31 March 2006


The papers are full of stories about drunken yobs running riot in the streets of Britain, but while I agree it sounds awful, and while there are definitely parts of town that I make a point of avoiding, I haven't personally had many bad experiences. And I spend a good deal of time down in Soho and the West End, two of the locations supposedly most overrun by said yobbos.

But tonight I was standing in Charing Cross Road talking to my friend Stefan, who manages a bar there when an altercation broke out at one of tables outside a gay pub two doors down (yes, people are sitting outside on the pavement as if this were the Mediterranean, even if it's barely 10C/50F - it's a British thing, and if it were even a couple degrees warmer, they'd be stripping down to shorts and halter tops). A few sharp words, and suddenly a gang of young men came tearing in like a wolf pack, knocking over tables and kicking and punching one hapless gay boy. I saw a glint of light reflected in a bottle as it came crashing down on the side of his head and he went staggering to the ground as the gang ran off laughing and shouting, "You fucking poof!"

Stefan is a huge man, probably twice my size, and he was flanked by two bouncers who are of a similar build, but all of them watched the attack dispassionately, doing nothing to interfere. The bouncer from the pub where it had happened came over to take a look at the young lad, now bleeding profusely as he wobbily tried to get on his feet. "It's none of my business, mate," said Stefan, and before I could say, "Yeah, but you could have helped out, you could have chased that whole gang off yourself," he added, "We used to get involved, try to sort things out, but it goes on every night, the same sort of thing. Anyway, what did that kid expect, saying 'crackhead' to a gang of schwarzes?"

The attackers were dark-skinned, possibly Middle Eastern, possibly Asian - I hadn't noticed, because it had all happened so fast. Stefan is Maori, and dark-skinned enough that someone might refer to him as a schwarz, too (though I wouldn't recommend it). In fact, we'd been having an in-depth discussion about Maori and aboriginal matters (he lived in Queensland for a while before coming to England), which is why I hadn't really noticed the trouble brewing. Apparently the victim had been taunting his attackers, calling them crackheads and dustheads (as in angel dust, something I haven't heard mentioned since my California days). Not a wise move, considering there were five of them and one of him.

Viewed in that light, it was harder to be sympathetic toward him, or angry toward his attackers, even if I still wished a couple of policemen could have suddenly emerged from the shadows and shot them all dead (the attackers, that is; a glassing was punishment enough for the mouthy kid). Unfortunately, English cops don't carry guns, and like cops everywhere, are seldom around when you need them.

This all happened at about 11 pm; I had been considering staying out and maybe going to a club or something, but suddenly that no longer seemed like such a good idea. Actually, I'd never been all that serious about it anyway; I'd cut out an ad that would have got me in free before midnight, but by most midnights, I'm usually running out of energy for club-type shenanigans and queueing on rainy corners at 3 am in hopes that a night bus might come along sometime before morning. Answering email and doing a bit of blogging felt like the far more sensible option. Yeah, yeah, I know I'm getting old...

1 comment:

Matt Andrews said...

"Unfortunately, English cops don't carry guns, and like cops everywhere, are seldom around when you need them."

I'll agree with the latter part, but the fact that UK cops don't routinely have guns is a fact that I hold dear to my heart when I consider the American justice system.