I am sure you will be pleased to know that when the fire alarm went off at the gym this evening and the administrators were running up and down screaming at people to get out, I was standing starkers in the shower with my hair full of shampoo. Whereas one may have had vague fantasies (bought about by far too many bodice ripping novellas in ones youth) about being helped out of burning buildings by burly firemen, swooning and nubile (that would ‘one’ and not the firemen) actually being caught out in the shower at the gym with the smallest rather greying towel and no sense of humour is an entirely different thing.
Luckily the fire was a phoney and I, and all the people standing around the pool area, narrowly escaped being sent outside into the frosty rain in bare feet and no bloomers.
However I am, subsequently, late and tired and blue tonight. Something about the grey damp day and how pasty and irritable everyone has got suddenly. A few days ago I was walking over a footbridge behind about five or six young teenagers. They were shouting something to each other and I had a strange feeling that something was up as they began to link arms across the two footpaths of the bridge. I have seen this tactic before…riot police use it and demonstrators use it..and so do young muggers when they want to stop someone bigger then they are. I quickly slipped between them before they had got into place and had begun to speed up, to move ahead and to get out of their way but a young woman on a bike slowed down and was forced to a stop behind me, faced by five young dead blank faces. I was about two metres ahead so I stopped and turned around widening my stance so they could see another adult was there. The young woman was Polish. She had a smile in her voice which almost immediately was extinguished by the answer to her question ‘Hey? What’s going on? What can I do for you…I am in a terrible hurry..?
‘Give us a pound.’ Said one of the children. The woman was silent and in those strange few seconds the teenagers, possibly only 14 or so years old, just waited. I looked at their faces and there was absolutely nothing there but a kind of predatory, animal curiosity. How far could they take this..? Luckily other people could be heard coming down the path and I had moved slightly closer so within a few seconds they all realised their timing was off. They hesitated and then parted just enough to allow the woman to squeeze past and cycle furiously off and immediately I turned and walked away head down, cane safely tucked out of sight.
‘What were you fucking looking at’, they shouted and spat at my back. They would have blood that night. I wonder whose it was.