Donald MacInnes: Look out for muggers... and beware of electrified bumbags


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The gentleman, who to my saucer-sized eyes looked some 11ft feet tall, pushed me backwards, hard enough that I struggled to find my balance, before crashing into the roll-down metal shutter covering the facade of a shop.

It being 3am, the noise of my back hitting the articulated steel barrier ricocheted up and down the Brixton side street down which we had stupidly decided to walk to save us a longer trip to my then-girlfriend’s flat.

As I shook my head to get my senses back, I caught sight of my girlfriend, who stood to my left, her eyes similarly wide and her hands covering the huge O her mouth had become. She was terrified. It was a bitter end to a thrilling night spent doing that disco dancing and drinking banana daiquiris.

In truth, I was also scared. But I got a whole lot more nervous when a second mugger appeared like the shopkeeper in Mr Benn: out of nowhere. It was his job to rifle through my pockets, which he did (with some professionalism). He found a £20 note in my jeans pocket and this seemed to satisfy the pair’s greed, so the big dude loosened his grip on my throat and they strolled away.

I only mention this incident, in 1997, just before I moved down to London permanently, to illustrate a point. One would assume that it might have put me off my transfer to the capital, but my only thoughts in the aftermath revolved around how best to tell the tale to our friends, as I pictured a semi-circle of riveted listeners in the pub, with my girlfriend and I recounting our horror night in Brixton. I certainly didn’t plan on changing my behaviour or starting to wear a hidden money belt. Or, God forbid, a bumbag!

I was reminded of all of this on Monday, when I had to go into London’s glittering West End to meet a friend for lunch. As I struggled to traverse the concourse at Victoria Station, I noticed a group of elderly ladies in front of me, clearly going into town en masse for a bit of a shop. To a woman, they all had slung their handbags over their head and one arm in the service of security. My old Gran once told me that she had seen a TV programme for the elderly where female viewers had been advised to wear their bags in this fashion. Now, either every old person in the UK saw this show or the word-of-mouth network among old biddies is better than I imagine, because most lady OAPs you see use this method to deter the opportunist mugger. And good for them.

But as my story at the top illustrates, young men, rather than old biddies, remain the predominant target for street crime. So, ladies: next time you are tempted to wrap your handbag around your neck to safeguard your pension cash, remember this: you look REALLY silly. You don’t see me wearing an electrified bumbag, do you?

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