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My mother often used to say

  • 17 February 2015

Jurors I've never been on jury duty. We teachers were excused, we thought, in case some former charge of ours might suffer retribution or be sent away scot-free. Now I find that's not quite true. However it may be, I've yet to be empanelled, perched there in the shine of blackwood, attending as a neophyte to all those suave professionals, so smoothly adversarial, so Latinate and fluent, whom centuries have wigged and gowned. Thus it happens I've not heard the halting evidence of sergeants serrated by a silk. I've never caught a prosecutor's Shakespearean finale, Her Honour giving last instructions. I've never been sequestered with eleven other human beings randomly selected. Along with them, I've yet to be tested by forensics or the fine points of psychiatry, its double diagnoses, and all the worldly vagaries of crime-scene DNA. The shapes of those blunt instruments, the photographs, CCTV, would variously appall us. There is a doubt that's 'reasonable'; another one that’s not. Together, we'd be no more than the sum of all our dispositions. That man there in the dock who would have eyed us off for weeks might find he knows no more of us than how we dress or smile. He'd try to read each sharp intake of breath. With freedom or incarceration equally at stake, a flannel shirt or well-cut skirt may equally deceive. Outside, the world is certified: doctors, plumbers, engineers. We jurors find we also share a certain expertise, we amateurs alone who can be trusted with the truth. In the city of the fortunate Stockholm In the city of the fortunate everyone, it seems, or almost is tall and tanned and blond; young as well, or if not quite, then silver and distinguished. It is the final day of summer. Here and there perhaps a Roma woman with her plastic cup. Here and there a face or two that comes from somewhere else, darker, more remote. Edged in on the fortunate they too stand a little taller. Is it possible, we think, to be an honorary blond? Fortune here is rubbing off on almost everyone. The budget is precisely balanced, the government agreeable and pleasurably bland. The temper here