First and foremost, I wish everyone a Very Happy New Year and hope you all had an enjoyable, peaceful and safe Christmas.
Second, I must apologise for being absent from here for most of December, in particular in not commenting or joining in your posts, although please be assured I have read them all and enjoyed them. The reasons for my disappearance I hope will be explained in this post.
Back in late October 2015 I was selected for Jury Service. I do not know if the USA has the same selection process as here in England where names are picked at random from the Electoral Register, with notification being sent of dates required and the opportunity to either defer service or request to be excused: both of which require very special circumstances. My dates were the two weeks leading up to the Christmas holiday – a very busy time for all housewives, mothers, grandmothers etc but I had no choice but to attend. This wasn’t because I didn’t want to perform my civic duty, far from it, but it was the timing that was unfortunate, which isn’t a justifiable excuse.
From that moment on, my mind went into melt down. I had plans for what I intended to achieve during November and December, including two painting commissions I wanted to complete, plus my new book I wanted to finish and have ready for publishing, but I couldn’t get myself in gear, so everything was put on hold. Knowing I had to prepare for the guests during the festivities, I needed to plan my attack very carefully. There was all the shopping to do in advance, the home to organise, as well as meals for my husband. I couldn’t concentrate or focus on anything other than what was coming up.
Going to court daily for me meant most days a good hour-and-a-half travelling each way by bus – although the courts pay expenses they will not pay for car-parking – and with all the extra people travelling into Bristol at this time of year for Christmas shopping, as well as the normal commuter traffic, getting there on time was a logistical nightmare. “It’s no different to when you were working full-time, you’ll manage,” was my husband’s comment. True. But I never had to travel into the city every day then. Still, not much I could do about it.
Once my time began, in a perverse way I found the whole experience enjoyable, but a very surreal one being cocooned in a very different environment with 130 strangers thrown together in this situation, not knowing what to expect. Bristol Crown court has 10 courtrooms thus the jury room is busy with activity. And noisy. Once everyone settled in, conversations struck and soon the atmosphere relaxed as we got to know each other and constant chatter ensured while we waited to be summoned to various courts. This is a random process and some people were not selected to sit on a case at all during their whole time on jury summons.
I was selected for a case the first day so there was no time to read and thankfully not much waiting around, and the day after that case ended, I was selected to sit on another jury. It’s fascinating (especially for a novelist – good research material), enlightening, but most of all it is exhausting. Unbelievably so. As a juror you are completely focused on listening, concentrating on each word said, each item of evidence and its implictions, watching, note-taking, thinking, and by the time I got home each evening, I was too tired to eat and fell into bed most evenings by 8 o’clock. And slept soundly; which surprised me as I thought my mind would be racing over each day’s events, each witness heard. No, I was too shattered to give any of it a second thought. And still it goes on.
So there you have it. My life put on hold whilst determining the future life of several others: quite scary in some respects and a huge responsibility as the two weeks have tripped over into 2016. Hopefully for not much longer before normal service resumes here.