There is no finer free entertainment than that provided by our courts and I am surprised that so few people take advantage of their right to attend. The fun begins even in the waiting area where the accused on bail foregather. You can usually tell them by the fact that their girlfriends’ names are tattooed in copper-plate on their necks: Greater love hath no man etc., etc.
The other day I went to give evidence in a murder trial. As I waited to get on, as we in the expert-witness trade call being ushered into the witness box, I overheard an enormous tattooed Indian with three gold rings like knuckledusters on both hands shouting down his telephone ‘The other charges ain’t got dropped.’ Now that’s what I call assimilation. Mind you, it will probably turn out in the near future that his gold knuckledusters have been the best investment of his or anyone else’s life.
Then there was a well-spoken black man with diamond studs in each of his ears saying to his solicitor ‘I know I can’t see her, but why can’t I send her a present?’ He continued: ‘She’s a beautiful girl, don’t get me wrong, but she’ll take you in as soon as you look at her.’
I went up to the notice board. There was a notice that asked whether you ‘Need help with your problems?’ It went on to ask ‘Are you having any problems with your landlord?’ Needless to say there was no equivalent question, ‘Are you having problems with your tenant?’
As it happens my next door neighbour is a landlord. He has just won a herculean legal battle, costing several thousands, to evict the tenants of one of his flats who have been in receipt of housing benefit and have paid him no rent for a year. When finally he managed to evict them, he found that all their bills were unpaid: gas, electricity, telephone. The only bill they paid punctually was for Sky television. Their son, living with them, was on a salary of £70,000 a year.
Another of the questions asked by the notice was the following: ‘Are your debts out of control?’ In other words, debts contract people, not the other way round. Could this way of looking at the matter be the key to our current situation, which is a pas de deux between an infantilised population and a dishonest government?
First published in Salisbury Review.
Posted on 12/09/2012 6:27 AM by Theodore Dalrymple