Old Vinny was very deaf. It came from years of work in the cotton mills when the noise of machinery drowned out all other sounds … except for the knocking-off hooter. Vinny always managed to hear that.
Some said his deafness was selective. It didn’t happen often, but if I were to say, “what are you having, Vinny?” his pint glass would be emptied one gulp, and pushed in my direction with the instruction, “a pint of mild, Flatcap.” But whenever I said to him, “Time you bought a round, Vinny,” he looked at his watch and say, “half past one.”
His hearing problems were especially troublesome when he got elected to the magistrates’ bench. No one quite knows how he managed to become a magistrate. He’d been put forward a few times, but always turned it down on the grounds that it was unpaid. Then he learned that magistrates could claim expenses, and Vinny was in like a shot. There was a whisper that one of his expense claims could put your average blood-sucking MP to shame, and I wouldn’t doubt it. If questioned about it, his hearing problems would kick in and for the clerks trying to get to the bottom of his claim for bus fares AND petrol it would be like trying to jog through treacle. Scuttlebutt eventually had it that when Vinny’s claim form came in the, clerk to the justices simply said, “Pay it. It’s cheaper in the long run.” She was right. It saved the borough thousands in sick leave on the grounds of severe stress.
Some of his verdicts could be quite bizarre. Witness the child support claim that came up before Vinny and his fellow beaks.
“We’re awarding your wife £20 a week,” said the Chair of the magistrates.
Vinny gave the defendant a sour look and ordered, “And you make sure you try to send her a few pounds, too.”
“No, no, Vinny,” said the Chair. “He has to pay the twenty pounds a week.”
“He does?” Vinny asked.
“Four children, five pounds per week, per child,” explained the Chair.
“In that case,” said Vinny, “I have eight children, and I order him to pay me eighty pounds a week.”
“But that’s a tenner a child per week,” complained the defendant.
“Mine are all grown up,” argued Vinny.
The worst case that came before him was that of a young tearaway charged with assault, vandalism and general anti-social behaviour. He was the worst kind of lout; ignorant, under-educated, a truant from his schooldays, a workshy layabout; the kind you find in the tap room of the Jolly Carter seven days a week.
He was charged with spraying the walls of the public lavatories on Market Street with the slogan, Sity 4 Ever. In Vinny’s book there was no crime worse than being a City supporter.
“Bloody young hooligan ought to be horsewhipped,” Vinny grumbled as the evidence was read out.
“That’s a bit strong in this day and age, Vinny,” said the Chair. “We can’t horsewhip people just because we don’t like the same football teams.”
“I know,” argued Vinny, “but he can’t even spell City. Look. S-I-T-Y. Everyone knows it’s spelled C-I-T-I.”
“See, eye, tee, why,” the Chair corrected him.
“Why what?” asked Vinny, his diplomatic deafness kicking in.
Ignoring our hero, the Chair concentrated on the unkempt defendant. “Now then, young man, we really can’t have this kind of behaviour, you know.”
“Jump off a cliff,” sneered the arrogant toerag in the dock.
Vinny chuckled. “Hee, hee, I now a few blokes what’ve done that an’all. I’m one of ’em.”
“Done what, Vinny?” asked the Chair.
“Jumped your Olive. She was a right goer when she was younger, that sister of yours.”
“No, Vinny,” urged the Chair flustered with anger and embarrassment. “He said, ‘jump off a cliff’.”
Vinny frowned. “Cliff who?”
Once more ignoring Vinny, the Chair faced the defendant. His face was set stern, at its most disapproving. “I am determined to crack down on this kind of behaviour, and your arrogance does you no favours in this court. I intend to impose the maximum penalty permitted by law. Do you have anything to say before I pass sentence?”
The defendant wiped his nose on his sleeve, spat at the floor and said, “Bugger all.”
Vinny fiddled with his hearing aid. “What did he say?” he asked.
The Chair leaned over to Vinny. “He said, ‘bugger all’.”
“That’s funny,” Vinny said checking his hearing aid again. “I could have sworn he said something.”