Monday, 30 March 2009

A Snapshot of British Society? (Yorkshire Evening Post)

I would like to draw your attention to this front page article of the Yorkshire Evening Post. For any bloggers unfamiliar with the region, West Yorkshire is a largely metropolitan area in the North of England and includes the cities of Leeds, Bradford and their respective urban towns and suburbs. The area has a population of around 5 million people. The investigation into the July 7th terrorist bombings had a particular focus on this area. The article highlights the figures of knife and gun crime in the past 2 yrs, with nearly 500 people suffering a knife attack and 28 being stabbed to death. A further 280 people were shot, 4 of whom died and 50 classed as `seriously hurt`. Victims included schoolboys, fathers, grandmothers and police officers. It was, however, comforting to hear the police spokesman, Inspector Steve Emmett reassure us by saying that `compared with other areas we do not have a serious knife crime problem`. Phew! and thank goodness for that, but what a shame about those nasty `other areas` he declined to name. Stop Press: There was another fatal shooting in Bradford early this morning, with a second person seriously injured in the same `domestic` incident. It is a pure co-incidence that Leeds is also the home to The Royal Armouries, Britains National Museum of arms and armour, formally held at The Tower of London but moved to Leeds some years ago - a totally absorbing place and well worth a visit. The Armouries do a lot of work liaising with local groups working to reduce the gun and knife culture as well as displaying a simply amazing collection, with live interpretations of moments in history, Broadsword fighting displays and jousting in their outdoor Tiltyard. Handguns, pump action shotguns, automatic weapons and CS/OC/Mace sprays are prohibited weapons in the UK. We have, arguably, the toughest gun control laws in the world. By way of stark contrast, the most armed civilian population in the world, per capita, are not the US, but in peaceful, combat-neutral Switzerland. Yodel-ay ee-deeee!! Funny old world, isn't it?

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Everybody suffers

Reading Area Trace No Search's last post reminded me of what a chum told me last night about the policing operation for the G20 in London this week. The Metropolitan Police (up with the best in the business on demonstrations and matters `public order`) have actually requested mutual aid from as far afield as North Yorkshire! This is a bit like the NYPD requesting mutual support from Montana. (and to the gang from North Yorks, yes it really is true that an average central London police station has more police than Pateley Bridge has residents). Those police from all over the country going to the capital to help police and protect as a result of the G20 `troublemakers and anarchists are not in their own towns and counties (they can't all be on paid rest day working) so countless people outside London suffer, in some way or other, from their local police force being diminished still further, but they probably won't even realise it - only those left filling up the ever growing gaps will. I offer my sincerest good wishes to my ex colleagues over the coming few days and hope that you all complete your tours of duty on G20, as unbruised as you were when you started, get some decent feeding and come away with some decent o/t in your bin when its all over. All the very best to each and every one of you.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

For a Lifeboat to be of any use, first you must stop it from sinking (Titanic emergency procedures manual)

I'm linking this post to one of the blogs I follow, "Nightjack". It is a good example for two reasons, 1. It is evidence of a Member of the European Parliament who is actually making decent use of that big gravy train; and 2. It is a good example of how to royally shag the Prime Minister.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Born to be Mild

I have written a few little anecdotes, since I started this blog, connected to my long association with motorcycles. Here’s a little travellers tale about an `organised guided tour` we took a few years ago. I hope it paints a picture for you of what can be enjoyed from the saddle of a motorcycle. But let’s get one thing straight, Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride” was much better than “Born to be Wild”, which is so clichéd-out that I’ve immediately regretted mentioning it. I just wanted to make the point that although I’ve been a motorcyclist since before ‘Easy Rider‘ and I’m English and I ride a Harley Davidson, it doesn’t mean I get all misty-eyed when some travel programme does a motorcycle feature and uses the obligatory, ‘Born to be bloody Wild‘ as an intro, OK? In any case I also ride a BMW but these travel programmes never play that German song “The Happy Wanderer” do they. Now, where were we? Oh yes, Los Angeles. It’s E-Day. ‘E‘ is for an “Eaglerider” 2,800 mile guided motorcycle ride around the cowboy trails of the American Wild West and this is how it goes.

