Our office at Lyndales is surrounded by some of the best and greatest museums and collections anywhere in the world. Chief amongst them is the British Museum, which I never get tired of.
I was in the middle of undertaking jury service at Wood Green Crown Court. Even though it is close to where I live and I pass through it every day on the Piccadilly line, my knowledge of Wood Green and its connections apart from the Wood Green shopping centre are wholly unknown to me. A bit like the criminal law really.
Being called for jury service in shall we say the twilight of my career, was a bit of a surprise. For many years solicitors and barristers were excluded from jury service but that all changed a number of years ago.
My main concern was which juror would I be? Would I be the Lee J. Cobb character or the Henry Fonda character in that famous Courtroom drama of the middle of the last century “12 Angry Men”. The betting at work was that I would end up as jury foreman but nobody could account for what took place at Wood Green Crown Court on a particular case where I was juryman number seven. My fellow jurors were a mixed bunch. A range of ages and ethnicities, five women and seven men. Two Spurs supporters and two Arsenal supporters. A fair and reasonable jury for this part of North London.
The Court building itself is a splendid Victorian gothic building that stands back some 100 feet from Lordship Lane with pretty gardens at the front and once inside 10 modern Courts. It was once the Royal Masonic School for Boys. Now it dishes out justice to the rogues and villains of north London.
I was warned that would be a lot of “hanging around”. I put some work in my briefcase, a book to read and a couple of newspapers and magazines I had not got around to reading. On the first day there was some hanging around but on the second day I was called, sworn in and on the third day the trial began.
The trial came to an abrupt halt when a combination of events, namely the principal witness for the prosecution refused to be examined by the Defence Counsel and an entirely uninvited third party burst into the Court room just as Defence Counsel was about to get to her feet and address the jury claiming that the Police, the case and everybody connected with it, was corrupt and that he had vital evidence to give.
As a result of this we were ushered out and then discharged and I found myself back at Lyndales half-heartedly doing some work. So I decided that whilst the trial at Wood Green Crown Court might have sunk without trace, I had been meaning to get to the British Museum’s Exhibition called “Sunken Cities, Egypt’s lost worlds”.
I wish I had gone earlier. It closed last weekend and I have to say it’s one of the best exhibitions I have ever been to at the British Museum. I am, like many people, fascinated by ancient Egypt. Their strange language; the hieroglyphics; the sphinx; the pyramids; the mummies; the rituals and the amazing length of years that Egypt dominated that part of the Mediterranean. It was a recognised powerful empire for more than 3,000 years and only when first the Greeks then the Romans took it over, a little over 2,000 years ago, did it finally crumble.
During the Second World War an RAF pilot was flying low over the Mediterranean just outside of Alexandria. He noticed what he thought were statues sticking up from the sand in the shallow waters. In the early 1990s an archaeologist, Frank Goddio, began excavating and bringing to the surface the most remarkable collection of Egyptology since Howard Carter found Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1924. He brought to the surface 5 metre high images, ritual lamps, exquisite jewellery, pots and pans and the ephemera of everyday life in a city that once stood at the very delta of the Nile where it met the Mediterranean and which over a 500 year period sank into the Mediterranean Sea where it was forgotten.
A remarkable story and compared to the sunk trial in Wood Green a much slower burn of a sinking. A brilliant exhibition and an end to an exciting and unusual day.