The Ditchwater Canal, opened in 1760 and one of the first great channels of communication of "the great age of British waterways", has been accused of becoming a "linear obstacle" to the modern electronic information highway.
A Court judgement has been sought on whether an electronics company wishing to lay fibre-optic cable beneath the waterway should pay rent to the owner of the part of the canal concerned and the case was referred with disturbing inevitability to The Court of Extraordinary Pleas. Those averse to arcane tomfoolery should read no further.
Lord Justice Mantelpiece Huxtable was charged with deciding whether Ego Networks should have to pay rent to Mrs Ivy Trivet-Wilkinson, the owner of the affected parcel of land and the section of the canal housed thereon.
Mr Wenskin Capplehouse, of Nimbus, Planterbury, Lisket, Brisket, Brine, Briar, Brover, Queerforth, Nilve and Capplehouse, for the fibre-optic company, was wont, co linctus nostratum pex, to issue a plea of continuous passage. He argued that, since the company already had a duct under the canal for which it paid Mrs Trivet-Wilkinson a peppercorn rental, it should only be required to pay a single fee of garill-entry which, once paid, should entitle it to continuity of perpendicular entry and egress, and the question of rental was thus obviated (notwithstanding the possibilities of a counter-thrust via the expedient of debased garill-entry with or without pelver and indeed relver).
In effect, argued Mr Wenskin Capplehouse, Ego Communications might then be said, or be said to be, or might be then said to be said then to be said to be, in possession of a right of crover - with retro-quersin applied ob func in a case of lapsed onhold without largesse, with reference to the Act of Contrajunctive Misplandary 1787. He cited the case of Noskins v Regina 1885, in which the Crown were able to secure the unhindered passage of Royal Oast-Carts beneath the sails of a windmill owned by a Mr Abel Noskins, whose lawyers had argued unsuccessfully for a stay of garill-entry via an application for melber with focage.
While Mr Wenskin Capplehouse went out to stroke his ermine, Mr Hippolyte Silkman took up the argument for the respondee, the owner of the land in question, Mrs Ivy Trivet-Wilkinson.
There was a brief sensation in court when Mr Silkman asked his client to confirm her name. 'My name is Grace Vole-Caxton', she replied. When pressed for an explanation, she said: 'Ivy Trivet-Wilkinson is my trading name. There have always been Trivet-Wilkinsons at the Hassett Locks, and I wished to continue the family tradition.' When the uproar had died down, the case resumed its tortuous course.
Mr Hippolyte Silkman warned the court that, if it accepted the arguments evinced by Mr Wenskin Capplehouse, a dangerous precedent might be instituted, whereby those in control of historical monuments or enfeoffed domains or parcels of land, may be vulnerable to the ingress of opportunistic developers. Ego Networks should not, he maintained, be allowed to use the "trojan horse" of garill-entry to ride roughshod over the entrenched rights of an historically-established holding.
The case presented by Mr Wenskin Capplehouse, argued Mr Hippolyte Silkman, was a mere breached assay in bandingfine, and the attachment of crover and retro-quersin a mere phantom appendix, for (cf The Biddlecombe Cheesery v Miss A Doily 1924, Mr Justice Moribund presiding, in which a householder prevented an attempt by a dairy farm to establish a right of passage for their cattle through her orchard, the Biddlecombe Cheesery failing to assert intercourse by momentum as they were unable to prove muersin, cux nobinium or no cux nobinium), an application based solely upon the existence of a duct, and the reinforcement of that argument by a sub-argument based upon the continuous nature of electronic transmissions through the said duct, were open to an objection that the use of garill-entry as it were en vapimenta, was neither mountable, limned, or fotable, as it would need to be, under the terms of the 1961 Act of Contracted Elarium.
Mr Justice Mantelpiece Huxtable shook his mighty wig, and said: 'The Ditchwater Canal, engineered by James Flintlock in the 18th century, was one of the great canals. It was built to enable the citizens of the growing industrial city of Ditchwater, Slops., to buy the coal from the Earl of Ditchwater's mines. The modern citizens of Ditchwater, however, do not want coal mined by children. They want fibre-optic broadband. In this modern scenario, the great Ditchwater Canal has become what is termed under the auspices of the interminable 1893 Act of Obstacles and Stultifying Obfuscations, a linear obstacle. It may also be termed, with reference to Nackstone**, a "watery barrier".'
The Judge paused only to command the Puisne Serjeaunt-at-Arraigns to prod those who were slumbering with his blackthorn "nudging-pole". When all were awake, he continued.
'It is true that Ego Networks already have a duct through the property of Mrs Grace Vole-Caxton who trades under the name of Mrs Ivy Trivet-Wilkinson. It is also true that, under the terms of the Code of Communication-Knowledge (COCK), these electronics companies often claim what they call a "buy one, get one free" right of access in cases such as this. These things are noted by the court.
'However, notwithstanding the tangled skein of the arguments presented by Mr Wenskin Capplehouse, I cannot accept that the principles of an ad-hoc code such as COCK should apply, numbus uterio, to those external to its purview or domain. Descendants of lock-keeping families like Mrs Grace Vole-Caxton who trades under the name of Mrs Ivy Trivet-Wilkinson, should not be forced to accept COCK.
'Furthermore, it is not just or equitable that an operator should obtain something for nothing.'
Mr Justice Mantelpiece Huxtable ruled that Ego Communications should pay the rental demanded by Mrs Grace Vole-Caxton trading under the name of Mrs Ivy Trivet-Wilkinson, but said that - by virtue of a perpendicular assay of loiver with splavulin - they were entitled to launch an appeal.
'Such an appeal would come within the purview of this court, or perhaps that of the Court of Absurd Pleadings, and would be welcomed, since it might help to clarify an area rife with vexed questions and nebulosities.'
The Judge spoke these final words to a hushed court. He was led out by the Puisne Serjaunt-at-Arraigns, through a forest of blank faces and soft snorings.
**Nackstone, E R (1907) "Chicanery, Cozenage and Persiflage for Judges" Vol. 37