An Evening in Casualty

October 21st, 2008

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…

Posted in Other Life by Joe Abercrombie on October 21st, 2008.

61 comments so far

  • Captain Joe says:

    Joe, I think you just became my new hero. Seriously, well done. Speaking from experience and what I know of teenage group mentality, the fact you didn’t back down was half the battle in your favour.

    It may have been a dumb move, but it was also the right move. No doubt about it. As was targeting the leaders of the little pissants. Cut the head off the snake, and all that.

    At the very least, those punks may think twice next time, and you could’ve saved someone else a kicking.

    ~Cap’n Joe

    Ah, and I think you spouted some fairly accurate modern day Shakespeare.

  • Pat says:

    Man. I’ve got to start reading your blog more often….

  • Sizzlord says:

    Dude, FUCK those kids. Better than meeting your wife and kid and having them harassing your family.

    I say Bravo, sir, Bravo. Maybe you can incorporate that little shindig into your next book hmmm?

  • Anonymous says:

    Erm, ambulances are for EMERGENCIES. Life or death and all that.

    While I admire you for standing up for yourself, I think the stupidest thing you did was waste an ambulance on a minor injury. You were conscious, not in any pain and able to wait for two hours in Casualty. You could have taken a cab.

  • Susanne says:

    Jesus Christ, Joe. Bravo. I’m with the Captain up there: Dumb it may have been, but right it was without a doubt.

    I’ve been discussing the subject of Zivilcourage (“social courage”) with friends recently, and while we all agree that much, much more of it is needed in the world, no one can agree on the risk trade-off involved. The question “Would you have stepped in?” is ever so hard to answer.

    Very, very well done. I’m very glad nothing worse happened to you. I’m convinced those kids won’t try anything again. Don’t be scared. Courage!

  • Wilfred says:

    Walking away from such a situation is usually the save thing to do. Unless they are already intent on getting you and then your actions will make them see you as an easy target.

    The danger is that one of the little punks had a knife and stabbed you. A bannister you can defend yourself against…knifes are a bit more dangerous.

    And yes, next time concentrate on the one with the nastiest weapon. It’s not like Logen would first go for the clerk with the sharp tongue and leave the Northerner with the mansized blade at his back. 🙂

    Although it might not be the save thing to do, I feel it’s the duty of any citizen to confront injustice or anti-social behaviour, so kudos to you Joe!

    Also cuts, bumps and bruises will heal, a defeated ego will play havoc on your selfesteem.

    I have to admit though, that although I’m impressed with your willlingness to confront these little punks, it comes over a little ‘uncontroled’ to be the first one to result to violence/shoving.

    One finally question Joe…was your wife worried, supportive or just mad at you for what had happened?

  • iamza says:

    Yikes. It may not have been the smart thing to do, but I also think confronting those kids was the right thing to do. Hopefully, they got a good scare out of all the blood, but it’s sad it had to get that far.

    Were any of the cops suitably sympathetic?

  • marky says:

    Hi Joe. I just want to tell you I know where you’re coming from. I had a similar incident in the East end of Glasgow a while back. I was walking down Duke Street when I came across a couple of 18-20 year olds kicking into a smaller kid. I stopped to help and ended up fighting with them. The wee kid they where beating decided to jump on my head when I was on the deck.
    I managed to come out the best in the end. Wildly throwing punches is an affective way to scare of f would be assailants. I looked a bit like a crazed Grizzly Adams.
    Anyway, I’ll have a go at answering some of your post fight questions.

    Q. Why did I walk back, thereby escalating the situation and making it almost inevitable the guy would have to clock me with the banister?

    A. Hindsight is a wonderful thing they say.

    Q. Why did I focus my attention on the guy without the banister, even as far as hitting him with the banister instead of the one who hit me?

    A. At least you clocked one of the little Baw bags. One honour point for you Sir.

    Q. 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?

    A. This incident, while unusual for you, is probably common place for these Ned’s/Chav’s/Hoodies. They’ll no doubt be getting up to more mischief even as we speak. Lurching from one fight to another is a Ned’s way.
    If indeed you do come across them again, kick them in the balls. Maybe that way you can stop them from spreading their seed, thus saving some other poor innocent in the future.

    Q. 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…

    A. Even if they are caught, nothing will happen. They are too young. A slap on the wrist and threatened with an ASBO is the best that you can hope for.

    I applaud your bravery Sir. One would hope there are more people like you.

