I've been having a good laugh at the recent rash of media stories referring to Manchester's murder triangle (e.g. this one in the Grauniad). If you look at a map of said triangle, we live pretty much on the southern edge of it. There are bad areas around us in Longsight, Moss Side and Hulme, but Rusholme itself seems to be pretty safe. I am not among the one third of adults who are supposedly afraid to go out at night, though I was a bit worried when Jolan took us out for a beer at the Claremont in Moss Side. I've also tended to be somewhat sceptical of poor useless David Cameron, who has recently been flapping his soft, pudgy face on the subject of crime.
Well, I got shocked out of my complacency (at least a little bit) last night, when I got mugged in broad daylight, outside a pub and within yards of a busy main road. As I walked home from work, I took my usual short cut along Rusholme Grove past the Welcome pub. A young Asian lad asked me if I wanted to buy a mobile phone. I sure as hell didn't want to buy anything from some guy in the street I'd never met in my life, so I said no thanks. The kid kept following me and badgering me about his damn phone, which was when I started to realise that something here was not quite right. A bit too late, unfortunately, as the kid grabbed my shoulder bag, and tried to pull me towards him, saying 'come here, you dickhead'. 'What's the matter?' I asked, 'What's it all about?' Funny what you say in such situations, eh? No explanation was forthcoming, with the kid continuing to call me a dickhead and try to pull me towards him. At this point I noticed he had a friend with him. Reasoning that there was nothing in my bag except a copy of the Guardian, I got the strap over my head, and legged it. I ran straight home (all of 500 yards), and called the cops.
I must admit, I didn't expect much from the police, who I imagined had more pressing concerns on the notorious murder triangle beat, etc. I was quite wrong. About half an hour later, two plainclothes cops came round to the flat, and took me on a drive around the hood in an unmarked car, looking for the 'offenders'. Naturally we didn't find them, and I went to Greenheys police station to file a statement. The police were very professional, very thorough, and I couldn't help be impressed by the way they went about their job, which can't be easy (the murder triangle, and so forth). Anyway, I got a lift home in a police van. I got let out outside the flat and thanked the cops in the van, which then peeled off up the street, blue lights flashing. Another busy night for the guardians of law and order in Manchester's notorious etc etc.
I decided it was time for a beer, so Jolan and I went to Hardy's Well and played backgammon. In this neighbourhood, the excitement never ends. When we got home, there was a message on the voicemail from the police. They had recovered my bag, and it had been sent for forensic examination. I could have it back when they'd done with it. Again, I have to say I was filled with admiration for the police, who surely had more to worry about than a bag I got for free from a conference with a copy of the Guardian in it. I'm happy to get it back though. After all, Long Beach CA is a long way to go for a bag.
I was certainly a bit shaken up, but I'm sure I can take the same route home every day for the next twenty years and not have the same thing happen. Unfortunately, there are idiots everywhere you go in the world. I am going to be a little more careful, though, and it does make me wonder if the area is as safe as I thought.