True Stories: Me and the dipper: At last, the pickpocket experience

We were sitting at the bar of a busy, reputable Soho drinking establishment. My girlfriend's handbag was lying on the floor, at the foot of her stool, well in view of both of us, when finally it happened. After four years of living in London, albeit indirectly, I had fallen prey to the pickpockets.

Somehow our villain had managed to bend down to her feet, unzip the bag, remove her purse and sundry cosmetics lying on top, re-zip the bag, replace it at her feet, and get away undetected. The man was a true artist. I still cannot quite fathom how he managed this.

However, my only real surprise is that it took so long. When I announced to friends and family that I was moving to London at the onset of the recession, what did they warn me of? Mass unemployment? Unaffordable housing? No it was, of course, the myth of London's pickpockets; so artful they could have all your credit cards from your wallet without it even leaving your pocket; so dodgy they could brush past you in a crowd and remove your watch before you could say, 'Fagin? Who's he when he's at home then?'

When I arrived, all my worst fears were confirmed. Posters on the Tube telling us to beware; that tacky hissing snake at the cinema hooking up handbags, umbrellas and other assorted goods; even Tannoy announcements at Earls Court station announcing that pickpockets constantly operate on the platforms.

But I do seem to have led a charmed life since moving to London. From the bedroom window of my first sub-let council flat in Stamford Hill, I could hear the pimps fighting over their customers. One of my neighbours regularly took the unusual step of running into her garden in the early hours of the morning armed with a camera to deter the prostitutes plying their trade in her bushes.

Almost every time I came home late I was serenaded to my door by flashing lights and wailing police sirens.

Yet often, as a naive, drunken 18-year-old, I would eagerly jump on to the wrong night bus, be woken at Finsbury Park, and have to make the hour-long trek home in my stupor, tacking from side to side on the swaying pavement, looking like a very inelegant and unstable listing galleon.

It strikes me now, four years later, that I might as well have carried aloft a gigantic banner proclaiming: 'Please mug me, I'm new here]' But it is reassuring that time has not eroded all of London's Dickensian aspects; that we still inhabit a city so similar to that depicted by one of our greatest writers.

Unseen entrepreneurs can still make a living at the expense of an upper crust too absorbed in their consumerist bacchanalia to notice. The swine.

React Now

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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Yvette Cooper campaigning in London at the launch of Labour’s women’s manifesto  

I want the Labour Party to lead a revolution in family support

Yvette Cooper
Liz Kendall  

Labour leadership contest: 'Moderniser' is just a vague and overused label

Steve Richards
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine