In the five years I’ve lived in Asia, there’s been a lot of work-related travel. My passport is nearly full…
..which THANK GOD because I accidentally look like notorious Melbourne drug lord Tony Mokbel in my picture and I can’t wait to get a new one.
Since moving to here, I’ve been lucky enough to report in the following places, some of them often: Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, mainland China, the Philippines, Japan, India, and Mongolia (see Year in Career 2012 and Year in Career 2013). I expected much the same this year, maybe with a trip to Malaysia or Brunei or somewhere new to round out my Asian adventures in drug distributorship court reporting. Instead, at the start of this year, I found out I’d spend most of the year covering a high-profile corruption trial in the High Court in my “home” city of Hong Kong.
It was originally set down for 70 days but ended up sitting 133, finishing up on 23 December after a week-long jury deliberation. I wrote most of this post from the comfort, catering and Christmas lights of the Shangri-La Hotel business lounge while they were sequestered. It seems like there would be nothing much to write about, given a huge block of the year was spent on the one job, but looking back through my photos, in fact there’s a fair bit. So please, replenish your complimentary mint supply, settle down in your hotel armchair (wait that’s just me…) and join me in a review of the year in international reporting, 2014 edition. As ever, not all things are photographable/disclosable, but where they are, here we go…
First hotel room of the year, in Taiwan. Standard nice business accommodation:
I rushed to sweep aside the drapes and reveal the glorious vista:
Back in Hong Kong, my first High Court job of the year was a Bernie Madoff case. Which was obviously the most times all year (also all life) writing “Ponzi”, and also the prettiest transcript of the year, with detailed citation of a spectacular historical case of price deviation and speculative economic bubbles – tulip mania in the Netherlands in the 17th century.
Please, more talking about flowers in court!
Then it was March, which is my annual most (and possibly only) glamorous job: stadium-captioning the Asian Film Awards.
This time it was at the City of Dreams strip in Macau. Rustic-est doors, most luxurious hotel suite…
..and yet I was once again captioning from a wooden shed.
After 12 hours of sitting through dress rehearsals and continually updating rundowns, the captions display was optimised…
..I’d slapped this sleeping tech on the way back to the booth…
..and it was showtime.
This was my fifth time doing this event and the first time I wasn’t almost vomiting with nerves in a corner of the shed.
I found a short clip on YouTube showing my captions this year:
Sometimes writers ask how this sort of stuff (in many languages) is captioned/reported here, and using this clip I can give a brief explanation. The two presenters are trilingual, and swap between English, Cantonese and Mandarin. I wear headphones in the captioning booth/shed. I listen to an auxiliary channel that plays English when it’s English, but when someone speaks another language, the interpreter for that particular language cuts in and I hear THEM simultaneously translating into English. (There are about 12 interpreters in booths next to mine for this job.) This is a pretty good system, except you need the interpreters to be on top of their game – if they forget to switch off their button when it goes back to English, you can miss the first few words of English speech. A couple of years back I had one Japanese interpreter who kept her button depressed for about 30 seconds and I could hear her rustling papers and uncapping her water bottle and muttering to herself, until my tech guy, who had been running down the line of booths tapping on flimsy doors, managed to locate her and flick the switch!
This clip also demonstrates why this job, while one of the most exciting of the year (and certainly the most glittering), is one of the trickiest – nominees come from all over Asia and the Middle East. You can see here there was “witty” banter between the hosts in three languages, and then the winner spoke English is an extremely thick accent.
Shortly after all the statuettes were awarded, I put away the sequins and headed off to Singapore. Singapore is one of my favourite places to work, even though it involves a late-night arrival from Hong Kong. Swings and roundabouts, though – best breakfast buffet in Asia:
The international arbitration centre in the old Customs House:
This looks like a pretty standard arbitration in a pretty standard hearing room, but I’ll always remember this one because it was my first time reporting the Hoff – yes, THE (Lord) Hoff, of the House of Lords. There are some eminent jurists that you’ll be lucky to report once in your career, if ever – and I was lucky enough to report Hoff twice this year.
From The Straits Times to the Upper Yarra Mail!
This picture about sums up the three-day period in April when I returned from Singapore to Hong Kong, washed some undies, and then flew on with my family to Australia for a holiday, where I found this relic in the storage unit – my Phoenix Theory notes! Worst handwriting, but memories of the struggle.
