“Do you think he’s dangerous?” Asks the policeman.
I look him up and down. He’s easily six foot five, can handle himself, and if he’s any good at what he does for a living is better equipped than I to assess this sort of thing.
The four squad cars, riot van and what I know to be our districts’ Armed Response Unit will no doubt help him out if things ‘go south’, as will the half-dozen representatives of Her Majesty’s also milling about looking ready to kick seven shades of shit out of anyone who ‘looks at them funny’. So I’m not really sure why he’s asking me.
Twenty minutes previously, and three years ago:
My sister and I are about to enjoy an impromptu Sunday afternoon drink at a public house near the river.
“ Two pints of strong drink please.” Say I, whilst another barmaid serves a random Asian man with his requested pint of cold tap water.
I glance at him as our drinks are being poured. He’s disheveled, is carrying a back-pack and is in a small town – small enough even for me to know that he is a stranger here.
Our strong drink arrives.
“Shall we sit down somewhere?” I say to my sister, noticing that the disheveled man is proceeding to WASH HIS HANDS in his pint of free-of-charge tap-water as opposed to actually drinking it.
We sit. But I know it’s only a matter of time.
“Do you think John Travolta felt a bit …. You know. Weird. About being sperm?” Asks my sister.
“What?” Says me.
“In ‘Look Who’s Talking’. He’s sperm and then gets to voice the baby. When it’s born. And says things about tits and that.”
“No. That was Bruce Willis. John Travolta was the guy. He drove a taxi or something.” I explain.
“Oh. Yes. You’re right. Bruce Willis was the spunk.”
I notice that we are soon to have company.
“Mind if I sit? It’s been a long day. I’ve parked by the river [you can’t park by the river-this is me thinking
] and can’t find my car again. It’s down there somewhere [It’s not because you can’t park there- that's me thinking again
]” Says the mental man.
It’s inevitable really. They gravitate toward me. Sister and I leave him and go for a cigarette.
I’m briefly troubled by another twat – “What have I done now?” he whines – and return to our table.
Our new-found friend has produced an enormous pair of scissors and is making what appears to be an eye-patch from some random materials he has about his person whilst informing me that he fancied a change of scenery and has randomly driven here from Birmingham. I am in the North-East of England and know that to be quite a drive for a spur-of-the-moment thing.
“I’m just going to the loo.” Says my sister. Whilst she has gone I wander to the bar.
“Errmm,” I say, “ I think it might be an idea…”
“We’ve already called them.” Says the barmaid.
I sit down again. Within two minutes a large policeman sidles up to us.
“Alright mate? Scissors is it? Can I have a look? Great. I’m just going to keep hold of these. Shall we have a chat outside? Great.”
They leave and after a while I imagine the fuss to have died down and go for a cigarette, and am surprised to witness the show of force. Thinking about it, the July bombings weren’t that long ago and people are still twitchy.
“You spoke to him yeah?” Says the policeman. I confirm this. He asks me if I thought he was dangerous.
“If anything only to himself. I got the impression he’d stopped taking his meds and didn’t really know where he was.”
The policeman nods as if I had confirmed his own thoughts and takes my details.
I wander back inside and order some more strong drink, aware of the fact that if I lived in 'that London' someone would have been shot by now.