The writing of Horace and Brighton bullies (Rousse)

This first gathering of the UK information science community in years took place on a hill top in Brighton. There I was really pleased to meet HJ Horace, the American writer. I told him that I wanted to buy his latest cartoon book, but I didn’t have any money on me. Would he wait while I popped down to a cash point in town? Of course he would, so long as we could have a little dance together first (and he was fabulous dancer). TPR said that he would like to come too, and that he would follow me down the hill on a later bus.

As soon as I stepped off the bus I was kidnapped by a gang of teenage bullies: two boys (one of whom had been an undergraduate, but expelled from university due to his violent behaviour) and two girls. They stole my rucksack and forced me to take off my boots. All phone lines were down, so even if I had had access to my phone, I would not have been able to call for help.

Thank goodness that TPR arrived just at the right moment! He was taller and fitter than the two boys and would easily beat them in a fight (if it came to that). He wrenched my rucksack from the taller girl and I made a run for it.

I didn’t get very far without any footwear, and ended up walking with the two girls to a large shopping centre. I asked them about their ambitions. Neither showed any interest in developing a career. Indeed, as we walked around the department store all indications were that they were training for a life of petty shoplifting.

Rather than watch her steal a tiny cake of expensive soap from a beauty counter, I encouraged the younger of the pair to ask for a sample. She couldn’t believe how easy it was to win favours simply by being polite (although this trick did involve my telling the shop assistant that this child was my daughter).

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