9/12/2002
 

:claudia's column:

policing the clinically mundane

   
       

I've been in trouble with the police again. Sometimes in the middle of the night I will go to Hyde Park to ride Nelson. I take him at night to avoid the embarrassment that ensues when Nelson tramples a picnic to pieces, or chooses to jump a park bench, complete with people, and misses, for although he does strongly resemble a black Arab pony, he is still an eighteen-month-old poodle puppy and lacks the delicate sensibility that one might expect from a well-broken horse.

   
       
We had had a lovely autumnal hack and were trotting back towards the horse-box, which I disguise as a dodgy white van to save recognition, when I saw in the distance that my vehicle was surrounded by the flashing lights of about forty police cars. Now Nelson has an instinct for the out-of-place and unusual; his usual reaction is to make himself as ferocious in appearance as possible to try to frighten the ghoul, freak or demon away - and this was his tactic as we approached the police. Before I knew it he had cornered two of the policemen, and was barking inconsolably at them while their colleagues escaped. He would not desist, until I dismounted and managed to persuade the men to take off their police hats, which, as I had guessed, were what Nelson found so offensive. It is often something as simple as a large hat, an oversized piece of luggage, excessive facial hair or an unusual combination of colours that disturbs him about someone, for he has a great imagination.    
       

Once everybody had calmed down it became clear that I was in trouble, not Princess Anne-sized trouble, BIG trouble. Commercial vehicles are not allowed in Royal Parks; I assumed for aesthetic reasons. In my absence the police were attempting to break into the horse-box when they found that I had left it open. Their suspicions were doubly aroused.

Inside they discovered what they believed was incriminating evidence. My handbag contained private letters written to my London address, which obviously when searched displayed warning signals. They read my letters! (They were from a good friend who wrote that he, like me, felt discord with the current government.) They used quotes from one of these against me later in an interrogation room: "those self-seeking, hypocritical, short-sighted, middle-England, cowardly, conformist, evil, aspiring, lying bastards." What's wrong with that?

Freedom of speech, or telling the truth, is almost a criminal offence in this country now, just like in Iraq.

   
       

The police also did not like the shape of my handbag, which I had commissioned specially to have my mobile phone built in. They insisted the reasons for this were espionage, not as I insisted because mobile phones looked ugly. In their search they found a very large container of my perfume 'Sabotage' which I usually carry around with me (the reasons for which I'll tell you another time), which understandably they mistook for a substance to make chemical weapons with; it is indeed powerful stuff. They also found some rock crystal shoe trees and a hat box, which they dared not open until the bomb disposal team turned up. Is it that strange to want to look after my shoes, or that perverse to have a penchant for a well turned hat? Seemingly.

   
       

I was detained under the Suspicion of Terrorism Act for some weeks, during which time I told them honestly that I would love to assassinate the President of the United States if only it wasn't in my nature to be kind to dumb animals, and that the President of the United Kingdom would be next if he did not watch it, but that my actions of the evening in question were entirely innocent. In the end their incriminating evidence did not stand up to the most basic scrutiny and they had to let me go.

But now, two weeks later, I have been informed that I am under surveillance by the FBI, the CIA and MI6; oh well, I hope my saboteurial, exhibitionist tendencies don't get the better of me. What I have learnt from this experience is that society is closing in on individuality and that the police and many of those in power have the discriminatory ability of an adolescent poodle. What I recommend, darling readers, is to spend some time behaving bizarrely in public, and to stand up for your right to do so.