushed back to his house to comfort his wife and, we understand, it is possible that a multi-billion arms deal may be prejudiced at what cost, no-one yet knows, to the country.

Horatio Hornblower MP: John… It is early days and we are examining a range of contingency options to put in place. The PM has convened a meeting of COBRA and the matter will be reviewed in a careful and considered way. We are in talks with our counterparts in former Eastern Europe to examine the possibility of extraditing…sorry…. encouraging… more of their highly trained labour force to come to the United Kingdom.

Newscaster: But will this not just be another quick fix to solve immediate needs before the press and media move on to the next crisis?

Horatio Hornblower MP: This Labour government is building traction on the basis of acting quickly, but in a measured and considered way, to solve problems. We accept that there is, clearly, a problem, and it will be dealt with.

Newscaster: I’m sorry Mr Hornblower…I’m going to have to cut you off… reports are coming in of flooding caused by a burst watermain in Chiswick and we have to return to our correspondent at the scene.

Newscaster: Charon… I can see that you are standing ankle deep in flood waters, wearing fisherman’s waders, in Turnham Green Terrace. How bad is it?

Charon: John.. it is bad. I have not seen flooding like this … in this part of London … ever. Local shopkeepers and restauranteurs want to know how a badly installed central heating system, at a house just up the road from here, could cause so much damage and destruction. Apparently a young woman who used to be a nanny decided that there was more money to be made in plumbing. She misread the installation instructions for the main boiler system.

This is Nick Charon… for CrisisNews … reporting from Chiswick, West London.

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Bank holiday

I won’t be going to the Notting Hill Carnival. I lived in Notting Hill for three years and enjoyed carnival … but The River Styx is waiting for us all, and our lives are draining away. Repetition dulls the spirit. For my part – it is time to find something else to do on Bank Holiday Monday… I may well improve my mind and search Google to see if they have any news on David Cameron’s policies for the governance of our sceptred isle. I suspect a ‘404’ or ‘file not found’ may come up, in which case, I may have to do something else.

I went off to The Swan at 5.30 tonight, to write, to drink a few cups of their excellent espresso and relax with a glass of Rioja or two. I picked up a copy of The Spectator.

Columnist, Theodore Dalrymple, was venting spleen; painting a picture of subtle violence, designed to arouse loathing for the yobs who are out of control and who cannot control their children. Dalrymple seemed to be putting forward the proposition – if children learn a bad example from parents we cannot really be surprised that Britain plc has bred a group of youths / yobs / hoodies etc who have ‘lost respect for the law, the courts and the police’ – the tragic shooting of eleven year old Rhys Jones the most sickening example yet of the violent yob culture of some young people.

I quote, just in case you do not happen to be a regular reader of The Spectator: (Dalrymple writing about a man left in a car, in a French car park, to look after a young boy of eight while his parents went shopping.)

“His vulgarity was aggressive, vehement, and triumphal, from his flower patterned beer-belly-bulging shorts to his Rottweiler face. No one can help being ugly, of course, but no one need look like an attack dog. His was the kind of vulgarity that is not merely the absence of refinement, but a positive contempt for refinement. Indeed, it was a principled, ideological vulgarity; and, as its bearer, he was a true modern representative of his country.”

Theodore Dalrymple then paints a picture of “Mr Vulgarly Ugly’ eating a sweet, almost dislocating his jaw toconsume the sweet, and then chucking the wrapper onto the ground ‘as if trying to bomb it.’

Dalrymple, possibly not content that his readers had got the vivid image of vulgarity, then relates that ‘Mr Vulgarly Ugly ‘ took a packet of crisps…stuffed the crisps into his mouth with what can only be described as ferocity…. and then…. poured the rest of the contents (of the packet) into his mouth, disposing of the packet immediately afterwards (out of the window one presumes, although this is not stated).


Apparently, the child was watching ‘all the while.’ The message, of course, is obvious and Dalrymple ends with the statement: “What have we become? Alas, it is my generation that is responsible for it, and I have done little or nothing to stop it.”

