Mon 13th Mar 2006


A chill wind from the North blew the bracing March air harsh against my face as I parked my trusty old black bicycle up against the wrought iron railings. Shivering, I cursed the strange premonition that had brought me here - to the Lord Nelson pub on London’s fashionable Holloway road. Already, I had begun to grow weary of these pointless phantasies. I was poised to enter the place and hand my £3 to the wizened old crone sat behind the glass, when a movement caught my eye.

Turning, I spied an old gypsy gentleman, wending his elderly way towards the cinema. I watched him for a few moments - he was clearly enjoying his evening stroll despite the inclement air. From the other direction came a Muslim woman, clothed in full hijab, and I enjoyed for a while the sight of two cultures living in harmony, strolling without a care amidst the delights of North London. For a second I was lost in contemplation, distracted by romantic reverie. But at that very moment my attention was happyslapped by two shapeless, hooded grey shapes, emerging from a sidestreet. Faces hidden, shuffling gaits and long arms making meaningless gestures – they were ruffians and no mistake! Any doubts I had about the vileness of their intentions were removed as they hooted to each other and loped over to the old man. So, I thought, the evening becomes interesting at last!

I prepared to engage the telescopic rapier concealed within my D-lock – I keep one with me at all times for just such an occasion. I moved, swiftly but silently, towards them, with my thumb poised on the release stud, but before I could reach them my eye was drawn to a cartwheeling shadow hurtling down the pavement. I looked up, but I could scarcely believe the evidence of my own senses. It was the woman I had seen earlier. But this was no ordinary Muslim woman. She was ninja!

Within seconds one of the hooded creatures lay sprawled in the light from the window of the Sainsburys Local. The other, seeing his adversary advancing towards him with steely determination, uttered a howl and loped off into the night. The fight was over almost before it had begun! The mysterious warrior woman bowed gracefully as the bewildered old man spluttered his gratitude. Somehow, she became aware of my presence, standing transfixed by the cash machine. She turned, and for a long second I found myself staring into a pair of clear brown eyes. And then, in a flash of somersaults, she was gone.

Astonished, I mounted my cycle once more and returned home, feeling a little wiser, and somehow - safe.