As per usual, the Bench and Bar (licensed to sell all intoxicating liquors for consumption on and off the premises and occasionally in the doorway)(just across the road from the old magistrates’ court) was slow to fill up.

First in, early afternoon, were the freshly acquitted, quaffing a quick quart of relief and leaving in a hurry. Or not.

Then came the triumphant claimants for damages, dutifully damaging their livers with multicoloured spirits.

At six of the clock dead the court clerks arrived, they went about their drinking meticulously. (The basic routine is as follows: always open with two pints. Idem. Ibidem gin, cf. vodka. Most orders are pro se but on a payday you might get a round ex parte. Repeat until non sum qualis eram.)

The clerks were followed by The Man Who Had Nothing To Say. ‘Good evening to you all’, would The Man Who Had Nothing To Say say with clockwork precision

The judges only popped in to say hello and grab a packet of pork scratchings for the journey home.

The barristers always came late, after they were thrown out of their inns. ‘Gentlemen, we’ve been called to the bar’, quips inevitably the one leading the procession, to which the polite answer is ‘Ah, that joke never gets old, doesn’t it?’, but the crowd just murmurs to themselves instead. (Except for The Man Who Had Nothing To Say, who was well-known for talking through the night without repetition, interruption or deviation from the subject of nothing in particular.)

They sat around a table and sung heartily until closing time. The others didn’t like the barristers very much.

Nobody really does.


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