Thursday, June 01, 2006

Hauled Before The Beak

Pashmina correctly notes today that blogging is a good thing, because it inspires you to go out and do stuff so that you have something to write about.

If I didn't have this blog, for example, I would never have skinny-dipped in the phosphorescent waters of the southern Caribbean, attended an obscure electronica festival in Helsinki or met cyberpunk-tastic author Bruce Sterling.

But when I got up this morning I was convinced that today's shenanigans would top all of those. Ever since that time I was tear-gassed in Park Lane amid the burning cars, I've quite fancied myself as an urban guerrilla, a lone fugitive from justice, an off-world outlaw cruising the meatspaces and metaverses of West London armed only with a samurai sword and a copy of Elle Decoration.

My mysterious-lone-renegade status manifests itself in many ways, including, it seems, accidentally failing to pay for vital local authority services. So when I was summoned to court for not paying The Man's own repressive Council Tax, I judged that I had two choices: submit weakly, or defend myself heroically in a Court of Law. 'I could just phone the council,' I thought, 'but going to court - now *that* would be something to blog about'.

So off to court I went, having taken the sensible precaution of actually paying the council tax first, just in case they wanted to send me to prison or something. That would be something to blog about as well, but I don't think they let you take laptops in, and even if they did, they probably don't have wi-fi.

In my mind, I'd imagined it would be like the climactic courtroom scene in JFK, with Kevin Costner (me) delivering a moving and brilliant soliloquy that demonstrated beyond any doubt that The Man had no case against me, and that I had as much right to have my rubbish removed and my street illuminated as any other tax-paying resident of W12.

To my great disappointment, it wasn't like that at all. I was ushered to a table where a nice lady told me that I wouldn't have to pay any court charges, seeing as I was up to date with my payments, and asked me if I wanted to pay by direct debit from now on. I said 'yes please' and filled in a form. The whole thing took two minutes. I briefly considered creating a scene, just so I could have something to blog about, but I had to get back to work.

I didn't even get to use the blog post title that I'd made up on the way there, which was 'I Mumbled A Bit At The Law, But The Law Won'. Still, I *did* get to use the phrase 'hauled before the beak', which is one of my favourite expressions in the whole of English idiom. So perhaps it wasn't a wasted effort after all.



Spinsterella said...

Um, why were you hauled before the beak if you'd actually paid?

Is it just becasue you were a bit late?

Does this mean that lawyers get paid for, well, frig-all really?

patroclus said...

They're a bit hasty here Spin - miss one month's payment and you're suddenly London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham's Most Wanted.

Smat said...

and here I was, practising baking cakes of the right consistency to hide a nail file. Or a laptop. Damn, I'll just have to eat them all myself.

Paul Pennyfeather said...

My favourite phrase of the moment is:
"hoist by your own petard"
which isn't actually appropriate but I thought that the internet needed it.

Glad to see you are still writing for other people to see, so much better than hiding in a book.

Pashmina said...

Does this mean that lawyers get paid for, well, frig-all really?

Only the ones who do conveyancing

*stomp stomp mutter mutter*

Good work though, Pat, that's Blog Post 1, Criminal Record 0. Result!

james henry said...

i bought Elle Decoration today.

hen said...

Well yeah, petty Government officials don't like fucking with the middle class especially not mildly acquiescent, direct debit signing ones.

Luckily I don't have to pay the Council Tax as my hippy landlady is still paying it as she cavorts across the middle east looking for whatever it is she is trying to find - which I don't think was the intension of the tax at all.

Well I am sure I had a point but it seems to have gone.

Something about how the Council Tax is the Poll Tax re-branded so you are keeping it real or something.

Tim Footman said...

Cheer up, at least you're not in the Land of Smiles (sic). A friend of mine just spent a few hours in chokey for non-payment of bribes.

patroclus said...

Smat: The laptop cake sounds good. Can I come round for tea?

PP: Oo, that's one of my least favourite phrases - usually because if I have to use it, it generally means I've made some terrible grammatical error.

