Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Supreme Court art: inappropriateness

The squirrel does some cute acrobatics, then shimmies into its drey on the ledge outside my bathroom window. The closest thing I have to a pet.

I head for L. Batley Pet Products Ltd v North Lanarkshire Council, which could have been avoided by simple communication between the parties - by carrier pigeon, say - and is about dilapidations, not pets.

Did the company (the landlord) have to give written notice to the council (the tenant) to trigger the obligation to reinstate the property to its original condition?

'The power of irritancy' gets a considerable airing in court today and I think of the power of pets to irritate: the breakages, the nocturnal marauding, the emotional blackmail real or imagined, the journeys not made, the havoc they wreak when they die, the expense.

With a blurred sense of anthropomorphism, our ancestors were goaded into litigation: trials of animals (domestic and pests, defended and undefended) were recorded from the middle ages until the Enlightenment and beyond. The tale about the monkey recovered from a French shipwreck, tried and hanged in Lord Mandelson's former constituency of Hartlepool during the Napoleonic wars may not be based on fact.

We now draw a line between animals and humans as defendants. But how stable is the line between humans and other humans? I will be an 'appropriate adult' in a court soon. On behalf of another adult. Which implies a degree of inappropriateness somewhere in the process. I'm not permitted to write about that. Understandable, but frustrating.

After the hearing I wander down to the basement to seek out the Supreme Court's companion animals. A bronze horse is poised on a swallow in flight, a gift from the Supreme People's Court of the People's Republic of China.

The souvenir bears are sitting in the showcase. A woman in Wyoming was arrested this month for aggravated assault and battery after stabbing a five-foot teddy bear during an attack on her ex-boyfriend.

PS: the Grey Squirrels (Prohibition of Importation and Keeping) Order 1937 has just been scrapped. Failing to alert the authorities to the presence of a grey squirrel on your land is no longer an offence.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Supreme Court art: time no longer

'A drawing is a map of time.' I wish I'd said that, but it was said to me by an artist called Richard Cole.

This picture of two QCs on their feet reflects what I see over time as as I draw from right to left.

At issue in R (on the application of Fitzroy George) v the Secretary of State for the Home Department is whether someone's indefinite leave to remain in the UK, which was invalidated by a deportation order, remains invalid if the deportation order is revoked.

There is much discussion about the difference between 'revokes' and 'ceases to have effect'. And does 'invalidate' imply permanence? In Siberia, a virus has just been revived from 30,000-year-old ice.

In the café at lunchtime I meet a couple with a hearing dog for deaf people, a placid golden Labrador.

'We waited six years for him. He was cared for from the age of ten weeks to ten months by a prisoner in Bristol. All I know about the prisoner is that he was very big bald guy covered in tattoos so I like to think of him cuddling this tiny puppy.'

Court 2 has an air of death, starting with the walls of white. The colour of mourning in so much of the world. The pale horse.

The stark walls are asking for graffiti: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN, thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.

The Welsh slate clock, regularly checked by apprehensive counsel, goes !!SKRANNK!! from time to time, a relentless ratchety sound.

And the flowers. Hectic on the curtains, silhouetted on the blinds, strewn on Peter Blake's carpet, gem-like on the plaque above the bench. All at their point of perfection. A transitory moment carrying its inevitable decay.

Some bat-sense makes me turn to see a tourist in the back row produce a camera from his anorak and aim it at the bench. I shoot him a governessy look. He puts it away. He'll never know I saved him from an usher's wrath.

Before I leave, I cruise the basement showcases. The folklorique gift from the Russian delegation owes something to Catherine the Great. More pictures if you scroll down.

Catherine the Great in her coronation robe (detail), 1778-9, by Vigilius Eriksen