Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Samaritans, learning disabilities and a Tale from a Police Canteen

Yesterday I visited the local branch of The Samaritans and, for once, I had the opportunity to listen to them - that was just a little "Sam's" joke. What people they are, who step up to the plate and offer to be trained to listen to anonymous people who are suffering feelings of despair, hopelessness and often contemplating suicide. They told me that everyone has it in them to be able to be a "Sam" and touch someone's life for the good, when they most need it. Well, maybe I've done this in the past. I didn't really think about it until I was specifically asked. My only previous knowledge of them giving information to me was when I was a Plod, during the dark days of Irish Republican terrorism, when PIRA would often pass details of their next atrocity to The Samaritans, knowing that their call would not be traced. Sometimes they would give us almost a whole hour to respond and try to clear the public. More often it was a matter of 20 minutes or less, with a vague location. I was at the scene of several bombings during my time in London. I knew a man, personally, who was killed by one of their bombs. After my colleagues had cordoned off the area, one man walked towards the device. His name was Roger Goad and he was one of the bravest men I ever met. After the Samaritans, I found myself at a pub attending a jolly, pre-Christmas party for a group of people who work for a local company specialising in employing, training and mentoring people with learning disabilities. This company enables them to develop skills which they then put to good use, in becoming part of the workforce and earning a wage. Tonight was a prize night where progress awards were given out. The pub clientele also included an eclectic mix of businessmen and women drinking away their concerns over the credit crisis and discussing their worries about imminent redundency; I.T. high earners (similarly worried) and a mix of locals just popping in for a pint.... and the aforementioned party crowd, enjoying their pre-Christmas drinks and buffet, all laughing and chatting and generally having a whale of a time. The contrast was quite stark.


Cst KO said...

Thats an interesting story, was the police canteen where rosie would flash the guys in the police station, or was this a pub that you all went to?
I dont know the make up the UK, but is there a large section the population that is african decent?

Hogday said...

Hi KO,
The canteen WAS in the police station! Amazing to think of this happening, I know, but this was a different generation and in a time where risque banter was prevalent. I never liked rudeness or having someone made to feel uncomfortable and generally guys were quite respectful and minded their language. Those who didn't were pretty much slapped down by their peers, but it was definitely a male dominated organisation. Even female officers worked to different rules, mainly dealing with missing persons, children and vice/prostitution and never patrolled the streets or work earlies or nights like they do now. They didn't get paid as much because their job was rated differently to mainstream policing!! It all changed in 1976 when the equalities legislation came in.
My first station had a strength of around 400 officers and the canteen was BIG! You could get a cooked meal 24/7.
We have a large population of Afro-Caribbean and Asian origin. There are parts of London and Bradford (North of England) that you'd think were suburbs of Dehli or Mumbai/Bombay with all Indian cinemas, shops and places of worship. Fascinating. Remember, the UK has 65 million people and is a similar size to Nova Scotia plus a bit of NB. NS has under a million, so its quite a contrast eh?! I saw amazing changes in my 30 years service.