Quite a niche social anxiety this week. But one which everyone should think about because you never know when the problem might suddenly come upon you. And that problem is: what do you wear when the police come over?
This question has recently troubled me for the second time in my life. The other weekend, one Saturday morning, I was lying in bed worrying that I hadn’t seen my elderly neighbour for a couple of weeks. His post was piling up. Our hall smelt musty. ‘Call the non emergency number,’ urged my boyfriend, a more civic-minded soul than me.
‘I have to wash my hair,’ I told him.
‘Can you just ring them?’ he said. So I called 101 and, astonishingly, within two minutes the fuzz were banging on my door. Well, sorry about this, but I wasn’t dressed.
‘Hang on,’ I said in quite a high-pitched voice as I scrabbled around my bedroom floor for something – anything – to put on.
‘It’s the police!’ they shouted again.
‘I KNOW I WAS THE ONE WHO CALLED YOU I’M JUST LOOKING FOR SOME CLOTHES,’ I shouted back at them. But the police don’t go in much for social niceties. They weren’t going to wait for me to find an ironed shirt. BANG BANG BANG, they went on the door again. Which is how I ended up opening it to three burly, uniformed officers in a Breton jersey, which had the air of Burglar Bill about it, and a pair of holey tracksuit bottoms which, I belatedly realised, had a pair of knickers from the day before bunched up in one leg.
As luck would have it, my neighbour’s sister arrived at the exact same moment to collect his post and tell the gathered crowd – the police and me – that he was currently staying with her after an incident on the allotment. But instead of looking like a responsible citizen, I stood there, barely dressed, with Struwwelpeter hair and bare feet. I looked like an extra from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.
As I said though, this was the second time I’d been caught out by the police coming round. The first was some years ago, one winter evening, when I was prancing up and down my kitchen, inspecting my reflection in the French doors. I didn’t have a full-length mirror in that particular flat and I’d just bought a new pair of absurdly high heels which I wanted to try on before having a bath. Towel wrapped around me, black suede heels on, I paraded up and down the kitchen, pouting at myself in the windows. It was in no way dignified.
BANG BANG BANG went the front door suddenly. I opened it to find two policemen hovering in the street-light gloom. They were slightly breathless.
‘Sorry to disturb you madam, but have you seen anyone running through your garden?’
‘My garden? No, no I don’t think so,’ I said as solemnly as I could given that I was wearing a towel and a pair of heels.
Turns out, they’d been chasing some miscreant who’d leapt over the wall from the street into my garden and bounded over my wall into my neighbour’s garden and so on. But I hadn’t seen the suspect because I’d been too busy trotting up and down my kitchen in the manner of Miss Piggy. They looked a bit surprised at the fact I’d seen nothing at all, but thanked me and went on their way.
I think we learn several things from all this. One, I probably wasn’t cut out for police work. And also, although the police were extremely forgiving and didn’t mention my attire, I was jolly luck not to have been had up for indecency in both situations. You know when you’re driving and you see a police car and you instantly feel guilty and slow to 10 mph? It was like that. I felt criminal. So, if possible, dress properly for police visits. I’m not saying black tie. I’m not saying tiaras. But a pair of trousers without holes in them would be good. As would a pair of sensible shoes. Maybe run a brush through your hair. Hey, why not go mad and put some underwear on?