So, fresh from leaving no. 1 son at school, I pedalled downhill in light rain from Emmer Green and into town, and locked my bike up outside the crown court in Reading, opposite the imposing lion sculpture in The Forbury, next to the Abbey Gateway that once housed the school that Jane Austen went to when young and unironic. I grabbed myself a Guardian, then went through the security check.
'Where you park your bike, then?' asked the guard.
'just over there', I said, pointing to the bicycle racks.
'Wouldn't do that,' he said, shaking his head,'Judge got his nicked just the other day. Lock it up here, just outside: I'll keep an eye on it.'
After moving it and being checked again, I walked through the pleasant cool interior and into the jurors' waiting room. After being welcomed, signed in, given a locker key and shown around, I was ushered into the lounge, tricked out in the utilitarian greens and beechwoods of corporate furniture, complete with pissed-off looking canteen staff. Other jurors appeared in dribs and drabs; Some chatted, some riffled through the scruffy magazines piled on the tables, others coughed and moved chairs several times, trying to find a place to be comfortable. Eventually, one of the ushers, a thin, nervous man with combed back long black hair, glasses and a straggly goatee, came in, said 'watch this video, then I'll be back', put on the video, and buggered off. One of those corporate videos, the ones with the crap electronic incidental music and people who tell you in smiling tones what the hell you're doing in the place, whether it be on a plane or in a new company or how to do presentations, told us what the hell we were doing there, while the video crackled and fizzed on the screen.
The usher came back, started speaking into a remote microphone, said ' right, can you hear me?' and the microphone failed. In his strongest voice, he went through various health and safety regulations. I completed my Sudoku puzzle, and started on the cryptic crossword in the paper. He told us we may have a wait.
He wasn't bloody wrong.
I read my paper back to front, then started reading Geoffrey Leech's Meaning and The English Verb. Not only is this a sodding boring read, I got really annoyed at Geoff because he is so maddeningly vapid when it comes to discussing the exceptions to the rules governing tense usage that he so rigidly and explicitly sets forth.
Eventually, at ten to three, I was finally called to the court, along with eleven other people good and true. We were sworn in.
Then we were told to come back tomorrow morning.
And OF COURSE, I won't discuss the case, a) because it is sub judice and therefore would be a criminal act to discuss it, and actually I believe that this is an important legal principle, and b) They didn't even tell us what the case was.