It was the day of the London marathon, early noughties I’m guessing as I recall the sizes of my children, and that Woolworths still existed. They did great deals on Tellytubby dolls, Spice Girl t shirts and Pyrex baking containers. The shop assistants were sullen, underpaid, and largely didn’t give a hoot, if you were after something that was not Tellytubby, Spice Girl or Pyrex orientated. I had so much Pyrex, so many lentil bakes and pies. We wore a lot of Spice girl t shirts, but I could not abide the tubbies, apart from the one with the handbag, and noo noo the Hoover. I supposed we farted a lot,on account of the lentil bakes, but other than that we were your typical nuclear family: trips to the science museum, swimming baths, picnics, bedtime stories, jam sessions ( we did Rawhide a lot.The the line abut roping, throwing and branding the cows reminded me a bit of marriage.). Trips to the cemetery. I know that may seem a bit Goth, but it was also a nature reserve, wild, overgrown, breeding lilacs and shade out of the dead. It was also a big cruising place, and you might stumble upon a couple of men in a sexual act, one always much younger than the other, It didn’t bug me nor excite me, I felt I was invading their privacy, and I thought, perhaps prematurely, that it would be a good opportunity to teach the kids that sexuality was on a spectrum, but come to think of it they were too young to know about any kind of sex.
My husband was running the marathon for Childline, he got a lot of sponsors, and he trained hard. I completely played out the whole cops knocking on the door widow scene, we are sorry to inform you your husband dropped dead near Tower Bridge, as the smell of celebration apple pie wafted from the oven. I would crumple to the ground as widows do, and cry no, no no, you must be mistaken. It must be someone else. And maybe they would say, oh fuck, we’ve got the wrong house, but probably they wouldn’t, and I would be widowed on day of celebration.
I played out widow scenes a lot, my own mother being a widow and informed over the phone. I was young, in Liverpool, and the call came from Canada, where my dad’s sister lived, Sudden death was my only template of married life. The guy dies. Transatlantically in my mother’s case, near Tower Bridge in my death fantasy.
My newly imagined scenario was nicer, cops with shiney shoes, young, good looking. They would offer commiserations, tell me that he died a hero, doing a good thing for distressed children, then the cuter one , after a decent amount of time, would ask me what I was doing Saturday night, and the less cute one would offer to babysit. I would offer them pie and coffee, and I would go to the bedroom and take drugs. The cuter cop would be persistent, even though he would know I would not be a rich widow. Then we would fall in love, get married, the cop would treat my kids as his own and then one day, there would be a knock on the door, by the less cute cop, telling me the cuter cop, now my husband, was killed in the line of duty, but he died a hero, I should be proud. He would not wait a decent amount of time to ask me out Saturday night. I would be a brave little widow, buying smaller Pyrex dishes, still on sympathy drugs. He would be very understanding, but have his own family in someplace like Cheam. His shoes would not gleam so brightly, his uniform would be slightly crumpled and covered in confectioners sugar from all the donuts he ate in his car on stakeouts. I had it all figured out.He was from Cheam, he loved his partner more than his wife, and he comfort ate donuts, looking at the new partner replacement with disdain at first, contempt in the end. He would tolerate him til he did something stupid or or talked old cop slang, which even old cops didn’t talk anymore. He would be largely illiterate, and only in the cop game for the early pension, and the great send off he would have should he be killed in the line of duty.
But this is not about getting mugged at all, and I was, in the cemetery, not only a place of lush , overgrown beauty but also a handy shortcut from the shops. The plan was, my husband would come home, having beaten his personal best, and I would have all sorts of foot soaks and plasters at the ready, and balloons, and a really nice meal, and apple crumble
le with Ben and Jerry’s American hippy ice cream on top, not shops own brand, which never melted, even in the sun. Like the shops own brand never melted, which made me suspect of its ingredients.
I loved my husband, I was very proud of him, but I knew nothing about eternal married life. I thought for sure I would be widowed in sudden circs, on a glorious sunny day, bad for runners, good for spectators. I would be a bit sad forever, and on drugs for being a bit sad forever. I would float through widowed life in a haze of “whatever darling” drugs, and my kids would join gangs on the estate we lived on, and talk in fake gangsta accents, and use slang I didn’t understand, and greet each other by knocking fists together, and I would not care all that much. But for right now, my husband who I loved so much was doing such a good thing, and I wanted to celebrate with balloons and congratulation signs and a lovely meal.
The children and I were heady with excitement. What does daddy like to eat the bestest? Let’s go to the shop and buy all the nicest food and all the stuff the from foot aid counter, and muscle rub, and bath salts for sore muscles, the kind with Eucalyptus in it. And a semi clad lady on the box, in a waterfall. We will decorate the flat with party stuff. poppers and streamers. We would place him in a hot bath and then ply him with food. Our hero. My husband, their dad.
We went to the shops. We bought all the nicest things and stuff you lay out for a party, like crisps and dips and nuts and sweeties, why not, I mean why the fuck not have Smarties til you are stuffed if you’ve run a marathon to raise funds for distressed children.
We cut through the cemetery laden with bags of post marathon food. We went through the bit in between those who had fallen in Ww1, and the gigantic Booth memorial, the founders of the Salvation army. Suddenly , from behind a gravestone, two guys grabbed me and one put a piss smelling hand over my mouth, instructing me in an Eastern European accent not to scream or I would get hurt. I could not scream, on account of piss smelling hand clamping my mouth. I nodded as if to say, i will not scream. He took his hand maybe about four seconds from my mouth and I went into my speech. “You don’t get it. I am unmuggable. I’ve been mugged twice, surely I have met the mugging quota . My husband has just run the marathon to raise money for kids in distress. We are giving him a party, and foot aid. You simply can’t mug me, and more than that my kids are here , you are gonna fuck em up psychologically. It’s flies in the face of mugging nature.”