Pash: The thing that always used to get me about conveyancers is that they insist on living in a quaint Dickensian world of quills and letters and wax seals, and refuse to acknowledge the existence of email, thus prolonging any property transaction by at least three months (or, in the case of my house in Scotland, a year).

James: Congratulations - you're well on your way to becoming a metropunk anti-hero. I was appalled to see that this month's cover story is "Brad Pitt: His Amazing Home". If I wanted Hello, I'd buy Hello. Mind you, they did Gillian Anderson's house once, and it was ace.

Hen: Right on! My motives for not paying the council tax were of course entirely political and principled, and nothing at all to do with general scattiness.

Tim: Land of Smiles? Thailand must be a very strange place. My only knowledge of Thai prisons comes from Bridget Jones II (which obviously I only watched for 'research purposes'), and that may not have been an entirely accurate representation.

taigathefox said...

Greetings from the Land of Ear Plugs.

Dave again said...

I always thought the correct useage was 'Foist by your own petard'?

Neither actually makes sense, although perhaps they do in older versions of English. A petard being a kind of hand-grenade, one is actually blown-up by it, rather than hoist or foist.

Dave again said...

I can remember my English teacher getting very annoyed, and telling us that it was 'foist'. Sadly the mists of time obscure any further memories as to why he believed that.

Research implies that 'hoist' used to mean 'to bring down' (ie the complete opposite of what it now means) and thus may be correct.

In which case, please ognore me, unless you feel like starting anew thread, exploring the meaning of phrases.

What did the Picts feel about this subject?

Dave again said...

'ognore': to throw small stones at someone, until they go away (derivation, Viking [poss. Pictish]).

Pashmina said...

Hmm. If the internet is to be believed, it's "hoist" from "to hoise" meaning "to lift" - hence "hoist (lifted) by one's own petard (bomb)". Apparently it's in Shakespeare, so it must be right.

I might wait till I get home and check in Fowler's though.

patroclus said... sez:

The French used pétard, "a loud discharge of intestinal gas," for a kind of infernal engine for blasting through the gates of a city. "To be hoist by one's own petard," a now proverbial phrase apparently originating with Shakespeare's Hamlet (around 1604) not long after the word entered English (around 1598), means "to blow oneself up with one's own bomb, be undone by one's own devices." The French noun pet, "fart," developed regularly from the Latin noun peditum, from the Indo-European root *pezd-, "fart."

Dave again said...

I'd come across the same research that the two Ps had, but also found:

Roughly translated from the 18th Century (Dutch) vernacular that it originated from: "To be clobbered (overtaken, defeated or fisted) by one's own effluence."
'foist' comes from the Dutch 'vuist' = English 'fist'.

patroclus said...

There'll be no talk of fisting on this blog, thank you very much, Dave.

Dave again said...

I did delete the very rude bit of that quotation.

I apologise for lowering the tone.

Billy said...

Ooh that reminds me. I owe Hammersmith and Fulham some money. I must pay it before they try and make me pay it in one go.

And now H&F has gone Tory, isn't that supposed to mean cheaper council tax? I might write to the council and complain.

Tamburlaine said...

I thought the beak was a magistrate? Or was it the magistrates' court that you were hauled to?

patroclus said...

Billy: They soon back down over that 'paying it all in one go' thing. In my case, even before I'd brought it up in my mythical Jim Garrison-esque speech. Phew.

Tamburlaine: I think it was the County Court, which is like a ramshackle array of trestle tables in the foyer of the Magistrates' Court. So maybe not so much a 'beak' as a 'wing-tip'.

The best bit was when I got outside and an outrageously camp individual asked me for a cigarette, enquiring 'have you just come from the court?' in mock-dramatic tones, as if I was some notorious mass murderer. It was like a scene from The Long Firm.

No, really it was. Oh alright, I'll shut up about my court 'appearance' now.

prolix said...

Next month - treason!!

Ceridwen Devi said...

Just as long as the old Bill doesn't turn up on your doorstep at four in the morning with 250 of his mates asking why you bought all those bottles of cleaning fluid at Sainsbury's that as it turns out when mixed together make a nuclear bomb or something. No, I don't think they have WiFi in Belmarsh yet.