Just quickly, while I was there – Melbourne’s 1884 Supreme Court, scene of my swearing in as a reporter circa year 2000:
A spectacle familiar to reporters in Australia, Asia and the UK, but perhaps foreign to our American colleagues – barristers (“my learned friend”) in wigs and gowns.
I also swung past Channel 7’s broadcast centre, where I had my first captioning job. Biggest hair, and biggest number outside a workplace (surely? – that’s me sat like an idiot on the rock in the bottom right corner for scale).
In my “baby reporter” days, at the Federal Court in Melbourne, I covered my first big trial, Ruddock v Vadarlis, aka the Tampa (boat people) case. It was an injunction hearing that sat through multiple nights, with Australia’s Solicitor General appearing. My colleagues and I ran back and forth from the courtroom to our office, down dark Melbourne alleyways, clutching 15-minute tapes, to deliver completed transcripts by dawn. At that stage, I wondered whether I would ever do another case with so much attendant media attention, or potential to change relevant societal precedents in real ways.
Well, this year, I was lucky enough to report what was called Hong Kong’s biggest ever corruption trial. For stenos out there who are interested in these details, this was a trial with 20ish realtime connections and daily delivery. I did all the writing, except for two days, but I was accompanied by scopist extraordinaire Jane in court, and we had our completed transcript delivered by 5.30pm every day. The transcript production pressure was immense, as was the amount of eyes on the realtime feed, and the intense media interest from outlets worldwide.
The case was front-page news for much of the year:
Some of the most famous lawyers at the criminal bar were over for this case, barristers who have advised world leaders and contest disputes between nations. Such was the money involved in this case and the personages in the dock – Hong Kong’s former no.2 in government, and property developers on the Forbes billionaire list.
We had a shaky start, with the initial jury discharged and a new one having to be empanelled. Again, this will only mean something to stenos, but please imagine the pain of empanelling TWICE from jury pools of 200, with a list of names alphabetised in Chinese, a language I can speak but not read, with realtime voir dire. This is the stuff reporting nightmares are made of. But luckily the second jury stuck and the trial got underway in July after an eye-popping (dropping?) 21 days of legal and selection voir dire.
Inside the courtroom, there were 20 seats reserved for media, 20 for the public, 20 for family/lawyers. And although my chair wasn’t comfortable, it was in the very front row, and it was reserved. I didn’t have to sleep in my car outside the court overnight to be first in the queue at dawn for a press ticket or a public ticket. Sometimes I had to pinch myself that one of the things that motivated me when I was teaching myself steno in my bedroom at the age of 19 – the so-called “front-row seat to history” – was beneath my very arse. If you know what I mean. Judicially, this is the frontest-row seat I’ve sat in yet, and it was an exciting privilege. This was a case where every word was noted by 20+ sets of eyes, with realtime screens sprinkled amongst the 18 counsel, in the dock, and in the public gallery. This was not the case to have a failure of either nerves, preparation, equipment, or ability. See here one counsel’s set-up. Note he can see six screens at any one time. I call it saturation realtime. Or: mate, you only have two eyes.
If I could offer a tip to baby reporters, it is this: nail your speaker tokens. I won’t reproduce my seating map here for confidentiality reasons, but it was a little bit frightening. You better believe when they all started walking in on the second day and sitting wherever they felt like it, someone was there yelling out YOU MUST SIT IN YOUR ASSIGNED SEATS!
PS It was me.
For people who didn’t get a seat inside, the judiciary had set up this viewing gallery outside the courtroom, which was the biggest contributing factor to me wearing shoes for a larger percentage of court time than in any other year.
Nicest lunch view.
Anyway, assume this case is just going on in the background for pretty much the whole rest of the year. As a result, I missed the NCRA conference in San Francisco, which I really wanted to go to this year because of the big Aussie contingent in attendance, and also to meet mates from my steno group on Facebook. One of them had these nifty Hello Kitty ribbons made up for the delegates and sent me a bunch in Hong Kong. I stuck one on my machine and also wore one around court because gravitas. Thank you, Laci!
Other dubious personal attire to come out of the group this year. I swear we do talk about steno sometimes! (Proud to break rules with you, Regina!)
Weekend airline commission job.