Starting and finishing at Eaglerider’s main base in LA, you’ll go through, temperatures from minus 2 to plus 45C and elevations of 282 below, to 10,000 nose-bleeding feet above sea level, the latter in one day. As well as entering 4 States, several cities and 2 deserts (The Nevada and Mojave) you’ll cross a time-zone, enter Death Valley alive, and come out again more so. The Joshua Tree National Park will touch your heart, Arizona’s Route 66 will take you back to a forgotten era, The Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon and Yosemite will…sorry, still can’t describe them. You’ll follow the tyre tracks of Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda into Monument Valley, cruise the Las Vegas strip, cross The Golden Gate Bridge and end your travels down The Pacific Coast Highway, with a quick coffee in Clint Eastwood’s hometown of Carmel. (He was out when we rolled in, so we couldn’t make his day). Some of the worlds finest and most dramatic scenery is thrown in for free and all this on a motorcycle that was made to ride this amazing country. You can ride the first or second 7 days or go the whole hog for 2 weeks, and if you hire one of their bikes (they’re happy for you to bring your own) a Hog is what you’ll get. The latest Harley-Davidson range is on offer and they’re all pretty damn smooth. Sportsters and Dyna’s are not too kind to long haul pillions and don’t all come with a screen or big-arse pillion seat as standard, so an Electra Glide, or Road King is highly recommended if you plan to carry a passenger. An Eaglerider guided ride means you shouldn’t need a map (although on 2 occasions rider’s were lost, but thankfully reunited). Your biker guide knows diners, bars and proper tourist spots. The support vehicle takes your luggage (yes, real suitcases) and trailer’s a spare bike! Accommodation is American 3 Star hotels, all the way. I can hear bike clubbers, muttering ‘wimps‘, but after a blat across The Nevada Desert, this cowboy and his wife appreciated a bit of comfort. This was a motorcycle ride where on some days we were covering 340 miles through some pretty tough territory, not a pussyfoot bimble down the old A30. To quote an old Harley Davidson truism, “It’s the journey, not the destination” and these days our destination has to have a real bed and a shower. For the first half there were 23 of us on 16 bikes – only 2 lady riders, one was an Australian Harley owner, so at least there were 3 of us who rode God's motorcycle at home. To our disappointment there was only 1 American biker present. Will, a 72 year old from Tallahassee, Florida was a game guy who was ‘doing what he should’ve done 20 years ago‘. After this trip he was booked on one of the last Concorde flights. All power to him though. Life savings must be spent whilst one is still alive. We were cheered to find that 4 more Americans were joining us on the 2nd half from Las Vegas. A husband, wife, daughter and son-in-law from Des Moines, Iowa, all keen bikers and, as it turned out, real good sports and great company. I am still in touch with them. Another bonus of this type of trip is meeting one’s fellow travellers and swapping life’s experiences. A welcome speech from the guides and staff was followed by a very basic riding briefing and a 10-minute van ride to complete the admin, sign our lives away and do what we’d come to do, collect the bikes. After what seemed an age, we get our motors running and head out on the highway – Doh, (personal note: Don’t mention ‘Born to be bloody Wild‘ again). It must be quite a challenge for a guide to take on a crowd of foreign bikers, on foreign roads and on bikes they’ve probably never ridden before. Our guide was a good guy and a most competent rider, but I got the distinct feeling, as you do, that we were among mixed experience here. That proved to be correct but, as people who like to focus on the positive, one makes adjustments and tries to be helpful.

LA freeways are 8 lane vehicular nuthouses but 90% of this trip is on roads that are, by UK standards, deserted. Full leathers cook you very quickly out here, but I don’t do T-shirts so we bought ourselves Joe Rocket and Belstaff airmesh jackets. Both proved to be superb garments for the conditions, had decent armour and actually kept us cooler and less burnt than the ‘T‘ shirted. Utah is for the bareheaded brigade so there are plenty of chances to get out the bandana, but American bugs are big and don’t half hurt! Wear a helmet. Goggles are essential either way, as the helmets provided are half-dome, which I actually quite liked. As the terrain and roads get more rugged, so can the newcomers. Harley’s, despite their size, are easy rides and with that low down weight they handle really well, especially the big tourers although this didn't stop me from riding into the back of my old police buddy in Monterey, knocking him and his wife into the street - how embarrassing for two ex traffic cops! We were doing a whole 2 mph at one of those stupid American `4 Way Crossroads` where you throw dice to see who goes first. Please, somebody, re-invent the good old British roundabout. No damage, 2 bruises, one of them my ego.

