Saturday, 29 September 2012

Re-evaluating how we live

Some days I read the news and it rolls over me. I'm apathetic to the politics and the crime and the sensationalism. Then one story hits me and that is it - I simply cannot get it out of my head. All day I have had a heavy heart after reading about an Irish girl in Australia with a beautiful smile and and porcelain skin.

She was cruelly raped and murdered last week in Melbourne, not ten minutes walk from her home. Most chillingly of all we have all seen the moment she crossed with the man charged with her murder - as it was captured on CCTV about 10 minutes after she left a bar where she had been drinking with friends. It is around 1:40am in the morning - on a street in Melbourne where taxis speed past and folk head home. There she is, in her pretty grey heeled boots, holding her phone in her hand - stopping to speak to a man wearing a blue hoodie. She stands back from him - from what we can see she engages with him, but is never close. She hangs back and lets him walk on, as she pauses and fiddles with her phone. Bet she thought he was some weirdo and just waited until he was far enough away to continue her walk home.

Except she never made it home. I have watched that footage several times and I want to grab her into that shop and hide her amongst those glitzy dresses - keep her safe from the harm that awaited her - as I am sure we all do.

How many times have you zig zagged home, tottering on heels that you'd regret wearing within half an hour of being out? Have you ever flagged an unlicensed mini cab in the street - a bit tired, a bit tipsy - just needing to get home? I have. Several times I just stuck out my thumb and waited for a car to slow. Could have been anyone in it - taking me anywhere. Have you ever stopped to talk to a stranger on your way home, who needed directions? Yep, me too. Or have you ever been turfed out of a cab at 2 am because you only had 13.75 and the cab home would have cost another 70p or so? I have. Have you ever called your Mum or whoever as you walked home in the small hours, convinced that that somehow made you safer - the phone that in reality attracts muggers and the like? Have you ever ran home in the dark, striding in the middle of the street, your heart racing - determined to get home and cursing yourself for being able to get a cab - the wait was simply too long?

We have all been there. When I lived in Melbourne I celebrated my 23rd birthday and drank more vodka than I could ever need. I was broken hearted and friends had clubbed together to buy me a flaming lamborgine drink and some other nasty concoctions. that night someone I knew - but not that well - gave me a lift home. I remember I didn't want them to see where I lived so I got out of the car at the end of an alley by my house and then ran down the cobbled stones in platforms and toppled over. My flatmate opened the door to find me with bleeding knees. She warned me to stop wearing platforms or drinking vodka. I never remembered who brought me home. I asked everyone I knew but it wasn't any of them. To this day it is a mystery. I also accepted a lift from a policeman outside the nightclub I worked in (in Melbourne) and only half way through the drive did I realise he was drunk. He let me drive as I felt safer doing so - even though it was illegal. He asked to use the bathroom in our house and something - a sixth sense - made me tell him to wee in our front garden and I raced inside to the safety of my flatmates.

It is so so upsetting to read about Jill Meagher and her untimely death. She is just a young happy married girl - had a few drinks with friends after work and then was walking home - a walk she must have done many times before. It is so wrong that she'll never take those steps again.

It reminds me how lucky I am to have always got home in one piece. It saddens me that women have to worry for their safety and plan so much in advance, just because they are women. We should be able to go anywhere and do anything at any time of day or night - and not be victims - beacuse we are NOT victims, but we are the weaker sex, no matter what we think we are capable of. So, sorry to sound preachy - but I just need to urge all my lovely readers:
  • - never walk alone late at night - always get a cab or a male friend to walk you home. 
  • - Never get in an unlicensed cab - always ring the cab company and get car details and reg before you get into a car - and check them before you get in.
  • - Don't let anyone overhear your conversation when you're booking your cab. You especially don't want someone to overhear your name or address. Someone might use that information to pretend to be the cab you called for.
  • - Don't accept food or drink from your cab driver.  It may be drugged or contaminated.
  • -  Make sure your cell phone is fully charged before you leave the house.
  • - Always sit in the back of the cab and keep your phone in your hand.
  • - Do not sleep in the taxi. If you have to, use your phone to call someone so you can keep yourself awake.
  • - Do not reveal personal information to the cab driver.
  • - Let the driver overhear you call someone to tell them you're in a cab and where you're headed and what time you expect to arrive.
  • London cabbies have their license badge on a key fob thing usually round their necks and the same number is also in the back seat.
  • Trust your instincts - if it feels weird - pay and get out asap. Be aware!
  • Always have your keys in your hand and I usually ask cabbies to wait until I am safely in my front door.
In Melbourne there is quite rightly an outpouring of anger. Women plan to march at night down the street where Jill was last seen, to RECLAIM THE NIGHT.  I think it is a fitting tribute to a woman with great shoes and an even greater smile. A woman who was just getting on with her life - a woman just like us.

Jill, rest in peace.

To all of you, be safe.


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