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Oct. 11th, 2011

I got into trouble with my driving [in 1904 when I was working in Paris], and it came about this way.

I was saying good-night to a very old friend I had taken home when a gendarme accosted me in the politest way and informed me: (1) that I had driven too fast; (2) that I had not stopped when told to (I had seen nothing); (3) that I had not a permis to drive; and (4) that I had no plaque d'identité in the car. Monsieur would be summoned.

Monsieur was indeed summoned. On the day I should have appeared, however, I had to go to England, so I got a lawyer to look after my case. I don't know what he said or did, but on my return I was informed I had been fined 250 francs and given two days of prison. Boiling with fury at this savage sentence I naturally appealed. Nothing happened for a month or two, then I was bidden attend the court. I had had rather a beefy evening the night before and was so late up I had to go without breakfast; but on arrival I found a case going on in which a type of crime passionel was being decided and everyone was a bit on edge. However, eventually my case came up. The court was most impressive, and the three judges in black robes looked rather like inquisitors. I was asked to explain. I did. One of the judges asked if I was English. This does not sound funny, nor is it a compliment to my French, but after the former rather tense trial the whole court rocked with laughter—to the great annoyance of the judges.

I got a very severe lecture, my fine was increased to 500 francs and the two days in prison stood. I felt very down-hearted. Two days in prison with no breakfast was a poor lookout. I tried to press 500 frances into the hands of various people, but it seemed to be no one's business to receive it. I waited to be taken to the cells, but again no one took the smallest interest in me. Thinking it best to have a meal, I left and went to my digs. Days passed. I imagined every policeman I saw was about to arrest me, but nothing happened. Weeks went by and eventually I left Paris and moved to London. There I received a slip one day telling me to present myself on a certain day to pay my fine and do two days in prison. I wrote back to say I really couldn't come over to Paris just to do two days of prison, but thought I might be in Paris in the autumn, when I would come along. Another chit arrived—“Present yourself on October 1st”. I replied that I could not guarantee the date. This time a letter came telling me to ask for a pardon. This I did, but my letter was returned—I had asked the wrong man. I was told whom to address and tried again. To this day I have had no answer, but the fact remains that I have never paid my fine nor done my two days in prison.

Lord Brabazon of Tara, The Brabazon Story (1955)



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