television series inspired by Roald Dahl's collection of sinister short stories.
Last week, I was treated to two sinister tales of the unexpected of a different sort whilst in the UK. On Friday, my mother had a number of friends over for lunch, one of whom told us of two tales from life in Britain in 2012.
The first one concerned the daughters of friends - two nice young women in their early twenties. Last summer, the younger one, a student, worked for six weeks at her sister's firm. She bought a travel card for that period, which finished on a Friday. The company asked her to come in on the following Monday, so up she went with her sister on the same card as she had done for the previous six weeks. Oops.
Nearing Fenchurch St station, the older sister realised that the card was invalid and after a moment of mutual panic, suggested that she go through the gate, buy a ticket and pass it over to her waiting sister. They had no intention of trying to defraud the rail company, they just wanted to resolve the issue without fuss especially as the younger sister felt embarrassed at such absent-mindedness.
The older sister went through and bought the ticket. As she was handing it over to her sister, a jobsworth came over and asked what was going on. They explained truthfully what had happened and what they were trying to do about it. The jobsworth accused the younger sister of travelling without a valid ticket and booked her. He said that buying a new ticket was against the regulations, and went on to frighten the girls by saying that the rail company would prosecute the younger sister.
Talk about taking a sledgehammer to a situation. The young woman was duly prosecuted and fined £150, the sort of fine aimed at discouraging people from trying to travel without paying, except that she had had no intention of doing so. When you think of all the people who get away with outrageous misconduct, it seems rather pointless and bullying to pursue a young woman for being momentarily forgetful.
The other story concerned my mum's friend, a nice middle-class woman of 60 who is always beautifully turned out and soigné (something you could never say about me!). Her husband works in Ilford which, at the end of last year had some trouble with opposing gangs. The atmosphere in the streets was volatile and they were generally considered unsafe.
My mum's friend was due to meet her husband one afternoon at the end of the working day. Normally she would have walked from the tube station to his office, but he suggested she wait in the station because he didn't fancy the idea of her being mugged or worse on the dodgy streets.
As she waited inside and out of the way, a community police officer came over and asked her to leave the station and move on. She said she wouldn't as she was waiting for her husband. The CPO insisted, as did my mum's friend. Then the CPO got out his booking form, to the astonishment of my mum's friend. He started on a list of questions, asking her first for her name, then her colour (I kid you not!), then her gender and so on.
By now, my mum's friend realised that this was no longer funny but was actually getting serious, so she decided she to pull rank. She informed the CPO that if he asked any more questions she would have to call and inform her husband's company, and named the local solicitors. Transformation! The CPO completely changed his attitude, and when the husband turned up at that moment, greeted him in a friendly and matey manner. My mum's friend, who had always considered the police as her friends, having dealt with them as a teacher on many occasions, was shattered by her experience.
Had the CPO got to a certain point on his form, there would have been no going back, no matey back-slapping, and may even have resulted in a night in a cell.
I reckon the CPO's behaviour was typical of the bullying of an innocent, law-abiding citizen, while letting burglars, drug dealers and other petty criminals act with impunity. It does nothing for one's faith in the police. Both stories shocked me a lot because they showed little humanity, understanding or kindness.
Happy New Year everyone, health and happiness to one and all except jobsworths who I hope will go down with a case of extended runny poo and pimples in delicate places.