Monday, 30 November 2009

"Right, Taliban, now you've really asked for it ...."

So, the last-one-on-the-list Secretary of State for Defence (former car plant trade union shop steward, Bob Ainsworth) can now tell us, via Oh My Gordo Brown, that another 500 of this country's finest are to be deployed to Afghanistan because, `all the conditions have been met in respect of them being properly equipped for the task`. Is it me being thick or aren't our Nation's armed forces supposed to be equipped, period? I mean, we don't go to war and then say, oh, hang on a minute, we need to hang back so that we can ensure we are fully equipped. This smacks of the state we were in back in 1939, having watched the Nazis arm up for years and then march across Europe - but thats all just history I suppose.
Judging from the complaints I hear via some of the troops already out there, I hope `properly equipped` will include enough body armour, enough appropriate combat clothing including boots and socks and appropriate combat vehicles including support aircraft? I assume this is what "Bollocks" Bob means? I do hope so, on the day when they've announced that another member of my injured nephew's regiment has lost his life in the cause. Oh and Gordo, SF units rather like their presence to be kept under wraps, so best not mention it anymore - at least not without asking them first. I mean, they don't tell you how to run the country.

Shapes of things to come

When I read about some of the dangerous criminals the British justice system lets out to re-offend, again and again - the callous-violent, the child sex offenders - and then read stories like this I am left with the most depressing and empty feeling. In my 30 year career as a police officer, me and my colleagues were never allowed the luxury of stepping aside and mingling with the crowd whilst someone else dealt with the bestial elements of society. I suppose I can console myself by the fact that at least I'm not one of the people who have to live with knowing they were responsible for the release of such people who go on to maim, kill and sexually assault...again and again.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

No Planes, No Trains, Just Automobiles

Mrs Hogday's car sprang a leak in the cooling system the other day. At first I thought it was an airlock and topped it up, but alas the red warning thermometer symbol came on again after about 30 miles, so it was down to the garage. If we still had our fabulous old Saab I could probably have located and fixed the leak myself, but because she now has a `post modern` new Millenium type vehicle, nothing is that simple and everything is shoehorned in to every inch of available space. As if to emphasise this `shoe-horning thing`, a few months ago a headlight bulb died, so I duly purchased a replacement from Halfords, paying a fiver to take advantage of their `we fit it for you` offer. I could easily have done this myself, but I was wearing a suit and the weather was atrocious. The lad behind the counter took the bulb and walked round to the car, with me helpfully holding an umbrella. He then took one look at our car and said, `Ah, its one of those. Sorry sir, but I'm not allowed to remove any bits and pieces other than the back of the headlight. You'll have to get this done at the dealer`. It turns out that to get to the offside headlight on a Volkswagen Polo, many bits of essential equipment have to be removed in order to allow access! The nearside light only requires removal of the car battery to get at it, so I was right out of luck. I even checked the owners manual and, sure enough, it said to take it to the main dealer. I didn't, but I did give them a call and was told that it would cost about £75 in labour charges. When I laughed, I was told that I was lucky it wasn't a new Audi which would be close on £350 although he said that he knew a mechanic who would do it `privately` for £120. I took my light bulb home and the following morning I set to work. I found that by removing the diesel filter and two of the screws that held the thing that held the diesel filter, and bending it, I could just get my hands behind it. 45 minutes later, by use of a sort of braille technique and with a large portion of the skin from the back of my hand hanging from the aforementioned thing that held the diesel filter, the headlight bulb was in. The next car we get for Mrs Hogday will be preceded by the following question to the sales person: "How long does it take to change a lightbulb"? Anything more than `10 minutes` and we move on. But back to the leak. When I arrived at the garage the friendly owner came out with the pressure testing kit, hooked it up and within seconds we discovered the offending dribble. There is no such thing as a simple job with a modern car and so I only have to wait until Monday for the parts to be delivered and it should be up and running again. So I wait for the bus. 40 minutes later and one trundles into the village. I step in and give my destination, a mere 5 miles away. £4.20 says the driver. I produce £3.30 - shit, the £5 note i thought was in my wallet, wasn't. Off i get and go to the village shop where there's a cash machine. It's not a `bank` machine and I am charged £2 to withdraw £10. I walk back to the bus stop and after 20 minutes another bus comes along. I pay my £4.20 and sit. I look around and seem to be in a pensioners outing. 3 miles later, at the main town, and re-inforcements climb aboard. I am getting seriously out-gummed. I get up to help one old boy on, as he is struggling up on two walking sticks - the pensioners outing is, by now, more like a mobile geriatric ward, but good on them. A young mum with infant in a huge buggy-thing struggles on even with my help in steering it past the walking sticks and shopping bags but at last I'm not the youngest on board. I estimate that in the 5 mile journey I was the only one who paid a fare. Public transport utopia? Well I wouldn't trade my age for a bus pass so I suppose someone has to pay for it. 5pm and I'm back on the bus heading back to the garage. The owner phoned me. He has now got a spare car for Mrs HD who's journey to work is all but impossible on public transport. Once again I pay my fare. This time the old folks are all indoors and I am amongst a bus-load of young people carrying rucksacks. From the blank expressions, iPod earphones and the odd smattering of inane, cro-magnon grunts of communication or sentences consisting of lots of `SO this and SO that` mixed metaphors and the ubiquitous `LIKE, LIKE, LIKE` five times per sentence, I deduced that they were students from the local FE college. As we reached the previously mentioned town, re-inforcements embussed from their FE college. Out came the bus passes, in went the iPod earphones and they trooped aboard to add to the party, although the conversation was not improved one iota and so my options for eavesdropping were still nil. Again, it seemed I was the only bugger who paid for his ride, except this time it was me who was the oldest on the bus - foiled again. I got to my pals garage a bit too early and so while I waited for the spare car to arrive I browsed some of his stock. I snapped a particularly nifty Aston Martin, pictured above. I pondered it's secondhand pricetag of £75,000, my dear wife's impossible journey to work without her car and my two bus journeys. Suddenly 75 grand seemed quite reasonable, but I forgot to ask him how long it takes to change a headlight bulb

