May 24th, 2008

#A crash of drums, a flash of light

Tonight I was out on SJA duty in the West End, covering Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Adelphi Theatre. It's the first time I've seen it (although I've seen music videos of Jason Donovan performing a few of the songs), and I enjoyed it.

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When we left the theatre, there were lots of people queuing up outside. This seemed odd, since surely there wouldn't be another performance at 10pm? It turned out that they were all waiting to get autographs from the cast. My colleague said that we should have waited inside slightly longer, then pretended that we were actors too; that would have been quite funny.

All in all, it was a good evening. I personally wouldn't pay £50 for a ticket, but I'd be happy to watch it again if it comes round on the duty list.

Somebody Else's Problem

A few months ago, it was quite windy in London. I was on my way to the regular SJA class night (on foot), and I noticed that a few temporary road signs had been blown into the middle of the road. I assumed that one of the drivers would stop to move them out of the way, but instead someone drove over the top, and wound up dragging the sign under his car. As I watched that happen, I just thought "Tch, that was a stupid thing to do". Another pedestrian then came running up, and went onto the road to move the signs out of the way. As he went past me, he criticised me for just standing there and watching, rather than doing anything to help. He was absolutely right: I should have done something, but it didn't even occur to me to get involved. As for his criticism, my initial reaction was to get defensive, before I'd even thought about it. Ultimately, there was no harm done, but it does bother me that my instincts have changed over the last few years.

A few weeks ago, I was lying in bed at about 3am, and I heard people shouting as they walked past outside, probably on their way back from nightclubs. That's pretty common, so I didn't bother looking out of my window, I just waited for the noise to die down. As they got further away, their voices got quieter, but I could tell that some of them were shouting. Then their voices got louder again, so I finally looked outside to see what was going on. (Although this was in the middle of the night, the streetlights gave a "perma-noon" effect, so I could see everything that happened.) There were about a dozen guys in their early 20s, chasing someone else down the road. When he fell over, the others moved in to start kicking him, and at least one of them had a big bat. He got up again before he was surrounded, and ran around the corner, so the others all followed him, and that was the last I saw of them. Again, I didn't do anything about this. There were some other people outside, who saw more than I did, and interestingly the gang completely ignored them. I'm guessing that one of them called the police, because a car turned up outside a little bit later; it sat there with blue lights flashing for a while, then left. If I'd been more alert, I think the best approach would have been for me to run downstairs and open my front door so that the guy being chased would have a safe refuge, then I could call the police.

More recently, I was on duty at a 5-a-side football game, and someone left his mobile phone in his jeans while he went on the pitch. He came back a bit later and retrieved it, although I didn't pay much attention to him. In fact, the real owner came back a bit later, and discovered that his phone was missing. I felt rather embarrassed about this, because I'd stood right there and watched the thief take it; I just assumed that it was his (and I'm sure that he would have said "yes" if I'd asked him). There were a few police officers in the park, so they came over to take some details. Again, I felt a bit stupid when I couldn't give any sensible description of the thief. It wasn't my responsibility to guard the phone, but I think the main lesson here is that I should be more observant, and keep track of what people look like.

Anyway, this is all leading up to something that happened last night. I got back home at about 11pm, and saw a guy doing something with some bikes. As I approached, I saw that he was standing astride one, and was holding another one on end, i.e. front wheel on the ground and back wheel near his head. I asked whether he was ok, and he said something that was unclear (I think he was drunk). When I got closer, I saw that the second bike was locked to a Sheffield stand, i.e. one of the U-shaped stands that's embedded in the ground. I then asked "Is that your bike?", and he replied "Move on, or I'll break your fucking legs." Charming.

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Anyway, I think this justifies my preference for a folding bike over a conventional type. If I had a traditional bike, that stand would be the obvious place for me to keep it, since it's within sight of my flat and it's permanently embedded in the concrete. Also, the bike was secured with a shackle lock, which is supposed to be one of the best types. The lock was used to attach the central frame to the stand, which left the wheels vulnerable. However, even if the wheels were chained separately, that wouldn't stop someone from taking the handlebars or the saddle. It's quite common to see just a frame left in a cycle rack, where every other removable part has been taken (including the pedals).