    @anonymous. It would seem that you don’t get that Joe is an Author and not a doctor. If I had blood streaming down my face, I would call an ambulance.

    Sorry for the long post. I’m off to order a copy of your book. You can count that as a side prize for the Chav banister bashing episode.

    Marky, yer pal who thinks yer awfay brave by the way!

  • Glad to hear you are okay. What will be the fate of the bannister? Mounted over the mantlepiece? Will you be wielding it in your next Moody Author Shot? Gemmell always had that sword in his shots, you could have the Bannister of Righteous Smiting (+1).

    @ Anonymous: hindsight is a great thing. If someone twatted me over the head with a large blunt object and I was admitting blood from my skull, I would call a fecking ambulance as well.

  • greg says:

    good show, I say. if they were following you, hoping that they’d be able to start something beyond the earlier feeble attempt at a snatch-and-run, then turning around to confront them was the right thing to do. the last thing you needed was for them to catch up to you and clock you in the back of the head with the banister. and then to swarm over you like that. going up to them like that makes it a 1-on-1 (or 1-on-2 in this case) instead of a 1-on-7. if you take out the leader(s), then you’re going to be safe from the other ones because they feed off and get their false courage from the bravado and supposed strength of their leader.

    side note – what exactly is meant by ‘banister’ in the queen’s english? I’ve got the mental picture of a guy carrying railing off a staircase, and that just doesn’t make sense.

  • Wow, 10 comments in three hours? Looks like this is going to be my most popular blog post EVER. I should do this more often.

    Thanks all for the support.

    My wife called the police, and the police called the ambulance. They wanted me to do a ride-round with them to check if we could find those little whippersnappers, but as it was a head wound they wanted it checked by a medic first, even though the bleeding had mostly stopped and I hadn’t lost consciousness. Standard procedure. When the medics duly arrived, they wanted to take me to casualty to be checked over, because it looked impressive, believe me, even though it turned out to be pretty superficial. So I take your point, but none of that was my call really.

    Every post is like this down here.

    The funny thing is, I would never have said I’d have stepped in, and I’m not sure I ever would on someone else’s behalf. These things happen so quickly you can hardly call it a question of courage, more instinct, which is why I think I did some things that were plainly nonsensical, the brain was more or less turned off from the whole time after he tried to grab the bag.

    I’m wondering if I ignored the one with the banister because I kind of wanted to pretend he wasn’t there…

    My wife was utterly supportive and very worried, of course, much more so than me, but then it looked a lot more dramatic than it was, and I had the benefit of the old adrenalin high.

    The banister is in the hands of her Majesty’s constabulary.

    One of the uprights of a victorian-style banister, rather than a rail, so a two foot piece of rather poor quality pine, painted magnolia, as I recall…

  • Marky,
    Yours sounds a hell of a lot more serious than mine. I think if these kids, who were probably in the 12-15 age range, had been in the 18-20 age range, I’d be in intensive care now. Plus they weren’t really geared up to fight, or all that intent on hurting me. I think they were as shocked by the sudden escalation as I was, and, you know, ran off. Lucky for me.

  • TK42ONE says:

    This all sounds like a very poorly reproduced British version of a Charles Bronson movie. No guns. The hero gets injured. The raving pack of wild teens runs away in fear.

  • Jostein says:

    In hindsight, if you’d walked away, I’d assume you would have come back the same way a few minutes later with wifey and kiddo. Chances are that they would still be hanging around. I’d prefer confronting them alone, rather than with my two year old (not that I have one of those) at my back.

  • Bob Lock says:

    Ahh, Joe, Joe,

    You better get lawyered up. You do realise that the young whipper-snapper was just trying to save you from an errant wasp that was just about to sting you on the bonce? The one asking you whether or not there was a u in stupid and the other kid who was unsure as to whether or not there was a u in the statement ‘you in my face?’were obviously aware that you were a famous author and were asking for some spelling assistance. Not only did you assault them both but you actually broke their antique bannister, damaged a car in the process, ruined their designer hoodies with your outpouring of blood (which you could have been more careful with and directed elsewhere) and then had the audacity to steal said antique bannister too!

    All joking aside, well done but also thank goodness they didn’t pull knives, machetes or even a pistol on you, which unfortunately nowadays seems par for the course in such incidents.

