Many thanks for all my birthday wishes! My birthday started in Mile End last night. I got into my car to head home after some food with Michael in an Italian, turned the engine over, and instantly realised that the battery was flat. At the same time I realised that I was surrounded by gangs of lads in hoodies hanging out in little clusters in doorways. I’m sure there are many people who claim that Mile End is “on the up,” but if you’re anywhere near the tube station, it’s a horrible, scary place at midnight.
I’m not going to be the ghastly liberal who says live and let live, reminding readers that these lads are in a spiral created by poverty, social deprivation, boredom and lack of father figures. All of that is true but I’m not sure it’s enough of an excuse for their deliberately intimidating behaviour. When they realised I was in trouble, they instantly started circling me, like vultures around a dying deer. It was wholly unacceptable. Not one of them offered to help. They just stared at me, one hand down their tracksuit trousers, the other smoking a cigarette.
None of the passers by offered to help either. Probably as a direct result of the gang’s presence, Mile End is one of those places where you put your head down and get as quickly as you can to your next location.
To make my situation worse, it was impossible for me to sit in the car because the inability to turn over the engine had affected the electrics, so, for some reason, whilst I was in the car, the alarm was permanently going off. So, there I was, standing on the street at midnight, surrounded by a gang, with lovely Facebook messages wishing me a happy birthday starting to ping into my phone. Sadly, it wasn’t just my car battery that was dying. My phone battery was on about 20%... and dropping rapidly.
So I called the AA. We have membership through our Lloyd’s joint account. I decided to tell them that I felt vulnerable. No, I wasn’t a woman on my own in a dark country lane, but, I had nowhere to go and I genuinely felt scared, for very good reason as it turned out because, by the time the AA finally arrived (mercifully only an hour later) the lads had started throwing bricks at some sort of metal grill. The noise the bricks were making was terrifyingly loud. I did wish for the days when some sort of matriarch would appear from a nearby flat to give them all a clip around the ear, but the trouble is, we all try to pretend this antisocial behaviour isn’t happening for fear of being stabbed, or, I worry, because we’re too busy finding excuses for it.
The AA man ascertained the car’s problem very speedily and jump-started it, telling me we had a healthy battery which I must have drained earlier on whilst listening to the new version of 100 Faces with Michael with all the blowers on because it was so hot and muggy outside. Grrr!
It took him seconds to sort the problem. As he closed the bonnet he said, “I’m gonna suggest you drive away from this place as quickly as possible. It’s really edgy round here.”
Thank God for the AA