I just received this email about a man questioned about why he was out walking without a dog:
‘The (male) head of a primary school thinks he better buy a dog! This is because when he was out walking by the river without one, he was stopped by the police and questioned as to why he was out for a walk without one. Why? Because there were some teenagers congregated nearby, it was one of those sunny evenings when they like to “hang out”. So going for a walk without a dog is now suspicious action…’
This is a classic sign of the current need to account for oneself, and provide one’s reasons for being in public space. Wandering around, hanging around and so on are increasingly seen as suspicious or dodgy activity: you must be up to no good.
Similarly, photographers are often asked why they are taking photos. To be ‘just looking’, or ‘just walking’, is not enough. One needs an official reason, preferably backed up with evidence – a job contract, or a dog.
Pity any would-be flâneur who tests out the joy of wandering or lounging in public spaces. Police questioning is likely to follow very shortly…