Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Man Who Didn't Know His Rs From His Elbow

As I have said before, we sometimes have to use interpreters in court, West London being a cosmopolitan sort of place. We were taking a routine traffic court one day when a Japanese man turned up to answer his summons for speeding. It was a perfectly run-of-the-mill case and would have been dealt with by fixed penalty if he had not been driving on a non-EU licence. He produced a rectangle of plastic bearing his photograph and a lot of Japanese writing. He handed it up when asked for his licence, but for all we knew it could have been his library ticket. It was clear that his English was very basic indeed, but we decided against adjourning the case for an interpreter as matters were so simple, he was pleading guilty, and it seemed unnecessary to spend public money as well as inconvenience the defendant. So I spoke loudly and clearly, and asked him about his financial circumstances, as I am required to do. He didn't really get it at first, but we got a plausible income level from him, then I asked if he paid rent or a mortgage. Blank look. "Do you own your house?" "Is no 'ouse. Is frat." "Does it belong to you?" "No, is lented frat."

That was a good few years ago, but to this day I cannot pass an apartment block without wondering whether they are lented frats.

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