Category Archives: [ Overheard ]

Snippets of other people’s conversations

Primark your cards

I’m on my hols at the moment, but in the spirit of getting back in the saddle, I’ve just remembered something that the LLF told me she overheard on a security guard’s radio whilst following him down the escalators at the new Primark last Friday:

…There’s reports of a topless woman trying on bras in the underwear lingerie department – can anyone deal?

Those Euro elections, commentary from the streets of St. Paul’s (in full)

Man, to silent companion:

…Fuck the BNP! Fuck ‘em! I just wanna stomp on them!

Upholstery care, St. Paul’s-style

Man, unseen, to woman (in falsetto voice):

Me nuh use Febreze, it mess up mi leather sofa!

Fat batty and cider

A large-eyed bottle blonde woman and her weather-beaten faced male companion, walking a little too fast of a sunny Saturday morning:

Fat Cat… Fat Cat was there all night, sitting over a Magner’s… I told him, ‘he’s a batty boy’…

Milan’s Magnum

Milan? Why the fuck was you drinking Magnum? Hello? Why the fuck was you drinking Magnum? Why the fuck was you drinking Magnum? Why the fuck was you drinking the alcoholic drink Magnum what Ayesha gave you?

I may be wrong, but I think the young lady inquiring after her friend’s recent choice of quaff by way of mobile telephone on my doorstep just now may have meant Magner’s, but who knows.

St. Paul’s: What a gas

Man peppersprayed by Sergeant 2978 on Stokes Croft, 5/11/8

Just after two in the afternoon today I walked up the street to go to the shops. As I turned onto Stokes Croft from the St. Paul’s side, I saw a small gaggle of people on Turbo Island. Walking over the small green towards them I saw a policeman and a couple of plastic pigs. I watched with mild interest as I carried on towards the shop. It appeared to be the Avin’ It Somewhere Constantly‘s recent clampdown on street drinking in the area (which will soon be bolstered by the council’s adoption of a No Street Drinking order over much of St. Paul’s).

Man peppersprayed by Sergeant 2978 on Stokes Croft, 5/11/8

After concluding my business in the shop, I returned the same way. I had left the house intending to also take some pictures of the artwork on the corner of Stokes Croft and CIty Road, so I had a camera with me. As I headed back in that direction, whilst the pedestrian crossing over Jamaica Street turned to the little green man, I could see the copper briskly walking behind one of the Turboheads as he (or possibly she) waddled away from the area. He had his back to the policeman. The policeman raised his arm, and with his hand maybe a foot away from the man’s head, he zapped him with pepperspray. As I was walking across the road I managed to capture the immediate aftermath, with the man screaming in agony, clutching at his face. I could not really hear anything that was being said at this point – things just moved very quickly.

Man peppersprayed by Sergeant 2978 on Stokes Croft, 5/11/8

By the time I got to the other side of the road, the gas-happy cop and the two PCSOs had manhandled the coughing, spluttering, choking man to the ground. The officer with the itchy trigger finger cited section four of the Public Order Act, claiming that “you threatened to break my jaw”.


I continued taking photographs as we were all stood (or lying, in severe discomfort) no more than three or four feet apart. It seemed like the only thing to do, seeing as they had applied pressure points to the man’s wrists before cuffing him, and did not appear in a particularly rational state of mind.


The proper copper (who by now I could see was a sergeant, serial number 2978) kneeled over him as he radioed for back up. The plastic pigs hovered around, not really giving off the vibe of people who knew what they should be doing. One, a small, youngish blonde woman, did seem to take some pleasure in assisting her mentor in roughly rolling their suspect around on the pavement. Her colleague – older, larger – orbited the scene in what to me looked like adrenaline-fuelled confusion. All three seemed to be keen to look away from the camera as I continued to snap away – turning away from me, bowing their heads, rubbing their faces with their hands. I mostly ignored them and kept my focus on the man on the ground, his faced screwed up in pain, having difficulty breathing, and dribbling a lot.


