…not to feel a sense of wry amusement at Amanda Craig’s story:
I like the area of north London that I live in – long, leafy roads of semi-detached houses fringed by large estates. My neighbours include artists, minicab drivers, barristers, pensioners and postmen.
But of course, as with many a big city, less-salubrious areas are never more than a short walk or bus ride away.
The couple had been arguing fiercely by my house for about 10 minutes when I came out to water my front garden one Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago. Most of the shouting had been coming from the girl, who was violently punching and slapping the boy as he cried out, “No, no, no!” He looked around the same age as my teenage son, and seemed vulnerable. “Stop it!” I said sharply. “Move on, please.”
More experienced people are, I suspect, wincing at where this is likely to be going…
They took no notice, so then I did something stupid. I flicked my hose towards them, spraying them for a couple of seconds, as I might a pair of fighting cats. Instantly, they jumped into my garden. The girl started punching me repeatedly in the face while the boy set about smashing the plant pots. I seized hold of her hair to try to stop her hitting me. Instead, she grabbed mine, too, and carried on punching. The pain was excruciating, but with my other hand I found my mobile in my pocket and dialled 999, yelling that we were being attacked in our home. The operator kept asking me to spell out the name of our street, threatening that if I didn’t stop screaming, he was going to cut me off. Five times I tried, while being continually hit, then in desperation remembered the army code – charlie, alpha, etc. Finally, he got it.
Oh, how little it takes for one to realise how the security one feels is but an illusion…
We released one another, exhausted, but she stayed in my garden, hurling abuse at me and searching for her mobile which she had dropped during the attack. By now a young man who lives opposite had come across. He helped the girl find her phone and with that she left. “Don’t press charges,” he warned. “They’ll trash your house or your car.” He recognised my attackers as neighbours from the estate just down the road.
Still feel the same about your area of London, Amanda?
The police arrived and caught the girl at once. Numb with shock, my left eye horribly swollen, my lip split and bleeding, I asked her why she had attacked the boy, and then me, with such aggression? “He’s my boyfriend, I can hit him if I want to,” she said, with chilling indifference. I told the officers I didn’t want to press charges, but as I had been assaulted, she was going to be charged with GBH anyway. As soon as one of the female officers tried to arrest her, the girl attacked the policewoman, who had to be taken to hospital.
We aren’t told what happened, but I suspect it was a token punishment, of the sort that Amanda and her fellow progressives would no doubt argue is fitting, given the ‘deprivation’ suffered by these poor inner-city youth…
I don’t know whether what I did was stupid, or stupidly brave. I have written about the violence that exists in inner-city London in two of my books, but I never imagined that it would enter my life so explosively. The physical shock has ebbed away, the pain and bruises are almost gone, but I fear it will take far longer for the memories to fade. I worry the assailants live nearby, but I refuse to let that change the way I feel about my home.
You just can’t teach some people anything, can you?