Favourite double view! (My laptop desktop view is a picture taken from an arbitration on the 93rd floor of the World Financial Centre in Shanghai last year; the table it’s sitting on is in a hearing room on the 38th floor at Exchange Square, Hong Kong).
When I packed up my kit after this job and headed out into the crush of Central commuters, there was definitely something in the air. I’m not talking about stinky tofu – the arbitration centre isn’t even near any street food vendors. I’m talking about apprehension, and a markedly increased police presence, with side whiffs of diesel fuel and 7/11 noodles (Hong Kong forever!) Yes, this was the weekend Occupy Central began – except it began in Admiralty, right outside the High Court.
I wondered whether I’d have any difficulty getting in to the court on the Monday morning. I left an hour early just to be sure. The exits at my train station were shut and when I finally made it to street level, tear gas still filled the air. All the arterial buildings leading to the court precinct were shut and eventually I jumped a fence adjacent to the tramline on Queensway, wearing stockings, throwing my 15kg suitcase in front of me. It was quiet. Admiralty is filled with mainly government buildings and they were all shut down. The usual noise of the street – thousands of people, cars, trucks, the ding-ding of the trams – was absent. Silent but for the scrape of boots, a couple of hundred exhausted policemen filed past, carrying helmets and small kit bags, sweaty hair dishevelled, every fourth or fifth man wearing a tear-gas gun on his back like a recurve bow. It would have been the work photo of the year, but of course I couldn’t snap it…
Occupy continued right up just about until Christmas, in parallel with the court case. It was incredible to be working on this case, the biggest corruption trial in Hong Kong history, which will set a precedent for how business and the government relate in the future, while Occupy was happening literally outside the front door of the court building. I’ll never forget being here and doing this for the rest of my life.
Worst in triads. This was right outside the High Court one lunchtime!
Queensway, one of the city’s biggest thoroughfares, running right outside the High Court, which was occupied for nine weeks.
One day, the High Court caught on fire. The fire alarms had been switched off on our floor so as not to interrupt the big case, but the judge had it under control.
I took one of my two days off in this time to attend my daughter’s first day of school. Thanks to Jenny for stepping in! When a Wave and a LightSpeed change places for the day…
Chairs from hell. Pick one of these to sit on for 133 days!
In the corner in disgrace:
Most irritating injury:
If you’re like me, you (and your significant other) are very protective of your arms/hands. You’re not allowed to use knives, walk on wet surfaces, wear unsturdy footwear, play thumb wars, hammer nails etc. But performing ablutions are a fundamental human right – they can never stop us from showering, right?
WELL MAYBE THEY SHOULD. Because this was my arm after I slipped in the shower. I grabbed at the first thing I saw, which was a net bag containing a bunch of foam kids’ toys suction-capped to the wall. It detached, and the loud sucking noise it made only just masked the sound of my arm smashing into the solid plaster soapdish, and didn’t mask the sound of me swearing at all. I saw stars, but after a long panicked cry and a sleep embracing an ice pack, it didn’t appear to be broken – just swollen, bruised, and really sore. My fingers and wrist weren’t having any difficulty but I had no arm strength at all. I’ve recently been practicing writing side-saddle, mainly as a technique for staying awake, but it came in handy as I had to prop an InStand under my arm in order to keep it upright. Hey, it worked!
Another tip, students: learn to write side-saddle. You never know when you’re going to take an embarrassing nude fall and then be required to write with one dead arm.
Next up, Venice! Just kidding, it was the Venetian in Macau for a global economy/tourism ministerial forum.
This event was kind of a big deal, and the venue was accordingly fancy and massive. And we were seated nowhere near the stage.
The thing with reporting in Asia (and elsewhere!) is, we’re seen and not heard. We don’t really get to complain about where we sit; they usually start talking before we have a chance.
The vice-president of Iran was one of the speakers at this event, so security was tight and I got my first glimpse of the People’s Liberation Army dog squad in action.
I also got to work alongside a Chinese steno team again. The Chinese writers are so impressive, with their incredible skill – their method requires far more mental agility than ours, with pictorial output meaning it’s not entirely based on phonetics, so they’ve got to think all the time. They’re also generally much more pragmatic than Western stenographers. I remember the first time I came across some, reporting Bill Clinton in Shanghai at an economic forum a few years ago (see here and here), and I was shocked to see them arrive 10 minutes before kick-off, sit anywhere in the crowd, pull their machines out of their handbags, and live-caption everything without any drama. I was embarrassed by what I required to produce the same result – tech guy(s), a table full of AV equipment, the ability to “see the mouth”, and a much higher salary. Working with the Chinese stenos is a lesson in humility and appreciation.
