Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Excused

It's the second week of my Jury Service. There was nothing happening yesterday (Monday), and so I went to the doctor about my bad toe, which had become noticeably red and swollen. The doctor found no signs of infection, and decided that it was a 'deep-seated blister' - never heard of those before! - which would disappear with time. Meanwhile I was justified in resting the foot as much as possible. That meant it was OK to drive in to Hove, and have only a short distance to walk.

But when I phoned Hove that afternoon, I was instructed to go next day (today, that is) to the Brighton Law Courts instead.

This presented problems, as it's difficult to park in Brighton for a full day, except at vast expense (say £15) in one of the multi-storey city centre car parks. There are a few on-street parking places that let you stay there for as much as 11 hours (for say £5), but they would be a bus ride away from the Brighton Law Courts - and there was no certainty that I'd find any of those spaces free. So Fiona would have to remain at home.

I made up my mind to use public transport instead, walking to Hassocks station, catching the train in, and then taking a bus to as close to the Law Courts as I could get. The number 7 bus was ideal for that. And I wouldn't have to mess around with coins for the bus fare. Nowadays it's a flat £2 for a single journey anywhere in central Brighton; and having installed the Brighton & Hove Buses app on my phone, I would buy two such single tickets online, simply activating them as the bus approached. They would be displayed on my phone screen, which I'd show to the driver. It was all very easy to do. They even emailed me a receipt, which I could print out for my eventual expenses claim. I really can't fault the technology here.

But that walk to the station bothered me. It would have to be taken slowly and gently. The doctor had given me some ibuprofen gel to ease the pain and reduce the inflammation.

However, I went to bed on Monday night with my toe looking redder and feeling more sore than before. The gel wasn't doing it any obvious good. It wasn't easy to get to sleep. If it was a blister - and not something more serious - then it was clearly pressing on something inside the toe, to my considerable discomfort. I did not enjoy a serene night.

Next morning - today - the toe was very tender indeed. Frankly I didn't feel like going in. Walking was very awkward, and rather painful. But of course it was impossible to phone and get hold of anybody to explain: I'd have to grit my teeth and make a personal appearance. This I did. I will say the usher on duty at Brighton, Annie, was most sympathetic. So were my fellow-jurors. Within the hour, Annie had confirmed that I could be excused service that day - a considerable relief, as I just couldn't see myself hobbling around the Law Courts for hour after hour, and all the time my toe getting worse. And what would happen if I got caught up in some case that went on and on?

So I was free to go home. I made some goodbyes. Annie would ring me later. She did. She had decided to excuse me for the rest of the week. Which meant, effectively, that my Jury Service was over.

Now some would have been rather glad to hear that! I wasn't. Although the novelty of Jury Service had worn off somewhat, I hadn't had the full experience I'd been looking forward to.

But in any case I'd got off very lightly. It bothered me that I'd put in an appearance for only four days out of a theoretical ten. This was hardly pulling my weight as far as 'public duty' was concerned. Nor was it fair to most of the other jurors, who would have suffered more inconvenience and disruption than I had. Having a painful but minor foot injury shouldn't give anyone an advantage.

So I told Annie that once my toe was better I'd be happy to put in another week, so long as my booked holidays were respected. I could tell from her reaction that this was much appreciated. They can always use an odd extra juror, if they are available.

Whether they actually take me up on that remains to be seen. I half suspect they will have to say that the system isn't geared up to any arrangement of this sort, and I should just consider myself lucky that so little was asked of me. I might of course be summoned again in the future, although my age is against that happening.

Oh well, it could have been worse. I could have been required to turn up every day, and yet never get selected for the jury box. At least that did happen once.

But it hasn't given me enough juror experience to base a book on. So Lucy Melford, the exciting new novelist, isn't going to be writing a best-seller called Guilty As Charged, M'Lud nor its sequel Keep Your Wig On! unless she uses a very fertile imagination!

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