Saturday, 10 July 2010
A very northern stand-off
I am painting my nails frosted pink, sitting on the sofa with my sister. We are watching the climax of the week-long manhunt for Raoul Moat on Sky News. We are into the third hour of the stand-off. We meant to go to bed an hour ago, but can’t take our eyes off the green fuzzy night-cam pointing at Moat, who is next to a storm drain by a river waving a gun around.
Gazza, premier league footballer turned championship lush, turns up. ‘I’ve come to see me mate Moatey!’ he slurs to armed police. ‘I’ve brought him a dressing gown, some chicken, a can of lager and a fishing rod so we can go fishing and have a chat.’
‘This is getting weird,’ I say. ‘Will Ant and Dec turn up next with sausage rolls?’
‘Are we imagining this?’ she says.
The live coverage is interwoven with reports from the village in the North East where the action is taking place. There is a bit of a carnival atmosphere – locals have come out of the pub and are drinking pints watching it all unfold. They're sitting on deckchairs even though it is dark and drizzly.
We hear a report from a middle-aged man who has a greenhouse. He thinks Moat stole from him.
‘My tomato plant had just one tomato on it,’ he says. ‘And the tomato was missing this morning.'
The Sky News reporter looks pleased with his scoop. We go back to the fuzzy green coverage.
Earlier in the week, while Moat was holding up a chip shop, an old women was told to stay in Morrisons supermarket until the danger had passed. ‘Oh, it beats sitting at home on my own,’ she told a Radio 4 presenter later. She hadn’t been that excited since the Blitz.
I know Raoul killed his ex-girlfriend’s boyfriend and shot a policeman, but the whole thing feels surreal. Even the photos of the shot policeman did not seem real – his face looked plastered in strawberry jam, not blood. Or maybe tomato sauce from the chip shop. I almost hope Moat jumps down the drain and makes a new life for himself in the sewers – rescued by teenage mutant turtles. Anything seems possible.
Another hour passes. Things are not looking good for Moat. We switch the TV off. It's like when I watch a film for the second time and know a main character is about to die, so I turn it off and pretend they get their happy ending. Thelma and Louise set up a bakery in Mexico. Tom Hanks finds a cure for Aids in Philadelphia.
I look under my bed before I go to sleep, half-expecting to see Moat hiding there, putting his finger to his lips and giving me a cheeky wink. But he’s not. Because he’s dead.