Jury’s Out

A nice white envelope drops onto the mat, with the address all beautifully written in black ink. Things are looking up, I think – certainly a lovely change from all those horrid beige bills. I rip it open, only for an official Summons to leap out and bite me.

Yikes! The Coroner, Mr John Sampson, to whom I have not even been formally introduced, is demanding my presence at Southwark Coroner’s Court next month. For a moment, my mind goes blank. Have I accidentally killed Child One during one of our spats over why the correct position for school uniform is not on the shower room floor covered in shampoo? Did I run over Child Two by mistake when pretending to leave for school without her in a flurry of rubber? Well, no. They are both still present and correct, despite enormous daily provocation. Even True Love is still living and breathing somewhere, I do believe.

Why on earth does Mr Sampson want me, then, if not as a defendant? I’m definitely not a lawyer – by some ridiculous oversight I forgot to get the training and become filthy rich.

Aha, further down the horrid summons I see what it’s all about. I am to become one of the twelve ‘good men and true’ – and sit on a jury.

Well, of course I can’t do it. I’m a woman for a start. A divorced woman, with no childcare in place.

And, the thought strikes me, a journalist. Aha, this is how I got out of it last time – claiming that I had privileged information about the way trials run. We hacks in the know, the theory runs, can tell the way the evidence is stacked by the angle the barrister wears his wig.

So I make a mental note to Google coroners’ courts proceedings the moment I have the time, scribble down Professional Journalist on the ‘pathetic excuses’ portion of the form (how all my employers would laugh!), send it off, and keep my fingers crossed. Later on, I pop round to see the lovely B, who is icing the most gorgeous birthday cake for one of her adorable, talented offspring (the type, naturally, who would never smear their uniforms in shampoo or keep their mummies waiting). ‘Jury service? Oh, I got off that once,’ she says airily, putting the finishing touches to a plate of party sandwiches, shoving a lasagne in the oven for her husband, making a batch of fairy cakes with her right foot and supervising the (rather handsome) gardener with her left eyebrow.

‘How?’ I say idly, thinking she can’t possibly top my years of non-training as a feature writer. My last piece on education in Europe alone ought to convince anyone I couldn’t possibly sit on a jury. ‘Oh, I just said I was depressed. Mentally incapable,’ smiles B, filling divine little party bags with sweeties and lining them all up just so. Sometimes, I could swear she has a magic wand.

There is no-one more mentally capable than B. Why on earth didn’t I think of doing the same? I sit there, mired in gloom, reviewing my shortcomings one more time – a lengthy process these days – then realise the wonderful truth. I really am depressed! Yippee, they can’t make me a jury member now. Can they?

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