There is a most curious court case going on at the moment in London, in which a charge of drunk and disorderly behaviour is being most strenuously contested by the defendant, on grounds that - the experts think - have never before been advanced in a court of law. Mr Horace Hubble, an author, claims that although he was indeed drunk in a public place, it was fully justified by the research he was doing...
But perhaps you would get more of the flavour of the case if I bring you some of the actual proceedings. Here is the moment when Mr Hubble first took the stand:
Counsel: You are Mr Horace Hubble?
Hubble: Yes, I rejoice in that name.
Counsel: Oh, you rejoice in it, do you?
Hubble: Oh, yes. With a name like that, you've got to rejoice in it, otherwise you'd sink.
Counsel: Horace is a most unusual name, is it not?
Hubble: Not if you are living in ancient Rome.
Counsel: But we are not living in ancient Rome.
Hubble: That doesn't stop modern people being named Julius and Nero and Rufus.
Counsel: Or Caesar?
Hubble: I have never met anyone called Caesar. I have, however, eaten several life-saving salads of that name.
Judge: Excuse me a minute! Mr Godfrey, will you please tell me the point of these irrelevant exchanges? Is this some superannuated music-hall routine? Counsel: No, sir. I am jousting verbally with the defendant in order to confuse him and establish my mastery of the situation.
Judge: Then you have started badly, I would say. Carry on!
Counsel: Now, Mr Hubble, you appear on a charge of being drunk and disorderly. I gather you do not deny that on the date in question, last October, you were drunk?
Hubble: Very drunk.
Counsel: Very drunk.
Hubble: Very drunk indeed.
Counsel: Quite so. Could you tell the court the reason for your drunkenness?
Hubble: I had been drinking.
Counsel: And why had you been drinking?
Hubble: To get drunk.
Counsel: And why did you wish to get drunk?
Hubble: Because I wished to get a hangover.
Counsel: Why on earth would anyone want to inflict a hangover upon themselves?
Hubble: For the purposes of research.
Counsel: And why on earth... Oh, just tell us why, Mr Hubble.
Hubble: Certainly. You may not have noticed this, but every year at Christmas time there are certain articles that are much in demand in the press. Every year, sure as clockwork is clockwork, there will be features in almost every publication on "How to Behave at the Office Party", and "Six great Recipes for Mulled Wine", and "Those Winter Blues - are they a Myth?", and, of course, the one about last-minute Christmas breaks. There are also articles on "How to Cure a Hangover". I had been commissioned to write one. I was doing research into it. Therefore, I had to get drunk.
Counsel: But surely there can be no new research into hangovers? All that is known about hangovers must be known by now. Would you not merely look up the cuttings of other pieces on hangovers and copy out the most commonplace facts and figures? Is that not the way journalism works? Did not Mr Kingsley Amis himself write an article every year on how to cure hangovers that was, in essence, the same article as the year before?
Hubble: Yes, even the great Kingsley Amis did that. But I was determined to see whether it were not possible to do some original research on the subject.
Sensation in court.
Counsel: Did I hear you aright? Did you say that you were going to do some investigative journalism?
Judge: This is a sensational development. I think it calls for a short adjournment.
More of this tomorrow!