Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Supreme Court: my confidential memo to HRH

To: HRH The Prince of Wales

Subject: Loyal

The packed courtroom is silent for the final three minutes before the justices enter. Is this the sound made by an unwritten job description within the unwritten British constitution?

This silence is far more dramatic than anything I saw at the play King Charles III which I left in the interval, beaten about the ears by cod Shakespeare. If you want to know about kingship, read the real thing. And on a different but relevant note, read Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing.

The justices file in. What a relief. We are in The Queen's symbolic presence. The Supreme Court has opted not to display the royal coat of arms in its courtrooms, but if you look up, Your Royal Highness, you will see a portrait of Lord Bingham in the robe of the Order of the Garter (founded by Edward III).

And there's Arthur Wellesley, 2nd Duke of Wellington, with his Garter robe slung on a chair. It reminds us of the Lady Jane Wellesley episode in your agonisingly documented romantic life. Goaded by photographers, she rounded on them: 'Do you really think I want to be Queen?'

So, sir, are your confidential memos to government departments a necessary and protected part of your role as, an Arthur without a Merlin, you prepare to be a king of 'heartfelt intervention'? R (on the application of Evans) v Her Majesty's Attorney General and another is examining whether they can be disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act, following a request from Rob Evans of The Guardian.

I leave at dusk. Over the weekend, the tide of Occupy was lapping at the walls of the Supreme Court in a protest about democracy. I assume the crimson paint on the wall is theirs. At Occupy I met the man who'd attended every day of the six-month Diana and Dodi inquest with DIANA AND DODI written on his forehead.

I head for the monthly gathering of Laydeez Do Comics and a talk by Jill Gibbon who draws covertly at arms fairs disguised as an arms dealer, wearing a suit and pearls as an act of subversion. My own fancy dress pearls express admiration, recognise what was good about 1963, and acknowledge that The Queen's life of exemplary service has intervened in more than one heart.

In The Queen's Jewels, Leslie Field describes the funeral cortège of King George V: the Maltese cross on top of the imperial state crown, placed on the coffin, fell to the ground and was retrieved by a Grenadier Guard. "Two Members of Parliament, Walter Elliot and Robert Boothby, who were watching from the pavement, heard the King [Edward VIII] mutter, 'Christ! What will happen next?', and Elliot remarked to his companion: 'A fitting motto for the coming reign.'"

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Supreme Court: Pinsent Van Gogh

Installing it (designer David Mitchell)
I feel like the spacecraft Rosetta sundered from the little lander, Philae, which has to fend for itself on a comet. After what seemed like a journey of four billion miles, my exhibition of Supreme Court drawings, only one of them blood-stained, has landed right way up in the foyer of Pinsent Masons' Broadgate office. I guess I have to leave it there for a while.

Reflected arrow highlights Dominic Grieve QC MP

After dark I walk through the City. I pass urine-scented flowerbeds full of plastic-looking but real anemones. I navigate by the fixed stars of Christopher Wren's buildings.

A poem by Andrew Motion is chiselled on benches outside the court

 After Sir Joshua Reynolds

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Judicial images: costume drama

A cluster of shop dummies are modelling sumptuous judicial robes not normally found together in the wild. Although headless, they appear to be engaged in conversation.

Christopher Allan, Court and Ceremonial Manager of Ede & Ravenscroft, reserves Jeevesian distaste for the mean-spirited modern civil robes designed by a committee.
New male civil robe

I'm at a Judicialimages.org workshop run by Professor Leslie Moran from Birkbeck and Professor Linda Mulcahy from the LSE.

The robes are a bargain. You wouldn't get a decent bespoke suit for four grand, the price of a QC's ceremonial outfit built on Tudor lines. Nor could you buy a couture evening dress with as much gold on it as a Lord Chancellor's robe for a mere £28k.

The audience are invited to try on wigs and gowns. I hold back as they would not fit me in more ways than one, but others succumb to the magic of silk damask, and begin to bear themselves with ritual grace.

These are outfits which, Mr Allan suggests, would get you arrested if you wore them on the Tube late at night.

'I'm surprised to hear them described as kinky,' muses Professor Alan Read of King's College, London, who has just shown us a photo of himself in a jailbait Fauntleroy outfit and long blond locks in the school production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle.

Context is all. And you can't do it on the cheap. If the provenance of your party gear (right) is H&M, a jumble sale, Portobello, Oxfam and Claire's, then no amount of Rigby & Peller will get you back on track.

Coda: there will be an exhibition of my Supreme Court drawings at Pinsent Masons' Crown Place offices from 14 November until early January.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Supreme Court: the last of England

One for spotters: Pora v The Queen will probably be the last case from New Zealand in the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. Dame Sian Elias, the most senior lawyer in New Zealand, sits on the bench at Lord Kerr's right hand. Monitors are in position to show an extreme rarity in this court - evidence.

Meanwhile, the soundscape. Exotic ring tones (tsk tsk). Briefly, a mewling infant, which provokes some judicial throat-clearing.

And from the pavements below (one of the world's tourist hotspots), nothing. Lord Walker told me that he once saw, but did not hear, a helicopter land outside the court - the double-glazing is that good.

People shifting on the leather-upholstered public benches make them creak like a sailing ship. A girl in front of me has long swishy hair. My pen and brush swish on the textured paper, in her ear. She doesn't know she is hearing the rhythm of her hair being drawn.

Around the court, the Apple logo comes over loud and clear.

We are here because a woman was raped and murdered.

I wonder where to look for statistics on how many women around the world were reported to have been raped and/or murdered during the six hours and 45 minutes of this two-day hearing, leaving aside the unquantifiable unreported cases.

Here in court the dryness of the legal process mercifully cauterises emotion, beyond the more evident adrenalin surges of counsel when probed by the bench or temporarily losing the compass.

The appellant has a diagnosis of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder. With sad timing, the Court of Appeal is examining whether it is a crime for a woman to drink excessively while she is pregnant.

More pictures if you scroll down.

Coda: there is an exhibition of my Supreme Court drawings at Pinsent Masons' Crown Place office from 14 November until early January.