Monday, November 30, 2009
I'm a great fan of Rumpole of the Bailey, both the books by John Mortimer and the TV adaptations featuring Leo McKern as Horace Rumpole. I generally don't go in for the lighter side of crime, I'm more the hard-boiled type, but something about Rumpole tickles me. So, when I was in London I decided to make a pilgrimage to the Old Bailey. All right, it wasn't much of a pilgrimage. I was strolling from St. Paul's to Waterloo Bridge, passing time before a concert, and the Old Bailey happened to be en route. The Old Bailey, in case you don't know, is London's main criminal court. I always thought it was named for some old guy named Bailey, perhaps an eminent jurist, but a little research set me straight. Old Bailey is the name of the street it stands on, named for the fortified wall, or bailey, that once stood there.
I was charmed by the inscription on the building.
"Defend the children of the poor & punish the wrongdoer." I imagined those words being intoned in the stentorian tones of the great Leo McKern, perhaps as he snuck a guzzle of his favorite low-rent claret, Pommeroy's Plonk, watching with one eye for the approach and eventual reproach of She Who Must Be Obeyed.