    Oh, and anonymous, grow some balls and put your name where your mouth is…

  • melmoth says:

    I’m just glad that I’m reading here about an incident that you’re turning over and over in your mind, and not reading in the paper about a group of thugs who turned you over and over in the street.

    It’s wonderful to read about people standing up for themselves against the odds and prevailing, but if that first blow had knocked you to the floor, I hate to think what might have happened.

    Sorry, that was a bit glum.

    Hey, we’d have still gotten to read your next book had you bean beaten to a pulp, right? I’m just… I’m just thinking of your family getting the money to support them of course. Yes.

  • Masrock says:

    Is there a right thing to do?
    If you run, they chase you, you can trip and they get you.
    If you walk away, they can sneak up and hit you.
    If you walk towards them, you fight, get hurt, if you go down, they swarm you.
    Your the product of your experiences in life, you did what you did because that’s what you would have done in that situation.
    Turning it over in your mind is your brain sorting the experience, reinforcing some responses, changing others, you might react differently in a similar situation, in a way that can protect those you love…or get you all killed.
    The universe is a harsh place that’s out to get you, you’re still here and that counts for something.
    I think I would have reacted the same as you, without the head wound and twatting all of them with the bannister!

  • Brids says:

    Joe Joe Joe, always make the first move a below the belt move. Kick,punch or knee, your choice. That’l take the little shit down and the rest will be scared off because these 13 year old lads need their manhoods for getting underage girls pregnant.

    What you did was brave and whilst abit dumb, deffinitly the right thing to do. I often end up having to scare off young chavs at school. Fortunetly a good “what the fuck you do you think youre doing? Get out of my way” and a scowl will do… Maybe young hooligans are tamer up north?

  • marky says:

    Yours sounds a hell of a lot more serious than mine.

    Joe, Seven Spaniels can do as much damage as Two Dobermans.
    But hey, these little things are sent to test us.

    Oh, I ordered The blade itself. What a cracking cover design. It truly gives you that ‘Ooo, what’s this about’ feeling. I’m looking forward to reading it. So until then, I bid you adieu.

    Marky, who thinks yer still quite brave, but might need to buy a Tazer. 😉

  • Phinehas says:

    See, this is why I love Joe’s books. He knows how to write a good fight scene.

    I’m curious. Did the thought, “you have to be realistic,” ever cross your mind during this whole process?

    I have to be honest. When I was reading about your little incident and you wondered why you would back to confront them, I couldn’t help but think that it is better to face your fear than to live with it.

    I think I read something like that somewhere.

  • Jason says:

    Well done Joe though you best be careful they dont get there 40 year old ex-boxer granddad to come an duff you up as it were

  • Sidney says:

    Bloody hell, that sounded both scary and funny and I felt compelled to comment! Seriouly, what part of London do you live in that 13-year old kids try to steal your stuff in broad daylight?

    I was burgled in my flat in Camden while I was sleeping and coming face to face with a burglar first thing in the morning isn’t the most pleasant experience… I’ve mostly forgotten it since, but noises in the flat still make me jump! I had to recognise my burglar too from mugshots, which was really hard. I saw the guy for more than 5mins and I still couldn’t recognise him the next day!

    Anyway good luck with the police and all. I think going back to confront the little sh*ts was pretty brave, but they also could have pulled a knife. Be more careful next time! 😀

    Sidney (met you briefly at Eastercon)

  • Swainson says:

    Hey Joe,

    I’ve had a couple of pointless scrap actions in my life. Yes they are stupid and the common wisdom is walk away but if you do that then it becomes a part of your life. Avoid conflict at all costs.

    Mostly i find laughing at kid works, unless of course it really sets them off; I reckon about 50/50.

    I say if you’re going end up in a fracas then make sure the other side are at least smaller than you.

    Good on you.

  • tk42one,
    Rock bottom budget. Banister where the shotgun should’ve been.

    I’d like to say I stopped because I knew otherwise I’d lead them right to the wife and kid, but I’m not sure it was anywhere near as clear-cut as that.

    Though I’m sure there are occasional horrific incidents with knives and guns which get a lot of press, I’m sure this type of pointless, random low-level shit is infinitely more common.

    I’m under no illusions. I was pretty lucky. I’m not recommending this approach, it’s just what happened.

    Wise words there. There is no universally right way to behave.

    My guess is they’re tamer in the school environment, but who knows?

    let me know what you reckon. As long as you like it.

    Ha ha. I am full of life lessons.

