Well, it's not been a banner week for people interaction, though there have been a few bright spots. Sunday morning, about 430am, I was woken from a deep sleep by Robin, who was saying something to David and me that I completely failed to comprehend in my zombie state. I clued in after a moment that he was saying he had been mugged, on our street. Robin had gone out clubbing for the evening, and to meet a few friends. He got off the bus at the bottom of our street (which, admittedly, borders a shitty neighborhood), and was walking up the hill, texting on his i-phone (not a very good idea, unfortunately). He heard footsteps, ignored them, then heard them again, and before he could do anything, two black guys tackled him, held him to the ground, tried to strangle him, and made off with his phone (Robin had the good sense not to go out to a club with his wallet at least). Injury-wise, he escaped with a bloodied elbow and some bruising, but he's really pretty shaken up, and I expect that we have not seen the last of the mental trauma of this. The police showed up pretty quickly, in an unmarked car, and they drove around with Robin in the car for a while, letting him make his report, and, I suspect, seeing if the two perps were still out wandering around. Apparently there has been a spate of this lately. Fortunately, Robin managed to get the phone company to disable the phone, and it's also insured.
The weekend before last, I was cycling, and went to pass a fairly young (late teens?), black Caribbean guy on his bike. As I passed him, he suddenly sped up and tried to cut me off - I said something clever like 'I don't think so, dickhead', and he replied with 'I'll fucking stab you right here' before jumping his bike up onto the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street. Excuse me???? And I believe the proper term is 'I'm going to cut you!'? I mean really, can't they even use the proper lingo anymore?
When I moved to London, six years ago, I didn't notice as much of the whole 'gangsta' culture as in the US. It was there, to be sure, but not so pronounced. I can't say that anymore. While the level of violence here is not as great, and the number of murders much lower (it's pretty hard to do a drive-by knifing), London is full of gangs, shooting and stabbing each other for no particularly good reason. David and Robin came up with a very clever and creative solution to the two gangbangers from Saturday night (which I think should be extended to all gang members). Given that being gay is just the absolute worst possible thing that one could possibly imagine, said gang members are captured, forced to perform lewd acts on each other, all of which are video taped, broadcast on the internet, as well as around Camberwell - perhaps stuck, as flyers, to all the lamp posts. I wonder what that would do for their 'respect'? Would work for the wacko right-wing religious fruit loops as well. Ooh, I may be onto something... Reverend Haggard on line 1! ;-)
One thing different though about this country is that they are actually starting to realize that, yes, most gang violence is drug related, but no, they are never ever ever going to manage to get rid of drugs. What if, however, they found a way to get rid of the profit in selling drugs? There are the occasional whispers of decriminalization and even the occasion mention of the L word (legalization). I don't think that is going to happen any time soon, given that the Home Office just upped the penalties on pot (which is so very dangerous that it's legal in the Netherlands and Spain, not to mention in various US states). So yeah, there is a long way to go for sense to prevail, but can you just imagine - no huge profits to be made on drugs. What will they sell? Pianos? I suppose it would be slightly more difficult to sneak across the border with a small ziplock bag of illicit pianos...
And speaking of shit people... As I said, it's been a banner few weeks... Thursday evening, I met a friend for an after work drink. We were walking back from the pub along a residential street, and these two rather sketchy looking guys turned the corner, right next to us. I was pushing my bike, and my friend was up ahead. One of the guys, who I suspect was on something, kept matching my pace, then started to block my path - repeatedly. Not a good situation. So, finally, I just said 'Move your ass!' and plowed through him with my bike. He starts shouting after me, 'Don't push me! Fucking faggot! Fucking faggot!'. Clever, and observant too! To which I respond, 'That's the most action you've had all week!' and keep walking, keeping an eye behind me to make sure he's not going to come after. He just kept shouting, and we walked off. Nice.
And finally - I was cycling to work last week down the A10 (very busy road). I'm waiting at the traffic light, on the side of the road, and this car waiting behind me honks its horn. I look back, and the driver - young Orthodox Jewish - hair, hat, silly outfit, the whole nine yards, motions with his hand for me to get out of his way so that he can pass all the other cars at the light. Yeah right. In 25 years of traffic, I've been yelled at, spat at, hit by cars, pushed off my bike and generally manhandled in one way or another, but no one has ever, ever, ever motioned for me to get out of the way! So I move, right in front of him (it's not like he couldn't have gotten around me before, but now he certainly couldn't). The light changes and I set off, in the middle of the lane. And I go slower, and slower, and slower, until I'm going about 5 mph, and no one else will let him in. I figure that he's not likely to hit me in such a crowded place, and if he does, well, I'm only going about 5 mph. He finally zooms around me and gets stuck at the next light, though he tries to block my path. As if. I block him again at that light, and he finally manages to zoom around. I can't get him at the next light, but he tries his damndest to cut me off in traffic. Honey, you're a Hasidic Jew with pop bottle glasses - not a chance you can actually pull off that driving maneuver. He does, however, nearly hit another car before speeding off - late for Torah practice or something, who knows?
So, it's been a really good few weeks for dickheads.
But, on the plus side, we've actually managed to do some nice things as well. David's mom was here a few weekends ago at the end of her two week sojourn, and we actually didn't fight at all. (There may be hope for family harmony!). And Ray was over from New York last weekend. We toodled around London, then went down to Brighton. I love going around London as a tourist!
And today's big exciting thing was that I cancelled my Fitness First membership to join Nuffield Health (much nicer). It feels like the end of an era - 6 years at Shitness First. Perhaps they will put up a plaque or something.
Oh, and I've changed my diet to have more protein and slightly fewer carbs. I actually made myself eggs, bacon and beans this morning, instead of cereal. Yum! Of course, the beans may or may not have inspired some additional gassiness, but that's just a price the world will have to pay. Increased global warming for a higher protein breakfast for Dougie! Seems like a fair trade anyway.
And, after my little rant and a half, I'm off...
Addendum - I had either a tennis ball or a horsechestnut (and green husk) hurled at me by some shitty ghetto children on a side street in Hackney while I rode my bike this evening. It hit my neck quite hard - fortunately, there doesn't seem to be a bruise. I recommend they all be sterilized, or perhaps run over. I'll drive...