Anorak News | Siege Mentality

Siege Mentality

by | 22nd, July 2005

‘“I WOULDN’T go to London,” said the man who sold me my paper from a Bournemouth shop in deepest Dorset. I told him I was going tomorrow. “Don’t envy you that,” said he.

Why? Because I’ll have to sit on an antiquated train going at ten miles an hour, periodically stopping for no apparent reason, listen to one half of a mobile phone conversation from some braying middle manager and be asked to pay over the odds for the privilege?

No. Because London is dangerous, of course. It’s full of bombs. It is a city under attack. And then when I told him I was travelling by train, he did all but hug me. The thought of him running alongside my departing carriage, calling my name, waving his tear-soaked hankie and promising that he’d wait for me entered my head.

Perhaps it’d be better if I travelled up to the Smoke by car. Only more people die on the roads each year than on the rails. And then I might be tempted to puff a fag in the motor – mainly to stay awake and alert at the wheel– and so shorten my life.

And I don’t want to think about the risk presented by giving into my urges and stopping at a service station and thereby contracting e-coli from a loo seat and having my arteries clogged by the jumbo bags of crisps openly and shamelessly on sale in such places.

So stepping out of the newsagents onto the pavement, taking care to avoid the cracks and dodging the pensioners dressed in hearing-aid beige seated astride their potentially lethal electric carts, I plucked up my courage and went to the station.

The taxi got me there ok – although a young chap, dark skinned, possibly Muslim, but perhaps not, pulled out a bit sharpish in front of the cab in his Ka and caused my seatbeat to make an unpleasant rubbing sound on the zip of the bag I was holding.

Shaken, but soon recovered, I was soon out of the car and on the train; and a little time later it began to move away.

The train is a strange place. Anything could be occurring in the greater world and you’d be none the wiser – unless, of course, Clive in accounts telephoned Steve in the seat behind.

You are where you are. And where you are is sat on a chequered nylon seat, listing to the guard telling you the myriad ways you can be in breach of the complex ticketing rules and wondering if that smell is emanating from you, someone round you or the toilets.

And your mind wonders. For all I knew, the man in the paper shop could suddenly have been undone by a nasty paper cut. If so, I wondered if his insurance would cover it?

Probably not. Insurance plays on our fears, tells you that all bad things can have a financial upside, but your typical policy doesn’t cover acts of war, and the paper seller had been distracted by the Mail’s front-page shot of a young Muslim would-be killer riding the Tube when his accident happened.

And so onto London. Another place. Somewhere newspaper vendors from Dorset, Inter Milan footballers and USAF personnel consider best avoided.

But I bravely set aside my concern that what looked on the surface like an eight-year-old boy in the uniform of a minor public school could be an Islamic extremist.

I didn’t ask the ‘ticket inspector’ for his identification papers, preferring to not let the bastards get to me. I would slouch nonchalantly and in so doing show my steely resolve.

Although, I must admit that when a Pakistani-looking man got onboard at Southampton carrying a backpack, my relaxed posture was slightmore affected than real.

But I did not panic. I was vigilant. Which is what we all need to be. And no more than that. And that also goes for anyone living in Bournemouth…’

Posted: 22nd, July 2005 | In: Reviews Comment | TrackBack | Permalink