    I don’t think they’d have needed the grandad if they’d really had it in mind to give me a kicking.

    Shit, being burgled in your flat is way worse. My sympathies.

    I’d always have said walk away. I guess one thing leads to another and before you know it … you’re in casualty.

  • disrepdog says:

    Superficial headwounds bleed a ridiculous amount and the police were absolutely right not to take any chances with a head wound. Superglue is fab. I once superglued a tarantula back together. 🙂

    Good for you standing up to bullying little shytes, maybe they will think twice next time…just maybe.

  • Masrock says:

    If it counts for anything, remember you are linked genetically to an unbroken chain of survivors going back roughly 3.5 billion years.

    Is that any comfort? Well it makes me feel better!

    “Still alive, Still alive!”

  • Compelling story Joe, glad it came out alright. More or less. I have to ask though, what is a banister? Sounds like some sort of bat-like cudgel, I guess, but I dont really know..

  • Captain Joe says:

    @thornofcamorr: Or should I call you Locke? Heh. A banister is a thick chunk of wood used in the support of your average staircase. Here.

    Joe, I’ve been thinking, a few months back on the Rothfuss blog, we decided that Pat needed his own action figurine (with interactive beard), thus Action Pat was born. What say you to a GI Joe-No, wait… Hmm, ha, a Joe Cool figurine (with interactive banister). Think of the marketing potential.

    Think of it.

  • Susanne says:

    Captain, thanks for making me spray coffee first thing in the morning. GI Joe. Mwuahaha.

    Looking at the pic of that banister…why are kids running around with bits of staircase? Are there abandoned buildings near where you live, Joe? Gosh i’m glad they didn’t have anything sharper.

  • disrepdog,
    The quantity of blood was extremely impressive, and for a moment quite worrying. I’ve never bled anything like so much in my adult life, that’s for sure.

    Did you see that on Stephen Hawking’s documentary? It is a most excellent observation. But the depressing thing is the same could be applied to every member of the gang of hoodies…

    One of the uprights of a victorian-style stair-rail, more or less as pictured by captain joe, perhaps a bit more substantial, so a length of (fortunately relatively poor quality) pine, I suppose 2-2.5 feet long, painted magnolia.

    Always a lot of building work going on round my way, so probably they’d found it in a skip, or tossed out in a front garden with a load of builder’s waste, I’m guessing. Maybe he’d been playing around with it prior to the opportunistic effort to steal my bag, or maybe he picked it up on the way down the street.

  • Fordy says:


    I’m extremely concerned. If you’d been killed would we still have got to read Best Served Cold??

  • Fordy,
    I’m sure my publisher would’ve fought back the tears for long enough to make it available in a special-edition memorial boxed set along with the entire trilogy re-issued in special hardcover with a huge photograph of my cold, dead face on the back.

  • isis-newton says:

    It’s good that you didn’t become another statistic. You’re way too old to be getting stabbed or shot in London though. 😉

    1. I’m interested to know what your missus had to say about it. Was she angry that you put yourself at risk? Or pleased/proud/something else? Because my husband does this sort of thing all the time. And I do keep telling him not to. It’s just not in his nature not to, sadly.

    2. Head wounds. They bleed A LOT, they really do. I found this out at 14 when a ‘friend’ cut my forehead open with a hockey stick during practise. The blood turned my yellow hockey socks red. I had this confirmed on my honeymoon when my husband put his head through a glass door, leaving a ragged gash on top of his head. I thought he was going to bleed to death.

    3. Why did it not hurt at the time? Adrenaline. Anyone who says otherwise has never been in a fight.

    All grist to the mill though, right. And don’t keep on giving yourself a hard time about it – the outcome was good (ish) and you’ve learned…something from it.

  • Sir,
    As a martial artist I have often wondered what my reaction would be in a similar circumstance. It is well established that often, unless hard wired, learned skills leave you at such a time and you resort to a much baser fight or flight response. Your higher thought processes are not involved in this, they do not come into play until after the event. As I’m sure you now know, the brain then replays the incident over and over again. You sir, are by instinct a fighter, an alpha male. Neither a thing of which to be proud nor ashamed. It is what it is.

  • Anonymous says:

    I’m from Germany and have read some articles about the so-called “Hoodies” (?) in England recently.
    Those articles seemed a bit exaggerated to me – but maybe they are really a common sight in England’s streets nowadays?
    I haven’t been to England for a long time (10 years maybe), but on my last visit, those bullies weren’t around…

    I think you showed a strong example of Zivilcourage – and if more people would act that way, those guys would not get bolder every day.
    The problem would not be solved, of course – but the “spreading of the disease” would be stopped, just a little.