Sergeant 2978, perhaps a little less tunnel-visioned by now, announced to his colleagues that they should step back a little, to ‘let the gas disperse’ or similar (I can’t remember what his exact words were at this point). This gave the jumpy brunette the chance to address herself to me:

Can you stop taking photographs?

She may even have appended ‘please’ to the end, but the tone was not of a polite request.


I replied:

Why? There’s nothing wrong with taking photos, there’s no law against it.


Provoking the response from her:

But it’s not needed, is it? Stop taking pictures and move on.


Sensing that now their quarry was prone and barely breathing on the floor, there was no particular need to provide work for idle hands by standing around and arguing the legal toss with three stooges who found the need to gas someone for daring to drink a can of brew in public, I decided against dialogue, and instead took a long, lingering look at her serial number (8317) and then into her eyes, before carefully repairing to a safe distance, from where I continued to watch the scene, make notes on my phone, and review the pictures I had already taken. The PCSOs under the direction of sergeant 2978 did their best to clear the scene of any witnesses – mostly the brew crew they had initially been ‘talking to’ – citing no powers or authority in doing so.

Go, move on, or I will nick you!


With the sound of sirens in the background, and the two PCSOs conflabbing with their alpha male beat teacher whilst all looking in my direction, I decided to head home before the inevitable name-taking, card confiscating and bogus arrest could happen.


I uploaded the images to my computer, and after making some basic notes of what was said and done, I returned to Turbo Island within about twenty minutes, only to find no sign of activity – no police, no brew crew, no writhing prisoner.

Whoever that person is, whatever he did or did not do, I hope that he is alright.


I am blogging this because it happened right in front of me (I got a faceful of pepperspray too).

I have no idea is the man did or did not threaten sergeant 2978.

What I did see, though, was the man walking away from the police, making no discernible threatening gestures, only for sergeant 2978 to raise up his pepperspray to head height and then gas him at point blank range.

I am concerned on two counts:
The issue of street drinking bans and dispersal orders in my neighbourhood, both in terms of their effectiveness (or otherwise) in actually tackling the issues that supposedly predicate them, and in terms of the police enforcement of them.
The issue of bearing witness to police activity, in light of the concerns raised by photojournalist Marc Vallée and others that clause 75 of the Counter Terrorism Bill will be misused as much as section 44 of the Terrorism Act has been (and, indeed, as they anticipate section 43 will be misused in the future).

[I will return to these themes in the near future, but I have other things I should be doing and I really need to get this blog post up.]

A stone’s throw away, somewhere on Stokes Croft…

On Saturday the LLF and I went for a drink with her brother, who is newly pitched up in Bristol. After a false start at the Analphoney (“Bit… Pretentious here, isn’t it?”), we moved on to the Land Of The Trout for a more relaxed few rounds (interrupted only by the arrival and departure of a grazing herd of Blues Brothers stags), before heading home.

On the way we stopped off for a few cans of carry-out at The Best, possibly the least appropriately-named store on Stokes Croft. Still, it is open twenty-four hours a day, so who cares if it’s staffed exclusively by obnoxious oafs.

Whilst paying (and BTW, six quid for four Stripes? Are you having a – I believe the word is – bubble?!), the next customer in the queue, a rather handsome chap in his late twenties, well groomed and expensively dressed, turned round to us and with nary a hint of shame, embarrassment or restraint, asked us:

Do you know anywhere around here where I can buy some crack? I really fancy doing a bit of crack.

Well, that’s a question one doesn’t often hear around the streets of BS2. Perhaps he was a stranger in town, here for a business conference with no time to research the local retail landscape.

The LLF looked at him thoughtfully, smiling, before replying:

Aww, why do you want to do that? You look too nice to do crack!*

Leading him to retort (obviously, now that I think of it)…

It’s a fucking good buzz!

And moreish, too.

* Now CONFIRMED as her Very Own Words Spoken Through Her Self Same Beautiful Lips.

St. Paul’s: the drama, the tragedy…

It is dark. A dark autumn night. Traffic has stilled, peace is punctuated only by the occasional firework.

Then in the distance, from out of the darkness, a low, rasping, “incredibly grating voice” is heard, inaudible at first, then creeping closer, closer, until it is almost in the room.

