Sunday, 27 June 2010

Teatime Fiction. The Harbour Adventure. Part 1

The Raft raft was moored inside the estuary just at the boundary where the Harbour Master's authority waned and the River Authority's authority waxed. Dadder Raft could get a little money by labouring, by transport, by buying and selling at the borders of these jurisdictions. There was, if absolutely necessary, The Social but they were a nosy lot and brought in their wake the gulls of the Revenue, not that they'd pick much off the spars of the Raft.

Every now and again one of the noisy Revenue buggers would land on the fairing, stamp up and down accusing Dadder of having a concealed sea-chest of golden doubloons, and eventually flap off with a token, having satisfied themselves that they had scavenged all there really was to have.

"Good riddance" Dadder would mutter, and we'd wonder if somewhere there was a glittering hoard, our patri-money. In truth, he had only his gold earring, the traditional cost of an emergency burial. In Dadder's view, Revenue men belonged to landlaw, not waterlaw, and this was sufficient to make their presence an illegal boarding. Could he lawfully push them over the side, make them walk the plank, or keel-haul them under the Raft's weedy hull?

Nana Raft (who was Mummy Raft in those days) had heard this line of legal reasoning several times and was no nearer an answer, although she had made a special trip inland to the library to answer it. The librarian offered her to look at the reference copy of the 1896 volume Dicey, Morris & Collins, The Conflict of Laws, but Mummy said it would take too long to find, let alone copy out the relevant passages. Beside, she was fairly sure this was a criminal matter, and what they really wanted to know was: was it maritime law or inland waterways?

"Depends precisely where the Raft is moored, I should think" said Miss Elizabeth, the librarian, "But you'd have to ask someone who knows because it might make a difference if it is an ocean-going ship or an in-shore boat." The librarian paused, wondering if a boat carried its legal jurisdiction within its timbers. It used to - that was the law of the sea. She fiddled pensively with the wheels on her date stamp. "I wouldn't mention it to the vicar. He might think you were looking to get in on the wedding business. In my opinion, you should try Agatha Christie. You can take books those out. She's always killing people and she usually explains where it is legal. I think you can kill someone on a train if you are coming back from abroad. Providing you do it before France that should be alright." she stamped the books and took the index cards out, popping them in to brown-card loans pockets. "But I'm not a lawyer".

Dadder asked Nana what she had found out, but he got no reply as she had reached a thrilling part. He decided to take this matter up with the Harbour Master. "No point in asking the Magister-rate, is there?" he announced "He's landlaw, so it stands to reason he won't know". "Uh-huh" said Nana, which he took to be agreement.

He strolled off up to the Harbour, a gaggle of little Raft tenders bobbing along in his wake. The Harbour was an adventure and there might be a chance of begging sweets.

To be continued, Harbour Adventure Part 2

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