What to do? Pick it up? Would it explode? Look for ID, and be accused of stealing a handbag if the police appear? Or maybe hand it in to a station, only to find out that the owner had been murdered or something, and the bag was now covered with the Bugle’s prints!
We were late for the train, so decided that if the handbag was still there on my way bag, I would try and do something about it.
At the train station we saw what looked like two policemen. On closer inspection, they turned out to be SouthWest Trains security people, but we mentioned the bag anyway. They said that if it was not in the station, then it was “outside their jurisdiction”. Fair enough.
So I walked back to the bag, and stared a bit more. Then I had a brainwave! A while ago I had stored the Blackheath Police “Safer Neighbourhoods” mobile phone number in my phone. Brilliant! I decided to call them. Voicemail – “If it is an emergency, dial 999, otherwise leave a message, and we’ll get back to you within days”.
Well, an emergency it was not, but people do not leave handbags full of stuff (by this time I had peeked inside) on the pavement for no reason… A handbag doesn’t just fall off the arm, does it?
So, I left them a message, feeling a bit silly, thinking that they would call back soon. Nothing. So I called the Blackheath Police landline, and was told that the number had changed. So I tried the new number, and got an answerphone. I stood and waited for a bit longer, feeling progressively more like a dodgy person up to no good in a darkened street approaching midnight.
Finally, after consulting Mrs Bugle again, and remembering that a friend in the police had criticised me in the past for not dialing 999 (“people call 999 for all sorts of things you know”, I think she said), I decided to call it.
Just as they picked up, the front door of the nearest house opened, and a very drunk or stoned (or both) lady wandered out – gravity seemed to be disagreeing with her. “Can I help you?”, she mumbled. “Er, there’s a handbag here”. “Can I help you?” she repeated. Oh god, this wasn’t going well. Then she picked up the bag, asked me if she could help me again, I said “No, I’m going home”, and as I wandered off, she said “Thankyou”.
So there you go, good civilians of Blackheath. I realise that the police do a good job on the whole, and that they probably had lots of shootings and things to deal with, but it just felt a bit frustrating.
If you ever want to try your chances with the police in Blackheath, the number is 07768178292. Or the land-line isn’t 02082848497… It has changed, possibly to 020 8721 2741.
And not a single link to Oscar Wilde. Oh, maybe just one.