My mother sat drinking a mug of tea and pondering past moments. “Do you know Dad and I were in Bridgwater one day and there were a group of boys coming down the street and knocking people out of their way and Dad lifted up his walking stick and told them he would give them what for if they carried on and they crossed over to the side.”
“Mum, do you remember the supermarket that was in Yeovil before Tesco took its place? It was in the high street and we used to go there on a Thursday evening in the times when there was the late night shopping until eight o’clock on Thursdays.”
“There was one week that we went and Dad put the groceries in a cardboard box as usual, there were no bags then. And we were walking down the street and Dad had the box of groceries on his left shoulder and there were two boys coming up the street jostling people. And one of them pushed Dad out of the way and Dad span around and slapped him across the side of the head and both the boys ran off.”
“You would get in trouble if you did that now,” my mother replied.
You probably would. The aggressors would claim that they were the victims. There would be a complaint that they had been assaulted. There would be a compensation claim for the injury they had received. Even if there were no sign of physical injury, there would be claims of emotional trauma.
In many cases, it seems that the perpetrator has more rights than the victim. Perhaps it has always been the case that someone accused of a crime has had more legal rights than the person who has suffered the crime.
It is not hard to understand why my father was an enthusiastic watcher of the television detective series Endeavour. Inspector Fred Thursday, under whom Endeavour Morse serves as a constable and then a sergeant, is a man after my father’s own heart.
Meeting a pair of known criminals by himself, Thursday suggests that if they do not co-operate, he will have to take off his hat. It was an allusion I never understood and watching the episode with my father one evening I asked him why the inspector taking off his trilby hat should be intimidating. “Because,” he smiled, “he has a knuckle duster inside his hat.”
I remember seeing a knuckle duster at home when I was young. Thankfully, my father never used it, he would definitely have got in trouble.