Hm, maybe a good time to leave

by Suw on August 23, 2003

I happened to be awake at 5am this morning. Now, Reading is a fairly peaceful place, but it does have the very occasional problem with violence – stabbings and such. I guess any town does. I live in a fairly dodgy area – Newtown – but I've never seen any problems here at all. Mandela Court, just round the corner, has a reputation for being the drug centre of Reading, but apart from the occasional visit by the police it seems pretty quiet to me. Certainly I don't feel unsafe walking past it.

But at 5am this morning, I heard what sounded suspiciously like a gunshot. We don't have guns in the UK, not like in the US. The only people to have guns here are the police, criminals, the army and enthusiasts, so I'm not hugely familiar with the sound of gunfire. I can tell you it certainly wasn't a car backfiring – it was way to close for that and as I live at the end of a cul-de-sac which is at the end of a road that comes off the end of another road, it can't have been a randomly passing car as cars simply can't randomly pass here. I'm also pretty sure it wasn't a firework. In my experience, people who let fireworks off do not do just the one at 5am. Plus fireworks are a more, er, voluminous sound, if you know what I mean. More of a ba-a-ang than a bang. And it wasn't someone popping a crisp packet next to my ear, nor was it a dream as I was awake a good few minutes before it happened.

Which leads me to one uncomfortable conclusion.

Now, I suppose if you're an American reading this, you're probably thinking, 'oh, big deal', but I have to admit the thought of someone firing a gun anywhere within earshot (no pun intended, honest) of me does kinda freak me out a bit. This is England. We don't have gun crime like you do in the States and although it is on the rise, it's the exception rather than the rule. And I view guns as nasty, evil things that should quite definitely remain out of the general public's hands.

I don't suppose I'll find out exactly what happened, if indeed anything actually did. Not sure I want to.

Cal August 23, 2003 at 10:34 pm

I'm with you there. Something like that does for even if only a moment make you feel less than safe. As for your views on guns I quite agree.

Visit me @

A visitor August 26, 2003 at 4:33 pm

Well, as an American who lived in various parts of New York City for nearly a decade, I can tell you that actually hearing gunfire in the US is incredibly rare unless you happen to be near a shooting range, or in hunting season – so growing up in the suburbs, I never heard that kind of gunfire at all. The only time I ever heard any other kind of gunfire was *once* in New York City, when I was staying briefly with a friend in a neighbourhood that I would never, ever actually live in. I most certainly did not think 'oh big deal', it scared me.

Surely you aren't the sort of person who thinks TV and movies are reality, are you?


Suw August 26, 2003 at 10:23 pm

No, I don't believe tv/movies are real. But I've known many Americans who seemed much more au fait with guns than anyone I know in any other country. Course, it's wrong of me to generalise, but without doubt you're more likely to come across guns in the US than here, if only because there are just more guns kicking about.

A visitor November 26, 2003 at 12:32 pm

I too live in Reading and have a friend living in Mandela Court. I also have several friends in the USA. Last Jan I visited one with my daughter in Oakland CA. We found a gun just lying on the sidewalk. My friend told me to leave it as no one in Oakland trusted the cops as far as they could throw them. The year before a cop was shot dead just outside my hotel near Jack London Square.
The only real gun I have ever seen in my life.

Paul []

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