And so… to other matters…

A man in Chiswick is going up before the beak for sitting on a wall using his laptop and taking advantage of someone else’s non-password protected broadband connection. Guardian report. Another triumph for the Police Community Support Officers who seem to be loitering with intent in many Chiswick streets these days. On my way to The Swan tonight, I saw three of them chatting away to some locals outside a newsagent. I did not stop to find out why they were there. I know that Chiswick has had a few murders in recent years but, in general terms, the area is quiet, if over infested with F*xton liveried minis, and one cannot help thinking that these successors to Eliot Ness and his Untouchables would be better deployed in rather more difficult areas of London.


7.31 pm: It is nearly six days since I have seen the sun… but, just a few moments ago, the clouds parted and a shaft of light bathed Evershed Walk W4 and the lush garden at the back of The Swan. I could see blue sky. I use an Apple laptop with a wide screen. It is my pen and paper. The keys are a bit battered and it is remarkably resistant to the odd drop of ash or spatter of red wine. Espresso has just been delievered to my B&Q wooden slatted table (No 46), one of many of such renewable resource products beloved of outdoor pub gardens. The wine is on the way…

22. 41 pm : I have just returned from The Swan to learn that India squared the One Day International cricket by beating England by 10 runs. I just can’t be bothered to look at the commentary, the highlights, the post-match interviews…. I did, however, read, this morning, in my tabloid of choice, that half the Indian cricket team were on anti-biotics after being laid low by the English equivalent of ‘delhi belly’. I don’t know if I have the will to watch any more cricket…


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The majesty of The Law in August…

Lord Phillips LCJ may find his dealings with the government difficult – independence of the judiciary / court budgets et al – but this, according to Frances Gibb in the Times, may be nothing compared to the gathering storm on the issue of barristers and their horse hair wigs.

While Lord Phillips may wish to discard the five judicial changes of robing and substitute European style gowns with coloured sashes to denote rank (Save in Criminal cases where wigs and full regalia will continue to be worn), it may not be quite so easy to persuade the learned friends to give up their horsehair wigs and eighteenth century costume.

I quote from the Times report: “Lord Phillips’s paper made clear that it was “expected” that advocates would adopt a similar dress code to judges. Yet, Geoffey Vos, QC, chairman of the Bar, said: “It is quite clear that there are strong views on both sides about the retention of wigs and gowns. The majority view in 2001 was that wigs should be retained in civil cases, but not in family cases, unless someone’s liberty was at stake. It will be interesting to see if this is still the case in light of the Lord Chief Justice’s pronouncement.”

Geoffrey Vos QC, the first blogging Chairman of the Bar, predicts a large number of responses from the profession and states: “The judges are going for the Euro gown that covers all other clothes. I doubt, but I do not know, that barristers would want to change their existing gowns.”

Frances Gibb is always worth reading and I was amused by her positioning in her article. She states: ” All is not gloom, however. There is delight among solicitor-advocates who will now be dressed the same as barristers.” [Clients, she reports, want ‘proper lawyers’ in a wig and gown’]

And then, like Shane Warne, spinning the ball before delivering a wicket taking ball, she ends with the suggestion (now solicitor-advocates have achieved equality of dress / costume) “that some district judges are now seeking dining rights at one of the Inns of Court”. This latter statement is the view reported of Stanley Best (solicitor-turned-barrister), Chairman of the association of small firms called the British Legal Association.

Frances Gibb, cape and sword in hand (to my eye this evening), then delivers the coup de grace; reporting Mr Best’s words :

“Where will these aspirations lead to, unless firmly knocked on the head?”, he fulminates. Soon the public would not be able to “tell chalk from cheese” and those solicitors who had gained this foothold would, “emboldened by their success, be storming the barricades at the Inns of Court and the Bar”.

A good word ‘fulminate’. Readers should not be surprised if I start using it… in fact, I may start a bit of fulminating this weekend (infra).

