I don’t know about you, but it’s hard to find the head space to stop and think and really process life. Each day is about ticking off the things that have a deadline, that must be done by tomorrow or next week – or yesterday. And by the time the ‘must-do’s are done, I can’t summon up the energy for the important but not-time-limited rest.
And so it is that this blog has been even more fallow than normal. A serious case of can’t be arsed, I’m afraid. But I do have things on my mind, things I want to write about, things that matter. They are just swirling in a cotton wool cloud in my brain, tangled and confused, disordered, intangible, messy.
That ambivalence and confusion is how I find myself feeling at the idea we will be going back to face to face hearings soon. Isn’t this what we’ve been waiting for? In fact I find myself very conflicted.
The ever smaller sphere of life has its advantages for some of us – I have quite liked being able to work from home, and in some respects to attend hearings from home. But it is monotonous to have to do so ALL the time. I miss the people, the engagement – and in some cases it is inevitably less satisfactory for the clients (though for some remote works better – as the Nuffield found its a v mixed picture). I suspect once we are back it will all come flooding back and we will realise just how hollowed out our 2D version of justice has been, and that we had normalised the unsatisfactory, to make it feel more bearable.
Anyway, what has surprised me is a sensation in the pit of my stomach when I thought about the daily reality of a return to face to face – a feeling of foreboding, anxiety perhaps – at any rate not the sense of elation I have at times thought such an announcement might bring forth. It will be super not to be at the mercy of your internet speed, or someone else’s connection or technical ability, it will be good to see my colleagues and friends, to be able to give my clients the face to face service they deserve – but here are some of the things all swirling around my brain…
Getting up earlier, getting home later. Missing breakfast and dinner with the kids because : travel.
Getting used to driving again, in rush hour – yes, a good time to decompress before facing the family if you want to look on the bright side, but still 2 hours of my daily life stripped away again, stuck in a queue, shouting at Radio 4 or singing badly to Heart FM, anything to stop me nodding off at the wheel. Having to argue over travel & hotel expenses with the LAA.
Having to wear clothes and shoes that constrict, that need ironing (no, I’m kidding there I don’t buy clothes that need ironing on principle), having to remember to send in and collect the dry cleaning, Eating overpriced crap from the nearest cafe – if you actually have time to get there, queue and get back. Having to pack a bag with everything you might ever need in it (including all the chargers).
Finding a parking space. Parking tickets. Crushes on trains. Being stuck on dark, wet windy train platforms waiting for a connection. Running late for court. Crap hotels.
Not being able to do the 4 minute wee-n-tea dash, but having to go dry mouthed, decaffeinated and cross legged till lunch.
And of course, wearing a mask all day, which means long days of contact lenses and dry scratchy eyes since I have been totally unable to wear a mask without it steaming up (and yes, I’ve tried all the tips – I guess my nose is just the wrong shape).
Working on ONLY TWO SCREENS – gasp!
Finding a plug socket that works in the courtroom.
Having to actually make small talk when you really don’t feel like it. I do miss seeing people, but… I’m not sure I remember how to be sociable, and I was never very good at it in the first place.
Trying to find a room or a corner for a quiet chat with your client.
Queuing for security, enduring the irritation of another arbitrary change of search practices.
Trying to remember when to stand and when to sit. Wondering if we will still be able to whatsapp clients in the courtroom rather than reverting to ridiculous audible whispers.
Being back in a list where everyone is listed at 10am and you have no idea when you’ll be on and you can’t really get on with anything else while you wait….
And of course, almost certainly, the idea we will have the best of both worlds by being able to make use of remote for simple hearings whilst holding hearings involving live evidence in person (say) will inevitably not live up to expectations. Once judges have a choice I fully expect that we will revert to almost all face to face hearings, even where it doesn’t really need to be so. I hope that is not true, but I bet my elasticated trousers that it is.
All that said, I know and understand it will be better for all of us to be back, but it’s a much bigger deal to mentally prepare for than I’d anticipated (I know, what a big baby!). One thing is for sure, I am going to need all the caffeine to survive the adjustment… Maybe the hour long commute each way will enable me to find that head space I’ve been missing in my blended blurry un-boundaried work-from-home existence? Or maybe not…