One afternoon last week I was sitting on the top deck of a London bus when a middle-aged woman struggling home with her grocery shopping flung herself into a front seat – quickly followed by a clearly mentally disturbed man waving a beer can and screaming at her, apparently convinced that she’d stolen something from him.
Everybody sank deeper into their phone screens. The driver showed similar detachment and – despite being able to clearly see the frightening scene unfolding above him on CCTV – drove on, blithely determined to keep to his timetable rather than try to deal with a potentially dangerous fracas.
As the verbal abuse continued, the poor woman became increasingly desperate, so I scurried down to the driver and banged on his sealed cab window, asking him to halt the bus – or at least speak to her tormentor over the Tannoy.
Verbal abuse: Shulman said all passengers onboard the London bus failed to act after a mentally disturbed man started screaming at a middle-aged woman
But he completely ignored me until we reached the next stop where, thank heavens, the guy staggered off, still shouting.
Still none of my fellow passengers made a single move.
Public transport is hugely vulnerable to random violence, as evidenced by the murder of father Lee Pomeroy, stabbed 18 times in 25 seconds on a Guildford to London train last year.
In the incident I witnessed, a crazed man was allowed to enter our bus in an obviously aggressive state.
He should have been stopped at the door – instead of being allowed to march upstairs to continue his harassment.
And it’s not the first time I’ve seen something like this happen.
Not unique: Shulman said it’s not the first time she was aware of such an incident
You would hope that in such a public arena, everyone would be moved to help, but sadly that’s not always the case.
With the growth of knife crime, particularly in the capital, people are generally more cautious about getting involved if they don’t need to.
Obviously drivers don’t want to endanger themselves by confronting a violent person, but ultimately it does fall to them to ensure passenger safety, and bus design needs to help in that.
Hiding silently away in a sealed cab – with a note on the window saying staff should not be subject to abuse – simply doesn’t get the job done.
Now Boris is spending £5 billion on our bus network, I hope he takes a look at what it’s actually like travelling on them – not just in terms of timetabling, but safety too.
Beware the rise of table-laying fascists!
Jumping into the great table-scape debate – hot topics: do tablecloths make food taste better, as suggested by a recent university study?; are cloth napkins a priority?; should your salt and pepper be in grinders? – I’ll share a recent experience of laying a friend’s table.
Thinking I was saving space since there were ten of us to crush in, I placed the pudding spoons horizontally above the knives and forks rather than alongside.
My friend was totally appalled and regarded this placement as unacceptable as – brace yourselves! – the word serviette. Table-laying fascism is on the rise.
England is still great… at fashion
Death Of England, a new play at the National Theatre, is a monologue on what it means to be English.
Rafe Spall’s virtuoso performance as an angry Englishman features 100 minutes of splenetic invective against, well, almost everything.
Is that what the English are? Is that what we are seen to be?
The issue of national identity has become such a hot potato that when I mentioned writing about it here, my boyfriend grimaced and said I was bound to land myself in trouble.
Couldn’t I think of something more personal to write?
But I can’t think of much that’s more personal than how we identify, not just in terms of gender, but in terms of where we think of as home.
Who we regard as ‘us’. And how do we want to be seen.
A recent issue of Italian Vogue has ludicrously come under fire from a member of Italy’s far-Right for featuring a beautiful model of Senegalese descent, who has spent her whole life in the Veneto district of that country, in their Italian Beauty issue.
Trump followers crave a narrow-minded, behind-our-picket-fence, America-first definition of what it is to be American.
And now in the aftermath of Brexit and the ongoing debate about the Union, we in this country are having to consider our own relationship between being English and British.
Thankfully, London Fashion Week, taking place this weekend, is an area where the notion of Englishness, tainted as it has become for some by associations of jingoism and insularity, still holds appeal.
To the many foreign press and buyers at the shows, English sells. Bring on the traditional tropes of tweeds and pearls, lace and knitwear, raincoats and Royalty.
It’s a very narrow contribution to our identity but at least it’s positive and something to celebrate, rather than the isolated, confused, White Van Man vision of Englishness, currently on the National Theatre stage.
Parasite lays bare the Hollywood hypocrisy
Class act: Lee Sun-kyum and Cho Ueo-jeong in Oscar-winning Parasite
Still on the subject of nationality isn’t there something faintly patronising about Parasite winning the Oscar for best film?
The movie’s familiar subject matter of the uncomfortable relationship between society’s Haves and their staff, the Have Nots, surely wouldn’t have won so many votes, had it been played out closer to home in the mansions of Notting Hill or Bel Air rather than Seoul.
Is this lothario a cad or a champion?
Someone referred to a well-known sports personality the other day as ‘a serial shagger’. Aside from the fact that doesn’t grant him membership of a particularly exclusive club, I wondered who qualifies for it.
Would you, for example, have called the charming Warren Beatty, known in his prime to sleep with numerous women in a single day, by that term? Is it now an insult or does it carry, as it did then, a whiff of acclaim?
Why you must never do Boris a favour
Think again: Shulman said Carphone Warehouse founder David Ross who ‘facilitated’ Boris Johnson’s Mustique holiday had thought he was doing a good deed and ended up being splashed over the papers
There you go, thinking you’d done a good deed by introducing an old friend to a villa rental company, hoping it may give them a good deal, and next day you’re all over the papers.
Spare a thought for Chairman of the National Portrait Gallery and Carphone Warehouse founder David Ross who ‘facilitated’ Boris Johnson’s Mustique holiday and is now being portrayed as some form of Stephen Ward-type figure, servicing the needs of the powerful. With friends like these…