An ugly version of the 118 man

I was verbally abused by two teenage girls on Wednesday evening whilst taking my evening exercise around the local park. There I was, jogging away minding my own business, enjoying the birdsong and damp air when peace was shattered.

I could see them sat on the bench a way off, waiting for my arrival, considering the most appropriate abuse for a bloke in his thirties with skinny legs. There were three of them, a boy and two girls all about the same age, sat around smoking and more importantly, waiting for me. As I got closer I started to see their eyes, bulging with Redbull and nicotine, watching me. The spectacle of me running around the park was simply too good to be true.

Then one of them is running next to me, so close that I can smell the biological soap powder on her tracksuit and see the red swelling of teenage life under her skin. I feel quite intimidated, but that turns to embarrassment when she stops and shouts,

“You look like an ugly version of the 118 man!”

I turn round and call her a Chav, then instantly regret it when I see her smile that smile people do when they’re putting on a brave face, like when you tell a colleague that you’ve been promoted and they haven’t (how would I know?).

I called her a Chav, which in my eyes is as bad as calling their friend a Nigger, it’s no less acceptable because both of us are white. I want to apologise but she shouts more abuse and I jog on, grumbling about spending my life defending people like that against the moral outrage of the middle class, and this is what I get in return.

But, as Mandy pointed out, it doesn’t work like that. What should I expect, to be hailed as some kind of working class saviour? No that would be stupid, and more than just a bit embarrassing, probably a cross between Billy Bragg and character from a Zadie Smith story.

And like Mandy also suggested, joggers get abused because the whole point of jogging makes people that do it think they’re better than everyone else. There’s a certain amount of truth to that. When I go out for lunch, I usually get barged aside by some sweating investment banker with far too much body hair, thundering along the pavement in too little Lycra. The whole point of going out at lunchtime for a run in the city of London can mean only one thing – look at me. I’m getting there quicker than you, and I probably drive a Lotus 7 in a sheepskin flying jacket.

This whole situation reminds me of an incident I witnessed a couple of years ago whilst jogging along the Thames at Hammersmith. Now I never liked the local rowing club. Not just because it was a rowing club, but because they used to block the path with their boats with an astonishing self importance. Also they used to walk around with their scruffy canvas training tops on, collars turned up like young officers, yuk. So there was this bloke rowing up stream, all healthy and smug, in what they call a skeleton or a skull or something like that. He was close to the far bank probably because the current isn’t so strong there, bearing in mind that the river is quite wide at that point.

A little further up stream a parapet type thing jutted out from amongst the trees, the perfect position from which to launch an unprovoked attack on an innocent rower, which is exactly what happened.

They appeared like a pack of Baboons, leaping around with delight at the perfection of the opportunity. Even from the other side of the river I could see the Burberry check, and hear the verbal abuse that rained down along with the clumps of mud and half full cans of lager (if you’ve ever thrown half a can of lager you’ll know how satisfyingly it glides through the air, especially with the foamy trail that it leaves in its wake). The bloke on the river was probably quite terrified, an experience he wouldn’t have forgotten in a hurry.

From the other bank I thought the whole episode was quite amusing, a proper bit of class war, I thought it was great that the rowing club, and everything that it stood for, was getting some.

But now I’m not so sure, I neglected to consider the individual that in this instance was a front for the institution. So pleased was I to see a group of young people getting one over on the rowing club, that I failed to see that at the sharp end was probably just a friendly bloke out doing some exercise.

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