BY ALICE THOMAS ELLIS
I THINK I may have caught an urban legend at first bounce. Somebody tried the Peruvian rat on me the other day as though it was gospel (the one about the people who smuggle in a puppy dog which sickens, is taken to the vet, and lo and behold...). An unlikely story in any circumstances. Years ago I was told by a friend that a friend of her friend's secretary had seen an old lady in the pouring rain, had stopped to give her a lift, noticed that the backs of her hands were covered in hair, evicted her from the car by a ruse, then observed that the old party had left her handbag, took it to the police sta
tion and was greatly disconcerted, to put it no higher, to discover that it contained nothing but a meat cleaver. I believed that one for two days, until several more people told me that it had happened to a friend of their friend's daughter/mother/sister. It is the number of people who stand between the story-teller and the story that I think is significant and the surest proof that what you are hearing is one of those curious fairytales that seem suddenly to occur spontaneously all over the country.
The following story was told to me by a friend who had heard it from the sister of the WPC who had been called by anxious neighbours
to investigate an incident. It was late afternoon, and the peace of the neighbourhood was disturbed by muffled yells and crashes emanating from a flat. After a while the neighbours sent for the police. When they arrived, everyone crowded round to peer over their shoulders to see what was going on. There on the bed was a lady, wrists and ankles lashed securely to the bedposts. From the locked wardrobe there came a desperate pounding. The police unlocked the doors and out stepped a gentleman dressed as Batman. He was not, as the neighbours were quick to notice, the husband of the lady. He was a friend and the idea behind the whole exercise was that they should enact a sort of knight-on-a-whitehorse fantasy: she, bound and helpless and he the hero perched aloft the wardrobe whence he would leap gracefully to her rescue. Everything went wrong when the top of the wardrobe gave way and Batman crashed down among the coat-hangers to find himself securely imprisoned. A nightmare scenario you will agree, but do you believe it? I didn't. I don't believe that if Batman was heavy enough to fall into the wardrobe he wouldn't be strong enough to break his way out.
How interesting that even with Neighbours and EastEnders and their like we still seem to have the ability and the need to create our own folktales. Does anybody else have any new ones? t