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I am sitting outside the court. A thin barrister totters towards me. Wig askew. Three large bundles in pink ribbons in her arms. She stumbles on her high-heeled shoes. We make eye contact and I give her a sympathetic look. She dumps the bundles on the low wall beside me, pulls out a packet of cigarettes and a lighter from the depths of her black robe and lights up and lets out a big sigh. ‘Need my fix before the day begins!’ she says.

Around us are the bad, mad and sad. A middle-aged woman, overweight, dyed black hair with a haircut that is too young for her, and clothes that are too tight, stands with two young lads. The older boy has both ears pierced with ear plugs. His lobes will be permanently destroyed. He has a tattoo on his neck, a spider web. Incongruously he wears a suit, nervously, pulling at the tie. The younger is maybe 14 or 15 years old, with just one earring, slim and worried looking. The middle-aged woman hands them both cigarettes and they all light up. She is their mother.

A bit further away an older barrister sprawls on a metal bench. Her wig is disintegrating, just held together with a few fibres. She has a massive thatch of hair. Large clumps of her hair are sprouting through the tattered wig. She is oblivious, probably would not care in any event.

Large fat barrels of men with signet rings, accompanied by minions carrying Archbold and bundles begin to arrive. These people’s wigs are not askew. They stride through the dregs of humanity, not deviating in their trajectory. The mad, bad and sad jump out of their way. They peer through the doors of consulting rooms inside, attempting to intimidate those inside and get them out (that is if the minions have not already been sent early to stake out a room).

Inside, a massive Albanian family with several pretty young women in Primark fashion surround a dubious looking man with a heavy gold neck chain. They and their numerous screaming and crying children take up a large number of the few seats in the waiting area.

A man talks on his mobile about how his medication is running out, saying he is very nervous and that he needs his medication now.

Two young girls walk past. One looks too young to be here, maybe 14 years old. She wears tight clothes, has a massive hairdo and false eyelashes. She is walking with attitude. The eyes of waiting men follow her. Her friend is the opposite, a massive cardigan on a hot day, hanging off her shoulders, exhausted and scared looking. They find a place at the end of the corridor. Out comes a mobile phone and they begin to play music on it. A harried clerk tells them to switch it off. When the clerk is out of earshot, they switch it on again.

There are huddles of people everywhere with palpable tension in the air as the start time approaches. Every so often there is a break in one of the huddles, and a dash to the toilet. Fear is physical. Last minute instructions are taken and the clerks begin to call the cases.

We process these people through a system that is the only one we have, questionable in its effectiveness.

We emerge into the sunlight after warnings are given and plans for future activity made. More cigarettes. Relief. Sunshine.

Afterwards, because it is Friday,  I get on the train and go to the sea where it is green and quiet.


Posted July 28, 2012 by mshambainlondon in Curious incidents, Random, Summer in London

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