Tuesday, April 28, 2009


  1. I don't know what's at Number One in the Charts, and I don't care.
  2. I still don't understand the attraction of Facebook and Twitter. No, don't bother trying to explain.
  3. Until this week I didn't realise the speed limit on a Dual Carriageway was 70mph.
  4. Until this week I thought a Dual Carriageway was just two lanes of traffic both ways. Check out the proper definition here. Tell me I'm not the only confused motorist. Tell me I'm not the only confused Magistrate.
  5. I want Barcelona to win the Champions League. Messi and Eto'o are awesome. Thierry Henry can still play a bit too.
  6. Instead of listening to moody Indie music online, I've been listening to The Carpenters. I don't care what you think : I now have no stress although I still don't quite understand Richard Carpenter's attraction to Wurlitzer organs.
  7. I find this joke funny even though noone else in my world does - Times New Roman goes into a pub. Barman turns to him and says "We don't serve your type in here".
  8. I didn't finish the crossword in The Guardian today. I did learn a new word though - "Asseverate" - it's a flowery way of saying "to state something". I shall use it often at the least excuse.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Twit ?

This Magistrate, the distinguished IT consultant Steve Molyneux, fell on his sword after using the social networking site Twitter to report on cases in his court. It's a heck of a shame - judging by his wikipedia entry (even if he wrote it himself) he's a clever, successful man who cares about his community and so is likely to be a loss to the Telford bench.

According to his history on Twitter (here) all he did was report one-liner descriptions of the cases he heard the same day, without giving any names or personal details. Seems a fellow Magistrate reported him and he resigned rather than go through any misconduct hearing.

I personally don't think he did anything wrong or anything to be ashamed about. There is no guidance at all about how Magistrates should behave where the Internet is concerned so what rule did he break? More importantly, who did he hurt ?

All the same, I'll certainly be remaining anonymous and I will continue to disguise the details of my cases. However, should the HMCS ever publish guidelines for Magistrates regarding online activities, I will immediately comply and would remove any non-compliant material from this site.

What possessed the other Magistrate to rat him out ? That's the question that haunts me. I'm sure there's a wonderfully human story to be told.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Blogging, Northern Exposure, The Wire and Thomas Aquinas

The following makes no sense - don't try looking for any sense. Because there isn't any.

If anyone's confused as to why I write this blog, let them look no further than the fact that I made my girl Stanetta laugh when she read my description of our rush to the hospital. Most teenage girls laugh at their fathers (usually when they're dancing) so it's really special to think that we can share a joke, especially when the subject matter was an experience that was full of physical and emotional pain for us both at time.

I actually like the idea that the comments have stopped coming since I changed the rules. The people I care about still find ways to tell me their opinions on what I've written, so I get all the feedback I need. I should probably miss all the anony-mouses, but I don't.

It all reminds me of the 1990's TV series "Northern Exposure" - I feel more and more like Chris-in-the-Morning, the DJ broadcasting his thoughts to hardly anyone and few moose way up in Alaska. The trick is just to dance like no-one's watching - to blog like no-one's reading - to twitter like .... Nah - don't bother twittering, tweeting, clucking or chirping. In fact, avoid all bird noises and passing Internet fads altogether.

I was actually intending to make this posting about how great "The Wire" is, but I got distracted. If you haven't watched it, it's like "Hill Street Blues" meets "The Sopranos" in six dimensions. Hopeless - it's absolutely impossible to explain what it's like.

It also seems impossible to find new ways to say how great it is. But great it is. Infinitely great. How do you describe something that is infinitely great.

Sounds like a job for Thomas Aquinas :-

  1. "The Wire" is a slick Unity bringing seamlesly together plot, dialogue, acting or cinematography.
  2. "The Wire" is perfect, lacking nothing. That is, "The Wire" is distinguished from other TV series on account of its complete actuality.
  3. "The Wire" is infinite. That is, it is not finite in the ways that dramedies and docusoaps are physically, intellectually, and emotionally limited. This infinity is to be distinguished from infinity of size and infinity of number.
  4. "The Wire" is infinitely capable of change on the levels of its essence and character.
  5. Yes, "The Wire" really is that good.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Stanetta is recovering at home from her appendectomy and post-operative urinary infection. I can feel she's wishing someone would now surgically remove the boredom of convalescence. I'm still an emotional wreck after the trauma of the last couple of weeks and I'm barely capable of putting a few bullet points together. Any kind of nuanced narrative will have to wait.

As I mentioned, she picked up a urinary infection after her operation and we needed to do yet another mercy dash to A&E on Saturday night. She had gas & air (nitrous oxide or N2O or laughing gas) for the pain which seems to be a very potent drug. I remember Mrs Stan got some for the stitches after childbirth and in minutes she went from terrible pain to singing "We're Walking In The Air". Stanetta had a similarly short journey from crippling abdominal pain to telling a long smiley rambling story about how she was a fish with a iridescent tail. Wish I'd written it all down.

