White Man In Hammersmith Parlay


From: hurstm08@live.co.uk
To: post@hurstm.posterous.com
Subject: White Man In Hammersmith Parlay
Date: Fri, 6 Nov 2009 15:01:24 +0000

I look rough and I feel rougher. Yes, I’ve had a rough few days and it shows. If there were badgers around, their arses would be winking at me, giving me a look that says. Yep, he’s one of ours. Rough.
With the M.E./CFS you fling and flop yourself through each day, some days, more flop than fling, And then sometimes it flattens you completely and you ain’t going nowhere. I’ve been flattened for a couple of days so I need to get out, take a few photos, reconnect with the world. So, I fling myself into the City of London, have a mooch around Moorgate, a stroll around St.Pauls. Then I end up in the Hammersmith Broadway Centre shopping mall. It’s the first time I’ve been back here since that incident a few weeks ago when I was accused of looking like a terrorist.

If you read my my blog,
Hammersmith, you may recall the little contretemps I had with an over-zealous security guard who’d been intent on quashing my photo op. Do I look like a bloody terrorist? I’d asked. And he’d replied, Yes! Well thanks a bunch. I’d marched off, affronted. Great, I’d thought, not only do I look like a terrorist, but to add insult to injury, I look like a failed terrorist…So it seems rather fitting that I am back at the scene of my non-crime on the very date, 5/11, that we celebrate that most famous of failed British terrorists. Another dodgy looking Guy.

But my plot is pretty benign. To take a photo of the ceiling. It’s not against the law, I don’t think. Just against their rules. Like running in a school corridor. Maybe I’m being a bit childish, stubborn. You should have challenged that guard, an inner voice says, should have asked him, how do I look like a terrorist, what did he mean by that? Oh, he was probably just being obstreperous, I answer myself. He didn’t really mean it.. Then suddenly another voice, accusatory, pipes up.

 Accusatory Me: More importantly, what did you mean when you asked him that?
Defensive Me: Sorry? What did I mean, when what..?
Accusatory Me: When you said, Do I look like a terrorist? That implies that you think that it is actually possible for someone to look like a terrorist? So if not you, who does then..?
Defensive Me: Well, I don’t know. It was just something I said..

 This inner dialogue is interrupted when I see the guard, yes, it’s t he same one. He’s talking to someone, not looking at me. The guard is a black man. I am a white man. What’s that got to do with anything? Well, the inner voice is asking some uncomfortable questions. In another setting, me and this gentleman might have sat down and had an interesting discussion about what forms our first impressions of other people. Their colour? Religion? How rough they look? I would have liked that.The guard is still looking away.I am going to take my picture. Then the inner dialogue starts up again. And if the questions are uncomfortable, the answers are downright alarming.But I’ll get back to that…

 So I’m in the City, thinking back to another recent, much calmer, but no less frustrating encounter with a shopping mall security guard. This time in Shepherd’s Bush, at the retail behemoth that is the Westfield Shopping Centre. I was taking photos outside. Well, I thought I was outside, it turns out that even though I was in the open air with no walls around me, or roof above, I was still on private property and not allowed to take photos. Or ride a skateboard. No skateboarding, you say? Oh no, that’s next weekend up the spout then. So where’s the demarcation line? I ask. I bet I can stand there and take a zoom shot, get around the rules. Ha ha, look, I’m behind the line. The guard explained that when you come out of the Tube Station and turn left, the pavement changes colour and that’s when it stops being council run and becomes private property.( I had a look later and could not see the colour change that he was on about) The guard also said that one of the reasons that photos were prohibited was to prevent people taking them with the company name Westfield, in the background, and then later making up a false pass and pretending they worked there. Mmm, couldn’t they just get a photo off the internet?  As it happens, I do do a roaring trade in fake identity badges.Yes, all those bogus Ealing Poundland staff, that’s my fault, that is. Anyway, Mr Guard was too late. I’d already taken several shots.

