Friday, August 3, 2018


The magical holiday continues…

Me, and Dr. M, reunited, for five glorious days in London, my favorite city in the world.

Except for Toronto.

No, I’m half-serious about that.

You want to hear how “Touched by Perfection” it was?

Sunday night – the day after I got back – we are dining at this great seafood restaurant called Milos, seated next to this elegant Kuwaiti couple. (I mimed  “Did you check out her ring?” which, of course, my observant spouse already had.)  

Suddenly, I am telling Arabian Peninsula strangers, “We studied at Oxford for a week.  I got back yesterday.”

The couple is, like, “Thank you for telling us.  Now our holiday is complete.”  

They didn’t say that. But they behaved like they actually cared.

Suddenly, the diners on the otherside of us go,

“You attended ‘The Oxford Experience’?”

“We did!” 

And they’re like, “So did we!

I mean, what is this, a musical?  With startling coincidences?  Big production number:

They all went to Oxford,
Now they’re sitting in ‘Milos’
Eating some fish…”

It’s okay.  The choreography saves it.  The “Dancing lobsters.”  They’re spectacular.

It’s, like, the prevailing vibe of our vacation - everything’s working out, even better than expected.  

Another startling coincidence?  We are staying in what they call a “Service Apartment” a short walk from St. Paul’s – “Feed the birds, tuppence a bag” –  Cathedral, our temporary abode literally two blocks from one of my favorite places in London, the “Old Bailey” criminal courthouse.

Can you believe it?  Justice with wigs!  Just down the street!

That’s where I go the following morning, Dr. M heading off to visit some traditional English gardens. Flowers are fine, but I am not taking two subways to see some.  

Besides, I am wanted in court.

On my last trip to the Old Bailey, I attended the morning session of what turned out to be the last day of the notorious Steven Lawrence trial, involving a 17-year-long “hate crime” murder case, whose final verdict came down later that afternoon.  I know that’s a little like “I saw the matinee of the play Lincoln attended that evening”, but it was still chillingly exciting. I got to see the defendants fidgeting behind the protective glass barrier, sitting directly behind the victim’s indomitable mother who had fought seventeen years to achieve justice.  (And ultimately did.  The jury’s decision was “Guilty.”)

How do you know which of the 18 courtrooms offer the most interesting cases?  The Security Guards patrolling the hallways are fully informed of the action.  It’s like,

“There’s a child molestation case in”Courtroom 13.” (With an insinuated “If that happens to suit your fancy.”)

Dodging the controversy, you go,

“Thanks, but is there something a little less hideous?”

“We got a murder in ‘Courtroom 11’.”

“’Murder’s’ good.  I think I’ll try that.”

It turns out, at least that day, there were murder trials in every courtroom except one.  And you know what case they were trying there?  Sorry. How would you?  

The attempted assassination of the Prime Minister of England!

Man!  The free-of-charge entertainment!   How could I ever watch Law & Order again, where people are bumped off to get their apartments?  This was no “Condo Conversion” case.  This was attempted “P.M.- icide.”  I mean, they’re not crazy about her but they don’t want to see her blown up.   

Let me stop here for a moment.  

There is something transparently malodorous about… call it “Judicial Voyeurism.”  People’s livesare on the line, and I’m there for the pageantry and the performance.  It’s just… the trials are open to the public, so I went.  Plus, how much should I care about two punks attempting to “off” the Prime Minister?

Here’s another thing. (Having exonerated myself on the first thing.)

When I arrived, the four-week-long assassination-attempt trial was drawing to a close.  I got to observe was the presiding judge “summing up” the proceedings to the jury.  In excruciating detail.  

I stayed an hour-and-a-half and he hadn’t gotten to the “Defense’s” case.  Although I can’t imagine what it would it be.  “Only kidding about the bomb”?  (Which turned out to be fake because the hapless would-be assassins, thinking they were e-mailing an Isis terrorist cell were actually conspiring with the police.)  (Note:  The following day – me, “Missed it by ‘that much’” once again – the accused perpetrators were found guilty.)  

My point is, the meticulous activities I observed were unwaveringly tedious.  (Also sometimes difficult to hear.)  And yet, I was totally enthralled.  (More so, it seems, the participating attorneys, four of whom asked to leave early due to conflicting “urgent business” elsewhere.  )  

I left when the judge called a recess, possibly with “urgent business” of his own, involving, imaginably, the lavatory. 

During the break, I visited “Courtroom 7”, where a “double murder” trial was in progress.  And I was the only person in the gallery!  Possibly because “

Can you believe that?  Visitors were ‘poo-pooing” a double murder!  Maybe because “Courtroom 7” was on the Fourth Floor, and there were available murder trials involving climbing less stairs.

I stuck with the double-murder case till “Lunch,” watching intently as the even-handed interrogator – you could not tell which side he was on – quizzed the testifying witness on the minutest of details of the event, such as, “You took the 187 to Clapham, then transferred to the 33 to King’s Cross?”  The line of questioning having nothing to do with the murder, which, in the States, would stir an exasperated,

“‘Bus route directions’, Your Honor?  Has it come down to that?

I loved every second of it. 

Watching the probing interrogation, hearing the exquisite distinction between “direct” and “circumstantial” evidence?  (Explanation on request.)

It’s like attending the opera.

They may be speaking another language.

But you know something classy is going on. 

(At Oxford, I heard talk of doing away with the wigs.  I almost broke down in tears.)


Wendy M. Grossman said...

I'm going to guess that Dr M. visited Kew Gardens, which means she was within five minutes' walk of my house. (And she didn't call, she didn't write...)


Russ said...

Enjoying the daily essays, keep them coming.

Rebecca said...

I went to watch a court case on my very first trip to London, back in the 70s. I totally get the fascination. In fact, I don’t know why I haven’t been to see one again since I’m regularly in London these days. Maybe next trip.

Really loving these posts.

YEKIMI said...

Never been to London. Even though there are relatives there who I have never met and probably don't even know I exist. Would like to go but all I can afford to do is go down to the local grocery store and stare at the day old bread wondering how people can spend money on such an extravagance.