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Mother reacts to news of my shooting


An apology from the police
John Julius Norwich Writer
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They took me down to the American university hospital and bound me up, and while I was being bound up a policeman came in and said, 'What's happened?' And I said, 'Well, I've been... I've had an accident, somebody tried to shoot me.' And the policeman said, 'Where's your car?' And I said, 'Well, it's where I left it, where the accident happened.' And he said, 'Well, as soon as you've had your head bound up, will you please go back and get it and bring it down here so that we can photograph it?' And I said, 'No. There's a sniper out there. He's tried to get me once this evening; I've got to go back again to go home tonight, but if you really think I'm going to go back three more times... and, anyway, if you want to photograph the car, surely the only point is photographing it where the accident happened.' And they said, 'Oh, no, we couldn't do that.' And I said, 'Why not?' They said, 'Well, we understand it's rather dangerous up there.' That was the Lebanese police.

Anyway, then they took me back to our house, and by this time, the police post were in a state of absolute panic. They'd shot a British diplomat, you know, so they were all quivering. They all thought they were going to get executed. And the young lieutenant, who was in charge, came out – he was so frightened he could barely speak – trembling, saying, 'We are so, so, so sorry. It was a dreadful mistake. I don't know what... the young boy who shot was... it was his first night on, he didn't recognise you. We're really sorry and he must apologise... he wants very much to apologise.' I said, 'Look, it was just as much my fault as his. I drove on without stopping.' I mean, I stopped, but I drove on without being told to go on. 'And it's more than half my fault, and I am completely unhurt. I don't know whether a bit of bullet shaved off by car or a bit of car shaved off by bullet went in here and came out there, just a graze. And so I'm completely unhurt, I'm in no pain; I haven't even got a headache, so let's not worry.' 'Oh, no, he must apologise.' I said, 'Well, all right, I am quite keen to go to bed now. I've had a very exciting evening, and... but please... so make it quick, you know, let him just come for five minutes.' 'Oh, no, he can't come now, he's on duty. He can't come till six o'clock tomorrow morning when he gets off duty.' That was not the time I was hoping to see him, but that is what it was. There was nothing to be done. And our old-fashioned house had the bedroom at one end and then the main living room and the bathroom way over at the other side of the house, so I had to navigate all that, while this boy, trembling, was sitting, waiting to make his apologies, which as he only spoke Arabic, and I didn't, he didn't, really couldn't apologise much. But, anyway, we had this rather ridiculous little conversation and I congratulated him on being a good shot, but not, fortunately, quite good enough. And all was well. But there was a tremendous fuss in the papers and the Government and all that. We didn't hear the last of it for months.

John Julius Norwich (1929-2018) was an English popular historian, travel writer and television personality. He was educated at Upper Canada College, Toronto, at Eton, at the University of Strasbourg and on the lower deck of the Royal Navy before taking a degree in French and Russian at New College, Oxford. He then spent twelve years in H.M. Foreign Service, with posts at the Embassies in Belgrade and Beirut and at the Disarmament Conference in Geneva. In 1964 he resigned to become a writer. He is the author of histories of Norman Sicily, the Republic of Venice, the Byzantine Empire and, most recently, 'The Popes: A History'. He also wrote on architecture, music and the history plays of Shakespeare, and presented some thirty historical documentaries on BBC Television.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: hospital, policeman, photograph, police post, bullet, apology

Duration: 3 minutes, 39 seconds

Date story recorded: 2017

Date story went live: 03 October 2018