The full itinery for this and other fantastic rides can be found on Eaglerider’s excellent website, but here are a few of our special moments as they tumble out of my memory:

Cruising through the magnificence of Joshua Tree National Park on dirt roads and seeing… Joshua Trees! The edge of the Mojave in the town of Twenty Nine Palms, feeling the heat of its desert heart (thank you Robert Plant, now I understand). Crossing The Mojave. Indian shacks with yards full of trucks and old V8 engines, spiralling dust devils. Rugged, wild, sweeping vistas, moonscapes and mountains on the horizon with the occasional tumbleweed bowling across the road that makes your fingers instinctively snap around the brake lever until your mind processes what your eyes have just spotted. Vast dried up salt lakes. Rumbling dehydrated, into the hamlet of Amboy, an oasis on Route 66, the big V-twin like a furnace between our legs. Drinks and fuel are expensive out here, but in the land of the parched and fuel-less, the convenience store owner is King. We paid up for the drinks with no complaints, drank, and then saw the town’s sign that made us realise our arrival had just doubled Amboy’s population. There were 23 of us. Poor old Amboy has died and been reborn again since we rolled in, so I hope the store is back in business again but that place is hotter than a snakes arse in a wagon rut. These roads allow you to sit back and feel the force of the Milwaukee V-twin that powers these motorcycles that I’ve loved since I was a teenager and which were made to cross this land. There’s precious little in that big, under-stressed engine that’s thinner than your wrist and with the distances between civilisations out here, there just ain’t no substitute for cubic capacity and big twin Harley’s are very predictable and very forgiving beasties. There are no roads in the UK to compare with Route 66, “The Mother Road”. The vast space and naked beauty of this part of Uncle Sam’s garden has a mystical, rugged quality that beggar’s description – well from this writer at least. Mile long trains shadowing us, calling out with their klaxons. Clanging bells at rail crossings. 50’s roadside diners, selling their heritage and milkshakes. The Grand Canyon is over 200 miles long and a mile deep, with weather systems all of its own. Put another way, when standing at one of the viewpoints, you are over 1,000 feet higher than the highest point in the UK. Huge thunderclouds, frightening lightning and blinding squalls greeted us as we rode into Grand Canyon resort. So this is where Americans get the word ‘awesome‘. Actually, ‘awesome‘ isn’t a big enough word for this place. Utah, beautiful Utah and for us, the most outstanding place in the whole journey, Monument Valley, homeland of the wonderful Navajo Indians and John Ford epic Western movies. I’ve mentioned Monument Valley in an earlier post but I think it’s worth another few lines. I loved the Navajo, they were just wonderful. This is where Captain America and Billy rode in at sunset on their fateful Easy Rider trip to New Orleans. It is quite a place. I slept the sleep of a happy contented man that night.

Next day, the 340 mile ride across Utah from Medicine Hat, across the Goosenecks to Bryce Canyon, rates as the best day I have ever spent on a motorcycle and, frustratingly for Mrs Hogday, the day when her cold was so bad she had to take to the support vehicle which wasn’t quite the same, but does mean she will have to come and do it again! The group chose to split up for a while, with the blessing of the guide. We'd just crossed Lake Powell and this was the only road leading to lunch in Hanksville, so no one was getting lost. I left a five-minute gap and set off, riding alone at 60mph for 25 miles without seeing another human being. Eagles soared, tumbleweed tumbled, mountains graced the horizon all around me and with that engine rumbling as only a Harley V-twin can, I fired up the cd player with some CCR and tried to out sing John Fogerty (He was the undisputed King of Glastonbury 2007, by the way - so says my daughter who followed Dad's explicit instructions to see him at all costs).

I stopped at a garage and diner to fuel up, wondering where I was. I met the guy who I think stacked the shelves in the little supermarket, or maybe he was his assistant. He asked me where I was from. “England” I replied. He gave me a very blank look. “Where ya headed?” “Hanksville”. His expression changed to one of confusion. “Well THIS is Hanksville”. “Great, I’ve arrived”. He seemed even more confused. “You didn’t KNOW you was in Hanksville??” “No I didn't”. I smiled at him. He repeated, but more slowly, “You didn’t know you was in Hanksville? Where d’ya say you was from?”. I think he was considering pulling a gun on me, but by now the rest of the group rolled in and I joined them for lunch. The diner had the most beautiful young girl serving. Could this be Neil Young's `Unknown Legend`? One of our comrades sidled up to me, nodded towards the lovely young lady and said to me, “You know what she has definitely got to do?” I couldn’t imagine what he was getting at so I said, “No, what?” Without taking his eyes off her he sighed and said, “She’s got to get out of Hanksville, that’s what”.