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

CAUTION! Cautioning in progress.

I read a very interesting post today over on Inspector Leviathan Hobbes's blog. The blindingly obvious message being that too many cautions for too many serious offences can be baad medicine and how this message seems to have finally got through to some dark, dank department up Whitehall way. In my experience the opposite can also be true in certain circumstances and by that I mean that, very occasionally, cautioning for a minor offence may actually be the wrong course of action and inappropriate both for the offender and the wider community, but in a world where `micro` policing is often subjugated by the all powerful, all knowing buck-stopping `macro-judicial` CPS, the knowledge and judgment of the `poor bloody infantry` is disregarded out of hand. A good prosecutor really does need the heart and soul of a beat officer, or at the very least be able to listen to the practitioners. What the CPS practice is very different, but all the more reason to listen to the police fighting a very different battle. I can best explain this by way of a practical example (I was an old style police instructor - we used lots of practical examples to try and put wise heads quickly onto inexperienced shoulders): The local parade of shops is plagued by noisy, abusive, thieving, disruptive junior citizens. This has escalated over the months and has become a regular `run of the gauntlet` for local people trying to do their shopping and for the shop managers and their long suffering counter staff. The local beat officer knows lots of these feral youths by sight, knows where they live and has often arrested them and their lovely parents, so there is no problem in identifying any of them. But there is always a problem in prosecuting those who have committed a specific offence, because to give evidence against them requires a local person being prepared to step forward and give evidence against a person who is, is in effect, one of their neighbours. This can have the effect of turning their private lives into a living hell that will make the trouble in the shops seem like a pleasant walk in the park. Enter PC Plod, the law enforcer and professional witness. He wants to do something to fix the problem but is rarely there to witness the worst things for himself. He asks his sergeant for advice and the sergeant says, "When you are up there, book the oldest of the mob for something, anything.... obscene language would be a start but try and make it the most serious thing you can find, even if it happens to just be riding his bike on the pavement, no lights on the bike, no brakes etc. But whatever you find, book them for it and submit your file to me". PC Plod comes back with a few offences in his book, of the type previously mentioned. The sergeant then submits the file for prosecution but it comes flying back from the CPS with a note that says, `Don't you think a caution is more appropriate for these minor matters? A few years ago this would have been dealt with by a clip round the ear wouldn't it?` Sergeant replies and attaches reams of all the recorded complaints from the area of the shops, points out that `clips round the ear` sounds like his officers are being incited to commit an assault (a joke that the CPS solicitor nearly didn't get), but goes on to support the concept offered by the solicitor and suggests that by taking said `minor` cases to court, a judicial clip round the ear would be administered and, if accompanied by a painful punishment, the message might well be spread to the rest of the feral gang, that when PC Plod appears they'd best not fuck about. Case is eventually prosecuted with a covering explanation by the prosecuting solicitor to the court, of the background to the case and that this is but the tip of an iceberg, but the best that the police could come up with on the occasion they visited. Case was proved and a decent fine levied. Next time PC Plod appears he books another pisstaker and so it goes on until they realise that it is very inconvenient to keep getting nabbed and so scatter on sight. Actions repeated until the message Break law/misbehave=Pain; Conformity = No pain, is received and understood. They then twig that they don't have to scatter, just wind their necks in. So called `minor` offences often form part of a much bigger, more serious picture. There are occasions when by viewing them in isolation and treating them as worthy of nothing more serious than a caution, fuels a fire that a big bucket of water, early on, would have extinguished. The CPS and the current system, by acting in the way they do, are in my humble opinion the primary stokers. Pure fantasy I know. But this worked, once.