This particular job gave me one of my favourite moments in international reporting yet, when an Indian minister stood up and started speaking at what sounded like 400wpm. The Chinese writer was taking it through a Mandarin interpreter in her headphones; I had the live English feed, but it was probably hardly more comprehensible. After the first 30 seconds of finger-flying chaos, we both slowly raised our heads and turned to look at each other. We didn’t share a common language but at that moment her face mirrored mine: the universal, culture-transcending court reporter look of disgust/solidarity.
Worst in dinners. (Seriously! How can you get served up a turd not once but twice in one year!)
Final order of business on all international reporting assignments:
Favourite travelling meal. Again, with only four offshore trips this year, the pickings were slim. But this delicious Persian cuisine on the banks of the Alexandra Canal in Singapore takes the baklava.
Heads out of the fridge and back to the High Court for the corruption trial, which had by now well surpassed the 70 days it was initially set down for…
..and hit day 100. Jane and I started to lose it.
This is what a folder of court documents looks like after 100 days. I mean the flags aren’t even remotely useful when there are so many.
And this is what my glossary looked like. Also not that useful, with the thousands of handwritten additions.
These are some of my favourite pictures from around the High Court this year.
If I was lucky enough to actually have a break for lunch, it was often here at Hong Kong Park:
Worst in squashing at a pre-trial hearing:
Ricketiest in on-the-turn lecterns:
Gorgeous early afternoons…
Big buildings, big sky…
Streets of gold…
A giant zip…
Lots of giant koalas…
Giant dumplings, raised higher than the flag, in case you forget where you are…
Second-best in dumplings…when Rich was in town!
Who I wouldn’t have probably even known if Brandy (see Brandy’s tale of adventure!) hadn’t moved here. Shown: giant pancake on Brandy’s first night as a resident reporter in Asia.
The corruption trial continued through all this enormous food and architecture, but I continued to do other jobs occasionally, such as this evening hearing at the Securities Commission…
..which had a beautiful view over Government House:
And one of the latest finishes:
Speaking of late finishes, worst in parenting: continually getting home right on bedtime (if I was lucky) during a late-sitting shipping arbitration.
But best in parenting: my kids’ advancing knowledge of creating job dictionaries and reading steno.
I’ve thought about not including the next few photos, because I know certain people will say they’re self-serving, but ultimately I am going to because autonomy. The next bit is mainly for students.
If you’re not into boredom or controversy, scroll past this down to the BABY DEER WHAT.
It’s currently fashionable to bash the theory I taught myself, Phoenix, and I both can’t understand why and feel a duty to defend it with more than just words. This is a theory that has produced a large number of realtime-ready, very successful writers in all disciplines. Whereas it seems people who write Phoenix and other “stroke-intensive” theories can generally see the merits of shorter theories as well, often proponents of shorter theories can only find negative things to say about Phoenix, in spite of its proven success. There’s a dangerous idea being pushed by students to other students, or new reporters with limited experience in only one area of stenography, that speed is everything. I’m suggesting to you, students, as someone with experience around the world in court reporting, captioning, and CART, that you be smart about the advice you take. Look for results that match up with what you want to achieve, not just words. Look for things that correlate with your aims – for example, do you want to be realtime-ready when you finish school, or get out of school as quickly as you can? Do you want to win a speed contest once a year, or do you want to be ready to step into high-paying realtime work? These things don’t have to be mutually exclusive, but some of the claims going around online steno forums are NOT RELEVANT to the ultimate aim you’re probably all going for: a great job founded on realtime excellence. And that, I promise you, isn’t just speed. It’s not. It’s comfort. Comfort buys you the time to keep up, to use your general knowledge, your ability to “hear” and take two or more speakers at once, to fingerspell, to punctuate correctly all the time, to produce a realtime feed that looks about as good as the final product. How you get that comfort depends on your brain. For some people, it’s writing short and memorising brief families. For others, like me, it’s writing everything out.