Bryce Canyon was jaw dropping, gob-smacking, bizarre and beautiful. Next day, after another hot and dusty ride we rolled in to Las Vegas and dismounted at out hotel, a typically glitzy palace of a place – The Imperial Palace to be precise. We stood there in the lobby with a thousand light bulbs and watched as nicely dressed tourists eyed us suspiciously. Well there were 18 Harley Davidsons propped up, with their riders and passengers covered in dust and bandanas picking flies out of their teeth so I guess we looked like The Wild Bunch. I felt we needed to set the good folks minds at rest, so soon as I had the chance I said, in my best, loudest posh English accent, “Is it possible to order a pot of tea and some digestive biscuits?” I swear there was an audible collective sigh of relief from the retirees of middle America who were, moments earlier, re-considering their chosen accommodation.

2 days ‘rest‘ in Las Vegas, with a large night out along ‘The Strip‘ with the bikes. Handsome big eats at The Harley-Davidson Café and then a cruise through the neon, past the ‘Little Chapels of Lurv‘ (‘Roll up, roll up, Minister performs service dressed as Elvis for an extra $30‘) to the original Downtown Vegas, you know, where the big neon cowboy is? He’s now under cover and part of a massive light and sound show every night. The Who never sounded so good. Las Vegas is outrageous, ostentatious, magnificent and tacky and it does all of the aforementioned so very well. We loved it, but then I'm from Essex.

Death Valley. The lowest, hottest place on the planet. What a place for your starter motor to pack up. Thankfully there were plenty of us to push-start it into life. (2 days later and Eaglerider at San Francisco sorted us out with a brand new Road King). First port of call on leaving the ‘Valley‘, was a roadside diner for food and fuel and herein lies another travellers tale. An Aussie couple on their way back (to Australia, of course) saw the line of bikes and stopped their Electra Glide to join us. They’d come diagonally across the entire Country from the Harley 100th celebrations in Milwaukee. Having a soft spot for Aussie’s, I leave this little extract from the animated conversation we had with them, as a sort of example of this particular Australian male of the species: “So would you bloody believe it, Elton bloody John appears on stage as the surprise star guest and I swear that 5000 people turned and walked off. Well we joined ‘em. We hadn’t ridden 12,000 flaming miles to listen to a Pommie Pooftah”. (Don’t shoot me, that's exactly what he said).

Riding up Tioga Pass into the Sierra Nevada Mountains, home of Yosemite National Park, saw us cruising at just under 10,000 feet above sea level. The bike wasn’t the only one gasping for breath in the thin air. The granite magnificence of Glacier Point and the views, like Grand Canyon, have to be seen to be fully absorbed. A road that had the Softails scraping their boards, led to the Point through thousands of huge scented pines, with the occasional silver fox appearing at the roadside before retreating in the wake of a dozen thumping Hogs. The road home was out of San Francisco, our second 2-night stopover. Through those streets where Steve McQueen's `Bullitt`chased that Dodge Charger. Onto The Pacific Coast Highway and South into California’s beach and surf territory. For us, this was a bit tame after the natural magnificence we had ridden through, but an experience all the same. A final ride through LA and our guide gave us a bonus tour of the Hollywood Hills, Sunset Strip, Rodeo Drive and he even included the toilets where a geezer called George Michael got arrested for talking to a cop. Well that’s what he told us, but I don’t know the bloke he was talking about or why he was nicked. Would we go again? Yes, no hesitation, in fact we must. Although I don’t know if I’d go in a group again. I have always preferred riding alone or with a small group of trusted riders, as we like to know who it is we're following into a bend - it's personal, just a biker thing - but hey we can do this thing with a small group as well. Was it worth every hard earned penny? Oh yes, even if you aren’t really born to be wild.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Go ahead and book me. Make my day.