 When that guard first stopped me, he’d given me a look that I’ve seen many times. It says – This guy looks dodgy. I get stereotyped, you see. I have a natural frown that’s slips easily into scowl mode. And I pace a bit. Fidgety. I just look a bit a haggard and rough. That’s just me.(and a bit of M.E.) And so it is that over the years that I’ve  attracted the unwanted attentions of various authority figures. (Remind me to tell you, one day, about the time I was detained by customs officers at Manchester Airport after flying in from Amsterdam. Nightmare…)

 I remember an afternoon in the West End a few years back. I was having a look around a few shops in Soho, wanting to buy a shirt, not seeing anything I liked. I noticed a group of blokes, what we used to call Casuals, eye-balling me across the road. I ignored them and carried on, looking in shops. Twenty minutes later, this same mob approached me in a side street near Tottenham Court Road. I thought I was going to get beaten up. Turns out they were plain clothes coppers, on the look out for hand bag thieves. They’d been following me. They gave me the third degree for a bit and then turned their backs. No apology, no sorry to bother you sir, have a good day. We just all stood there. Looking dodgy together. 
The other day, I was in a car park round the back of a hospital, following an appointment there. A copper was talking to an Ambulance driver and I was taking a photo of a big chimney. As he approached, I thought, I’ll get in first. What is that, exactly, do you know? I asked, disarming him. Not sure, for gas or something, he said.Then, casually, what are you hanging around for, anyway? Where do you live? I l told him and said I’d just had an appointment here but I keep a photo diary you see. The copper shook his head and actually smiled, albeit a condescending one, as if to say, you go and enjoy your nice little hobby sir, and left me to it. Sensible policing, it does exist. It’s only later that I realise I’d said photo diary, not photoblog, like I say to everyone else. I keep a photo diary. I never say that. I would only say that to someone I considered to be a bit old fashioned and not up to speed. I’d said it to the copper. I’d just stereotyped him. 

Today, in the City, the Financial Quarter, and police helicopters are circling, at one point I wonder if they are watching me. I keep thinking I’m going to get a tug for photographing ‘sensitive’ buildings. I’ve been a bit nervy about such things since my recent tangle with the fuzz, which I blogged about previously. Sat 17th Oct. Ealing Broadway. 17:30 Approx On that occasion, I fought the law and I won, but the delayed reaction has been that I feel less carefree about taking pictures in some places. I look over my shoulder a bit more, despite my innocence.I mean, after all, I’m a rough looking guy taking photos of banks and what have you. And what about those big spiky balls in Holborn that I keep taking photos of? If they really are security cameras, as has been suggested,  then I’m on a lot of them, close up, looking dodgy.. (1)

 But it’s worth the stress. There’s some beautiful and beautifully rough looking buildings in London. The last thing I wish on any of them is harm. Even the ones that house the pompous and corrupt, the sharks and shafters. It’s not the bricks’ fault what goes on inside is it? I don’t want to stereotype all bankers and City Traders etc but sometimes I look at these (stereo) types of people, the financiers of fucked up economy Britain and I think – the best thing about you is your workplace.
The Houses of Parliament, St. Paul’s Cathedral, The Gherkin and Buckingham Palace. I take photos of none of these. Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate all thier architecture and design but there’s so many more less well known, quirky and remarkable office blocks and apartments out there.Maybe it takes certain conditions to bring out their best. The right sort of light or dark. I love the way clouds show no respect for reflective solid surfaces, appearing to be floating right into the buildings, without pause. (2) There’s one, quite rough looking block which is nothing much till viewed from behind a yellow barrier. Then, to me, it becomes something else. It looks more confident, less dodgy. It grows. (3). A few of these pics were taken today in the City, others over the last few weeks in various locations. Ealing, Shepherd’s Bush, Paddington, Baker St .(4-18) But if anyone asks, I didn’t take them, alright? You never saw me…Oh yeah, and I’ve got that fake security pass for Lidl’s in Southall you wanted…

 Back in Hammersmith.I hold my mobile phone as if reading a text, and surreptitiously take a shot. There’s a flash but no one notices. I repeat this action. I get away with it. I win. But the photos are dull, uninspiring. Not worth showing. The guard still hasn’t seen me, or if he has, he doesn’t recognize me. The question still lingers, what kind of terrorist did I look like to him? Maybe there’s one of those daft online quizzes you can do. I took the – What Kind of Terrorist are you? quiz and got – a Basque Separatist. Why don’t you try it? The inner dialogue, this Hammersmith parlay. resumes…