So these photos are particularly for those who are learning a “long” theory, or doubting themselves. Look around at how many long writers are out there working successfully, and have been for decades. Me and my writer-out colleagues aren’t flailing about desperately trying to keep up. We don’t have overuse injuries. And I’m not an anomaly. Find YOUR best way to the comfort that will bring you the best realtime results. Examples of short writers’ great stats are available in forums. Here are some of mine, as – I hope – a balance, and a boost to other long writers.
Some of my 300wpm or above 0%-ish days:
(I know that bottom right one is only 166wpm.
At this point there’s no way I’m going back to remake that photo grid.
Bloody Phoenix writers.)
Some examples of other clean days at lower speeds, in case people want to say it’s a fluke:
It’s not luck, it’s not certs, and it’s not just speed. It’s comfort. Get there whichever way works for you. I wish you all realtime success whether you write long, short, or with one hand tied behind your back.
One last thing. You’ll find people to argue with you whatever way you do anything. It doesn’t actually matter. Pick your priority – making bank, supporting your family, intellectual fulfilment, performing an important role in society – and if you’re walking out the door achieving it every day, that’s what matters. Be fidelitous to your own idea of success, and be meritorious, and any other relevant -ous words. And PS that’s not necessarily linked to certifications. “Certifications” doesn’t even end in -ous, so…
ANYWAY. Let’s see a couple of the stupidest realtime mistakes to prove some people’s point 😉 This unexpected mention of “it’s a little legalistic” was galling:
(Along those lines, don’t have Father’s Day and Mother’s Day like so in your dictionary, because one day someone’s gonna say “What were things like in your Father’s Day?” and that looks stupid.)
And check “hassle [hyphen]” to make sure it’s not going to bring up this traumatic mental picture of the red Speedos, SPEAKING OF THE HOFF (oh wait wrong Hoff):
And now for something cute we all want to look at.
However, here’s something you don’t want to see when you bump in on a Friday night for an oil/gas arbitration that’s been heard in various countries since 2010.
This was definitely the hardest job of the year and I was happy to only do a single day of it. A hell of a lot of prep for, ultimately, a pretty bad Saturday thrashing!
I think this was the most realtime connections of the year (pushing 30), and I had to download a panorama app to take this photo of the room.
Quite miserable outside too.
Some other views from the International Arbitration Centre through the year.
My “desk” in one of the hearing rooms. I’ve seen kites soaring and swooping, window cleaners recklessly operating at terrifying heights from unsafe buggies, cruise ships meandering through the harbour, Star Ferries somehow avoiding collisions all day long as they ply their three-minute course between Island side and Kowloon side, insane storms, and tycoons’ choppers criss-crossing the skyscrapers like flies from this window. But one of the coolest things I saw was formation SPEEDBOATING by the People’s Liberation Army. If your country is in dispute with China, warn your government: if it descends to inflatable vessel warfare, you’re in trouble. Figures-of-8 with noses elevated at identical angles and all sorts of shit! I mean it’s not militarily intimidating, but it looked tight!
The finance district at night.
Getting our Connection Magic on with eight realtime connections in the room, one in Singapore, and one in London. Go, Eclipse!
Best in buildings that look like they’ve just been chucked there (outside Exchange Square):
Panorama view from the last arbitration of the year, inside and out:
This particular arbitration was the second time in one year I was privileged enough to report THE (Lord) Hoff. He’s going to have the last word in this never-ending post, but first, some other words. Yes, it’s the best in transcripts.
MOST PAINFUL ATTEMPT TO ADDUCE EVIDENCE:
COUNSEL: …she could have been called as a witness. She wasn’t. They tried to get the evidence through the backdoor of Ms Y, who quite understandably couldn’t remember anything about it. As an attempt, with respect, it’s woeful.
THE CLOAK OF ELOQUENCE IS DEPLOYED AT LAST:
COUNSEL: I need to demonstrate to you that if you think that some of [opposing counsel’s] criticisms were worthwhile, you have very likely fallen under the spell of his brilliant advocacy. But beware of brilliant advocacy, ladies and gentlemen of the jury. Beware of this art which could be employed to mask shadowy and shady arguments underneath a cloak of eloquence.
I’LL SEE YOUR CLOAK OF ELOQUENCE AND RAISE YOU ONE MONKEY WITH TANGERINE.