Had a bit of a ride yesterday. Dry and sunny but a cold north wind. So there I was riding into town when out of a side turning comes La Bimbo in the BMW cabriolet, roof down, straight into my path. Thankfully, a BMW GS has just about the best brakes on the road - sensationally powerful servo assisted anti-lock beauties - the business. Eg. Using just two fingers, I can have Mrs Hogday sliding up my back and sitting on my shoulders (even when braking hard on the motorbike). But enough of this disgusting innuendo - So, La Bimba pulls out in front of me. She did really well to manage this because she was only using her left hand while the other one had her mobile phone clamped to her right ear, which is probably why she didn't bother to look my way and why she never witnessed the consummate ease with which I counter-steered to the right whilst simultaneously applying the front brake which BMW very cleverly links to the rear brake, automatically distributing the perfect balanced braking effort of 80% front and 20% back - all from just using the front lever. For a couple of life-saving seconds I was a road God. Had I been on the Harley it would have been a whole different story. Seeing as how `La Bim` missed all this through chatting on her Blingberry, I was a touch miffed because skill like that you don't see very often, so imagine my joy at finding myself next to her in a queue of cars approaching some red traffic lights. Now a BMW GS is a big tall bike. You can actually look down on Range Rover drivers (something I do anyway, bike or no). So there I am next to little Chantelle in her BMW cabriolet and big gypsy-dangly earrings, still chatting to some other airhead. I broke with my own protocols when out on 2 wheels and decided I would interrupt her `deep and meaningful`. So I sat there in the queue and slowly leaned down and gazed into her car, attracting her attention. She put her Dingleberry down and looked up at me with a quizzical expression. "Hello", I said (I wear an open face helmet) "Can you see me alright"? "Yes, why"? "I just wondered what a guy who is 6`3", fourteen stone, wearing a bright yellow jacket and sat on one of the biggest bikes on the road with it's headlight permanently on, has to do to get your attention"? "Eh?" "You pulled out of that side road whilst gassing on your phone, which is illegal, and caused me to perform 2 silent prayers and a bit of stunt riding in order not to join you in the drivers seat, along with my bike that incidentally weighs over 230kgs before I even get on it. You almost killed both of us so I thought it would be nice to get to know each other a bit, before you eventually succeed". No reply. Traffic moves off. We meet up again a few hundred metres down the road. (Notice how I mix my weights and measures between imperial and metric - cos I know some folks who reads this is from Canada and some is from the US. In the UK we can't make our minds up and use both at differing times - this is my old police diversity training kicking in). So there we are again and this time she's back on her bloody Doodleberry thingy. I look down at her and she says, "I'm calling the police to report you". I laughed and said, "Are they on the line now?" With a smug smirk she said, "Yes!" so I shouted, "Officer, I can give evidence that this woman is in a car, 50 yards from Northerntown Police station, with the engine running and is still on her bloody phone after nearly killing me - if you look out the window you can probably see us". She didn't know if she'd been punched, bored or countersunk - oh how I wanted to throw her fucking phone into the hedge, but she beat me to it and chucked it into the passenger footwell before turning bright red. I said, "Thats better. I'm going now but I'll be slow so you can write my number down - I've already got yours". I hadn't of course. I just wondered if a police officer issuing her with a fixed penalty ticket would have had the same effect? PS. Have just retrosp[ectively added an Australian Road Safety card that was being handed out in Sydney during the week leading up to the 2003 Gay Pride Parade. Gotta love the Aussies.

Friday, 20 March 2009

It's Just a Biker Thing....

For anyone who's in the dark about bikes, Adolf never really rode a Honda VFR.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Look Who's Coming.....Spring of course!

It's at times like this I can feel myself getting all phisolosophical and when I get philosolifical I often reach out to that old favourite, The Maharishi Phucknuckel, and his words of wisdom: The darkest hours come just before dawn, so if you're going to steal your neighbours milk/newspaper/primroses, thats the time to do it. Sex is like air. It's only really important when you aren't getting any. Before you judge someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you judge them you're a mile away and you have their shoes. If you think nobody cares whether you're dead or alive, try missing a couple of mortgage payments. and finally, the most deep and meaningful of all his teachings..... Do not walk behind me, for I may not lead. Do not walk ahead of me, for I may not follow. Do not walk beside me either, just fuck off and leave me alone. Already I can feel enlightenment. After the comments demanding more guiding words, especially Brother Grasshopper of the Long Rifle With Many Pee Stops (well. we're of a similar age) I have consulted the Master once again, seeking the truth, the light and the way to the nearest pub. Be ready for the Damascus Moment: Remember, no one is listening, until you fart. If at first you don't succeed, avoid skydiving. (One for Ms Pepper): Don't worry, it only seems kinky the first time. (One for the B's in Blue) Don't aspire to be irreplaceable. If you can't be replaced, you can't be promoted. Coming soon, wise quotes from Winston (No, not him, the guy who runs the Caribbean Fuit and Vegetable shop in Brixton Market).

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Prejudice Comes in Many Forms