…It just really pisses me off that she thinks she can get away with that, ‘Ooh, I’m so ‘ard, because my name’s Lizzy Bennett’, and you know what? It’s just bullying!

A voice like this, words like these, their owner and their author must be found; a swift look out of the roadside window reveals our justice-seeking poet of the night, in becoming espadrilles and denim pedal pushers, clutching at a crumpled two litre green plastic bottle, its paper label torn off, a male companion (embarrassed? in agreement? sympathy?) in turn clutching at her arm.

They dance in spirals across the road, and sink into Portland Square, the white heat of her voice tempered only as distance leads them off as swiftly as it led them in, leaving nothing more than a vapour trail of incandescent indignation; her pride pricked by another’s prejudice.

(Oblique tip o’ the titfer: Gina Vivinetto)

Inner city lullabys

Tonight the streets here in St. Paul’s have been filled with slowly perambulating clusters of young folk. They’ve been noisy but largely good natured, from what I’ve seen.

Apart from one incident: I think some chaps must have thrown a firework in the road, because there was a loud BANG, shortly followed by a not-so-young woman pushing a pram, who began bellowing at five or six boys who by this time were all shuffling off in the opposite direction from her as fast as their shuffling would carry them, hooded heads bowed, hands in pockets.

And bellow she did; as one might expect of a mother pushing home an infant whose sojourn has been interrupted by pyrotechnics exploding near her. Her bellowing appeared to take the form of a lecture in the Fireworks Code, liberally retooled for the twenty-first century. The more she bellowed, the more they shuffled. A straggler had to pass her to rejoin the group, and I suspect he may have made an inopportune remark, because the bellowing lifted louder, and the instruction in firework safety became ever more broadly interpreted. The specifics were a little tricky to identify, though she was rather clearer with the broader strokes, to wit, the gregarious young gentlemen in question were

Ras claats

and indeed,

Pussy claats

into the bargain.

Given that the young men continued their shuffling with only the faintest of defiant mumblings, and never whilst looking back, all as our stickler for appropriate rocket handling continued her presentation, I like to think that we all learned valuable lessons tonight.

–«– –•– –»–

Some while later, more noise drew me to the window. This time it seemed that two friends were having something of a heated discussion, an argument even; I’m sorry to report it appeared to be over money – like so many fallings out. Except that there was only one man there, and whilst it is entirely possible he was Bluetoothing into a phone, his swift gait, stooping posture and robotically swinging arms all hinted that this was not a member of the laptoperati.

You were wrong! That’s it… Friendship over. No more. You shouldn’t have done that. That was my fifty pence. You can make your money on that fifty pence. Friends no more.

And with that, he was gone, a two-legged test transmission in stereophonic sound, panning from right to left and sinking back into the night from which he had risen in just a few seconds.

–«– –•– –»–

No evening here could be complete, though, without a little mercantile hustle and bustle. The brandy-and-cigars of tonight’s feast of street scenes involved two gaunt fellows and their mute female friend discussing prices, routes and methods of transport in brisk fashion. I may be mistaken, but I think they flagged down a passing motorist, and appeared to negotiate a small fee to carry the trio to an informal all-night pharmacy where the smallest of the three held a store account. After two fifty pees (oh, how I wish neither of these was the fateful coin which destroyed a friendship) were passed over to the driver, our seekers finalised their order by consensus:

Well, I’ll pay for the brown, but what about stone?

We’ll get a stone on the way back.

You sure?

No problem, I’ll pay for that, I trust you.

And with that, all three – brooding cipher, affable guide and treasurer – slid into their chariot and were away, car driving off before even the doors were shut.

Good night, St. Paul’s.


One balmy afternoon in the inner city…

A charming scene played out on Stokes Croft this afternoon…

(Sallow-cheeked young Scottish man, pale of face and whiskery of chin:)

Fuck you, you dirty slag!

(Gaunt-looking young woman, with a voice suggestive of a swollen tongue and a missing tooth:)

Fucking… Smackhead!

— Exeunt —