Good article by Daisy Waugh in the Sunday Times colour supplement this week ...
Had a brush with the old filth on my way back from dropping off the children not long ago.
A beefy one on a motorbike started gesticulating angrily at me, so I had to pull over. Unfortunately, I was on a very busy roundabout at the time, and I had no idea where I was legally allowed to do it.
But he kept on gesticulating in his beefy way and, what with the flashing light and the other cars and yellow boxes and traffic lights and bus lanes and pouring rain, I went into a sort of meltdown and just hit the brake.
Oh, he was livid. Oh, God, the panic. Added to which I hadnít the faintest idea what Iíd done to offend him so horribly in the first place.
He gesticulated me to a side street and made me stand in the rain so he could explain. Turns out I didnít stop at an amber light. Is that really an offence? He sounded like King Canute barking at the sea.
Silly me. I broke that fundamental rule of survival on the mean streets of modern England. I looked his way. Hoodies, police officers ó these days, if you want to get home unterrorised, and with the contents of your wallet still intact, itís better to avoid eye contact with either.
If itís not an orange light they get you on, itís biking on a footpath, or eating a Kit Kat at the wheel, or failing to strap the children into hard hats and flak jackets before driving them to school each morning. I have no idea what the rules are any more.
And actually Iíve become so irritated by the flood, I canít even be bothered to find out.
All I know is that whenever I see a policeman ó any uniformed authority figure at all, in fact (itís quite hard to tell them apart) ó I feel a wave of terror and rage, and a random check list of possible offences runs through my head.
Am I carrying a knife? Is my seat belt secured? Do I need a food safety certificate? Am I inciting racial or religious hatred? Abusing the children? Adulterous thoughts? Bus lanes! Litter? Cigarettes? Recycling bin?
Oh, my God, am I supposed to be wearing something luminous?
Itís worse when Iím driving the children, none of whom can be trusted to stay in the requisite safety harnesses beyond the first 30 seconds of any journey. A sort of auto-spiel of hysteria kicks in: Aaargh! Police! Children, hide!
Duck! Whereís the baby? For Christís sake, hold her downÖ Everyone, hit the floor! Close the windows! Nobody talk! Are they flashing us? Nobody look! Pretend not to see.
Itís a shame, though, isnít it? In the days when it was a simple matter to be a law-abiding citizen, I used to feel quite well disposed towards the police.
I remember once, years ago, enjoying a youthfully inebriated late-night amble through the dark London streets when a police car pulled up beside me. I smiled. They smiled. The driver asked, in a polite and friendly manner ó one human to another ó if I was in need of help. I thought not, but apparentlyÖ hicÖ I was being followed.
To this day it makes me cringe to think how the alcoholic fumes must have stunk out that car ó but they were very polite and didnít comment. And they drove me all the way home. Saved me from possible violent death, they did, and £15 in taxi fares, bless them.
Do the police rescue fresh-faced, happily inebriated damsels any more? I donít know. I suppose they do ó but I bet the poor little innocents get frisked for drugs first, have a swab taken and their DNA put on the database, and get fined and forced to attend some sort of moronic drink-rehabilitation workshop.
Perhaps I underestimate the good nature of our authorities. Either way, somethingís gone wrong when relatively sane mothers-of-three force their children to lie on the floor the moment thereís a police car on the horizon.
If the Noughties in Britain will be remembered for anything ó which they may not be ó itíll probably be for the heartbreaking romance of Jordan and Pete. But maybe thereíll be an irritable little footnote, somewhere, on the damaged relationship between the people and the state.
The GOS says: Nice article, Daisy, if a trifle overstated. But I certainly share this feeling that you have to look over your shoulder whenever you leave the house. In fact, it's become virtually impossible to avoid breaking the law in some way or other from time to time, however law-abiding and well-intentioned you are. The old clichť "If you've nothing to hide, you've nothing to fear" never rang more hollow than it does as we approach the end of the first decade of the 21st Century. Makes you proud, really.
But ..."the old filth", Daisy? Could it be that you are trying to sound all streetwise and down with the homies, in your quaint 1960s way? If so, that should have read either "the old bill" or "the filth". There's no such organisation as "the old filth".
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