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6 May, 2009  
London Calling

Getting the whole class to pay attention … Illiterate LLB makes his mark … Family Court swings open its doors to the meeja … Lord Justice Wall quotes Philip Larkin to warring South Africans

imageIn Texas they used to say there wouldn’t be a black man in the White House until pigs flu.

Now it’s here in Britain, the gurning guv’nor at Number Ten who has had, even by his standards, a dreadful week, might welcome a pandemic as a diversion.

In this tentative spring weather, the authorities have ordered 32 million face masks.

The latest ad shows a man sneezing in a crowded elevator. We are solemnly advised to do three things:

Don’t sneeze over people; use a paper handkerchief before throwing it in the bin and most importantly, wash your hands.

As if the British needed lessons like this.

* * *

Sir Alan Steer, the government’s school behaviour czar has come up with some cracking ideas to stop teachers being scratched and bitten and having to stump for armguards.

imageHe thinks teachers should run games in class such as Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Pictionary and Bingo.

Al-Pal’s 200-page report, which Children’s Secretary Ed (Claude) Balls (pic) hopes to implement in full, contains a list of innovative suggestions for classroom activities which will “engage all students”.

There are wonderful ideas, such as answering a teacher’s questions without saying “yes” or “no.” Or sticking notes on the foreheads of the pupils as the class tries to guess what is written thereon.

Apparently, techniques such as “phone a friend” can get the “whole class listening”.
Well, it should be cheap to run. The kiddies already have phones and often use them in class.

Some pupils, courtesy of the school dinners and Mum’s oven-cooked chips, even have bingo wings.

* * *

A friend who runs a legal training business received the following email this week.

“Dear Sir / Madam I have got a 5 years work permit (Business & Commercial) & working as Accounts Executive here in UK. I also did my LLB from abroad and now intrested to persue my career as immigrant advisor. Would u plz give me the information; i – My current status does alow me to get myself trained & be a regirtered advisor. ii – Is this a must to attend courses to get this qualifacation done. I would appreciate ur valuable advise soon. Regards, Arslan, London.”

* * *

imageArslan was lucky to get his five year work permit.

The Gurkhas who have served the Crown since 1815 and won 26 Victoria Crosses have only just prevailed in a long battle to live in Britain.

While Joanna Lumley wielded a kukri, the Commons rolled Gordon Brown and allowed these great Nepalese warriors who fought under the Union Jack to stay.

The government says there are 100,000 Gurkhas and their dependents; campaigners say more like 10,000.

But already ensconced in these crowded tenements are an estimated 250,000 Somalis and 200,000 Russians.

* * *

Many years ago, Mr Justice Chambers, dignified but diffident by reputation, glided into court fully robed, bowed to a sitting of the TasVegas Supreme Court and said, “You can go and get fucked!”

Then to the reeling assemblage, His Honour is said calmly to have analysed in the appeal before him whether the words as uttered by the defendant had in their context been improper.

The case, an unreported decision called Bills v Brown, was beloved of Taswegian law students resourceful enough to find it.

The ghost of Bob Chambers appeared in England this week.

Here, for the first time, the “family courts” in England squeezed open their creaking doors to journalists.

The reaction was not as ardent as expected. Barristers and judges struggled to absorb many pages of guidance notes from the Ministry of Justice.

One clerk called it shambolic.

But Lord Justice Wall was undeterred.

imageHis Lordship (pic) seized the opportunity to quote Philip Larkin to a South African couple who have been battling for years over their nine year old son.

Warning that they were within a whisker of losing the child, the judge said:

“They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.”

Could this be the same Wall LJ who, some years ago, called for the media to be given access to the family courts?

Was it just so he could use swear words, or quote poetry, or both?

To be fair, it’s not said whether the F-word actually fell from his lips. I suspect not. It’s infra dig for judges here. The English sent that sort of rum cove to Port Arthur.

* * *

In another entry for our acclaimed competition Cracking Questions in Cross-Examination, Edward Rees QC is reported to have asked a woman claiming to be the dam of Dodi Fayed’s kiddie:

“You, madam, are a gold digger are you not?”

The reply was priceless:

“No I am not.”

* * *

imageAs the flu grips our imagination and the masks hinder our intercourse, think of Larkin (seen here):

“Because the sun
So hesitates in this decay,
I think we still could turn,
Speak to each other in a different way;
For ways of speaking die.”