It is the bystanders who helped lift a car off a cyclist at Spitalfields - and who saved me - that represent the real Britain

In recent years, it's been said the British have been replaced by a depressing narrative

Share
Related Topics

Who needs Thor? Or Superman, Spiderman, Batman, or any of the comic book characters turned movie blockbusters when you’ve got Londoners?

On Monday night 10 men combined to lift a VW Golf off a stricken cyclist at Spitalfields, in central London. That’s about 1.3 tonnes they shifted. Pretty damn impressive.

Their swift actions meant that paramedics, who were awaiting the fire brigade, were able to provide immediate assistance to the victim and may have saved her life. Clare Pepper, who is 27 and has just bought a flat in South London with her boyfriend, certainly thinks so.

As I write this, I have just read a piece by Sarah Vine in the Daily Mail describing her “one woman war” (crikey!) on the “what’s in it for me society”.

She rails against litterbugs, people who don’t scoop up dog poo (ok, she might have a point there), but then we’re on to the “feckless minority who abuse the public”. The mums who researchers want to offer vouchers to incentivise them to breast feed, for example. Who are just bound to use the money to go out and buy huge flat screen TVs. Innit.

To be fair (sorry but I have to be) she doesn’t fire any salvos at Britain’s workshy youth, the disabled, immigrants, or any other favoured targets. But she’s ploughing a depressingly familiar furrow.

If it’d been me I might have included venal bankers and businessmen, wealthy tax cheats and the people who run the BBC. Right wing columnists often conveniently forget that it ain’t just at the bottom of society where we have problems.

But then you have those 10 strangers who tell a rather different story. Multi-ethnic, probably multi-lingual, probably from a wide variety of different social classes, who just lifted a car up.

The same sort of people helped me when I had a lorry on top of me. I think it might have required Superman to lift that thing up. So instead a wonderful chap called Paul got underneath, heedless of the oil that was dripping down, and the petrol fumes he was breathing in, and just talked to me until the fire brigade arrived. He kept me going.

Then there was the person, who with little apparent thought for their own personal safety had earlier jumped in front of the tanker. I’d already had two wheels running over me. Without him or her more would have followed and you wouldn’t be reading this.

The national myth holds that the British are a fundamentally decent people, but that seems to have been written out of the popular consciousness in recent years to be replaced by a rather depressing narrative. It holds that the country’s gone to the dogs, and is now dominated by feckless ne’er do wells, callous officials who nonetheless indulge them, greedy bankers.

The actions of the 10, of Paul, of the bloke or woman who jumped in front of that tanker, indicates that there is another side to that story and, in these fairly grim economic times, perhaps we ought to remember that. 

Unfortunately, as I write I read that a female cyclist has been killed on the Bow roundabout, a nightmarish construction that scares the life out of me when I approach even from the relative safety of my car.

I’m truly heartened by people’s heroism for assisting cyclists in desperate circumstances. But it would be better if they didn’t have to. And that will only happen when real action is taken to prevent London’s roads from acting as deathtraps. Won’t it, Boris?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager-Alcohol-OTE £90,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum + £50,000 OTE + Car, Mobile, Benefits: h2 Recruit Lt...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£23200 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

Austen Lloyd: Company Secretary

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: EAST ANGLIA - SENIOR SOLICITOR LEVEL ROLE** -...

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Technical Support Consultant - Helpdesk

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to continuing expansion, a ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Rents in five regions of England and Wales are higher than 12 months ago  

Today was a bad day for renters, landlords, and democracy

Hannah Williams
Christian Bale stars as Moses in Ridley Scott's Exodus: Gods and Kings  

Ridley Scott, it’s not about casting 'Mohammad so-and-so', it’s about realising you have a duty to make stars of non-white actors

Alice Jones
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game