Let's see. The JB had a big day yesterday. He got his Fellowship (of the Ring! my brain keeps helpfully adding); preparations to leave home find other work accommodation are on-going, though we don't know yet which term he will start fellowshipping in. And, as if that weren't enough, he also passed his driving test. No more white knuckle Saturday morning drives for me, folks, that's right. I am most happy and relieved.
No news from the US of A.
I have some processing to do. Feel free to skim/skip, this may very well be dull.
Last week I got empanelled as a juror. The selection process is the most stressful tedium you can imagine; a hundred or so members of fine Dublin citizenry in a large carpeted room with television screens lining the walls. After ages of the tense boredom, the court finally appears on the screen showing the judge and a defendant in a new suit. The registrar announces the crime and starts reading out names. The sight of the defendant and everyone shaking their heads at the crime gives you a sudden chill. This is horribly real. Start praying you won't be called. When your name is called, it gives you an unpleasant jolt of recognition. Oh no. You queue up, you file in to the court, and no one challenges you, although they throw out two grey-haired elderly gentlemen and a cool young woman. Apparently you look reasonable; maybe you should have worn your pink runners, or a fake sleeve tattoo? You are sworn in. Your lips feel like rubber but somehow you don't fumble it.
There is some preamble from a barrister about the case and what your role is therein. You are important; you must try and test the case to the best of your ability. You are to "decide the facts" of the case. How can you decide a fact? You are grateful for the other members of the jury, you are not alone, at least. In your meeting room you exchange some nervous we're-in-this-together smiles and some of your number, a tall man in motorbike gear, makes unfortunate jokes and honks with laughter. Fantastic, I'm sequestered here with a shower of eejits, you think uncharitably.
You're told to come back the next day when the case proper is to start. You go home, but the experience looms large in your mind all night. This is bigger than you are. The next day, there is evidence from a Guard. He has made a map of a family home. Then on a video link evidence is given by the complainant. And then from the complainant's mother. It's really complicated; you are given a large amount of information about the family circumstances. More than might seem necessary. No one says Objection, Your Honour at all, or Hearsay!; maybe that's American. Or Hollywood, but you'd like to say it. Instead you must just sit there and listen. The judge have wigs on, deliberately formal and strange. This bit takes you up to lunch, which you have in an airless dining room. You are not allowed to mix with other juries - as if you would. You only want to talk about the case, but you've been warned not to by the judge, until it is appropriate. You are getting to know your jury members, there's a sort of reluctant bonding between you, though you all keep saying how you'd prefer to be in work, to be honest. Yeah, well, you might as well be honest. You're ushered back down the corridor by your Jury Minder. There's a lot of ushering, and standing in a row beside the wall while another jury is shepherded by. There's another time when you are told to sit on the stairs while a legal moment (15 to 20 normal moments) goes by. Other juries go by, their minders point to us and say they're bold, they're sitting on the naughty step. This is court room corridor humour, apparently, so help us.
Back in there, the next day, and you hear more evidence from a guard. There are startling revelations about the mother, and how a diary came to be in evidence. Again, seemingly not pertinent and embarrassing to know. After lunch the barristers sum up the case. The barrister for the prosecution is very restrained. He just states the facts as he sees them. But the barrister for the defence is astonishingly skilful, he weaves a case so that you have no option but to draw the conclusions he wants. It is electrifying. You may not like it, but he has placed reasonable doubt in your head 5 or 6 times already. He's staring up at you knowing in his heart that you are reasonable, decent people. He's restrained, he doesn't bully or cajole. He just makes you think things you didn't think before; there's reasonable doubt and so you can't convict.
To your relief, when you finally come to deliberate, the others agree. Everyone has reasonable doubt. You're grateful for these strangers, they have taken great care with their task. They have thought hard, not jumped to conclusions, have considered it from both points of view. They are not a shower of eejits, as it happens; your faith in humanity is restored, even if it's not in the judicial system. No one feels good about it, but the barrister has done his job and the defendant is acquitted. If you were in no doubt about the seriousness of it all, the drama of the moment when the registrar reads out the verdict to the courtroom, with all parties present, is palpable.
You file out for the last time. You say goodbye and good luck to the other jurors. Of course, this being Ireland, it has turned out you know one of them, to see. Of course you do. A woman whom you expect never to see again, despite this, says: No disrespect, but I hope we don't meet again. You have to laugh. You go home; at least it's over.