It was just after 10.30 in the morning and I was
already sick of the way the day was panning out. Id been on the road since 7am
and Id not even made my first drop of the day. It was raining. It was raining
hard. Greater Manchester Radio was telling me that there was a major power
failure in the Chorlton area of the city, but I already knew that.
We hadnt moved for going on an hour. I was sitting
with a copy of The Sun open on the racing pages, occasionally looking up at the
dull and dead traffic lights on
It was just gone 10.45 when the first sound of sirens
was audible above the hum of engines and occasional pointless hooting of horns.
From where I was sat, still in the same place just past Springbridge Road, it
sounded like it was coming from Alexandra Park direction, but there wasnt
really any way to tell, and I was damned if I was going to wind the window
down! So I began speculating as you do about whether it was the fire
brigade, police or an ambulance. In
My phone rang. It was my boss. For the third time
since nine, for crying out loud.
Tony, he said, sounding annoyed. Any developments?
Nah, I said, trying not to commit to any particular
emotion on this one. Im not paid per delivery so at the moment Im thinking I
can rake in a few hours overtime Im so behind.
Youre still stuck in
Theyre still saying its a major power cut. I
thought traffic lights had their own supply, like. Apparently not.
Well you just keep me posted. Text me a picture of
what its like or something.
Anger tinted his tone now, and I didnt like it. So
Id taken a couple of liberties with where Id said I was, before. A few other
lads had too. So hed taken to making us send him picture messages of where we
were. He said it was that or them satellite tracking things. Id rather quit
than have one of those bastards nosing on me.
Well I sent him the picture. For a moment I thought
about taking one of the windscreen with the wipers switched off for a laugh,
but then remembered that a stressed-out whinger with no sense of humour is
unlikely to find it funny. Since the rain had died down a fair bit, I wound the
window down a fraction and took a snap of the procession of traffic that I now
realised would block the emergency services from getting anywhere in this area.
Its not like city centre traffic by any means, but its busy with houses and
businesses. Theres all sorts around here.
It was then that the Asian lad came belting out of the
gardens to my left. This is the direction Id heard the sirens coming from. He
had his collar pulled our around his face and he was going at a right old pace.
I wondered right away why hed be running so fast. Then common sense took over
and I realised that if Id been out in this weather Id be running like my life
depended on it too.
He was wearing a rucksack.
No, that was a crazy thing to think. I got cross with
myself for being so paranoid. Im not racist, and I know its wrong to assume
that every Asian lad running is a terrorist or is doing something wrong.
Especially in the rain, for Gods sakes! But the rain was quite gentle now, and
the sun looked like it was going to start cutting through the thick grey of the
He really did have a turn of pace on him. I half
expected a copper to come charging out the gate after him, and someone go He
went that-a-way,. Then the copper would commandeer a bicycle and go tearing
after him. I knew I was into daft thinking territory now: the result of being
sat bored with nothing more than a less-than-unbiased newspaper and a very dull
radio station for company.
I put Radio One on. Jo Wiley was playing some dire
rock song. I cant stand that stuff. I realised Id left the window open a bit,
and made to wind it back up.
That was when I saw him. He was in a van just like
mine (but without the delivery company logo, of course) and he looked like
quite the dodgiest character Id ever seen. Id not noticed him before, but
then Id not really been paying attention to the occupants of the vehicles
around me. He was dodgy not because of the colour of his skin, the huge beard
he had, or the turban he had on his head, but because of the fact he was
sweating like nobodys business and peering this way and that as if he was
looking for something.
I felt my heart leap into my throat. Any misgivings
Id had about the lad sprinting out of the gate were gone. Something bad was
quite obviously cracking off in
Instead of winding the window up, I wound it down
some. I wanted to watch this bugger, to see what he was doing. Id quit smoking
a couple of weeks ago, but I had a pack in my glove compartment for
emergencies. Were not supposed to smoke in the vans, but under the
circumstances I thought having one would make me having the window down less
suspicious. But how less suspicious?
