I became a victim of crime last week. Twice. And in virtually identical circumstances. I don't know whether it's anything to do with the end of the school term, but we've suffered a rash of car break-ins in our particular patch of north London recently.
So, on two occasions last week, I emerged from the house to find the quarterlight sprinkled across the pavement and the car's (utterly valueless) contents strewn across its interior after a jumble-sale rummage. So below par is the radio that the perpetrators didn't bother to steal it on either occasion – and, rather irritatingly, they didn't nick the bin-bag of stuff that had never quite made it to the charity shop, which meant that was still on my to-do list, along with the rather tedious business of calling insurers and the glass repair company.
Total cost on each occasion, just under £60 – a few quid short of the excess under my insurance policy – as well as a certain amount of spiritual expenditure, cursing whoever had been stupid enough to believe that a car this low-rent might contain fencible goods.
I did think of putting up posters on the window explaining that all they would get from the interior was a faint, and apparently undislodgeable, smell of pickled onions but then figured they might think that was a ruse and break in anyway just to double-check.
What was interesting in both cases, though, was the police response. I reported both incidents simply out of a cussed belief that the official crime statistics should bear some rough relation to what is actually happening on the streets. I didn't need the Crime Reference Number for an insurance claim and I had very low expectations that I would actually see a policeman. This seemed to me sensible, frankly.
There was no sign of blood around the breakage, which appeared to disappoint the police because there was no possibility of a DNA sample, and disappointed me because it suggested the car hadn't bitten back. But given the absence of physical evidence, it hardly seemed to require a flashing blue light and a forensic team.
What was odd was how apologetic and tentative the police were in explaining that I probably wouldn't see anyone. And how much low-level effort went into ensuring that I had not been left feeling like an aggrieved customer. I lost count of the number of times people offered to put me in touch with Victim Support – presumably a pro-forma part of their telephone response check-list, but still faintly absurd in this context.
A few days later – in both cases – I received a letter, headed "Working together for a safer London", which confirmed how sorry they were that I had become a vehicle of a motor vehicle crime and explaining their decision (which they fully understood might disappoint me) that the case would now be closed, due to lack of evidence.
"Unfortunately," it added, "not all crimes reported to us lead to an arrest", a detail which I felt could be safely filed under "redundant information". A slightly startling amount of energy went on placating a sense of indignation with the police which I'd never felt in the first place. When they rang back they apologised for not having done it earlier ("We've been a bit busy with a firearms incident") and the universal tone was one of carefully tutored rueful empathy. And, curiously, this left me less reassured rather than more so – as if a disproportionate amount of time was being spent on managing public perceptions of police effectiveness (and non-existent trauma) and not quite enough on managing the breaking of windows. I would have felt better if they'd been too busy to care about my feelings.
If fun is an art form, Rankin's mastered it
There have been some sniffy responses to Rankin Live: a ridiculously excessive show of the fashion photographer's work at the Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane in London's East End. The sniffiness has centred mostly on Rankin's claim to artist status, which seems odd to me since there isn't anything about the exhibition – apart from its existence alone – that seriously makes such a claim in the first place.
In fact, if anything distinguishes the show, it's the larky sense that Rankin, pictured with his portrait of Kate Moss, has been having the time of his life with celebrities who like showing off (plus the odd one who doesn't). He makes absolutely no bones about the fact that he wants to make his sitters look as good as possible, and doesn't fudge the fact that spending all day with semi-naked supermodels is probably more fun than working in a coal mine.
The exhibition even includes cheeky video tutorials by people like Marc Warren and Jarvis Cocker about how to get the Rankin look: the sort of thing no photographer with genuine pretensions to art would ever admit to their retrospective. It's all about posing in a gallery on a thoroughfare that has, for a time, been one of London's prime poser hot-spots. I felt like a tramp walking around, but peacocks of any age (or gender) should have a ball.
Oh, do tell about your year of living stupidly
It used to be that a career in the media involved a stint covering local village fetes in Northamptonshire or an attempt to leap the hurdle of the BBC's General Trainee scheme. These days you may just have to doggedly do something that doesn't make sense for a year. The year is crucial, incidentally, since the public likes round numbers and it makes pitching the blog/book/movie rights package a lot easier.
Julie Powell has been doing very well after committing herself, in 2002, to spending a year cooking all 524 recipes in Julia Child's classic Mastering The Art Of French Cooking. A movie, scripted by Nora Ephron and starring Meryl Streep as Child, is out soon. Hephzibah Anderson got a book deal out of living celibately for a year: giving up sex in return for a brief period as flavour of the week and an entry on a lot of producers' "Can talk about sex" index card.
There have been books about going a year without buying anything made in China and books about going a year without buying anything at all. Now a New Yorker called Sheena Matheiken is setting out to wear the same dress every day for a year; a blogged project that is presumably intended to culminate in a chain of accessory outlets and her own cable fashion show.
The giving stuff up trope has been a little overworked of late, but apart from that, the possibilities for subjecting yourself to an arbitrary life rule are theoretically limitless. So don't go west, young man, instead plan for The Year of Living Stupidly.