So this is me having another go at writing the post I meant to do yesterday, before I distracted myself with talk of tents and exhibitions and whatnot. Whilst wombling about London, I popped into the Supreme Court to do their self-guided tour. I was very surprised by how welcoming they were: I am used to public buildings being only reluctantly open to the actual public, insisting on searching your bag, checking it in a cloakroom, sighing heavily if you have any questions and basically doing everything to discourage you from entering other than actually sticking up a big sign that says “Bog Off Bumface”.
This was not my experience at the Supreme Court: understandably, they did put my bag through airport security, but they did so with a smile and some cheery small talk, even when I set off the alarms. (Apparently I have metal in my shoes, which made me smile, remembering the days when I used to frequent rock clubs and the over-enthusiastic DJ once told me I had metal in my heart. This is a compliment if you go to those sorts of clubs).
It was the same story throughout the building: guards would pop out of courtrooms and I’d freeze, waiting for them to tell me off for breathing too loudly or having metal in my shoes/heart, only to find that they just wanted to make quite sure I knew I could go into all the courts, was welcome to have a look at all the busts of famous judges and yes of course I could take photos. It was all most refreshing.
As I browsed about the place, smiling nervously at the guards in case they suddenly changed their minds and turfed me out, I noticed the portraits that lined the walls. They showed elderly men with pale, papery skin, draped in red and white furs and gold chains, posing in chairs or leaning on swords, looking statesmanlike and as if they would have been pleased with themselves if only they weren’t far too serious for such tomfoolery.
And I reflected, as I often do in such places, on all the women who must have been flitting about in the background, cleaning the courts, ironing the ermine, filling the judicial lunchbox and quite definitely not making any sort of legal decisions or arguments whatsoever. I thought how strange it was that we only know the story of half of the world from those bygone days, and wondered what it would have been like if women had been able to take part in developing the justice system. I regretted their exclusion, but I was glad that we had at least moved on.
And then I got to the basement, and saw the picture of the current members of the Supreme Court.
There are eleven of them. Only one of them is female.
And all of a sudden I didn’t feel quite so welcome after all.