It is, I suppose, possible that I have related this tale before. If I have, then I have forgotten when it was. If I have and you read it the first time round, you are hereby forgiven if you just click on the "next blog" link up the page or wander off to put the kettle on or even prepare the Sunday lunch. (Yes, I know it's Monday. So what?) Either way, you are going to get the story. Again - or for the first time.
It all happened on a Saturday morning about 30 years ago. That's right - 30. It might have been only 27 or, on the other hand, it might even have been 33 years, but that is completely irrelevant. It was certainly a Saturday. I know that because I was still working ... No, hang on. I suppose it could have happened on a weekday if I was on holiday at the time ... Oh well, never mind. It might have happened on a Saturday and it might have happened about 30 years ago, but it definitely happened.
I wanted a new pair of shoes so I went into Brighton to see what I could find. I can't for the life of me remember if I drove into town or caught a bus but I know I started at the Clock Tower and made my way along Western Road towards Hove, looking in every shoe shop that I passed. Just before I reached the end of the bigger shops a police car passed me at high speed. It stopped outside the Argus store - a catalogue store with a jewellery counter - on the opposite side of the road. I assumed the police had been called to an attempted robbery and carried on. I reached the next road junction and turned back. I had gone only a couple of yards when I saw a youth dash out of the Argus shop, pursued by two policemen. The youth darted into the road and was heading straight for me.
From then on, time slowed down. I actually managed to think about what I could and should do. It was axiomatic that I should attempt to apprehend this (probably) highly dangerous villain, but how to do it? (Actually, it didn't cross my mind that he might be dangerous; I just knew I should try to stop him.) My first thought was that I should just stand in his way with my arms spread wide, but I quickly dismissed that idea as impractical. Then I decided that a rugby tackle would probably see me sprawled on the pavement while the escapee simply side-stepped. By now it was very nearly time for me to take some form of action if I was ever going to, so I just stuck out my leg and tripped him up. The youth fell on his face. A passing driver leapt out of his van and sat on him until the police arrived.
Although time had slowed sufficiently for me to think of - and reject - a couple of ways of stopping the escapee, and even a third way which proved remarkably successful, there had not been enough time for me to think through the full likely outcome of sticking my leg out. Sure, it worked in that the youth tripped and was caught. But what I had overlooked - or not had time to think of - was the fact that by sticking out my leg, I would be putting myself off-balance. Or rather, balanced on just one foot. What happened was that the force of my right leg being struck by the youth caused me to fall. As I did so, I instinctively put out my hands to break my fall. I landed awkwardly on my right hand, hurting the wrist badly. The pursuing policeman inadvertently trod on my left hand, as a result of which the thumb was extremely painful.
Fortunately, I knew somebody who lived in one of the side streets not too far away and I made my way there, hoping somebody would be at home. She was, and she persuaded me that I should have a hospital check-up. She rang my wife, who drove me to the accident and emergency department where it was confirmed that I had broken my right wrist as I landed - and the copper had broken my thumb when he trod on it!
So much for being a hero!
There is, however, a postscript to this story. It was a week or ten days later that I happened to be speaking on the phone to my brother, not a particularly common occurrence in those days although it happens quite frequently now. Brother was then a serving police officer in another county.
'Have you sent off the forms to the Criminal Injuries Board?' he asked.
'Do what?' I replied.
It transpired that the local police should have informed me of my right to lodge a claim with said Board. They had not done so, possibly in an attempt to save themselves some work - or maybe because they simply hadn't bothered to check that I was OK. Anyway, I duly obtained the forms and sent them off. In the fulness of time I received a cheque for no less than £500!
As I said, so much for being a hero!