Being a dedicated biker, having held a licence for more than 35 years - quite a bit more actually - (ouch, that hurt) I always like to see myself as a biker first and a Harley or BMW or Honda or Kawasaki rider second. My point being that I like to ride and I like what riding gives me. It sort of feeds my soul. Over the years, especially in the police, I faced all sorts of prejudices; racial, sexual, religious, professional, even the fact that I was merely a police officer was occasionally turned against me. I encountered people who didn't just hate me because I was white and a police officer, they seemed to hate everyone and everything, even their own family. The worst racial hatred I ever experienced that was directed at me, personally, was from a man who was Jamaican and he seemed to fit the latter `hate everyone` category. That said, he didn't turn me against other Jamaicans although he did make me wary. Fortunately, friends I have who are from Barbados made me chuckle when they said it was OK and not to worry, as nobody else in the Caribbean liked Jamaicans anyway - prejudice again! I tried to rise above it and to be judged by my deeds and who I was, that is if I chose to hang around long enough for people to find out a bit more about me. Eventually, I got to the point where I just didn't want to waste any of my time and energy in trying to win a battle of words or sit through an argument that I judged was a waste of my lifeforce. Rather than get angry I'd just walk away if the situation allowed me to. In so doing I simply categorised people as either radiators or drains. Radiators give out warmth and drains...well you know what I mean. Now I quite like scooters in a way I cannot quite understand. I've never owned one, but I've ridden a couple, which is exactly the reason I would never own one. They just do not suit me or my style of riding and I simply don't want to ride one out of choice. They are practical and cheap to run and they have good weather protection so their owners can get away with wearing nice shoes in a bit of rain. Some of the bigger ones are even quick, very quick indeed, but they still don't float the boat for me. That said, if I'm out on a ride and stop for a stretch and there's some scooterists about, I'll stroll over and have a chat. Sometimes I get the wary look from some of my age, doubtless remembering the battle of mods and rockers of the bad old good old days, but when I show an interest in their machinery we always strike up a common thread - the joy of the open road on two wheels and occasionally The Who, Prince Buster and Harry J & The Allstars. Now if they all started hurling abuse at me, my bulky boots, biker clothing and my machinery I'd walk away, with as much dignity as I could muster. This has never actually happened to me, but if it did, then that would be my plan. If I'm `pushed into a corner` I will politely stand my ground but again, I would rather walk away from a drain and find a nice radiator to sit by as I drink my mug of tea. I would remember the faces of the antagonists if I could, and watch out for them next time so as to avoid them. In the police, I'd sooner talk a belligerent out of a pub than throw him out physically. During my time as a police officer I was both priviledged and lucky to have been able to resuscitate 3 people. One was an overdosed drug addict, one was a woman who had suffered a cerebral haemorrhage (I worked her heart and my buddy breathed into her until we got a pulse before paramedics arrived and hooked her up to the `Minuteman`, working around us in her cramped bedroom - we never even noticed them arrive and do it) and the last one was on a traffic warden who had attempted suicide in a public toilet, by slashing his wrists and then trying to literally cut his heart out. That was horrendous and he eventually conked out on me and died before the ambulance arrived - I got him breathing again but he was just leaking in too many places. What would be of total irrelevance would be for me to say that the first was white, the second was a Turkish muslim and the third was Afro- Caribbean. As I wrote this I had to dig deep before I remembered that fact. It was buried in the section of my memory, filed under "Irrelevant". Yet to my amazement, when I saw those muslims at Luton, protesting at our returning troops marching through the town, I felt such a wave of revulsion that for a few moments I hated every last one of them, their culture, their parents and their offspring. I would have been accutely embarrassed if my old friends (of Indian origin but as British as I am) had been in the room with me. I was wild, angry and wanting to choke the living shit out of these odious creatures who were spitting abuse at British soldiers who had returned from a tour of duty - a duty that was being performed at the behest of our elected politicians in Government - a tour of duty where they had lost comrades. I do believe I lost my temper! Had I been there I would have had to dig deep into my box of self control or I could well have lost it and ended up getting arrested. I hate violence yet I have used it, and threatened the use of it in a controlled manner over the years in order to effect the purpose of my office. I used my truncheon/baton maybe 3 times although I drew it on many more occasions than that. I have punched people bloody hard and then stood in court later and said so. I have pointed a gun at many people in order to effect an arrest. I almost shot someone, once. I came so very close. He turned out to be unarmed, yet I had every justification to shoot, right up to the point where I discovered he was not armed, but he was so lucky. That still comes back and haunts me from time to time. I could legally justify every occasion where I used or threatened the use of force, but I guess when I `lost it` in front of my television last week, I wouldn't have been able to justify the force that I wanted to use on those people. I suppose I should feel slightly ashamed. This is how the National Front exploited that void, the one between a race war or living together in harmony or indifference - frankly, Id settle for indifference if it meant a peaceful co-existence - harmony could always be the occasional bonus. I fear we're on an edge here and the masses of the less rational `great unwashed` out there, don't tend to think things through like I've tried to. Well, as Ogri would say, "Bollocks, I've always got me bike". I 'm off and I just hope I don't get some pizza delivery kid's smelly, gutless 50cc scooter stuck in my air intake - bloody pests.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Police in Pursuit - South African Style

I believe that if it had become too risky, the Force Control Room would definitely have called it off......