He eyeballed me. I was sure of it. As I lit the fag
(you have no idea how good it felt inhaling that sweet sweet smoke) he looked
right at me. I wondered then if he knew Id rumbled him. He suddenly looked
away from me, his eyes seeking out the grassy area nearby. I think its a
football pitch, but there werent any posts on it. I then noticed him looking
around again, this time out of the corner of my eye.
Then something I didnt expect happened. A chap who
came out of nowhere came up to me and asked me for a light. He didnt half
frighten me as he said Scuse me mate, because he was a massive skinhead type
fella, and in my experience of big skinheads coming up to me Im about to get a
kicking or at least insulted or spat at. But not this one.
Got a light? he asked. And as I passed him my
lighter, he went on in a raspy whisper. I saw you looking at the fella in the
van. Dont look. I saw him too.
Something fishy going on in there, an I dont like it.
I felt rather relieved that my worries were justified
by someone else. I still didnt know where this bloke had come from, but I
guessed from one of the cars behind me. The Asian guy was looking very suspicious,
and now I could see he seemed to be clenching his teeth and twitching some. My
heart was pounding and I felt really nervous.
Skinhead fella could see I was nervous. You just act
natural and keep an eye on him. He said. Ive phoned the pigs but how they gonna get
here? Just watch him too. If you think youre at all British youll watch him
He handed me back the lighter and I could see the
distaste in his eyes that I wasnt the classic white Brit hed been hoping for.
Far from it: my Grandads Senegalese and my Mum is from
Before the skinhead was hardly away from my van, the drivers
door of the other van was flung open from the inside and the Asian fella leapt
out. He ran to the other side and all of a sudden the world seemed in slow
motion. I knew at that moment in time that you did not just simply jump out of
your car in static traffic on a busy street and run, vehicle door left flung
open. My imagination populated the back of his van with barrel upon barrel of
explosives and a ticking timer.
There was shouting. There was me flinging my van door
open and joining the skinhead in the chase, catching up with the heavyset but
frankly overweight fortysomething in next to no time. We were bearing down on
the Asian, and we could both hear him shouting something unintelligible. I felt
the fear as I realised there were reports of the previous bombers doing just
the same thing in their attempts to maim and kill. I heard the screams from
other drivers and pedestrians. I heard a shout of get him! and others of
panic and confusion.
It was still in slo-mo. He seemed to cramp over,
reaching around to his back pocket. I heard the skinhead cry out, Hes got a
gun! and in one fluid and surprising motion he leapt, rugby-style, towards the
man. He caught him around the waistband of his jogging pants and crashed to the
ground with a bone-crunching smack of knees on hard concrete. He cried out, but
he did not let go.
What happened next will stay with me for the rest of
my life. It was as though the slow-motion of before was suddenly fast-forwarded
in an instant. The Asian mans trousers were pulled almost completely down,
along with his underwear, as he was dragged towards the growling, almost
yelping figure of the skinhead. That was the moment he could control his bowels
no longer, and a steady and thick stream of semi-liquid shit spurted out and
into the still yelling face of the skinhead. He couldnt have placed it more
accurately if hed tried: it hit him, smacking into the mouth and eyes with a
precision that almost made me vomit.
That was the moment I realised what Id been hearing
as the Asian man had been running from his van was him crying out, in Pidgin
English, I have diarrhoea! I need shit! I have diarrhoea!
I nearly laughed out loud. Were it not for the
confusion and the sheer adrenaline of the situation, plus the additional
concerned and worried drivers and pedestrians congregating around us, I might
have yelled out Serves you right! at the faeces-splattered Mancunian redneck
as he finally let go of the now tearful and embarrassed Sikh man. But the
reality of the situation is that Id thought the same thing: that this shifty
looking fella was a terrorist and about to abandon a bomb-laden van in a
populated area in a traffic jam. It never occurred to me until I had the
benefit of hindsight was that what he actually was, was ill. Hed been sat in that traffic for God knows how long,
desperate not to soil himself.