I am hardcore. I know this because I got a bus from Streatham to Brixton this morning and nobody shot me. This, considering the wanton abuse of handguns on Brixton Hill recently, means that I must therefore possess the aura necessary to getting around South London without being mugged.
It's not like there aren't enough theoretical people to do the mugging and killing in London, indeed there are plenty of kids who'd like to fool you into thinking that, instead of heading off for double geography, they're off to do someone in with a baseball bat and indulge in some light burglary. I sat behind a 15-year-old on the bus yesterday who was wearing a baseball cap with the label still on it (the dress equivalent of clutching your mobile and using it as a stereo). This apparently insinuates that he's nicked it from the shop and is therefore Well Hard, which instantly marks him out as a Johnny Try Hard because, clearly, no self-respecting shoplifter would need to bother.
What topped off this prime example of Being Very Hard were the kid's sunglasses. Now, obviously he couldn't fit his sunglasses under his cap (because if he didn't keep it jammed on someone might nick it) so, brilliantly, he'd hung them under his chin like some kind of delirious stethoscope. He is so hard! Fucking hell, he's nearly as hard as me.
I was swapping mugging stories with lovely usedtobecool last night over enormous glasses of wine and drum n bass folk, before suddenly remembering that none of my mugging stories actually belonged to me. I've managed to get through over a year in London without even a sniff of physical aggression and, quite frankly, this makes me nervous because it means my number will very soon be up.
UTBC Dan has a friend who is the Mugging King – not of nicking stuff off other people, but of getting out of it. He's talked people out of mugging him, fought them off, been too poor to actually be worth robbing and, simply, run away. "Nobody could catch him you see, he runs like the devil," said Dan, eyebrows raised in the universal sign of admiration.
Or In Rain got mugged in Brixton once. Rather than doing what I think I would do in the eventuality of being mugged in Brixton (burst into tears and find a policeman immediately), she did what I fantasise I would do: kicked off her boots and sprinted after the fucker, screaming like Boudicca. The image of someone quite small doing something so cool is an impressive one (sadly she didn't catch him), which is why I think such effort should have been rewarded instead of returning to the station only to find someone had made off with her boots.
I admit to being fairly lax when it comes to walking anywhere sensibly at night, and am starting to think that this perhaps is my subconscious hurrying the mugging along so we can get it over with. I do stupid things like walk home "the short way" through dark roads while listening to my iPod (actually, fuck the fear, I'm clearly such a moron that I should be beaten up and left to die in a ditch.) Part of the reason I think I'll get away with such provocative behaviour are the twin weapons of my being 6'2 (and, as cinema has taught us, all people over 6' are either henchmen or proficient in martial arts) and, secondly, having an unattractive travelling face once described as "a murderer eating lemons".
With this inevitability awaiting I've become a bit jumpy lately. When shadows start coming up behind me quickly at 3am, I turn round to make sure whoever behind me isn't clutching a chloroformed sack. I've started doing this in the mornings too which is a trifle extreme. I very much doubt any mugger would want to mess with commuters at before 9am.
Still, it's quite hard not to come up with some kind of escape plan when, as a kid, your mother drills it into you that people on the internet can see into your brain, and that talking to strangers is equivalent to writing "ABDUCT ME" on your forehead. I was about 18 before I actually had a conversation with a stranger on a train, an old man who'd fought in the Falklands. This could have opened whole new doors to the gleaning wisdom from older passengers, but came to an abrupt end when a father of two lunged at me in the Norwich station taxi queue after sharing conversation on the train from Peterborough. Let it be said that no good ever came to anyone at Peterborough train station.
What it boils down to is that I live in a slight cuckoo land where I don't believe much bad will happen until it does (I still keep bags and precious things very close though, I'm not fucking Pollyanna). I love dipping into Brixton. I love the green space in front of the cinema, the hidden away cafes, and the fact that you can get a barbecue and music for a fiver from the Windmill on Sundays. I don't want the fact I like it to be tarnished by being mugged, which is why I treat it with the sort of respect you give to tetchy cats.
If I have to be mugged anywhere, I would much rather it be Camden.