Monday, 23 November 2009

"You Can't do THAT with a ping-pong ball....?????"

Had a spiffing couple of days down in London at the tail end of last week. Thursday night out with Mrs HD (and Mr & Mrs HD jnr). Saw "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert - The Musical" starring Jason Donovan and a very talented cast of dozens and had a blast. This may well become an alternative `Rocky Horror Show` if the variety of home made `in character` costumes continue to be worn by members of the audience - you heard it predicted first, HERE! The dress made out of flip-flops was particularly interesting. I have been known to dress up for the occasional `Rocky Horror`. I was also allegedly seen once, dressed as Carmen Miranda, on a small stage in a village hall before the local town Mayor, singing `Viva Espana` but if it was me, I was merely doing it to raise money for a hospital bodyscanner - Only real men can wear pink and get away with it, Darling ;)) NB: In case anyone thinks my identity has finally been revealed, the link to Carmen Miranda shows a picture that really IS the delightful Miss Miranda

Monday, 16 November 2009

What is it about the `truth` that is so difficult to swallow?

Nothing much to say at the moment, but I did see the story in the news of the escaped killer recaptured. When read in conjunction with Inspector Gadget's post, here, it reminded me of how the simplest of words, even when they are simply true, can upset senior people in organisations facing the enquiring gaze of Joe and Josephine Public. I was called to a secure psychiatric unit because one of the patients had `escaped`. I put escaped in `commas` because after having heard the facts of the missing persons disappearance, it suddenly didn't seem so `secure` a unit to me. This person had attempted to murder his father by stalking him and then shooting him in the head with a crossbow. Luckily, the bolt struck at a shallow angle and glanced off the skull. Having gathered all the facts and knowing that there were probably less than 130 officers on duty in my entire police force at that time, I decided that, as is usually the case, the best way to catch this person quickly was to engage the support of the public by way of a press release. This I drafted before running it past our duty press officer. She gave it the thumbs up. I brought this back to our tactical meeting at the hospital unit and ran it past the key staff. By this time, the general manager of the unit was present, having been called back to duty. I read out my press release to the group. The manager raised his hand and said he had to object to one small point. He did not like the following phrase: "This man should be considered as dangerous and, if sighted, should not be approached by the public who should alert the police by way of an emergency 999 call". The senior manager objected to the escapee being described as dangerous. I noticed the senior nurse roll her eyes. I have always viewed senior nurses as the backbone of the health service and always take great store from their opinions, being at the working, hands-on end of their profession. I checked my notes and read them out to him. The senior nurse says, "he is prone to violent outbursts and when this happens he has to be physically restrained and then sedated". Two other nurses say he has, "assaulted them, as well as several other members of staff and will use whatever comes to hand as a weapon". He has made regular threats both verbally, and in writing, stating his intention to, "find and kill his family by any available means". So, I asked the senior manager from where, amongst those observations from his key staff, he concluded that this person was not dangerous? His reply was, "Well he's not dangerous when he takes his medication". After a short pause, and a deep intake of breath, I said that if he could guarantee that his missing patient was still taking his medication whilst at large then I'd be glad to take this into account. I didn't wait for his response because I had far more important things to worry about than his reputation, because that was exactly what his comment was about. I immediately recognised this senior manager as being from the same school of senior managment that was befuddling my own job. My press release went out exactly as I'd drafted it. The patient was re-captured the following day after a 999 call from a member of the public.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Old Play - New Words

