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A Brush With the Law

Posted on 2007/12/17 23:54:50 (December 2007).

[Friday 14th December]
Whilst regular readers will note I often complain about the sheer banality and drudgery of day-to-day existence, every now and again it is disrupted somewhat, by events which are at least a bit out of the ordinary, albeit not always entirely positive. In this vein, I didn't particularly envisage when I woke up this morning that by 10 o' clock this evening I'd be sitting in a police station in Marylebone, acting as an interpreter for a complete stranger.

Allow me to rewind a bit.

After an uneventful day at work I had decided for once I would actually leave early, concious of the fact I was going to be seeing some of my family at the weekend, and hadn't made a start on my Christmas shopping at all yet. So I headed into the centre of London, went to to good old Fortnum and Mason first, before then heading on to Hamley's. After my first pass of Hamley's I emerged empty handed, and determined I should regroup and try again, but this time with Chie in tow. After some careful consideration we did at least manage to find something nice for my Niece, who has her birthday on Christmas eve.

Having acquired the bare minimum of presents, we were quick to throw in the towel - I find shopping is taxing at the best of times, but on a Friday evening particularly so - and decided to find somewhere to have dinner.

In stark contrast to our usual protracted (and often ultimately fruitless) meanderings in search of an acceptable venue for dining out, tonight Chie suggested a place she'd been to with a friend of hers, and we just went straight there. It was a little sushi restaurant called Yoshino, just off Piccadilly, and I was rather impressed. It looked decidedly upmarket when we arrived, and the chef looked suitably stern and official, however it was actually very reasonably priced - we had a good selection of sushi plus drinks for just over 30 quid. The quality was also really good and despite quite a few non-Japanese customers (I guess that is partly down to the location) the overall feel of the place was very authentically Japanese. Furthermore the waiters were very professional and, best of all, they actually smiled! Staff in some of the Japanese restaurants in London look really miserable, and I always find that a bit of a downer.

So that was all very nice. To follow, Chie suggested we pop along to this monthly event she goes along to where people who come from Hiroshima (but otherwise don't know each other) get together in a pub for a few drinks and a chat. Chie has been a few times now, but until now I've never been with her, and so I felt very privileged to be going along.

When we first got there it didn't look like anyone else was there, but gradually the Hiroshima-jin arrived in dribs and drabs, amid me putting on my best Japanese to introduce myself, which, as is often the way, was followed by a premature assumption that I was fluent.

...and so now we get back to the reason why I ended up in the police station. Around 9 o' clock one of the people at the Hiroshima gathering noticed his bag had gone missing. Initially we just assumed it had got pushed under the table or something, but after a thorough search it was nowhere to be seen. We then started to suspect it had probably been stolen, and so I went and told the manager at the pub as they appeared to have CCTV. After going and checking he said it had actually caught some guy walking out of the pub with the article in question. He was obviously long gone by now - and the chances of getting the bag back were next to none - but at least there was a small chance that the perpetrator might come to justice.

Fortunately there wasn't anything like a wallet or a mobile phone in his bag - just a few books and one of those little electronic dictionaries that lots of Japanese people have, although it was quite a nice bag in itself. So whilst I could see he was quite upset about it - and all the other Hiroshima-jin were quite shocked at the event - I got the impression he was ready to just say "shoganai" (Japanese for "shit happens") and accept it. I on the other hand, was not. I was incensed that some local yob had made off with this very nice Japanese guy's personal belongings, particularly as the thought occurred to me that they may have deliberately targeted our table due to all the Japanese people on it. Moreover I hated to think that this would be a lasting memory about England for all these people, many of whom were just here for a relatively short time. Finally I got the impression that part of his reluctance to do anything about it was that he wasn't very confident in English, and a visit to a police station in a foreign country can be a bit intimidating even if you're fluent in the language.

So I embarked on a mission to take my new Japanese friend to the local police station. On arriving there it appeared he spoke pretty much no English whatsoever, so I ended up acting as an interpreter too. It oddly turned ought to be quite fun in the end (well, for me at least) as the police actually ask some quite detailed questions about the nature of stolen items which were a real challenge to translate.

I don't suppose he'll ever see his bag again, and even with the video it is doubtful the thief will be caught, but if nothing else I would like my new Japanese friend to leave Britain thinking that not all of its' citizens are complete selfish bastards.

Comment 1

A copy of the police report will at least enable him to claim off his insurance. And I should think you have made a friend for life!

Posted by John's Mum at 2007/12/18 15:22:54.

Comment 2

I did the same thing for a British family near Marta's place two years ago. Someone broke into their holiday home and I helped them with translation and police affairs almost for an whole afternoon... (missing the day at sea)... :D But good man you did the right thing, think if we were in that situation.

Posted by Lox at 2007/12/18 22:45:44.

Comment 3

It was MEEEEEEEEEEEEE !!!!!!!!!!! (in an attempt to bring discredit on England and its fine, prim and proper people)

Posted by Ze Frog strikes back at 2007/12/22 13:12:53.

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