OK, true story, so don’t laugh.
Well, you can laugh where you’re meant to laugh.
My wife has college on a Tuesday, and my daughter goes to nursery with her. I go to meet them off the bus to lend a hand when they get back most days, just down the end of my road. 5 minute walk. So yesterday I’m on my way down there, 5 o’clock in the afternoon, broad daylight, rush hour, plenty of people around. Maybe 100 yards from my front door, and I see a load of kids hanging out round the front of a little estate that’s on my road. You know the types with the hoodies and all. And I think, hmm, I’m glad I’m on this side of the road, though I don’t give it much attention. Fifty yards further on I feel a tug on my bag, which is a smallish bag containing, at this moment, a book, a pen, and some Rennies (over-the-counter indigestion pills). I’m just holding it by the corner, but I keep hold of it. Turn round, and there’s this kid there, maybe 13, smiling.
And he’s all, “oh, man! I nearly got it! Nearly got it! Has it got a laptop in there, man?”
And I said, “no. What? Eh? No.” And then as I started to realise he’d tried to nick my bag, stretched the Queen’s English toward its more colourful limits.
I realise a load of his mates are following me now, six of them maybe, two kids at the front in particular, one of whom has a banister with him. They’re shouting at me – not Shakespeare – and I’m shouting back a bit – I should’ve used Shakespeare, thinking about it, but in the heat of the moment the mind did rather reach for f*cking little c*nts instead, so unless that’s in As You Like It I rather missed my chance – and they’re still following me, but not really all that keen to catch up, I wouldn’t say, not chasing after, exactly.
Now here’s the stupid part, and I still don’t totally understand the thought process here, if there was anything you could call a thought process. I turned round and walked towards them. I’ve been thinking a lot about why I did that.
I don’t know if I was just gripped by some kind of fundamental macho-twat death wish of refusing to have the piss taken out of me by a load of 13 year olds.
A kind of outrage that some little tw*t had tried to steal my bag (containing, let us remember, a book and some dyspepsia medication) in broad daylight.
A feeling that if I kept walking away they’d just get bolder, and keep chasing after me, and my better chance was just to face them down then and there (not clever) especially since I was on the way to meet my wife and two year old and didn’t particularly want to arrive with an escort of banister-waving 13-year old scum.
I think in the back of my mind, was the notion that perhaps if I came towards them, like a game of chicken, they’d run off. They didn’t though, it hardly needs to be said. And so, “alea iacta est”, as Julius Caesar would’ve said, or if the Matrix is more your thing, “you hear that, Mr. Anderson? That is the sound of … inevitability.” I walked towards them, they walked towards me, we met and exchanged pleasantries, going through now the pathetic ritual of posturing that males of the species usually engage in prior to a fight. Chiefly it was these two kids at the front, a right pair of pasty uglies, one with the banister, they might have been brothers.
The one on the right is going, “you stupid? You stupid?” or words to that effect, and the one on the left, “you in my face? You in my face?” Which were redundant questions, really, since I obviously was both stupid and in their face.
So I shoved the guy on my left into a car. Didn’t really shove him that hard. More of an escalating jostle than much else. His mate (brother?) then twatted me over the head with the banister. Hard as he could. Pretty damn hard. The feeling was very undramatic. No pain to speak of. A little jolt. I think maybe I half got my arm up, deflected it a bit. Not really sure. He went, “woah!” because I’m guessing there was some blood at that point. It seems as if there was a polite pause, but maybe time feels like it slows at a moment like that. I think we were all a bit surprised. He was a bit surprised he’d actually clocked me. I was a bit surprised he’d actually clocked me. We were all a bit surprised I didn’t go down, or even move much. It just bounced off. Perhaps none of us had thought it would come to that. Anyway, I got the banister off him, not sure how. Maybe he was a bit shocked, lost his grip, or maybe I twisted it off him.
What do you do when someone hits you over the head with a banister and you somehow get it off them? Obviously, you hit their mate with it. He looked at me, and saw it was coming, and he twisted away, and I cracked him over the back with it and the end broke off and he kind of reeled away.
