Enter His Lordship, with a roll of trousers

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The Independent Online
Before judges are obliged to reveal whether they are Masons or not, attention should be paid to a most extraordinary trial which is going on in the High Court at the moment, in which a Mr Sidney Minghella is accused of attempted murder. Here is an extract from yesterday's proceedings...

Judge: Before we go any further, may I say how very much I have enjoyed the performance so far of the counsel for the defence?

Counsel for the Defence: May I say in turn how much I have learnt from your Lordship's conduct of the case? Your lordship seems imbued with wisdom.

Judge: Hmm. Are you a mason by any chance?

Defence: Yes, m'Lud, I am.

Judge: What a coincidence! So am I.

Defence: Yes, m'Lud, I know. (Smiles and winks ingratiatingly at the judge.)

Counsel for the Prosecution: Objection, m'Lud !

Judge: What objection?

Prosecution: It is quite outrageous that you, m'Lud, and the counsel for the defence are building up this improper relationship as fellow masons! This can only be prejudicial to the case!

Judge: How ridiculous. Are you a freemason ?

Prosecution: Yes, of course.

Judge: There you are, then. We're all masons, on both sides. You are as free to chum up as he is. No prejudice involved at all.

Prosecution: But there must be prejudice! It's inevitable!

Judge: What rubbish! If you had two football teams playing each other, do you think a player on one side would be more gentle in the tackle with an opposing player just because they were both members of - I don't know, the Playboy Club?

Prosecution: The Playboy Club ceased trading years ago, m'Lud.

Judge: Did it? Well, that certainly explains why it always seems to be closed when I go there. What do footballers belong to nowadays ?

Prosecution: Stringfellow's, I believe, m'Lud.

Judge: Well, there you are, then. Carry on! Who was interrogating the accused?

Prosecution: I was.

Judge: Get on with it, then. We don't hang about in the masons, you know. Time is money.

Prosecution: Friendship is money.

Defence: Money is money!

All three: (Chanting together) Ra ra ra! Masons all! Backs together, we stand or fall! Roll your trousers, shake your hand, all together we fall or stand! (The jury stand and applaud this nifty bit of chorus work.)

Jury Foreman: May I inquire, m'Lud, on behalf of the jury, if that was a rather exciting bit of masonic ritual or simply part of the evidence which we can safely ignore?

Judge: Are you not a mason?

Foreman: No, m'Lud.

Judge: Good heavens. Come and see me at adjournment time and get a membership application form.

Foreman: Yes, m'Lud. I am a member of Stringfellow's, if that is any help.

Judge: Well, perhaps we can swap application forms in the break.

Prosecution: My Lord, this is quite intolerable! You are now forming attachments to people who are only potential masons and not members at all yet!

Judge: Shows my impartiality, I think. Now, carry on with the cross-questioning, for heaven's sake. That's what you are paid for. Paid far too much, in my opinion, but that's another matter.

Prosecution: Yes, m'Lud. Now, defendant, your name is Sidney Minghella?

Defendant: Yes, it is.

Prosecution: Are you any relation to Anthony Minghella?

Defendant: Who?

Prosecution: He is a distinguished film director.

Defendant: Never heard of him.

Judge: It's a very unusual name, Minghella.

Defendant: Not in Milan, it's not. The Milan phone book is stuffed full of Minghellas.

Prosecution: Are you in fact from Milan?

Defendant: No. I'm from Bromley in Kent.

Prosecution: Hmm. And are you in fact a mason?

Defendant: Yes. (Court buzzes with excitement.)

Prosecution: Ah-ha! And when did you join the masons?

Defendant: I didn't join. I trained to be a mason.

Prosecution: You trained? How can you train to be a mason?

Defendant: Two years' art college, two years' stone-carving, two years with a firm of undertakers.

Judge: Good Lord. Do you mean you are a REAL mason, carving stone and all that?

Defendant: Yes. I'm a proper mason. Not like you lot.

Judge: I shall have to have time to think about this. Court adjourned!

More of this disquieting case tomorrow, I hope.