Is your dog friendly? he shouted at me as I approached. Or should I shoot him? I added in my head.
It really is a culture shock for me. And strange because everyone up here assumes Tooting to be a place of unimaginable inner city squalor – a crime-infested, drug-addled, shit-hole, a violent circle of Dante's Inferno where black-cab drivers never venture - hell, I thought of it that way some of the time. From the news and cop shows you'd think gun crime would be sky high. For pity's sake, it even rhymes with Shooting. But the thing is, although there was a gangster-related incident in a pub once, I can safely say, over the 15 years I lived there, I never once worried about guns. And certainly never saw one.
Now I see blokes with guns weekly; a gang out lamping in Paton's meadow; target practice just down the lane from us; Anne's dad shooting (and missing) rats; a quartet of adolescent guerillas armed to the teeth out hunting rabbits or zombies. And don't think it's all just a healthy outdoor pursuit for all but the pheasants and badgers. Our neighbours at the Manor Barns awoke to find their cat wounded and dying a while back.
And some of you will recall I was shot at a couple of years ago, on a footpath near Kemberton Mill. Of course, we never worked out whether that was simple misadventure, or whether it was poor marksmanship on the assassin's part and proof that Anne should have plumped for more than the economy contract.
Still, in a country blessed with virtually no gun crime, it really is a startle of a Tuesday morning.