Encounters II

St John on PatmosGood afternoon, said the traffic warden. Well, I know someone who used to be a traffic warden, she is a decent sort, why should I be nasty to him?

-I’m glad you’re here, keeping the road clear, I said. (Oops, no need to be sycophantic.)
-Horrible weather.
-Mmm. West of Scotland weather- rain, then rain so fine it could be mist.
-Oddly enough, I am dry under all this.
-They do say, there is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing. (You’re usually safe with a platitude). He nodded.
-No-one would be chancing it, with you standing there?
-Actually, they do, he said, indicating someone pulling into the Disabled space diagonally opposite.
-Have fun, I said, as he went over to investigate, though it could be a disabled person. You don’t drive along with your blue badge on the dash.

After, I wondered if he had chatted because, standing there, I obscured the driver’s view of him. Surely that is too Machiavellian.


1.30am. I am awoken by banging on the door: Rapid knocks, then a pause, then more.
-Come on, Steph, let me in- (Steph is today’s pseudonym for my neighbour)

More banging.

Thuds, as the side of the fist. I could go, but I am not as quick in intelligence or reaction in the night, and want my wits about me. I lay there, a bit Madonna and Child enthronedfrightened, actually, but if he would break in he would have done it by now.
-This is the Police! Open up!

That’s an offence, imitating a police officer. More banging- I would say twenty minutes, but people are not good at estimating time in these circs. Eventually he went away.


9.50pm. Loud knock on the door. No, I am not answering at this hour. Then I see the hi-vis jacket and radio through the window, so decide I had better open up. I wish I had cleaned today.

-Are you Steph?
-No, she’s next door.
-We were told 69. Can we come in?
-No, it’s 69A.
-Have you seen her today?
-You’re worrying me, now. I haven’t seen her, but I was out the back and I heard someone in the house.

They go to knock on her door. It is none of my business, but I am glad to notice they have got in- without breaking in.


At the bus stop.

Martyrdom of St BartholomewYou see, when you’re seventy it’s just like when you’re twenty. You think you’ll live for ever, and you want to.
-OK. Say I told you you have twenty years of life left. What would you do with it?
They look at each other. “Mooch about, same as now.”


Hurrying into the town, I bid the postman “Good morning”.
-I’ll let you get past, Miss Flourish, I’m not in such a hurry as that.
-Oh wow! I would have thought you would remember street names, but remembering surnames is impressive.
-That is a high compliment, he said, from a member of Mensa.

Pictures from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which has just put a huge collection of images on line, free for non-commercial use.

Death of the Virgin


French cased duelling pistols, Nicolas Noel Boutet, single shot, percussion, rifled, .58 caliber, blued steel, Versailles, 1794-1797 - Royal Ontario MuseumI waited for my appointment in the garden. There was a beetle meandering over the paving slabs. The azaleas were particularly beautiful. Much nicer than the waiting room, with its “Aggression towards staff will not be tolerated” notices. There was a policeman waiting too, for a partner-agencies meeting. “It’s been all go in your patch” he said when the social worker came in. Yes, there has been a murder in Marsby. Something to do with drug dealing. I joined the conversation. I may be one of the nutcases- “service users” is the preferred term- but I still look like a professional, more or less.

Normally Bob (I read his name badge) works in Zhuzhkov, but he was in Swanston at the weekend. It was a nightmare. There had been a fight at the club, and so the manager had closed it down, and there were all these people hanging around outside, resentful at not carrying on drinking. Bob thinks they are idiots, they should just go home. Would it be better to keep the club open rather than pour people onto the street all at once? No, the manager was right to shut, and when it closes at four in the morning people hang around outside for ages. Idiots.

Banksy: Kissing Policemen- detailHe rather fancies the idea of working on commission. He would arrest everyone. “Dropping litter, crossing the road in a dangerous way?” He grins.

There was a man shouting outside the bus the next day, and then he got on the bus and hit a man sitting at the back. He shouted something about don’t try to burn down my mother’s house. Two men about twenty, maybe younger. The bus driver, sixty with a pronounced South Efrican eccent barrelled down to deal with them. He would not let the assailant off. The assailant phoned his mum to say that she should come to the police station, and the bus driver would not let him off the bus. “He had me by the throat”, he said, an exaggeration. The bus driver phoned the police, and the bus company. An older woman stood by the assailant gloating. “The police are coming. You’re in trouble now.” I thought this unhelpful. He seemed a child. He waited quietly.

I got off, thinking the police might want witnesses, not wanting to get involved. I understand the instinct is to look away in these circs. A man told me that in London they would put them off the bus and deal with it on the pavement, and the bus could go without delay. He had moved out to Marsby when he retired and his wife died. He tells me of Barnet, where he lived. Well, you can get a much bigger house in Marsby for the same money, but the place is not quite so lively. Later I saw him on the bus, gesturing right and left and talking, as if to another person.

The police took away both lads, and we drove off, fifteen minutes late. Getting off, several people thanked and congratulated the driver.