So N2O is a powerful drug - I seem to remember it used to be a party drug. Didn't they used to fill balloons from cannisters appropriated from make-your-own-whipped-cream sets or from Nitro Injection kits from garages? Has it fallen out of fashion ?

More importantly : is it illegal and is it dangerous ?

Well, it's not a Class A, B or C drug, so doesn't fall under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

My guess is that it probably falls under the Medicine Act. This puts a heavy tariff on supplying prescription drugs without a licence, but possession or misuse is specifically not an offence.

There's another potential piece of legislation that could cover it - The Intoxicating Substance (Supply) Act 1985. This covers solvent, glue and aerosol-sniffing, but again it puts restrictions on supplying while not criminalising users.

When I went looking for further information, I found it doesn't feature at all on the government's "Frank" drug information site. This was a disappointment - but they invite you to text 82111 with your question and it will be answered by an expert.

I decided to do so, hoping that some government mega-computer didn't look up my mobile phone number and put "possible drug addict" in the big thick file they presumably hold on everyone.

Text Message to 82111 ("Frank") : "Why does laughing gas not get mentioned ? Is it illegal ? Is it dangerous ?"

Almost immediately I got an automated reply saying that my message will shortly be answered by "a professionally trained adviser". Oh good.

Fifteen minutes later I got my reply from the professionally trained adviser.

"Unfortunately we don't have information on Nitrous oxide. Further information may be obtainable from the internet. Call FRANK for help with illegal drugs."

This is the worst answer I can think of. A friend of mine lectures on Information Science and the first lesson they have to get across to their students is that any bozo can put stuff on the Internet, so don't just trust Google and Wikipedia - go find an authorative source.

In fact, if you do look on Google for prescription drugs, you're more likely to find information about how to obtain them through the post than whether you'll get busted or dead or both.

Frank is an excellent source of information about the standard "Classified" controlled drugs, but if someone has gone to to the lengths to ask for help, surely they can do something better for them than to refer them to "the internet"?

I'm not an authorative source, and my research failed to find a definitive view on the legality of possessing and using nitrous oxide - but I am convinced that it's not safe like sniffing glue is not safe. It starves your brain of oxygen, makes you incapable and vulnerable, can put you into a coma and is habit-forming.

So, Frank says : Go Away And Google It.

Stan says : Definitely Don't Do It.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Not In A Mood To Blog

Stanetta started with stabbing pains in her tummy on Easter Monday. We were having a day out in Warrington (good coffee but otherwise not a place I'd recommend for a mini-break). We headed for home thinking she just needed some anti-inflammatories but on the way back the pain got dramatically worse and so I headed the car towards our local hospital and drove, my hands shaking, through the Bank Holiday traffic to A&E. Magistrate or not, if the traffic hadn't have been so heavy, I would have broken some or all of the rules of the road to get her there even one minute faster.

Which reminds me : I'd like to apologise to all the oldies with tartan rugs on their parcel shelves and to the legion of bank holiday drivers of Rovers who were wearing driving gloves. You were in my way, but you weren't to know that. I confess I wished you'd all get out of my pigging way and stay out of my pigging way, and that's not nice. When your child is in pain, everyone in the world is an obstacle. I hope none of you were psychic to the extent that you would have perceived my hatred of you and your maddeningly pedantic driving. I hope it didn't spoil your trip to whichever National Trust property you were visiting. Sorry.

Anyway, after the most nerve-wracking and wretched drive of my life, we made it to the hospital. Fortunately there were few customers and so it looked like Stanetta could be seen relatively quickly. A boy came in after her who had been playing football on gravel (what could possibly go wrong). He was seen first ! Before my Stanetta !

In my mind I stood up and shouted "Oi ! Kid. You're a big girl's blouse. That's just a scratch. Wash it off and let your mammy kiss it better. You don't need to see the doctor. Scram." But I didn't.

Eventually Stanetta went in to be examined, her mum tagged along and I stayed in the waiting room watching the Bank Holiday victims arrive. I found myself trying to use telepathy to convince them that their symptoms didn't require treatment and that they shouldn't distract the doctors and nurses from the important job of fixing my Stanetta. It was a sorry set of victims - one had been medivac'ed from a skiing holiday with a broken leg, a tree had fallen on an elderly gardener and one overweight middle-aged man complained of chest pains after horsing around with his kids. Obstacles every one of them. I imagined barring the door to stop people wandering in distracting the doctors from their primary mission of fixing my Stanetta. I got some funny looks - I'm sure my scowl was a picture.

Stanetta was finally admitted to the children's ward and we waited a few painful hours to see whether it was just constipation. It wasn't. As time went on, it became increasingly likely that it was appendicitis and just before midnight she was operated on, and a swollen appendix removed.

