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Camden New Journal - One Week with JOHN GULLIVER
Published: 28 June 2007
Law Lord Stephen Sedley
Guilty pleasures of a Law Lord

I’VE met Law Lord Stephen Sedley several times over the years, but I never knew until I read a piece of his in the London Review of Books magazine that he is a keen swimmer at the Oasis pool in Holborn!
Lord Justice Sedley, who used to live in Kentish Town, is a man of many parts. In the 60s and 70s, when he wasn’t on his feet before a High Court judge, he was also well known as a pretty good writer on folk music.
Nor did I ever evince in conversation with him that he had a keen sense of mad humour!
It comes out in the magazine article where he describes an incident involving a magistrate who was passed in a dark street by a car, “pulsing with sound, which stopped dead.... A black youth got out, marched over to him and said, ‘I know you – you’re at Marylebone Court!’”.
The magistrate, getting ready to part with his wallet, “defiantly admitted it.”
What did the youth say or do? He said: “F***king magic... and hopped back into the car.”
Writing about the coming days when judges, in some cases, will no longer wear wigs, the venerable Law Lord confides that he was once given a pair of cufflinks as a “Christmas present”. One said ‘Guilty’, the other ‘Not guilty’.
Then he reveals that on most mornings on his way to court he has a swim at the Oasis where a handful of regulars – a stage director, a poet and a journalist – potter up and down the corridor and then go round the corner to Silva’s café.
There the cook Romano does “fry-ups to die from”.
He writes: “For all its fixed furniture and leatherette upholstery, the café, now in the family’s second generation, has weathered all the well-heeled competition which periodically moves into the street.
“Romano’s eyes lit up when I asked him last year if he’d like some of the rabbits that get shot by a neighbour of ours in Oxfordshire.... I fetched him back six frozen ...and Romano made casseroles with tomato and thyme which the lunch time customers fell upon.”
When my colleague popped down to Romano’s yesterday (Wednesday) he discovered that it has been serving Italian treats based on home-cooked recipes for 40 years.
Romano said Lord Justice Sedley cannot resist a plate of bacon, beans and sausage.
“Stephen is the nicest of our customers,” said Romano. “He is a very quiet person – and very polite.”
Fausto Birri, the owner, said: “He has been to Italy a few times – but I think he prefers the food here!”
But who else pops into Silva’s? Tony Blair with his wife Cherie.
“He ordered a full English breakfast too – I couldn’t believe it.”

Doctors, it’s time to stand by your hospital beds!

THEY’RE in the army now! Well, not quite, but thousands of hospital doctors are being treated as if they are – because they are being ordered, in effect, to go to their next post, whether they like it or not.
Scores of these unlucky doctors can be found at the Royal Free, University College London Hospital and the Whittington.
This command approach to the National Health Service is the by-product of the chaotic online recruitment system, masterminded by that brilliant ex-health secretary Patricia Hewitt, who has so far left around 15,000 doctors out of 30,000 without a job.
The turnaround in hospital posts is scheduled to take place by August 1, according to Hewitt’s masterplan. So what will happen to the 15,000 doctors who have not been able to find a post by then? Well, that has not been quite worked out by the clever boys at the Department of Health.
According to the website of the campaigning body, Remedy UK, the high percentage of unfilled posts is frightening. If they remain unfilled by August 1 the victims, apart from the doctors, will be the patients.
An analysis on the Remedy UK website shows that in some parts of Britain, as few as 13 or 16 per cent of hospital posts have so far been filled.
Judy King, a Royal Free doctor who managed to beat the online system and land a post as a registrar, told me: “I was one of the lucky ones, but I still don’t know where I will work. Under the system, I will be working somewhere in the London area, which can mean almost any part of London or as far as Hertfordshire. It’s just like being in the army. Most people don’t know what life is like for hospital doctors!”
King was one of the handful of doctors who recently organised a 10,000-strong protest march against Hewitt’s recruitment system, and is in constant touch with other medics in the country.
How are the jobless doctors facing up to their personal crisis?
“Some of them are making arrangements to work abroad – Australia or Canada,” King told me.
“It’s easy to find recruitment ads from hospitals in Australia on the web, and doctors without a post here are answering them. Our highly trained doctors are much sought after abroad.”
Imagine, taxpayers fund medical students through their five-year course at a cost of hundreds of thousands of pounds, then part- fund them for another four or five years training in their speciality – and then what do we do with them?
Force them to go abroad!
Hewitt’s stand-up show would be a laugh a minute, if it wasn’t so serious.

T&G man who fought in the Spanish civil war

A COLLEAGUE visiting the Spanish town of Gernika last week got the surprise of his life when he was standing in the market square admiring a ceramic copy of the painting of Gernika made famous by Picasso in the 30s.
A car pulled up, and who should step out of it?
Jack Jones, former leader of the Transport and General Workers Union, now aged 94, accompanied by his son Mick, a sculptor who lives in Highgate.
Jack was one of those brave few who had fought in the International Brigades in the Spanish civil war in the mid-30s. He had returned to Spain to visit some of the places where he had fought so heroically.
My colleague found it fitting to meet him in front of perhaps the most recognisable pieces of art of the 20th century. Jack had been inspired to go to Spain after hearing a speech by the black singer Paul Robeson who once lived in Hampstead.
Jack said that people have asked him: “Did you kill anyone in Spain?”
“Frankly, I don’t know, but it is possible,” he told my colleague.
“In battle, one experiences a numbness. One’s first impulse is to protect oneself and then to fire in the direction of the enemy.
“All I know is that some of my comrades were killed and wounded, and men on the other side suffered the same fate. That is war.”

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