    On the other hand, I’ve read some articles (German newspapers) about “knifing” in your country and I’m not sure, whether these bullies (“Hoodies?”) are the same group associated with these deeds – but if they are, then you’re right about the “stupid move” – but it was the right move, anyway.

    I think you would have been worried about yourself being a coward if you’d ran away and – although this might sound a little bit macho – this would be worse than a bleeding and two boring hours at a hospital. At least to me.

    Well done! Very well done!

    Nobody knows, what would have happened if they’ve confronted you and your family if you just had walked on – and what effect that might have had on your kid, so you really made the RIGHT move!

    Please don’t kill too many 13 year olds in the future… in your books, of course! 😉


  • tomlloyd says:

    Glad to hear you’re ok Joe!

    The sense of it aside, I wouldn’t be surprised if your reaction was in part goveerned by the fact that you write heroic fantasy – not taking the piss there, but you spend all day writing about these seriously hard men who don’t back down from stuff and it changes your perception. As I get older I seem to be increasingly belligerent as my first reaction to a situation for that very reason, common sense isn’t kicking in as it used to, I’m mentally reacting as my characters would and unfortunately forgetting there’s a good 15 stone of muscle between us… Am not looking forward to the day my mouth gets me into real trouble – if I’m lucky it’ll be with Dave D and he’ll not bother to hurt me too much!

  • Masrock says:

    Hi Joe,

    No Not Stephen Hawking, more Richard Dawkins. I used it to comfort myself last year after my mother died. We should all be grateful just to be here, however brief as the possible people who could have been but never were- genetic variants never born, outnumber the grains of sand in the Sahara. And yes, the same can be said for the hoodies- we are all distantly related to each other after all and all trying to survive in our own way. Your purpose in life is what you make of it in the circumstances you find yourself. There is no evil- just shades of grey- as you’ve written about in your stories. This may make you a better writer – at least you’ll be able to accurately describe what it like being clobbered by a lump of wood!

  • One thing seems clear: if you had walked away from them you wouldn’t have written on your blog about it. And so you wouldn’t have received all these expressions of sympathy (to which I wholeheartedly subscribe). So at least from this point of view this was the right thing to do.

  • isis,
    My wife I think was initially horrified I’d gone back and then perhaps pleased I hadn’t brought them with me to meet her and the two year old. Largely she’s just hugely relieved I didn’t get seriously hurt, as am I.

    And it’s barely hurt at all at any point – that’s not me being hard, I’m rubbish with pain – it just really wasn’t very painful, oddly.

    Alpha Male, you say? Bloody hell, that sounds like hard work…

    Well, I’m always saying to anyone that’ll listen that the whole hoody, knife crime thing gets a bit blown out of proportion. I guess this’ll teach me, eh? An awful lot of teenage kids dress that way, but that doesn’t mean that all of them are criminally minded or carry knives by any means.

    But I write unheroic fantasy full of cowardly characters and psycopaths. Since I’m not in the latter camp, I must be the former…?

    Daargh! I’ve got my Hawking and Dawkins mixed up. Unforgivable. That was what I was thinking of…

    Well, authors need inspiration, and direct experience is the best kind I guess. Directly after the event, in fact, with the blood still pouring from the superficial scalp wound I can remember thinking – that was interesting.

  • Jason H says:

    Soooo your saying that something came over you like you were a
    different person? I heard of art immitating life but maybe we
    just start calling you ‘The Bloody Nine’? :p

    I’m just glad that you are fine bud. Very brave thing to do.

  • Anonymous says:

    You won, Joe.


