How dare men in high-viz and camouflage root through my manbag?

PUBLISHED: 09:59 28 October 2017 | UPDATED: 09:59 28 October 2017

Hi-viz jackets... they're on the march everywhere, says Steven Downes.

Hi-viz jackets... they're on the march everywhere, says Steven Downes.


Terrorism has had some obvious and horrific impacts recently, including in Manchester and in London.

The majority response has been defiant: they won’t cow us, they won’t change our way of life.

But it doesn’t work like that. For while the attackers have not won and will not win, they can certainly relish some small but significant victories.

One is the growth of intolerance of minority groups in the UK, chiefly Muslims (and anyone who looks like a Muslim). Fear breeds togetherness, but also a tendency to lash out.

Another side-effect is the erosion of our liberties. Nothing spectacular, but a gradual eating into our time and freedom.

The outward sign of this erosion is the march of the man and woman in high-viz. Before I further mar my relationship with runners, I don’t mean them. Nor am I talking about cyclists, roadworkers or the emergency services.

I’m talking about security and stewards at events and venues.

This week, I had two of my favourite events to attend: Arsenal v Norwich in London on Tuesday and Norwich Beer Festival on Wednesday.

At the Emirates Stadium, there appeared to be more stewards than supporters. I was made temporarily sun-blind by the combo of Norwich City shirts and the orange high-viz vests.

In order to get inside the stadium to watch a match that we had all bought tickets for, we had to pass through four thick orange lines of unsmiling stewards whose job seemed to be to make innocent people feel guilty.

Glowering, grunting, pointing, patting down, searching bags.

Here’s where irritation becomes annoyance. I fundamentally object to being patted down by a stranger or to having my bag rooted through.

I am not a criminal, I am a customer, so get your grubby paws off me.

If a terrorist wants to target a football match or a beer festival, they won’t be foiled by a pat-down or a bag search. But why would they bother anyway, when the mere thought of them has caused so much aggravation?

Norwich Beer Festival was even more annoying than the football match. I’ve always found the stewards a bit much, but this year it levelled up.

There I was, going into an event with an almost unblemished record of peace, love and sociability, when a man demanded to search my bag.

I acceded, but my blood was simmering nicely.

I don’t work hard, pay my taxes and put my rubbish out on time to have a man in a high-viz vest and camouflage trousers fishing through my bag with his grubby fingers.

An Englishman’s manbag is his castle.

For information, I packed my bag and in it I put: a book; a pen, for pointlessly ticking off any beers sampled; a corned beef, cheddar, gherkin, crisps and salad cream roll; a bottle of water.

I confess, the roll was dangerously stale and could have done some damage if tossed, but is it really necessary to make normal human beings (and me) feel angry and a bit invaded?

There will of course be rules and regulations and orders from the top (stewards adore such things), but it seems that high-viz does attract a certain type.

There are the parking-space pointers at outdoor attractions, showing drivers into a space that they obviously wouldn’t see without the help of someone with expert training.

And there are the indoor stewards, who prowl around beer festivals and other events, wearing a hard stare and making heroic interventions when they see a bag that might be a trip hazard. I suspect some of them are actually imagining themselves as the muscle-bound star of Call of Duty (which they probably play for about 10 hours a day).

Governments like to wage war on red tape. For the sake of our freedom, I urge them to wage war on high-viz.

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