Well well well. I’m back in Reading after my trip to Rotherham to face the music. It’s been a hell of a day. I’ll take you through it.
First of all there was the wake up call, which ultimately required me to put on a new suit and get ready for a day of waiting for justice to be served. There was coffee as a chocolate brioche for breakfast, though, so it wasn’t all bad.
Then I was taken near enough to the railway station to walk there. I bought my ticket, deciding at the last minute to pay the extra £6 for a first class ticket. If I’m going to go to court, I may as well go in style.
Ironically, there were no first class seats on the train I took. Pointless. There were some whittering women on there, replaced by some annoying get-a-job-you-pointless-wasters young women, one of whom had an annoying child in tow and clearly needed to look after it.
A Few Words On The Subject of Authority
Reading The God Delusion helped. It resonated with a bunch of ideas that I’ve either had, or half had. It presented some theories which made sense to me. It blew religion as far out of the water as I’d like religion to be blown. Overall, I already had the conclusion about the underlying fallacy of religion, but I still entertained some of the bizarre tolerances relating to the expression of faith which are endemic in our culture.
The book helped me put a name to some of the phenomena, and helped me see the things that I’ve been thinking put down more clearly. Don’t get me wrong, some of Dawkins’s prose is hyperbole and rhetoric, but he can back it all up with logic when you get down to the root of the argument. Religion has to step back going “wooooh” when you mine it too deeply. And that’s the point.
One of Dawkins’s theories is very convenient and maybe helps explain some of what was bothering me over the course of today. I was very crushed today. Looking around the Magistrates’ Court, I was surrounded by people who break the law quite easily, and yet for me the process I was going through would totally change my life if I were given a driving ban, since I couldn’t conceive of getting a car second hand, giving false details and driving it uninsured for a few months until I was road legal again. Even though this would solve the problem quite easily… I say I couldn’t conceive of it. I obviously could think of the plan, but I don’t think I could follow it through.
Why did the atmostphere in the court room and the occasion itself have the power to crush me so much? Well, Dawkins suggests a theory whereby it is a human instinct, an evolved trait, to respect authority from youth. Why? Well, because as defenceless children, we need to learn a lot about the world in order to survive in it. We rely on parents to say “don’t go there” and “be careful of the…” in order to learn how to cope with the world. This inbuilt respect of authority figures is innate.
Well, maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s learned. Maybe I feel the crushing weight of genuine authority because I learned it as a child.
Either way, I was to have a day under authority’s thumb.
I was not in Rochdale. I could have gone to Rochdale. I even nearly asked for a ticket to Rochdale. It was the wrong place.
I got to Rotherham for about 11am. I quickly found the courthouse and then basically had to kill time until my proposed arrival time of 2pm. I thought I’d find a coffee shop. Maybe a nice Costa, Nero or Starbucks. Hey, maybe they’d have WiFi. Maybe I could plug my laptop in and do some surfing, take my mind off things.
Not in Rotherham. After a wander around their town, I found a Baker’s Oven. Yes. A Baker’s Oven, where they sold me a capuccino and a sandwich. Not impressed. Luckily I’d had a Starbucks while waiting in Leeds station for my non-first-class-equipped train to bring me to this place. I felt like I was on some sort of middle-class outreach programme. Just a few dozen more be-suited motorway speeding people can bring proper coffee to this backwater.
Anyway, I eventually took Dawkins onto a bench outside of the “coffee shop” and read for a couple of hours while old women came along and smoked at me. Also, some fat people came past talking of the opportunity that buying chips for themselves and their fat children might offer.
I arrived at the court at 1.30. I had already checked out where I was supposed to be. In some ways, my years of stand-up had prepared me for this sort of occasion. I’ve often arrived at a venue earlier than strictly necessary to reduce the stress of trying to get there. I’ve often scoped out the place and then gone for a coffee. I was about to defend my right to drive (privilege – whatever you want to call it) and this was going to be one of the most important “gigs” of my year.
Bizarrely, the whole thing seemed almost like a pastiche of a gig. There was a running order and everything. Interestingly, the running order was in alphabetical order of surname… a sort of dehumanising process, the likes of which I’d not really seen since school, where we sat in alphabetical order there – the school imposing arbitrary authority on us. We would have to cope with whomsoever the lexical circumstances of our names brought us in proximity with. This is why most of my friends have surnames beginning within two letters of my own (or 10, as we’re also looking across columns).
And so I waited.
I finished Dawkins.
I started reading Starship Titanic a novel based on a computer game by Douglas Adams. It was written by Terry Jones and whipped along with amusement value.
They were still processing the morning’s backlog of cases when I finished the novel.
I wasn’t sure I’d even be seen.
You’ll All Be Done
The usher of the court was asked by another person waiting whether we’d all get the chance to be seen, given that the afternoon (2pm) session still hadn’t got underway by 4.15pm. She said “We won’t finished until you’ve all been done.” It was I who commented on the ominous undertone within this comment. “I don’t want to be done” is what I believe I “quipped” to another person waiting in the eternal torment of waiting for authority to be asserted.
As despair was about to kick in, and as my muscles were tired of being so tense, they opened up a second courtroom for the driving offenders.
In and Out
I won’t go into the details of what happened in the court room too much. I was guided through the process with respect and friendliness, coupled with austerity and solemnity. I said what I needed to say and put myself at the mercy of the court. I genuinely believed I could lose my licence and I’d pretty much put my driving affairs in order, assuming I’d not get to drive again for a few months.
After the verdict of the magistrates, I left the court to get a drink and change out of my suit. I found the Wetherspoons. I changed into my civvies. I went to the bar. I ordered a drink – a man, who was old and a bit mental and probably drunk, and who had been singing in the toilet, came up to the bar and I said “and whatever he’s having”. I think he was oblivious to this offer, but either way he stocked up on two muffins and 2 packets of biscuits. He accepted my insistence that these were on me, and I paid the bemused staff.
I was on diet coke. I was not on beer. I couldn’t have a beer as I’d be driving later on. I was also celebrating. So I bought an old man his bar snacks – he already had a beer on the go.
Thank goodness, eh. I was punished with everything but a driving ban. I will be on no-leeway left for a good number of years (until April 2010 at the earliest) and there’s no more room to use the defence I used to get away from a driving ban. But I’m still mobile.
Getting back to Reading
I visited a Tesco for some food and some reading matter. I was out of books. I had three train journeys ahead. I bought “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak. It’s going well, for a book set during the holocaust written from the point of view of Death.
It’s worth pointing out that I can see the fallacy of a book written from the point of view of Death, collecting spirits, since it reflects a duallist view, that spirit and body are distinct, and I believe this to be merely figurative, rather than literal. However, I can still appreciate it as a fictional device. See, I’m getting Dawkinsian as we speak!
I read on three trains. Rotherham -> Sheffield, Sheffield -> Birmingham and Birmingham -> Reading.
Then I was given a lift to pick up my car and I’m back home and life can go back to some semblance of normality.
Seriously. Don’t speed. It’s not worth it. I can’t justify any occasion when I’ve gone over the speed limit. Being caught is a pain in the arse. Losing the use of the car would have destroyed my way of life.
Now I need to make the most of this year with what has been a 6 month ordeal, having the potential loss of licence hanging over me – afraid to make plans that rely on it, finally over.