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

A Green and Pleasant land

I'm off up here for a ride. It's not far. The news has got to me. I think I need to get out more. Came back via this place. Empty streets in an old English City - hard times?

Sunday, 8 March 2009

In Days of Old, When Knights Were Bold.....

Gordon Brown wants to award Ted Kennedy an `honorary` Knighthood. In a week when the IRA breaks cover with a mere machine gun murder of 2 British soldiers (Engineers awaiting their posting to Afghanistan this week) who were engaged in the anti-Republican act of collecting pizzas delivered to their barracks. 4 others, including the 2 pizza delivery guys, were also gunned down. Still, at least Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness condemned the act of murder - is this a `first`? Let's look at the word `Honour` for a moment. Wikipedia says of honour; the evaluation of a person's trustworthiness and social status based on that individual's espousals and actions. Honour is deemed exactly what determines a person's character: whether or not the person reflects honesty, respect, integrity, or fairness. Accordingly, individuals are assigned worth and stature based on the harmony of their actions, code of honour, and that of the society at large. Tell that to the family of Mary Jo Kopechne. But to be fair, I don't pay that much attention to Ted these days, so perhaps he really has discovered the true meaning of `honour`. How do I feel right now, in Gordon's Britain? Like Clint Eastwood's character in Gran Torino, that's how I feel - "Just Get off my Goddam Lawn..."

Tuesday, 3 March 2009


My entire police service was overshadowed by Irish Republican terrorism on the UK mainland. Sometimes the shadow was very dark, sometimes it was barely visible, but it was always there. This included shootings from small arms, including sub machine guns as well as countless bomb threats and very many detonations of Improvised Explosive Devices (I.E.D.) A lot of current news stories coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan refer to IED's exploding under army vehicles or at the roadside and I often wonder what the general public imagine, in their mind's eye, as to just what an `improvised` explosive device is all about. The IRA became expert in creating home made explosives or HOMEX as we used to call it, out of weed killer and other agricultural chemicals. One could be forgiven for thinking that this smacked of the home chemistry set and somehow lessened the effect. The truth is that IRA HOMEX was at least 80% as effective as military or industrial explosives and the way these devices were developed over the years left us and our friends in the Army in no doubt that we were dealing with a significant and deadly threat. Either way, whether HOMEX was 80% or 60% as effective it was purely academic, as the resulting death and mass destruction regularly proved. The bombs that caused multi-million pounds worth of collateral, human and economic devastation in the City of London, Manchester and elsewhere were HOMEX devices. The two pictures on this post are of the scene of an IRA bomb that I attended minutes afterwards. Many of the officers captured in these photographs were my mates. I was 2 blocks away, yet the building I was in shook from the massive blast and plaster was dislodged from the ceiling. It went off on the same day as the infamous `Old Bailey` bomb where many innocent people were injured but, miraculously, no one died. These pictures were of the incident on my Division, in Great Scotland Yard. The bomb was outside the HQ of Army Recruiting in London which was next door to the police Mounted Branch's central HQ which also had stables. Horses were present when the bomb detonated. I used to regularly have my full English breakfast in there. The last one I had was at 7.30 that very morning. I consider myself lucky not to have been there for an afternoon cup of tea, but then luck plays such a big part in these things. Both multi-storey brick built buildings were cracked from the pavement to the roof. In the lower photograph, at the end of the street in the background, is the Admiralty in Whitehall, just down from Trafalgar Square. All the Admiralty's windows visible were blown out in the shockwave, the extent of this damage exactly matching the width of Great Scotland Yard, it's buildings channeling the blast across the street like a big cannon. A parking meter next to the car containing the bomb was later found on the Admiralty roof, over 300 yards away. The pavement was littered with coins from that parking meter. One flying 10 pence piece took off a mans finger as he was walking by the Admiralty - 10pence worth of shrapnel, one of hundreds of pieces that could have damaged so many more tourists and pedestrians going about their business. I bandaged what was left of the finger and tried to find the missing digit whilst he waited for an ambulance. Finally, the video I've inserted was sent to me from a good buddy and ex colleague who has been working in Iraq training the fledgling police force. It is an example of an IED roadside device, although out there the insurgents do have real military ordnance to utilise in their bomb making, but improvised it still is. The person who detonated it by remote control was most probably watching the security forces convoy and chose the moment to initiate the device. I would hate for anyone to be led into thinking that the word `improvised` means it is in any way `amateurish`.

Monday, 2 March 2009

"Forgive" sounds good......

