I don’t know if I’ve ever told the story of my being mugged on here, but seeing as life in general is pretty slow right now, there seems no reason not to tell it.
I was 18, so this was back in 1996, long before the internet was an everyday thing, and even before everyone had mobiles. It was also the early part of the year, I’m guessing about February or March. I can recall this much as it was fairly cold out, though I can’t say it with any real certainty.
By this time I’d been working for a couple of years, having left school at the age of 16 to train up to become, of all things, a locksmith. Out of the 180 or so pupils in my year at school, I had been one of about 5 that had chosen to leave full time education, and certainly the only one of all of my friends that chose not to do A Levels and subsequently go on to university.
Despite living in Welling, a small commuter town on the outskirts of London, I’d gone to school at Chis & Sid (or Chislehurst and Sidcup Grammar to give it the correct title), which was about 3 miles away in Sidcup. As a result, any nights out seemed to be based in Sidcup as that was the most central place for everyone. Two pubs in particular, The Black Horse and, confusingly, The Old Black Horse, were our regular haunts, moreso because they turned a blind eye to the lack of facial high and the overwhelming stench of Lynx bodyspray that accompanies underage drinkers.
The Black Horse was on the High Street, whereas the Old Black was three or four bus stops closer to home for those of us living in Welling, and was based on a busy, though fairly dark and boring road near the school.
I’d gone to the pub that night with a good friend of mine who also lived in Welling, Leon, and had probably spent a couple of hours drinking there before calling it a night at kicking out time. The pub was full of other kids that I’d shared various classes with at school, though I never really got to know too many of them as they’d spent the best part of 5 years while I was at school with them ignoring me, and though everyone seemed to be growing up and getting along better now they were doing their A Levels together, this act of bonding had passed me by due to the fact that I was now living quite different lives from all of them.
It’s hard to believe that it was 14 years ago now, and some memories of the night are hazy. I can’t remember who else was there, though at a guess I would say it was possibly a handful of friends who all lived near each other, somewhere in the opposite direction to Leon and I. and I’d also guess that one of them had driven and therefore given the rest a lift home, with Leon and I content to get the bus.
What I do remember is that as Leon and I waited for the bus outside the pub, where the pavement was narrow enough to lean against the pub and still be able to stick a leg out and touch the bust stop sign, if that was your wont, we were approached by two others.
"Alroight?" one asked, in a strangely fake Irish accent.
I’m not a talker, and the area I grew up in, including where I was waiting for the bus, is not reknowned for it’s overly friendly community. Even today, if you start talking to strangers on public transport within the M25, you’re likely to be considered insane or a nuisance, even if you are only making small talk.
"Alright." I mumbled back, keen not to promote small talk and keeping my response as closed as possible.
"Been here long?" he continued.
Leon responded this time, saying that we’d been waiting a couple of minutes and that the bus would be along shortly.
All of a sudden the two guys moved and stood in front of us.
"Don’t do anything silly." said the one that seemed to be doing all the talking, as he leaned in to me.
I didn’t know what was going on, and went to move him away, concerned that my personal space was being invaded, and with only a vague sense that something really wasn’t right. All of a sudden he brought his left hand up towards my neck. I felt something sharp being held against me.
"I’ve got this," he said, indicating the knife that he was gripping in his hand and resting on my neck, "and I’ll use it. Gimme your gold chain."
I’d only had the gold chain for a few weeks. It had been a Christmas present from my mum.
"I can’t give you that." I said, not thinking.
A look of confusion flashed across the muggers face.
"Don’t be stupid! Just give it to me!"
"I can’t," I reiterated, "it was a gift."
I guess, subconciously, it made sense to me. It was a gift, therefore you can’t take it, Mr Mugger. Had I bought it for myself, then maybe I could stand to lose it, but as there were emotional ties it’s a deal breaker.
"Fine," he said, unbelievably, "give me your coat."
My leather jacket had also been a gift, again from my mum, this time just a few weeks earlier at the end of January.
"No." I replied.
Looking back, I’ve no idea what I was thinking. I knew that any sane advice would be to give whatever was requested, but despite the blade being held across my throat I had an overwhelming sense of injustice.
"I can’t give you my coat!" I remember my mind was buzzing trying to think of a good reason. What it came up with was: "It’s far too cold!"
My attacker looked at me in disbelief, before turning to his mate with an equally quizzical look. I held my breath.
"Just give us your money!" he grunted.
I stuck my hand in my pocket and pulled out what change I had left after a night in the pub. About £3. I handed it over and my assailant turned to Leon, who in turn handed over about £2.
"Is that all you’ve got?" He seemed more annoyed than angry now.
"Well we’ve spent it all in the pub!"
A few seconds of silence passed and I tried to think of a way out of this situation. Before I could come up with something adequate, our attacker broke the silence.
"How are you getting home?"
Leon and I looked at each other. We’d just been mugged at knifepoint and now they were exchanging small talk?
"We’re getting the bus…" Leon replied.
"That’s why we’re standing at a bus stop…" I added, unhelpfully.
"Oh right." The mugger thought this over for a second or two. "How much does it cost for you to get home?"
"About £2 each." Leon said, safe in the knowledge that it was true, being a journey we’d done numerous times.
"Have you got enough to get home?"
Leon and I looked at each other again, not sure if the guy was being serious or not.
"No! You’ve just taken all of our money!" I was exasperated. Had there been a mugging course, these guys would have failed the entrance exam, but even their strange behaviour so far didn’t prepare me for their next move.
"So that’s £4 then? For both of you to get home?" It was a rhetorical question, for what our knife-wielding yob lacked in being a mugger, he made up for in basic maths. He dug around in his pocket and handed us back £4 in change.
Leon and I took the money back, before the pair made one last attempt to get my chain. The knife was held against my throat again and a threat issued. It was getting silly now, and rather than continue this strange cherade, I pushed the knife away from me and bolted inside the pub. As I got through the door and looked behind me, my heart sank. Leon hadn’t followed me as I expected him to.
As I’d burst through the door, all eyes fell on me.
"I’ve just been mugged!" I shouted, startled to see no-one respond.
"Leon’s still out there with them! They’ve got a knife!"
Thankfully this was enough to get a few people moving, and as a couple of tables jumped up and ran for the door, Leon strolled in without a care in the world.
"Fucking Hell! Are you alright?" I asked him
"Yeah, fine. Thanks for leaving me!" he responded, a bizarre small smile playing across his lips.
"I thought you would follow me." I retorted. "Where are they?"
"They’ve gone. As soon as you pushed him out of the way, they decided enough was enough and they strolled off."
And that was it. Leon and I had been mugged, refused to give up various bits that the muggers wanted, and even gotten money back from them so that we could get the bus home.
The night ended with a trip to A&E, as what I hadn’t realised until someone in the pub had pointed it out was that my pushing away of the knife had caused the blade to slice my neck open slightly, and I was bleeding. The nurse in A&E went on to say that had it been a millimetre deeper then it could have killed me, as it was over a main artery. Not that I overly believe this as in the end it was a slight cut that needed butterfly stitches.
A couple of months later there was a small article in the Sun about two muggers who mugged someone in Croydon, before giving the mugee their money back to get the bus. I’ve no idea if it was the same person, though the similarity is strange, and seeing as neither Leon or I could really remember what they looked like, I’m ashamed to admit that we never reported it to the police.