The pursuit of hoppiness

On second thoughts (this post originally had a more mundane title) I might as well borrow this pun, which was a promotional poster in the building where I work. I expect it was borrowed in turn from some US source.

I confess my first thought was of some (preferably Czech) beer before I divined a reference to the Easter bunny was intended.

Meanwhile, in the courts, timetables become more spacious as the law’s delay accommodates the Easter season. From time to time in a Friday list someone proposes 14 April as a date on which a matter might next be listed.  This becomes a great joke.

There is a famous legal anecdote, told of a number of judges but most often of Lord Mansfield, the late eighteenth-century Scots Lord Chief Justice of England.  When he announced that he intended to sit on Good Friday, some courageous counsel is claimed to have said that, if he did so, he would be the first judge to have done so since Pontius Pilate.  Even if the story happened, the courageous counsel was almost certainly wrong about that.  In 1824, when this anecdote was brought to his attention by one Mr Chitty, Mr Justice Park observed that  “There have been 5,000 persons brought to trial on Good Friday.”

Chitty’s motion was to arrest judgment (the jury brought in its verdict of guilty of murder on 7 January) on the grounds that the court had sat on Epiphany.  Chitty claimed this was contrary to a statute of Edward VI concerning days (including Epiphany) which were to be kept holy.  Oddly enough, Good Friday was not one of the days listed in the statute.

You have to say it was a desperate application.  Chitty went so far as to invoke God:

“It is my solemn opinion before God [Mr. Justice Park, “Oh! Oh!”] that the ground for an arrest of judgment is valid, and I therefore move it.”

Mr Justice Park was distinctly unimpressed:

I am of opinion that there is no validity whatever in the ground laid for this motion, and I must hope, that in future Counsel will not appeal to the Deity for the sincerity of their opinions, because such an appeal gives a sort of sanction, approaching to the nature of an oath, to their assertions, which they are not called upon to give. A Counsel is not only not blamed, but honoured, for advancing an opinion with ingenuity which his deliberate and impartial judgment might not confirm, but he is not called on to sanction it by appeals to the Deity.

The prisoner was hanged on 9 January.

But I digress.

This evening, as I walked up King St to the station, Queen’s Square was filled with frolicking schoolchildren.  The side door of S James was open.  I wandered in: the St John Passion was being rehearsed for a performance at Angel Place on Friday night.  An “early instrument” orchestra has been assembled – perhaps a bit stronger at the front desk of the violins than further back, but impressive nevertheless.  Some soloists are drawn from the choir with distinguished supplementation.

I stayed to the end of Part I.

The schoolchildren (from Shore and Santa Sabina, the latter accompanied by the redoubtable Mrs Carey, now translated from MLC School) were there to make up the massed choir for the chorales.

It should be and I hope it will be a great experience for them.


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