And now she's in hospital recovering and I'm in no kind of shape to blog. Parents of sick children are boring - they don't have a waking thought that isn't about their sick kid and all they want from you (unless you're a doctor, a nurse or surgeon) is that you get out of the pigging way and stay out of the pigging way.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

A Year from When ?

Update : The Premiership footballer Ricardo Fuller was in court today with what looks like a similar misunderstanding about Residence and the 12-month rule. He didn't get the same outcome as in the case below so presumably the details of the offence and the offender were different.


Klaatu (not his real name) came from a place far, far away but he spoke excellent English with a heavy accent. Good enough English anyway to allow him to conduct his own defence in a Magistrates' Court where he stood accused of driving without a licence.

Klaatu had come to this country to work a few years ago. He had stayed consistently and legally for over five years and every year he would take holiday to make the long journey home to spend some time with his family.

It's quite well known that you can use a foreign driving licence in this country for twelve months before you have to apply for a provisional licence and pass the British test. However, Klaatu explained to us that it was "common knowledge" among people from his country that if you left the UK and then came back then the clock started all over again.

Now, you are going to think "Common knowledge ain't so common. Surely he should have checked the legal position".

Well, Klaatu had. Several times. He even had it in writing after visiting one of the DVLA local offices. They told him that it was 12 months "from the time he last entered the country".

Our legal advisor wanted to make sure of the position so she phoned DVLA Swansea and spoke to someone "with an accent like Max Boyce" who assured her that it was "twelve months since first becoming resident, boyo". You would hope that she made up the "boyo" part.

I've been an accountant so I know what fun can be had from defining whether someone is "resident" for tax purposes - were we really expected to rule on whether he was resident for the purposes of the DVLA?

Well, that's exactly what we did. We found that Klaatu had technically broken some laws but he had a good papertrail showing that he had made an honest attempt to try to determine the legal position and had been incorrectly advised by people who should have known better.

We therefore found him guilty, but gave him an Absolute Discharge (no penalty). The chair then advised him that from that moment on he must not drive until he had passed the UK test. Klaatu smiled the biggest smile I've seen this year, bowed to us and promised to pass the word about the twelve month rule among his people.

I think justice was done here. It doesn't seem right that a visitor can get out of having to do the UK driving test by (say) taking the boat to Dublin, eating a pizza and taking the boat straight back once a year.

But equally it would have been hard on Klaatu to have punished him when he had tried his best, been poorly advised and it seems that even some legal advisors and some DVLA staff aren't totally certain of the applicable law.

Twelve months from the date you first became resident : tell your friends.

Which part of "The Past" are you having a problem with ?!

I was watching the blokes from Abba on BBC Breakfast this morning and found myself nodding along. They had been asked (probably for the ten millionth time this year) whether they thought Abba would ever perform together again.

No. They didn't. They honestly though it would likely disappoint the audience and it would disappoint them.

Fleetwood Mac are touring again and even though I'm a huge fan of their music I don't think I'll be attending. Stevie Nicks' voice circa 1978 was one of the greatest musical instruments of all time, but nowadays there's a lot of post-production needed to make it sound good on a recording. Live ? No chance. Backing singers woud have to cover for her and Mick would have to hit those drums really quite hard.

That said, I went to a rather brilliant Joe Jackson gig a few years ago and enjoyed it immensely.

What is it that some bands are better off staying home and counting the royalties, while others can play in six decades and have something fresh to say to each of them ?

I'm going to see Lou Reed and Mrs Lou Reed (Laurie Anderson) in July. I'm not going to be the guy in the audience yelling "We Want Nico!". The Velvet Underground are not coming back and there's no compelling reason why they should. Lou Reed is as creative in the 2000's as he was in 1960's and I'm looking forward to seeing what he comes up with next.

Plus, Laurie Anderson cracks me up.

Friday, April 03, 2009

The Opposite of Serendipity

If you're interested in what Connie Francis was doing at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport in 1970 - then Google think this site is the place to be.

Radio Free Stan came out top of the search listings for the search string "connie francis op schiphol 1970" on Dutch Google when someone tried that search yesterday.

That's probably doubly true today after I've mentioned the words Connie, Francis, Schiphol and the year 1970 above. Twice.

And a third time just now. Must stop doing that.

Google's search engine is pretty dumb sometimes, because the truth is I can only just about hum "Lipstick on your Collar" and I can recommend the chips with satay sauce at the airport while you're waiting for the fast train to Brussels in the morning and in 1970 I was running around Blackpool in short trousers making car noises. Additionally, ik spreek niet goed Nederlands, which might be a problem if you're one of the three or four people in Holland who don't speak totally flawless English.

Radio Free Stan after three years now runs to a few hundred thousand words and so the search engines' dumb brute-force algorithm regularly brings people together from all over the world to find no information at all about Schiphol airport, decorating bakewell tarts and houghmagandies.

Hopefully the person who was searching on "Why do you want to be a Magistrate ?" found something useful though.