The rest of them all more or less ran at that point, leaving me there, slightly tangled with my bag, half a banister in hand, wondering what happened and swearing a lot. I started walking off down the road. I became aware that I was bleeding. Like, really pouring out of me. Spritzing, I think Richard Morgan might say. It was spattering down my t-shirt, down my jeans, all over the road. I put my hand to my head and it came away red as if I’d pressed it into a plate of blood. Loads of blood, by my standards at any rate, where a hangnail is something to visit the doctor for. Uh-oh, I thought. This isn’t good. Is my skull broken? Still didn’t hurt, though, and I felt absolutely fine. Quite chipper, really. Just out for a walk with the old bannister, you know, spritzing. Checked, but they weren’t following, so I just went on to meet my wife thinking, she’ll know what to do, probably I’ll need to go to casualty, though, cause I’m like really bleeding, and it’s a new t-shirt, and you can only wash it at 30 degrees, so that’ll be buggered. Little shits.
Anyway, met the wife, she didn’t realise until I was quite close that I was covered in blood, what the hell happened and all the rest. A friendly dentist’s surgery let us in, helped me clean up, though the bloodflow was largely staunched by now. My wife phoned 999, police turned up very quickly, took a statement, then an ambulance took me up to casualty where I waited a couple of hours to have the head cleaned up and looked at. A long cut, but not that deep, didn’t need stitches, they glued it, I came home. I can’t wash for five days, but that’s OK, because I don’t usually wash anyway. A ha ha.
One strange thing is, though, and this is a really strange thing, I feel much more pleased with myself that I went back – even though it was a terminally stupid thing to do, achieved absolutely nothing, and I’m really lucky I didn’t get hurt a lot worse – than I would have been if I ran off. Posturing macho bullshit? Striking a blow for the cause of righteousness? Standing up for your family (highly questionable)? It’s not something I would ever have thought I’d do.
I hope I don’t make any of this sound at all romantic or exciting, because it really wasn’t. Silly was the word I’d use to describe most of it. The lame attempt to steal a bag which contained nothing, my sluggish response, the meaningless monosyllabic exchange of insults, the retarded decision to turn round and get in their faces, the cut-price macho posturing, my pointless shove of one guy almost just to get things started, them letting me get the banister off them, me ineffectually breaking it over the wrong guy’s back, which probably didn’t even hurt, them running off even though there were seven of them, 2 tedious hours wasted waiting in casualty, a largely sleepless night spent turning the thing pointlessly over and over in my head, leaving me feeling sore and mildly hung over this morning. I felt neither scared nor angry at any point. It happened too fast for that, really. I felt confused, then irritated, then overcome by a sick sense of inevitability, then worried about all the blood, then bored
waiting to be seen in casualty, and today just tired and mildly irritable (pretty much the usual baseline).
Did I win? Well, they ran away, I kept the bag, and I even came out of it with half a banister more than when I started. But I scared them off largely by splurting blood everywhere. Not quite how Vin Diesel would have done it at the movies. If minor scalp wounds were less spectacular I’d probably have got a right kicking. And what did I win? Two hours in casualty? Jackpot, baby!
Anyway, visit to the police station tomorrow morning to go through mugshots. As one of the officers with the response unit said, somewhat resignedly as though he too was overwhelmed by the silliness of it all, “if they’ve done it today, the chances are they’ve done it before, and we’ll have caught them, and we’ll have their pictures.” Honestly don’t know if I’ll recognise them – oooh, they all look the same these days though don’t they these kids though, oooh, fabric of society coming apart at the seams, etc. It’s surprising how the details get away from you, especially considering I was no more than six inches from them, looking right in their faces, in broad daylight.
The morals of this little tale? As with so much in real life, it rarely boils down to simple moral lessons (it’s something I try to reflect in my writing, doncha know), but a couple present themselves:
1. A banister is a much less effective weapon than one would expect.
2. This type of thing doesn’t necessarily happen at night, down ill-lit backstreets of foreign towns. It happens on your doorstep, because that’s where you usually are.
3. Even superficial scalp wounds bleed a hell of a lot.
4. The emergency services are damn fine people.
5. It’s always best to walk away from these situations … isn’t it?
Questions that remain unresolved:
1. Why did I walk back, thereby escalating the situation and making it almost inevitable the guy would have to clock me with the banister?
2. Why did I focus my attention on the guy without the banister, even as far as hitting him with the bannister instead of the one who hit me?
3. Will I now be crapping myself every time I walk down that bit of street or, indeed, have to avoid that bit of street for months to come?
4. Will they ever be caught for it, or will it be (as seems much more likely) another pointless and unresolved moment of violence on the streets of old London town…
Time will tell…