For my old mates on Traffic. Guys, you KNOW I'd have fought this until they punishment-posted me into PSD. For my overseas visitors and non-police readers TPAC = Tactical Pursuit and Containment. RPU = "Roads Policing Unit" aka Traffic Division ie; It's the buzz-name of the moment. Stick around and after a few more `fast track` graduate entries struggle to fill the diminishing upper rank vacancies of FLSR's, `Traffic Division` will eventually be re-invented. Oh, sorry, `FLSR` is one of my own terms of reference for some of the senior mutts = Frontal Lobotomy, Spine Removal.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Just felt like this today

Came off the phone to my nephew, just flown back from Camp Bastion. He's totally shot away at the moment, having seeing bits of his mates fly past him in an IED blast meant for an armoured vehicle, wondering how and why he survived. I won't be posting any more on him for a while, until I've had a chance to see him. I'll be looking at how the system deals with this very carefully. I have every confidence that the Army will bend over backwards for him if he uses the system, especially as the Nation is watching closely. Lets hope so anyway.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

A Case for Zero Tolerance

I posted this clip ages ago, but having read the news article linked below, it somehow seemed appropriate to give it another airing..... This one's for you, Erwin. (of course, all persons are presumed innocent until convicted in a court of law) PS: Hogday's tip for the day: Don't sit in front of your computer whilst brushing your teeth with an electric toothbrush and then sneeze unexpectedly - nasty.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Roll up, Roll up, Arrgh Me Hearties

To The Point Cruise Lines is excited to offer the ultimate adventure cruise, along the pirate-infested coast of Somalia !

Ultimate Adventure Cruise Route

Rates and Availability

Ship Name

Starting Price



Sun Splendor



Fully Booked

Grand Voyage



Reservations Available

Horizons IV



Reservations Available

Horizons III



Fully Booked

Grand Voyage II



Fully Booked

Grand Voyage III



Reservations Available

Coastal Paradise



Reservations Available

Coastal Paradise II



Reservations Available

Peril Princess



Fully Booked

Peril Princess II



Reservations Available

We board our luxury cruise ships in Djibouti on the Gulf of Aden near the entrance to the Red Sea, and disembark in Mombasa , Kenya seven adrenaline-charged days later. Reservations start at only $5,200 per-person (double occupancy, inside room) and $6,900 (veranda complete with bench rest).

You ' ll relax like never before!

That ' s because you are welcome to bring your own arsenal with you. If you don ' t have your own weapons, you can rent them from our onboard Master Gunsmith. Enjoy reloading parties every afternoon with skeet and marksmanship competitions every night! But the best fun of all, of course, is...

...Pirate Target Practice!

The object of our cruise is to sail up and down the Somali Coast waiting to get hijacked by pirates!

Weapons rentals:

Weapon Selection



AK-47 Light Assault

$12.00 Per Day

On a budget? Rent a full-auto scope-mounted AK-47 for only $9/day with 7.62 ball ammo at $12 per 100 rounds:

M-16 Full Automatic

$25.00 Per Day

Rent a full auto M-16 for only $25/day with ammo attractively priced at $16 per 100 rounds of 5.56 armor-piercing:

Barrett M-107 50 Caliber

$59.00 Per Day

Hello! Nothing gets a pirate ' s attention like a Barrett M-107 50-cal sniper rifle; only $59/day with 25 rounds of armor-piercing ammo affordably priced at only $29.95.

RPG Launcher

$175.00 Per Day

Want to make a real impact? Rent an RPG for only $175/day with three fragmentation rounds included! A true favorite among pirates, rent one today and show you care!