COUNSEL: The prosecutor, like a monkey with a tangerine, would have showed off his prize: “Here it is. Here’s the evidence.” And all he’s left with is saying, “Well, it’s a matter, strictly speaking, of English law. You don’t have to worry about the merits of the decision.” But you do. Oh, yes, you do.
THE RABBITHOLE NOT TO FALL INTO WITH A 150kg WITNESS:
Q. Let me just give you an example, Ms Z. If I know that the chair you’re sitting on has got a broken leg and is liable to break, but you don’t know it, the first time you’re going to complain is when the leg of the chair breaks, isn’t it? And the reason for that is because the only time you’re going to know that there is a risk of the chair breaking is when you’re on the floor with a broken chair in pieces around you.
(EVERYONE IN COURT: JUST PLEASE STOP TALKING!!)
WHAT DID YOU DO AT WORK TODAY? OH, JUST STOLE A FEW POST-ITS. AND INADVERTENTLY DESTROYED THE BEAUTY OF THE COMMON LAW SYSTEM.
COUNSEL: Because if one is to embark upon an exercise to distinguish authorities that contain ratio that is directly applicable to this case and those which are not, and further to distinguish cases of situations factually similar to this case or not, one would have perhaps inadvertently destroyed the beauty of the common law system in relying on case law authorities and unfairly ignore the wisdom transpiring in those judgments. It all depends.
THE FOOT BONE’S CONNECTED TO THE…
COUNSEL: I pause here. They misdescribe the proposition, or at least half of it. Because it is not the favourable disposition that we are dealing with. It is the fact that one had caused that favourable disposition in the mind of the latter that we are dealing with here. They cut the head and the legs off this submission and say that the body remains the body. They fail to see that the thinking mind remains in the mind, in the heart. And what brings the mind home is the feet.
THIS…ISN’T HOW IT WORKS.
COUNSEL: Is what the prosecutor said there an example of what I think you sometimes say here of a ghost slapping him on the back of the head? The ghost slapped him on the back of the head and the truth popped out?
SCHOOLED IN HISTORY + FINGERSPELLING.
COUNSEL: If [opposing counsel] were right, if I can just lighten things for a moment, there would be no need to resort to tax evasion for Al Capone; he could just be prosecuted for the St Valentine’s Day massacre. There would be no need to date when King Henry said, “Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?”, because it was his three knights in any event. And “If my brother committed a fraud, therefore so must I.” It’s a nonsense. It’s contrary to all logic.
INTERPRETER WINS IN TOTAL KNOCK-OUT.
Q. And the metal plate conducted heat from I guess the heating plate of the humidifier, into the water? I’m sorry. That’s a terrible question.
INTERPRETER: Yes. What do you want to do?
MOST SHOCKING WAKE-UP FROM A POST-LUNCH WORKING NAP:
COUNSEL: All right. The letter goes on:
“I will, of course, do everything from my end to improve communication with them. I don’t believe she has any major issues with me. Of course, I could be wrong and she thinks I’m a total jackass as well.”
BRITNEY. CUE IT UP.
COUNSEL: The best the prosecutor can do is to suggest it’s fanciful that the manager of a karaoke bar gets drunk and vomits every night. I suppose it’s just possible that the prosecutor’s knowledge of Chinese karaoke bars isn’t what it might be.
SOMETHING LIKE THAT.
COUNSEL: …the right not to self-incriminate oneself in what their Lordships in the case of X refer to with the phrase “nemo debet prodere se ipsum” – or something like that.
BEAUTIFUL, SIMPLE OBSERVATIONS ON LAW.
The law is really just sophisticated applied common sense, in many ways. Lawyers perhaps complicate it.
The law is about practical affairs of people. It’s not some mysterious art of science; it’s about how we conduct our lives. The law is designed to make it easier for us to live in societies.
And it’s an experience about when people lie. When people lie, they become involved in a tangled web, because they have to tell another lie to keep the lie going. The truth effectively tells itself, because you’re not manufacturing the truth; the truth exists.
CHAIRMAN: This is about the good old days in Wan Chai when they used to pinch mama-sans. Is that right? Splendid days. We all regret their passing.
METAPHORS PART 1.
COURT: To rap [counsel] over the knuckles in a vacuum, if I can mix my metaphors, I think is a recipe for disaster.
METAPHORS PART 2.
COURT: So that is evidence before me, even if I don’t look at the transcript.
