Fear - it's all in the mind!

You have nothing to fear but fear itself! So declared President Franklin D. Roosevelt in an historic call to arms to the American people back in the dark days of World War II. Someone in authority should address the same message to us today.

As a nation, we seem to be suffering from a severe case of the jitters. Public concern about crime has become a national neurosis. I blame all those television programmes revolving around cops 'n robbers. Murder and mayhem every night of the week.

The good news is that statistics prove no more than one in fifty is likely to come up against violent crime in any given year, with most of the victims young men between the ages of 16 and 24. It is not crime itself, but the FEAR of crime that has reached epidemic proportions. That is why police claim it would be a waste of resources to put more coppers on the beat.

I like to tell the story of the weekend I turned up at a Kent motorbike rally to make a BBC documentary about Hell's Angels. They certainly looked a fierce bunch. Big beefy fellows in leather, chains everywhere, sitting astride gleaming Harley Davidson machines. We did our research and prepared to start filming the following morning.

Came the day and we were dismayed to discover our lady director had disappeared. The director is the person who controls sound and vision in a television shoot. It turned out our lady, one of the top technicians in the business, had gone back home the previous night. Her husband had forbidden her to film anywhere near Hell's Angels.

Eventually a replacement arrived and we made our film. Those devilish looking riders and their partners turned out to be as tame as kittens. They couldn't have been nicer or more cooperative. We were delighted to demonstrate the work they do as volunteers carrying vital medical supplies around the country.

I have another story with a similar ending. I was in a working men's club in the East End with my brother-in-law, a tough Cockney named Stan Kemp. It was Sunday lunchtime and, horror of horrors, Stan's father bumped into Ronnie Kray, standing at the bar. The gangster tore an almighty strip off the old boy for spilling drink over his natty suit.

To be honest, I was petrified. Not Stan. He marched over and yelled at Kray: "Leave it out, Ronnie. That's my old man. It's packed in here. He couldn't help it."

"Is that your dad?" asked Ronnie. "What a nice old chap. Let me buy him a drink."

You see, in both cases, the fear of what might happen was the problem. The reality was quite different. As I was saying, we have nothing to fear but fear itself. By the way, the Kray twins were at school in Bethnal Green with Stan and greatly admired his wartime exploits as a Royal Marine Commando!

It's a funny old world, isn't it? See you back here soon.

Copyright © 2000 Derek Jameson / Retirement Matters Ltd. All rights reserved.