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“last night a DJ saved my life”…..

By Angela Harbutt
December 12th, 2009 at 3:49 am | 10 Comments | Posted in UK Politics

…or rather

 “last night a state police announcement nearly took my life”

…Let me explain. Thursday night…. approaching London from the east I ran into “Ultimate Chaos 2″…The blackwall tunnel shut, the Greenwich ferry was only running one ferry, the rotherhithe tunnel was chocker chocker block. East London gridlocked. So a 2 hour journey from my mums to Battersea took 6 hours rather than the usual 2. Ok stuff happens….but not this……

I had seen 3 or 4 police cars with sirens blazing as I approached the Limehouse tunnel – listening to a rather engaging programme on radio 4 about climate change. As I went into the tunnel and with out warning I was plunged into what I thought was the 4 minute warning. The police grabbed the airwaves. Yes – really – my radio was seized by the police . Iwas in a state of panic…

“Bing bong …bing bong” …. “POLICE ANOUNCEMENT……..CAUTION….. HAZARD AHEAD……SLOW DOWN” . Sh*t I thought we are being attacked ..about to approach a tunnel with only a flimsy soft top to protect me….WHAT THE HELL ? Thank god i was only doing 2mph. Had I been travelling at 40 mph 20 yards earlier, my immediate instinct would have been to avoid the tunnel (who wants to be in a tunnel in a soft top with a bunch of terrorists?)…I really would have swerved through juggernauts  to avoid the tunnel …

I entered the tunnel with fear and trepidation, heart pumping. A weaker heart would have given out by now. I tried to change channel in case I had reached some freak cod-broadcast by a bunch of nutters… but every channel i switched to carried the same ominous message. No police anywhere to calm my nerves. I attempted to call someone on my phone …had the four minute warning gone out? Did I only have minutes to tell my mum I loved her? No mobile reception. I was truly on my own. Except I wasnt… The guy in the next lane called over  ….”what the f*ck is happening? the radio has gone mental..can you get mobile reception ?…” . I told him I had no idea and my mobile was blocked too, yes my radio had gone mental… Yep… this was it. We were all soon-to-be-dead…. I could not send a text, if I wrote a note it would be incinerated . 

I passed several cars and lorries – verrrryyyy slowly – and they passed me . Questions were passed to each other.. shrugs….one woman actually crying. Me too, if I am honest. Who wants to die in a dingy tunnel far from those you care about?   

After a while however, fear was replaced by anger. People weren’t fleeing for their lives. There was no police presence calmly escorting drivers from their vehicles. AND I was missing a great radio programme (ok may be I was losing it a bit …it was an ok programme- but it was MY choice of programme until it got hijacked..) . This was either a sick joke or the crassest piece of police intervention yet (murders and beatings aside). So, I recorded the message. Noted my speed. Tried other radio channels. Every channel carrying the same message. 

If this was genuinely a police message – why not use the bloody tunnel signs. Dont tell me to slow down when I can walk faster than i am driving.  Dont take control of every possible radio station and then only broadcast minimal information- designed to terrify. Just DONT. full stop.

Clearly I did not die. I went through the entire tunnel listening to the same message over and over and over again. Then, as if nothing had happened i emerged the other end, Stuart Hall (radio 5 now) was on the radio recounting some anecdote about George Best or Man City – or maybe both. As quickly as I had been plunged into panic, I was returned to the mundane world of a wet Thursday night in London.

I am alive. I dont know what that whole “police announcement thing” was about. Who gave them permission to do that? Why did I not know about it? How long have they been doing this kind of thing? How long before the police start seizing control of our mobile phones? One minute we are chatting to our mums, dads, husbands, about life…..the next hearing ominous bing bongs from the police state telling us to stay indoors, avoid the city centre, vote Labour…

Ok maybe that’s a step too far. But for me, and many others travelling through East London last night – if this wasnt a hoax… then the the hijacking of the broadcast airwaves was a step way too far.

Maybe I am one of the last people on the planet to know that this kind of thing happens. If so, then I reckon by some sheer weird coincidence all of the “uninformed” people of this country just happened to be travelling along the same bit of road together. So why didn’t the rest of you tell us ? If you didnt know either , then maybe there’s a problem Houston.

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