When I joined the Metropolitan Police, London, I and my fellow recruits were treated to a process of training that is experienced in varying degrees and quality, by police officers the world over. Not only was it necessary to teach us law, police procedures and the means to apply the use of force as well as trying to avoid it, but we were also on a journey of indoctrination into what, for me, became something akin to joining a large extended family. Most families have their own hierarchy, customs, norms and shared values as well as `skeletons in cupboards` and the police is no different. But it is difficult for anyone, let alone a releatively naive 19 year old from a lower middle class background, to absorb the culture of such an organisation with such responsibilities in just a 4 month spell at training school followed by 20 months of on-going training. Looking back, I think they did a pretty good job in steering and moulding me so that at the end of my training I could walk through the gate that leads to the world of police and policing. One of our `indoctrination` lessons included a visit to what used to be known as The Black Museum of New Scotland Yard. As you would expect, it's not called that anymore and is now The `Crime` Museum, but the change of the name has not watered down the fact that it is still not a place for the faint hearted and it is also one of very few British museums that is not open to the general public. My recollection of the visit is a little hazy, mainly because of the years that have passed, but there are a few things that are still burned into my memory and which I can see now, as clear as on that visit, over 35 years ago: A collection of the actual hangman's nooses that were used to dispatch numerous convicted murderers, sentenced to death - grisly relics of the days when the state retained the right to do such a thing. (When I last looked, Treason was still the only offence for which a British court can sentence to death but that may have gone as well. I just can't be bothered to check). The bath used by the infamous `Acid Bath Murderer` John Haigh, a serial killer of the 1940's. Match boxes containing the pubic hair, clipped from the poor female victims by John Christie, after he murdered them in his lodgings at 10 Rillington Place. But the one exhibit that has always remained the most vivid was that of the operational log book of an unmarked police car, known as a "Q" Car. "Q" Cars were usually crewed by a Detective Sergeant, a detective constable and a uniform branch Class 1 advanced driver from Traffic Division. It was a specialist crime car dedicated to high end criminal activity and usually tasked by New Scotland Yard CID. In those days all Area Cars (marked fast response unit) and "Q" Cars had an ops log which would be maintained by the designated radio operator. All calls to the unit, as well as those to neighbouring area cars, would be logged by the operator. Any actions taken, persons and vehicles stopped would be referenced briefly in the log. It was an official document and had to be preserved on completion. The log we were shown at The Black Museum was typically dog-eared with scribbled entries. However, this one had a dark brown stain across its page and into the other pages that had obviously been stuck together by a spillage. The writing ended abruptly. The writing was part of a vehicle/person stop check. The dark brown `spillage` was the blood of Detective Constable David Wombwell, aged 25. Along with his 2 colleagues, Det. Sgt David Head and PC Geoffrey Fox, he had been conducting the check on the vehicle and its 3 occupants, known to PC Fox as local villains. Suddenly, one of them produced a Luger pistol and shot DC Wombwell through the eye at point blank range, killing him instantly. The killer then got out of the car, ran after the Detective Sgt and shot him in the back of the head before turning his gun on the third officer, PC Fox, at the wheel of the "Q" Car, callsign `Foxtrot One-One`. All three officers died at the scene and the killings, in Acton, London, caused a public outcry that led to the forming of the Police Dependants Trust that exists to this day. The killer was a criminal named Harry Roberts who was eventually convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. 2 days ago I was sitting in bed, drinking tea and reading the Saturday paper. I opened it and on page 3 I suddenly found myself staring at Harry Roberts, a name that was burnt into my memory all those years ago as I sat with my colleagues, in stunned silence, in the Black Museum of New Scotland Yard. It seems that despite many attempts to secure his release over the years, both legally and by attempting to escape, he may yet be permitted his freedom. He claims he is now just an old aged pensioner. May I draw your attention to this example of another criminal who is also an `old aged pensioner`. For anyone who may feel a tinge of sympathy for his case, I just wanted to say that the sight of DC Wombwell's blood on that log book, the sort of log I used so many times in my time on Area Cars in London, stayed with me throughout my service and is with me now, as I type this, with tears rolling down my cheeks. If this man is released, like the three men who killed my dear friend in the execution of his duty in Oxford Street and who were sentenced to 9 years for manslaughter and released in 4, then what hope of justice is left for the police of this country to cling onto as they go about their duty as Det Sgt Head, TDC Wombwell and PC Fox did in Braybrook Street, London, August 12th, 1966? They were "family". PS: See what happened to another old colleague of mine and the p.o.s. that shot him PPS: One of my blog followers `Dickiebo` has a very personal insight into this post. Read it here.