Well, I can’t say this has ever happened to me before – I’ve just been detained under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act.
That only meant being searched on Victoria Station, but still a surprise. It was particularly a surprise for three reasons. First, the embarrassed look on the British Transport Police officer who stopped me. I felt rather sorry for him.
Second, why it should take three of them to do it – one to search, one to hold a clipboard and one to stand around watching? It can’t have been target driven and I couldn’t help wondering whether there was some other priority that might have better taken their time.
Finally, why they stopped me. I asked them this and, after some persuasion, they said it was my stripy shirt. Apparently it made me stick out like a sore thumb. I don’t actually believe this, especially as the form I received as a souvenir said they are not actually allowed to stop someone because of their clothes. And after all, what is it about terrorists that make them wear multi-coloured striped shirts?
No, I’m sure they stopped me because they couldn’t categorise me – dressed like a tourist (white shorts, white socks), carrying piles of papers on my way to a library, evidently either unemployed or self-employed. What does this mean? I suppose, like so much else in New Labour Britain, it means that people and families who look non-standard are under increasing suspicion, whether it is as potential terrorists or child abusers.
The police were nice about it, though, and it kind of made my day. Also, most important, it gave me something to write about here.