I know that I have related this tale before. If 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 Friday. So what?) Either way, you are going to get the story. Again - or for the first time.
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
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
Argos 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 Argos 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.
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!
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
'Have you sent off the forms to the Criminal Injuries Board?' he asked.
'Do what?' I replied.
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!
And that was the price of heroism.