This confused him. He clamped his hand over my mouth again. My kids were not within direct view, they might have been hiding. They might have been there but I could not see them. This more than anything else frightened me. One said something along the lines of, this was a bad idea. I then muttered through pissy hand I had no cash, which was the truth. The muggers entered some Eastern European consultation, the grip of the hand on my mouth a bit looser. I said “Look, take the food. But it’s food for heros and you are the opposite of heros. You are trying to rob me in front of my kids and its just so unfair. Mug me in private, not in front of the kids. They looked at each other, seemed to have a bit of a row, one made a half hearted attempt to grab my rucksack , but it was new from Marks and very sturdy and hard to grab off my shoulders, though it really hurt my back, his attempt to rip it off my back. They started to bicker and eventually, they abandoned the whole operation and ran off towards the Church st exit, near the Booth memorial. I looked for my kids who came right to me and clung to my legs. I held them closely to me for dear life, and said mum was fine, the bad men went away. I picked up my shopping, even the Ben and Jerry’s starting to wilt at this point, and said we would still have the party, we just needed to make a cop detour. I found a woman with a mobile phone and asked her to call the cops. The kids seemed confused but not distressed out of the ordinary, though I was to find out later this fucked up my son big time. He lived in fear of bad guys taking his mum.
The cops eventually came, not good looking, and pretty much told me off for walking in the graveyard in broad daylight. “I would never let my wife walk through here,” said one. “Why did you walk in a secluded area,” said the other. And I let rip. This may look like a cemetery cos it is, but it is also a nature reserve, and full of nice, safe gay men cruising, and everyone comes here, it’s not like fucking, I dunno, what is the prime mugging hotspot, whatever it is, it;s not like that. You can breathe tree air, go to the gift shop, they even have an Easter egg hunt at easter, it’s more than a graveyard. Men have hot sex and kids look for Easter eggs. Not to mention the exotic flora and fauna.”
The cops loaded me and the kids and our deflated balloons and melting ice cream into a van. The point was to circumnavigate the streets surrounding the cemetery. To look for the baddies.
And here is the possibly racist truth about being mugged if you are not very visually orientated in times of duress. All Eastern European crime guys look alike. Bad sports wear, hoodies, cheap trainers and the smell of the desperate. It’s a very certain smell, desperation. The cop van had backwards facing seats. I could see my daughter turn green, riding backwards or forwards in any mode of transport usually made her sick, even puke up the pink anti sickness pills. We circumnavigated the cemetery a few times, all the while me worrying about the melting ice cream. You do stupid shit like that when you’ve been pathetically mugged. All the while the while the less nice cop telling me how stupid I was for walking through the cemetery, with kids.
After the threat of the daughter vomiting, we were dropped off at out estate. I tried to normalise things. I cooked. I played Rawhide. I put Aristocats on video. I refreezed the ice cream. Ben and Jerry’s does melt a bit after four hours,
The husband came home, with his sweat, his worn out feet and his air of unmitigated joy and triumph.
“I’ve done it! I’ve run the marathon and raised money for a good cause.”
“I’ve been mugged in front of the kids,” I countered. Not to burst your bubble, but I’ve been mugged. They didn’t get anything, the ice cream is re- freezing in the freezer, we have foot remedies and balloons.”
My husband was suitably concerned but clearly shattered. We had a bad, small, fake party, he filled with fatigue, me filled with the injustice of life,my kids, probably just scared and fucked up .
Well for sure my son was. He cried at home time at school most days, telling the teacher that I would be late or not there at all cos bad men had taken me away. A few months later we visited the cemetery and made a wish in a mythical tombstone. It was the Bostock Lion grave, rumour had it if you whispered in its ear and rubbed its nose, your wish would be granted. I told my son to whisper into the ear of the stone lion. As he was partially deaf at the time, he spoke rather loudly and his wish was “I want this lion to crumble over me so I can die.” He was goth, at six or seven.
He’s over it now, if he remembers it at all. He is a fashion model. My daughter has a hundred jobs and is lovely, inside and out. There would appear to be no long lasting effects. Apart from this story. i still go to the cemetery. My best friend Paul who died prematurely has a memorial bench there. Right opposite the magical lion. The magical lion is a bit shit, it never granted me my wishes, but I go to church, I go to the graveyard and pray, not for like impossible things, like my best friend to come back, but for possible things, that my son might one day be on the side of a London bus in an H and M advert. And stop being so over confident and cheeky. I talk to my best friend, on his bench, and generally call him a fucker for leaving me, his wife, his parents, his dogs,waaay before his time. If anyone wants to mug me on me own, without my children, feel free. I have no job or money. The snow and leaves fall over the living and the dead, as Joyce said, sorta. When the snow falls over me it falls over Paul, and Rory, the briefly Goth son.I remember we made a trip to the cemetery to make it OK again, and the legend of the lion is if you rub its nose and whisper in its ear, it will grant you your wish. My wish was inaudible, please don’t let this fuck up my kids. Rory ( my son) his wish was very audible as he was partially deaf with glue ear at the time. He wished for the lion to crumble to bits and to bury him in fallen stone.
I heard it and asked, Are you like, a Goth, or just a bit fucked up on account of the mugging?” He did not reply. He was like six, didn’t even know what Goth was. I took him to therapy, smiled a lot and played Rawhide every day. He’s OK now, even a bit arrogant. I really hope I am never mugged again, but if I am, I have a template.