Meanwhile, while journos whip up a storm about lawless Britain, people being afraid to go out because of yobs, and a young boy of eleven gets shot dead by another young boy, our legal system is prosecuting a child for throwing a cocktail sausage at a pensioner. BBC report: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/manchester/6958826.stm

It makes you think…

Tomorrow, after noon, I plan to take a bit of time off from my normal work and spend the weekend doing a bit of blogging. I may even find the time to have a glass of Rioja… and, perhaps, a steak frite, or even a bit of pasta.

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Personal injury update?….

I have stuck dental crowns back in place with superglue but that tends to be the limit of my unusual use. Certainly, I have never considered the possibility of using superglue to glue a hoover to my private parts – but that is exactly what one circus performer did.

The Sun reports that Dan Buckner was rushed to hospital after he glued his ‘private parts’ to a Hoover. Apparently, Mr Bruckner had been practising his act, which involves ‘towing a vaccuum cleaner with his privates’. Mr Bruckner, ‘noticing that the suction pipe was split at the end, preventing it gripping him tightly enough’ decided to fix the crack in the pipe with superglue. Unfortunately, he also misread the instructions requiring a period of 20 minutes, rather than 20 seconds, to dry before re-inserting his membrum virilis into the pipe. The mind boggles, but Mr Blackner had a difficult time in A&E on arrival. Other patients, presumably with the usual mill of accidents, cracked up laughing.

As a regular contributor to Personal Injury Brief Update Journal, I am pleased to be able to contribute, by this report, to the knowledge of their readers and, indeed, to the knowledge of all those who visit my blawg.

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August… not a great month…

The sky is overcast with rain threatening clouds. The news is about Afghanistan and Iraq, and the impending ‘defeat / withdrawal’ of British forces in Basra. American sources say it could be ‘ugly’. It is ugly. All war is ugly and this war is uglier than most. Military top brass want us out of Iraq and say that the armed forces are over-stretched. Some journalists and ex-forces commentators write about our Nato allies having barbecues in the safer parts of Afghanistan, while our troops face the heaviest fighting and casualties since World War II. I read one report which stated that German forces are not even allowed by their government to operate in the safe areas at night.

I can’t comment on these matters. Like most of us, I can only read reports and wonder what the next twenty years will bring in terms of terrorism and conflict. Some say that it could be even longer than twenty years.

The law blogs are fairly quiet. The hills of Tuscany are alive with the sound of lawyers. British holiday resorts are preparing for a bit of sun. Apparently, we are going to have some for the bank holiday weekend.

I caught up with the newspapers.
Nick Cohen, writing in The Observer, writes of a young NHS psychiatrist (who blogs under the name Shiny Happy Person) who took a walk in the grounds of her new hospital. The flowerbed spoke to her. She reassured her readers that she was not ‘neuroleptic-deficient’ (I shall be looking into this condition to see if I should get it) and described the disembodied voice; “This is a no-smoking area. Please put your cigarette out. A member of staff has been informed.”

As Nick Cohen pointed out, it is not against the law to smoke outside but, apparently, an increasing number of organisations are buying voice capable smoke detectors to locate outside their premises and threaten smokers that a member of staff has been called should they light up in the doorway or immediate surroundings.

And now, of course, we have Chief Plod seeking powers to raise the drinking age to 21 and to ban drinking in public places unless the public place has a specific licence permitting it. The problem is not drinking. The problem is under age drinking and out of control young people, who no longer fear rebuke or police or court action. The press say that people are too frightened to go out or confront these yobs. It is ten years since ASBOs came in. We still have mindless violence on our streets. Not many Police on our streets as far as I can see. 1800 Police officers are currently deployed to contain a group of ‘Climate change’ protesters, some remarkably inarticulate, at Heathrow.

Right… I have had enough of this depressing post. I’m going to start another one and, as I cannot see if the sun has gone over the yardarm, I am going to order a glass of Rioja.

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