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Open Features: A Day In Court?

Derek McQueen's story tells of disappointing days in court.

"This is an odd looking letter," I said to Jim. That was the only real letter we got; the rest was the usual advertising garbage we receive in the post every day. That would be in February. We really get fed up with all the rubbish. It's such a waste.

I remember it was a dreadful morning with snow three inches deep and more threatened from grey skies. Jim was just about to leave for work at Lincoln Railway Station and was already ten minutes late. He's got a good job there in the ticket office.

"Are you taking the car sweetheart," I said, "you're running a tad late you know."

"I'm waiting for you to open the bloody letter, aren't I," he said. 'It could be a lottery win for all we know." He was getting quite shirty, not like Jim at all.

"Here, you open it, you've made me nervous now. Wouldn't it be incredible if we had won the lottery?" I said.

Jim tore open the letter with visions of a new VW Golf before his eyes. "Just my bloody luck," he yelled as he dashed for the door grabbing the Fiesta keys on his way.

"You've got a date with a judge sweetheart," he said and was gone.

It was true, the letter was summoning me to attend Lincoln Crown Court for jury service. They had given me, Ruby Wagstaffe of this Parish, one month's notice to attend. I would be allowed travel expenses plus a food allowance of 5-91 per day for lunch in the Court canteen. Also I was to advise the court of any afflictions that might prevent me from being a juror. I was somehow flattered that I'd been chosen. It was really exciting. The girls at Tesco, where I had a part time job on the tills, were sick to death of hearing about it. The weeks flew by and on the 17th of March I was ready to go.

"There's no problem at work about giving you a lift to the Castle luv," Jim said. He was as excited as I was if the truth be told. "Call me tonight and I'll pick you up. It doesn't matter what the time is. You might be really late but that's alright."

It was just 9-30 when Jim dropped me off. I was fifteen minutes early.

"Have a good day sweetheart," Jim said. "Talk to you later."

I watched as the Fiesta slowly disappeared down the hill. I had visions of being gripped and fascinated by a serious crime drama unfolding a few feet away from the jury bench. My Walter Mitty moment as I entered the imposing Lincoln Court Building for the first time.

A court clerk was directing jurors to a room set aside for security checking and then on to a much larger room with 'JURORS ONLY' in huge letters on the door.

I was amazed. There must have been at least a hundred other juror candidates in there, all looking as bemused as I was.

"Could I have your attention for a moment everyone. Thank you," the Clerk said in a very loud voice. "In a few minutes you will be shown an instructional video, which explains the court process and your role as a juror."

"We will make our selections and those who are chosen will be called over the speaker system. Not everyone will be selected and this is normal.

If you are not chosen this time you can possibly be called on some future occasion. Thank you."

Having said his party piece, the clerk strode out of the room.

My name wasn't called that day, the Monday and the same was true for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, as I grew increasingly tense and upset. On Friday, the last day, the clerk came into the Jury Room once more and asked for quiet. There were just 17 of us left to be chosen.

"Thank you ladies and gentlemen for your patience and dedication. We have now randomly selected all the jurors we need and you are free to go. It is unlikely that you will be called again in future."

I could have screamed with the frustration of it all. Not even one bloody day in court. It was so disappointing.

When Jim arrived at the Court, I flung myself at him for a hug I was so upset.

A few days later I was back to my old self. Then, on the Tuesday, Jim came home from work early. "I've just called at the courthouse," he blurted out. "You'll never believe this Ruby, they're charging me with careless driving. They reckon I went the wrong way down a one-way street in Brompton. I'm due in court a week on Friday."

**

To read more of Derek's stories please click on http://www.openwriting.com/cgi-bin/mt-search.cgi?IncludeBlogs=1&search=Derek+McQueen

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