  • Mark Stay says:

    Crikey Joe! Didn’t they know what sort of books you write!? I got into a similar, but less violent situation with a bunch of kids who terrorised me with… erm… water balloons. It sounds silly now, but at the time it was… well, silly then too, but I was too busy concocting worse-case ultra-violent scenarios in my head to realise it at the time. Derren Brown tells a story about being in a similar situation to yours and he used his Jedi mind powers and distracted them by babbling on about school dinners. This confused them so much that they left him alone. Richard Morgan was told by someone in the SAS to inhale deeply and make your chest look bigger. Apparently, instinct will take over and the other guys will see you growing and back off in fear. The only problem is if the other guys have heard the same advice, and you both start trying to out-inhale each other and end up hyper-ventilating.
    My advice is to always run away screaming like a little girl. You may have to live with the shame, but at least you live…

  • 100thIdiot says:

    I would recommend a few self defence classes. There are certain techniques anyone can use quite effectively in these situations. There is one in particular that is easy to remember (you will only have to be shown once), and is very effective. And as a bonus its pure self defence, you wont be breaking bones or busting noses so no problem with the law after. I’m not sure about the legality of explaining it here, but believe me it works. I’m a big guy and I’ve had it done to me and I submitted straight away – survival instinct kicks in quickly. So there are things you can learn and do quickly without being a martial arts expert.

    The other thing you can do is use confusion by reacting in a way that makes some kind of sense, but is completely out of context with whats happening. There is a story about a hold up at a McDonalds. Someone walked into one with a gun and demanded money from the till. The guy behind the counter apologised and said that he couldn’t open the till without an order, and asked him to make an order. The flummoxed bandit asked for a bacon mcmuffin. Again the guy behind the counter apologised and said that they only served bacon muffins in the so he wouldn’t be able to open the till. At this point the bandit turned round and ran off. These people have an idea in there heads of how these situations will go down. If you react in a way thats completely unexpected, you will confuse and bewilder them. The idea is to completely interrupt there expectations of whats happening. Maybe you could have said “I’m sorry I’ve not seen Dave yet, but he was on the telly last night. Must rush I’ve got to be in the tardis yesterday and I’m late”… Any old weirdness would do. Try Derren Browns ‘Tricks of the Mind’ book, its all explain rather better in there.

    And good for you for standing up for yourself. I agree with others here if you’d walked off or ran they all would have joined in.

    And finally to the person who said this:
    “Erm, ambulances are for EMERGENCIES. Life or death and all that”

    If someone takes a blow to the head like that and is bleeding badly, you really ought to play it safe and call an ambulance, god only knows what could have been going on inside and what trouble might have been building up with blood clots and such. Its not like he cut his finger or stubbed his toe.

  • Steve Aryan says:

    Jesus, well not to repeat what others have said, but I’m glad it wasn’t a serious injury, although at the time it obviously seemed that way.

    Why you did it? Hmmm, maybe the shock wore off that a child was trying to steal your bag and adrenaline kicked in and you saw red, or just reacted to being threatened and went for them, when the higher brain functions of your brain were saying “Um, Joe, there’s quite a few of them and one of them has a weapon!”

    I also suspect you’ll be known for a while as ‘the nutter’ who stood there and took a blow to the head and didn’t react, so I doubt you’ll have much trouble with anyone else. The fear will be there the next few times you go past, but also the rush of adrenaline and you might find yourself, somehow, eargerly anticipating an encounter. Repress the urge! Next time, as others have said, it might not be a banister but something far more dangerous.

    That said, well done for teaching the scabs a lesson.

    I had a similar but far less violent encounter with a group that hang around on my estate. When getting out of the car one day in front of the house they asked me where I’d been. I told them work, and then they asked where I came from, when I replied Newcastle, the penny seemed to click and they said, ah, that’s why you talk funny. I was sorely tempted to point out that they sounded like they were talking a foreign language instead of English, but thought it was churlish and said nothing instead. Since then they’ve left me alone, although, come to think of it, that may have something to do with nearly running one of them over in the car whilst he was on his bike in the middle of the road. Pity I missed really.

  • The alpha male comment by my friend knightofredempt is an interesting one. Maybe worth of discussion with Richard Morgan, since that was one of the themes of BLACK MAN?

    I was wondering about other genre authors who’ve been attacked on the streets. J. Michael Straczynski was once mugged in San Diego, whilst David Gemmell seemed to get into quite a lot of scrapes (obviously channelling some Druss there). I think Robert Jordan had the narrowest escape when someone fired a rocket-propelled grenade at him, although that wasn’t so much on the streets as more “on a chopper flying over the Vietnamese jungle”. Hmm.

  • Jebus says:

    Sorry mate, I was giggling the whole way through like a little school girl. But yeah, not exactly a fun moment.

    I’ve been in similar situations and my instinct is flight – no ifs or buts about it. I guess your brain just didn’t want to acknowledge that someone else might be downing your Rennies in an alley somewhere and having a right larf on their intoxicating powers, so it shut down and let stupidity rise to the occasion.

