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While in England, don't leave your backpack lying around

Reporter Erika Engel tells the story of how she got scolded by a Bobby on the sidewalk downtown London.
Erika Engel (left) still looks a little concerned after her brush with the law in London, England.

Since there’s a lot to remind us of our Commonwealth identity this weekend – congrats to the happy couple – I thought I’d tell a story about the time I caused a bomb scare at an arcade in London.

In 1997, my parents sent me on an exchange to live in Germany with my Aunt and Uncle for three months. (I told you I had the best homeschooling out there.) I attended school there, and was able to take a few small trips to four other European countries. My cousin took me and one of my friends to London England for the day. We rode the train through the tunnel and took a bus tour then walked around the city for a while.

We stopped at an arcade, because I guess that’s what a 12-year-old in London, England does. I sat down to play a car racing game, and when I got up, I left my backpack beside my seat and left the arcade. I noted a cool breeze on my back about a minute later and realized I left my pack inside. My cousin ran back in to get it and when he came out, he had a police officer with him and both were walking toward me.

The Bobby scolded me for being absent minded – in the Queen’s English it was particularly effective – and turned to his radio to call off the bomb squad.

The bomb squad.

My purple backpack, with its cartoon patch and pin, containing a sweatshirt, some souvenir postcards and my passport, left slumped against a pretend driver’s seat was mistaken for a bomb.

I remember my cousin told me the Londoners were worried about the IRA. I hadn’t gotten to that chapter in history yet.

I was in London in the Spring of 1997, which was before the Irish Republican Army declared a ceasefire (July, 1997). I didn’t know the story of the Manchester Bombing, which occurred about a year before I visited London. I also didn’t know about the Docklands Bombing in February 1996.

Of course, now I understand why my forgotten backpack earned me a lecture. I probably scared that police officer and everyone in the arcade half to death.

It’s interesting to see what fears we learn from our environment and the politics of the time, isn’t it?


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Erika Engel

About the Author: Erika Engel

Erika regularly covers all things news in Collingwood as a reporter and editor. She has 15 years of experience as a local journalist
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