17 April 2007

The man who didn't understand

A curious incident, seen this lunchtime during the course of our run. Coming down Constitution Hill towards the Victoria Memorial, the familiar sound of a whistle mixed with a motorcycle engine that denotes one thing - a VIP on the move. The police motorcyclist leading the convoy stopped across the pedestrian crossing by Buckingham Palace, and put his hand up to stop oncoming traffic. A taxi passed him from behind, and i bet its licence number was taken.
Equally undeterred was a pedestrian on the Green Park side, a middle-aged man who, either noting that the lights were in his favour or assuming that the police officer had stopped the traffic as a service to him, proceeded to cross the road. He lost confidence when the officer bellowed "stop there!" and held up his hand, but having jumped back onto the pavement decided to assert his inalienable right to cross the road.
"WHY CAN'T YOU DO AS I TELL YOU?" was clearly audible across half of Westminster, but he was across and melting into the crowd on the other side, outside the Palace. Then the next police motorcycle had roared through and was stopping the traffic at the top of the Mall, and finally a stretched Jaguar flying flags from masts on its front wings (a red and green one that I'll have to try to identify) closely followed by a couple of anonymous black cars and a police van, lights flashing.
It's not an uncommon performance in this part of town (even happens, as I noted elsewhere, in Abbey Road), and the sound of a whistle is surely unusual enough to make anyone pay attention. A police officer holding up a hand is a compelling stop sign, and "stop there" at high volume a near-universally understood order - or so I had thought - even in the part of town with probably the highest density of foreign tourists. Perhaps we saw the one person in the world who didn't understand.
Vanesa opined that we were getting to be like Zimbabwe, but corrected herself with the observation that the determined pedestrian had not been shot.
There's one more thing about this that bothers me, and in writing the story I've recalled my first thought on hearing the whistle: how can you blow a whistle while wearing a full-face crash helmet?

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