    (heh heh, my word verification is shiphoe… heh heh heh)

  • Jason H,
    Truth is stranger than fiction.

    I was left in control of the field, no doubt of that, but undoubtedly they hurt me worse than I hurt them. I guess you could call it a pyrrhic victory.

    I’m totally with you on the whole screaming like a little girl approach, which is why my behaviour on this particular occasion leaves me baffled.

    I’m sure self-defence is useful, but I don’t know how applicable it might be to six of them, especially if they’re really intent on hurting you. Luckily, these lot weren’t.

    Yeah, it’s interesting, I don’t feel scared after the fact. Oddly, if the thing had gone a lot less far I would be scared of running into them again, I think. I’ve felt much more scared in the past by far less significant incidents that were a lot further from my front door.

    Please, mate. We all know I is way much harder than any Richard Morgan character.

    You’re right. I’d never thought it might be the instinct to protect one’s Rennies.

  • Anonymous says:

    Oh, well. They didn’t broke you, so everything’s all right.

    Try to avoid this stunts, in the future. A good writer’s worth one hundred young thugs, and I would prefer to keep Tyburn in his present state, without gallows.

  • daft sod says:

    What on earth were you planning to do with that bag Joe? You were about to meet your family and maybe lend a hand after a 5 minute walk. I don’t see any use for that bag of yours there. I was just wondering about that after I read about your incident.

    PS The rennies, ok but still…

  • No self-respecting Englishman leaves home without his manbag these days, as all should know. These tasteful accessories contain all that the discerning gentleman needs to survive the hardships of surviving in the modern urban environment. Like Rennies.

  • James says:

    Good on you for taking a stand, Joe. The only reason these jumped-up little bastards get away with this sort of thing is because no one will stand up to them.

    Only a two hour wait in casualty? Lucky man. I’ve waited 6 hours before to have a gaping hole in my throat sewn up – which, when it was eventually done, took 5 minutes. W00t.

  • glad you’re okay mate – the glued up scar looked nasty. Been on th receiving end of more than a few kickings in London and never been brave enough to stand up to them. Could have been a whole lot worse and I’m very glad it wasn’t. (had a min heart attack when i saw Lou’s FB status!)

    Hope you’re on the mend asap fella.


  • Foodie says:

    Say one thing for Joe Abercrombie….say he knows how to swing a bannister!

  • ron says:

    out of pure selfless concern i say please, don’t do that again! you still have books to write..

  • This is now way my most commented on blog post yet. I should get hit over the head more often.

    anon, ron,
    Believe me, I’ve no plans to repeat the experience.

    daft, wert,
    I was actually going to go and meet my editor after conveying the family home, hence book for the tube journey.

    I was lucky, minor injury. Stand up, don’t stand up, I don’t know if there’s a right course of action here…

    I don’t know, I’d definitely have liked to clock him across the face rather than the back.

  • The Wolf Maid says:

    Ah, a bit late on this, but I’m terribly glad that you are not gravely injured, and the wife and kid are fine.

    (Oddly, I found out about this from a comment from GRRM’s LJ. GRRM, btw, has been recently burglared).

  • paranoiac says:

    Joe Abercrombie bashed?
    GRRM robbed?

    Conclusion: World-wide conspiracy against top fantasy-authors! You should band together and organize a fiercely counterstrike! Lord Varys and Bayaz pull the strings and Ninefingers and Gregor Clegane do the dirty work. Perhaps you can get some backup from elric of melnibonè to play safe…

  • Chris says:

    In retrospect, your first book needs to be re-published, subtitled “The banister itself incites to deeds of violence”.

    Maybe you should implement a banister fight into one of your next books. Banisters are somewhat underrated as melee weapons, it would seem. 😉

    Seriously, though, I think the reason why this is the most commented on blog post yet is that most of us would have liked to act as you did in this situation. You definitely walked the tightrope by standing up to the kids, but still, your courage (however unintentional it might have been at that moment) cannot be denied.

    And it’s good you emerged (nearly) unharmed from the encounter.

  • harvb says:

    Bit late catching up on this one, but well done you. I think well done, anyway. I mean yes on hindsight it could have been a knife or a chainsaw or a really large dog, but then you did the very unBritish thing of standing up for yourself and you should be applauded (sah). Well done, I say, well done.

    Just don’t do it again and leave us with unfinished stories, right? Git.

Add Your Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *