COLUMN: June 28, 2018

A man dressed like Batman

THERE are very few things I have in common with Batman apart from the obvious: I have legs, I mostly work at night, and I don’t like clowns. I have dressed like Batman on a number of occasions, most frequently – though not exclusively – when I was aged seven, but I don’t believe that this counts.

Mostly, though, one would be able to fit far more than a cigarette paper between the Dark Knight and me. Except for one thing…

Let me take you through the mists of time back to 30 years ago. I was a Robin rather than a Batman back then. I shaved once a fortnight, and even that was pushing it. I thought my voice was going to break at any moment, without realising that it already had and I was always going to sound like this.

Bros were in the charts, acid house was in, well, houses, and banks advertised the fact that you could withdraw cash on a Sunday morning from a hole in the wall as well as being able to afford a flat in London’s docklands.

And I lived in a terraced house with my family and my dog and my large collection of super-hero comics, and had just finished my GCSEs, with a long summer holiday ahead of me. My house was on a very sleepy road, with a park at the end of it, which partly made up for the fact that we had a yard, rather than a garden.

So when I heard a commotion going on outside my house, I leapt from my seat, put the video on pause, pressed pause a couple more times to get a better pause, and looked out of the window.

The woman who lived in the house opposite was at her front door yelling something about the colour purple. I was a Prince fan, so naturally I was intrigued, if not as exercised by the hue as her.

I opened my own front door, and realised I had misheard her. She was shouting that she had been burgled, which explained her keen interest in the subject, if not her urgency.

“Have you called the police?” I said. “Would you like me to call the police for you?” The woman was West Indian, with a West Indian accent, and I had decided, in my lefty youth, that the police in my area, who had a well-deserved reputation at the time for racism, would respond more quickly to a white male voice. Even mine.

Besides, I knew the number – 999. I had had to call it a few weeks before, during the Grill Pan Incident (That Was In No Way My Fault), and I wanted to try one of the other emergency services.

“No!” she said. “I’m BEING burgled! He’s in here right now!”

Oh, I thought. I ran back to my house to call the police right away, and heard the woman scream again. I turned back and saw him – the World’s Stupidest Burglar, emerging from the alley.

I think it’s fair to call him the World’s Stupidest Burglar. He had broken into an occupied house, in the broadest of daylight, and then, when discovered, had climbed over the yard wall into an alley, and had attempted to make his escape right under the nose of his victim, while carrying a microwave oven, bent double so that nobody, apart from people with eyes, could see him.

I had read too many comics. I tore across the road. He dropped the microwave, and ran back into the alley, with me in hot pursuit, jumping over bin bags and boxes and dog poo.

He turned into the long alley between my road and the next road, and I followed him, arms pumping, legs pounding the paving slabs. I was gaining on him…

And then I realised something: if I caught him I had absolutely no idea what I would do. Imagine the World’s Stupidest Burglar in a clash with me, the World’s Unluckiest Man. It would be a long, drawn-out, and ultimately inconclusive affair.

Also, I did not actually have time to call the police, so what would have happened if I had somehow overpowered him? How long would I have had to sit on him? Would I have had to explain to a passer-by why I was sitting on a man?

So I slowed down a little, and watched the burglar get away, empty-handed, at least. Just like Batman.

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