My teenage son was arrested at 4 AM the other night. My husband Fergus and I were walking back home down our street, as we'd been to a karaoke club, of all places. Karaoke is quite the new discovery for me. I think you need to be subtly pissed to properly thrash out a few tunes.
The police wagons came barrelling down our road, flashing their lights, sirens wailing, and yelling with musings of doors on their path to being broken into. It was quite mental. I knew it was our kids straight away, mainly because no one else has kids of their own in our building. In a moment of panic, I realized that my teenager was about to be arrested. Mothers' instinct came swooping over me. The door to our flat was about to be smashed in.
This took place in the West End on a Saturday night. Every Saturday evening, about what feels like a million people pour into a one-square-mile area to get drunk, fall over, get lost, mugged and threatened, and sometimes even murdered. We knew very well that if twelve policemen were able to leave all of that to turn their gaze away from those terrible events, pound up our street, and bellow through the intercom—not only to the children in our apartment but to people in every apartment in our block—that whatever our son had done must have been pretty bad.
So here's what really happened:
One of our son's friends had acquired a can of spray paint and done some tagging on a street in Shoreditch, a street where people are paid to tag. He had done the tagging in Covent Garden with some friends—located in Central London—and then taken to their heels and ran into our home, where our son kept them at bay for four-and-a-half hours.
I had bought one dozen quails that night and was going to cook a feast, but none of the kids were around so I decided well if you are all going out on the town, then so will we. Fergus and I decided on Bone Daddies in Soho, climbed up on the high stools and huddled together so we could hear each other talk while we ate delicious bowls of yummy, porky broth. The night took us over to Soho bars, bumping into friends and strangers and chefs covered in facial hair and tattoos; the same chefs who then dragged us to karaoke. It was a good night all round, maybe even too jolly!
Anyway, back to the police and the drama. I was cross. I was yelling. Probably not the best idea.
That was enough. The state swung into action. Twelve—my husband says 14—cops poured into the building and up the stairs into our flat, all without a warrant to bless themselves, dragging the three boys off, arrested for various misdeeds which have remained very vague. Of course it is completely irrelevant to the case that my son's two friends are black. That had nothing to do with it. You mustn't even think that. British police are very sensitive. At a demonstration at Oxford some years ago, a student looked up at a mounted policemen and said "Excuse me, officer, do you realize your horse is gay?" He was arrested after refusing to pay an £80 fine and charged for making homophobic remarks. Although there were no mounted policemen in our apartment at 4 AM last Sunday morning, the others who were there looked just as sensitive and vulnerable enough to have their feelings hurt.
I should have stayed home and cooked quails and lentils.