Saturday, November 22, 2008

Toeing the thin blue line

Earlier this week, everyone was asking me why I've been hobbling around on crutches, so I thought I'd better tell you as well, dear reader...

Last Sunday was the birthday of a friend of mine. I'd been in Lambeth with her and some of her other friends for a Thai meal and a film. After a couple of drinks in the pub, I got peckish again and we headed for a late-night McDonalds. It was quite late now, so the inside was shut, but the drive-through was open, so we ordered on foot at the drive-through window.

A woman driving a car (which we hadn't noticed) in the queue then got irate and started shouting at us, accusing us of queue jumping. I was apologetic, but the birthday girl was rather less so. The woman in the car then got out, ran over to my friend and proceeded to viciously punch and kick her. I pulled the assailant off. Her boyfriend then got out and pulled me off. So far so bad, but no great harm done.

The couple got back in the car and I got out my mobile and called 999 to report the assault on my friend, while I stood in front of their car to stop the culprit getting away until the police arrived. Unfortunately, when I read her number plate out to the 999 operator, the woman reacted by driving straight into me and knocking me over resulting in 1 broken toe, loads of bruising to the rest of my foot, a small graze to the elbow and a cut finger.

She then drove off. The police haven't caught her yet - they went to the registered address of the car later but she was lying low elsewhere. However, the police are taking the incident very seriously, so much so that the case has now been transferred to the GBH unit of Lambeth police, so I'm confident that she'll be arrested in due course.

Since Thursday, I'm now off the crutches and am walking again - with a special shoe for the next couple of weeks.

I'll close with three random thoughts relating to this week's events. The first is that combining this and being mugged just a few weeks ago, there is a large and growing mismatch between my personal experience of crime in London and the reassuring statistics. Overall, I've been the victim of three violent incidents in the last couple of years. And many people I speak to around London also have similarly sad tales to tell. How can the statistics show crime falling while Londoners' experience is of crime - especially violent crime - getting worse and worse?

Secondly, the few days I spent non-weight-bearing on the injured foot, that is hopping with the aid of crutches, gave me renewed insight into the difficulties people with disabilities face all year round. Making my way up the steps of Ealing Broadway station, for instance, was agony. I'd been aware of the complete lack of disabled access at Ealing Broadway for years - and indeed wrote a letter about it to the Chief Executive of First Great Western at that point, resulting in a very disappointing reply that nothing would be done until the new Crossrail station is built! Briefly feeling the physical pain of the current situation, just underlines to me how pathetic that response is.

My final thought is that everybody says McDonalds is bad for your health... I guess I've now learnt that lesson!


Jennie Rigg said...

"How can the statistics show crime falling while Londoners' experience is of crime - especially violent crime - getting worse and worse?"

Your sample is far more biased than those studied for the statistics.

Jon Ball said...

It was a largely rhetorical question, but while the sample of people I talk with is biased, it isn't at all obvious that it is biased in favour of groups that are disproportionately likely to be victims of crime. If anything the reverse is more likely to be the case, I imagine!

Jennie Rigg said...

You're the kind of guy who wanders about dodgy inner city areas after midnight. I mean, yes, you're doing it for noble reasons - visiting friends and so forth - but even so... You're saying that's not a stereotypical crime victim?

Jon Ball said...

Fair point, but I was talking about a range of people I talk to, not just myself.

Also, we shouldn't have no-go areas in our city!

Anonymous said...

I've always had a feeling that eating at McDonald's was dangerous; you've just proven that to me :-p, lol.

Seriously though, I am glad that you're fast on the road to recovery. Hopefully they'll get the driver of the car ASAP!

Anonymous said...

You're right, it's not until you are on crutches/in a wheelchair that you can have some understanding of what people with disabilities face.

Like you know now Jon, I broke my foot some years ago. Here's my story..... was the weekend before Christmas so I went with my mother to Tesco. I borrowed a wheelchair. I got barged out of the way and tutted at more times than I can remember. But I was perusing in the pickle aisle, a woman decided I was in the way so she grabbed the handles of the wheelchair, wheeled me to the end of the aisle and parked me up like a discarded trolley.

I will never forget my mother's face...I was in total shock!

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