The other day on my way to my favourite wine bar I stopped outside one of the last book shops in Charing Cross Road. In the £1 bin a title caught my eye. I went inside to pay. There was a queue. There was a discussion. For Gods sake this was a one pound book. I walked out ,book still in hand. I have told my friends of this minor incident and they now blame me for the collapse of the book shop sector.
A week later I was in a shop selling Eastern artefacts in the Fulham Road. I was buying a Maoist vase for my “museum”. As the lady was wrapping I wandered around the shop. I came across some Maoist badges, priced at £12 each! Rip off,OK,game on. I showed them what rip off was. Now you see it,now its in my pocket. It now has pride of place.
Given these two incidents it came as no surprise when I read that that shop lifting is up 60 per cent this year. Apparently two million shop lifting incidents account for £200m. Well you now know where £13 went. When I was a youth stealing from shops and my step mother’s purse were major reasons why I was sent away to school at the state’s expense. When I was a student my library was largely stolen. So these two recent incidents are throw backs. We have yet to see if they are part of a new menopausal phase in my life as a thief.
The suicide of television star Isabelle Barnett in 1980 after she had been caught shop lifting created a sea change in attitudes to ,women of a certain age ,shop lifting. This was exemplified when I did a story about magistrates courts. It was titled The Land That Truth Forgot. Frankly ,in that courtroom, there was nobody one could believe.
A woman had been caught with forty pairs of Marks and Spencers knickers in her bag. Those were the days when M&S was the place. She was Hungarian. Her English was as poor as her shop lifting skills. When asked if she was pre or post menstrual, whether she was depressed,whether she had any problems at home ,she defiantly said no,she was just a thief. This was not the right answer.
The court through her husband was having none of this simple guilt. The case was adjourned so that her husband could explain the full import of these questions. Sure enough ten minutes later she came back,yes, she had been depressed, her mother was ill and her children were finding school difficult.
On the bench,smiles all round. Well my dear, don’t worry we will appoint a social worker to help you. £50 fine and £50 costs. Most fines levied by magistrates courts are unpaid. Meanwhile an unmarked police car cruises past my house. It slows down. I have recently become a grandfather, no court in the land will fail to understand the pressures I am suffering.