 Accusatory Me: So by asking the guard, Do I look like a bloody terrorist? What you actually meant was Do I look like a Muslim..?
Defensive Me: Oh come on, I didn’t say that. I never mentioned Al Qaeda..
Accusatory Me: Neither did I. You just made that connection..
Defensive Me: Oh. Well anyway, I don’t think I do look like a terrorist..
Accusatory Me: Because you have pale skin, ginger hair..
Defensive Me: Auburn..
Accusatory Me: So sorry,auburn..So you were saying how you don’t look like a terrorist..
Defensive Me: Well I suppose if the I.R.A were still active on the Mainland, maybe you could think that I was something to do with them,.even though I’m not a Catholic..
Accusatory Me: So you’re stereotyping Catholics now? Anyone with Ginger, sorry auburn, hair who’s a bit rough looking could be in the I.R.A…?
Defensive Me: What..? No, I’m just saying, I could pass for a Catholic but not a Muslim..
Accusatory Me: Look, let’s cut to the quick here. What you meant, whether you realised it or not, was that people with black or brown skin and maybe a long beard and a head covering, are more likely to be alligned to an active terrorist organisation than you are and as such you should not be hassled.
Defensive Me: No. I mean, I don’t know.I suppose if I did look like a Muslim then maybe I might not have been so surprised by the terrorist remark.
Accusatory Me: Oh, really? And would you also maybe not have been so surprised if several police marksmen shot you dead by mistake whilst you were running to catch a tube, just because, they mistook you for ‘looking like a terrorist’?
Defensive Me. Ah.I see what you mean. So by me asking him that question, in that way, I was really trying to exonerate myself from any wrong-doings purely on the grounds of my skin colour and ethnic background? Thereby, subconsciously, propagating a negative racial stereotype?
Accusatory Me: Exactly.
Defensive Me: Shit…
Accusatory Me: Not so high and mighty Mr Indignant now are we? Soft racist remark, I’d say. Ha! I win. And..eh..I..lose.
Defensive Me: Do I really still have the last remnants of racial superiority knocking around in my psyche? I thought I was better than that. I really did. Ouch. 
Am I  being a bit hard on myself?  I wonder, as I head home feeling battered and bruised. It does not feel nice to think that such hidden prejudice can still lie dormant within me, unconscious till riled. I have beaten myself up good and proper over this issue and hope I’ve learned my lesson. No doubt I will think on it some more. Then something occurs to me. I have just invented Politically Correct Fight Club. And I’m Tyler Durden. You should try it yourself sometime, it’s very cathartic. Just remember – The first rule of Politically Correct Fight Club is that you do not talk about Politically Correct Fi…Oops.

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One thought on “White Man In Hammersmith Parlay

  1. Pics great as ever – think I’d seen some of them already on twitpic. Yeah, agree with Dave. it’s a pleasure to read your lovingly crafted vignettes with their neat circular structure, cleverly-constructed chuckles and poetic turns of phrase liberally peppered throughout. Also agree with all the points about photographers’ rights – don’t be cowed by these petty pedlars of uncivil nonsense and their thuggish, ignorant henchmen – and (since you’re also on the theme of PC) their thuggish, ignorant henchwomen equally. By the way, if it makes you feel any better, stereotyping is a natural – and unescapable – feature of the human brain, which very likely evolved in order that we could make instant ‘fight or flight’ decisions when confronted with a potential foe or predator. Of course, being rational, civilised beings, some of us (I’d hope most of us) understand that these natural responses of the brain are very often wrong. However, this after-the-fact ‘self-policing’ happens in a different area of the brain. In other words, we can’t actually help or prevent the stereotypical thoughts emerging in the first place, we just need to keep them in check (as you so deftly illustrate in your piece). Everyone, of whatever race they may be or creed they may follow, has these thoughts. So, yeah, that’s a very roundabout way of saying don’t beat yourself up about it.I find the best method of dealing with this primitive brain remnant is to laugh at it, which is why – although I think the PC movement in comedy was great in terms of ending the lazy stereotypical approach of much of mainstream entertainment in the late 70s and early 80s – I was relieved when Sadowitz came along in the latter part of the 80s since I believe no subject should be taboo in comedy. And, of course, laughing at it was exactly what you were doing here…albeit rather less confrontationally than Sadowitz might have.

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