COUNSEL: I think, with respect, your Ladyship has put your finger right in the pie. This is very well put.
THIS IS WHAT YOUR TAX DOLLARS PAY FOR.
COURT: So in terms of that case, there is a difference, you would say, between the public perception of a police officer standing by doing nothing while somebody is beaten to death, and the chairman of a public authority doing nothing as his committee and the board vote to renew a lease from a company with whom he has a connection?
COUNSEL: My Lord, I think there is a big difference. There, we are talking about a constable whose main job was to maintain peace. It was his job to ensure that members of the public would not be beaten to death on the streets.
AN IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT.
COUNSEL: My Lord, when I said this morning “yau doi”, apparently I repeatedly told your Lordship that I “have a pocket”. I, of course, did not intend to say to your Lordship that I have a pocket, although indeed I do have a pocket. I hope your Lordship understood my appalling Cantonese better than those who were born here.
COURT: Yes, yes. Thank you.
THE NEVER-ENDING WATER ANALOGY.
COURT: But once you tap on the two permissible sources, the only two taps, you are drinking up the two bottles, and once depleted, as [opposing counsel] said, “Sorry, I only have two bottles and I can only administer two bottles. If you say there was another tap, go to another tap; it has nothing to do with us. But after you drank up, we will not provide another cup.”
COUNSEL: Correct, sir, and the claimant’s case is exactly that. We did not drink from this bottle for the extra sip.
MOST UNFORTUNATE LITERAL SCRIPT TRANSLATION:
ANNOUNCER: Our next two presenters are two strong creative forces. In fact, we are in the uterus of one of his creations now.
HAPPY WIFE, HAPPY LIFE.
THE WITNESS: Do I have to come back tomorrow?
COURT: We will see. Is that difficult?
THE WITNESS: I can, I can.
COURT: Yes. Well —
THE WITNESS: Because I promised my wife to do something, but I can return.
COURT: All right. We’ll have to wait and see.
But this was the best one. Whatever the justice system can mete out, just remember, you’re going to get smote by the ultimate higher court anyway.
COURT: If they have some doubt that this may not be a genuine thing and they still sell it, then I think they should be condemned not just in this world —
COUNSEL: My Lord, although —
COURT: –but also by the eternal fire.
COUNSEL: Yes. Although, my Lord, I dare say that the test is not so high.
The epic corruption case seemed like it was never going to end, but of course, it did roll to a conclusion.
But not before giving me something I’ve waited my whole career for – my head in a judicial cartoon in the newspaper.
Uncanny. Is THIS my new passport photo? Hint: I’m not wearing a wig. Still can’t spot me?
Yep. Yep. I’d like to thank Faber Castell for giving me such a smooth head – stretching artistic licence, frankly, in this humidity.
Out on the street, the police finally cleared the occupied zone.
We waited FIVE tense days while the jury deliberated. We went off the record about 8.30pm every night and then descended into the media scrum on the way home to bed (while the jury made their way to the High Court bunks). It was a week of boredom with an undercurrent of intense anticipation, punctuated with neck cricks from looking constantly at my phone so as not to miss the call-back.
Finally, the jury made their (many) decisions. To report the verdicts and sentencing were two of the most nerve-wracking days of the year and in fact of my entire career. I was sure the people around me could hear my heart hammering. While so many people in that room had a whole lot more invested in the outcome than me, these were the final episodes of a case I wrote nearly 150 days of realtime on (including the preliminary hearings), with daily delivery. We didn’t have a single tech problem. We got all out transcripts out by 5.30pm. Jane and I are still talking. All are achievements I’m proud of. Also how far I managed to stretch my work wardrobe. I mean that sort of length trial requires a budget-busting bundle of blazers.
I zipped up my suitcase for the final time on 23 December. The judge said the trial would finish before Christmas and geez that was a close call. Judges are wise. They know what they’re talking about. And so I’ll leave the last word to one of them, Hoff, who in his Speedos wisdom (wisdom! Wrong Hoff!) summed up what we do. It is special, but also it’s really simple:
That’s the kernel, crystallised by the pre-eminent legal brain. There might be a whole lot of travel, prep, tears, boredom, satisfaction and fulfilment, and I’ve tried to reflect that here, but getting it all down is what it’s all about. Nothing more, nothing less.
2015 – TURN DOWN FOR WHAT?