Customer Testimonials

"Six attacks in 4 days were more than I expected. I bagged three pirates, my wife nailed two, and my 12-year old son sank two boats with the mini-gun. This wonderful cruise was fun for the whole family" -- Fred D., Cincinnati , OH

"Pirates 0, Passengers 32! Well worth the trip! Can ' t recommend it highly enough!" -- Ben L., Bethesda , MD

BUT WAIT, THERE ' S MORE! Twin mounted mini-guns are available for rental at only $450.00 per 30 seconds of sustained fire!

Additional Cruise Line Services

  • Need a spotter? Our professional crew members can double as spotters for only $30/hour. (spotting scope included, but gratuities are not)
  • Also included: Free complimentary night vision equipment - and throughout the night, coffee, pastries and snacks are always available on the main deck from 7pm until 6am
  • Our deluxe package comes complete with gourmet meals and all rooms offer a mini-bar


We guarantee you will experience at least two hijacking attempts by pirates or you ' ll receive an instant $1,000 refund upon arrival in Mombasa .. How can we make that guarantee? We operate at 5 knots just beyond 12 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia , thus in international waters where pirates have no rights whatever. In fact, we make three passes through the area ' s most treacherous waters to ensure maximum visibility by Somali "mother ships." We repeat this for five days, making three complete passes past the entire Somali Coast . At night, the boat is fully lit and bottle rockets are shot every five minutes with loud disco music directionally beamed shore side to attract maximum attention.


Cabin space is limited so you need to respond quickly. Reserve your package before May 31st and get a great bonus - 100 rounds of free tracer ammo in the caliber of your choice! So sign up for the Ultimate Somali Coast Adventure Cruise now!


Reserve now and be automatically entered to win a 5 minute time slot on the Captain ' s own Twin Browning 50 Caliber M2HB installation! "I haven ' t had this much fun since flying choppers in ' Nam . Don ' t worry about getting shot by pirates... they never even got close to the ship with the crap they shoot and their lousy aim... Come on board and bag your own clutch of genuine Somali pirates!" -- Mike W., Savannah , GA "Holy crap! I mean literally, I crapped myself! This gun shook the deck like thunder, and I was laughing so hard I just had to release it. AWESOME!-- Jim W., Tampa , FL

(NB from Hogday: OK, I pirated this post - BUT - This tactic WAS used in WW1. They were called `Q` ships and nailed a lot of U Boats. Look back and learn?)

Monday, 9 November 2009

Respect, revulsion and a touch of frost

Well it was a solemn weekend up here in the frosty North of England. Saturday evening found me, on duty, at what was billed as the largest bonfire gathering in `Northshire` - it was pissing down with rain. However, that didn't stop the indomitable British spirit and people turned out in vast numbers to gather around for a free fireworks display, courtesy of the local council and other sponsors. This year's Guy Fawkes ritual was also to raise money for a well known organisation that provides superb support and training for the blind. The local FM radio station was there with a sound-stage and the DJ's were doing a great job of whipping up the crowd, before the Mayor of the Borough led the crowd in the countdown to the start of the grand fireworks display. Amongst the gathered masses was a boisterous but jolly group of trainee soldiers who were clearly enjoying the chance of joining in some local community fun and a break from their rigorous training schedule. They were all young lads, around 17 or 18 years old, and the rain didn't dampen their spirits, especially as they got a big cheer from the crowd when the DJ asked them if they were taking part in the remembrance parade the next day and all their arms went up. I don't care much for fireworks. I was there because I had a job to do. Sunday morning and I was up early. I was attending two Remembrance Services, one in the town centre and one at a Commonwealth War Graves cemetery. The town centre event was attended by a large crowd. The service commenced with the full civic procession, with representatives of all the armed services, military cadet forces, veterans associations, a small contingent of the police and, of course, The Royal British Legion. It was a splendid and touching tribute and the crowd burst into spontaneous applause as the trainees from the Army Camp proudly marched past, followed by regular British army as well as American soldiers sailors and airmen , who are also staioned nearby. A group of our own veterans, medals a-jangling and glinting in the sunshine proudly brought up the rear. The cubs, scouts and guides completed the march past and all did a splendid job. The church service that followed really touched me. I don't do church, but the sermon delivered by the mayor's chaplain was the most moving and relevant piece in respect of war, despair, hope and peace that I've heard in many a year. The Commonwealth War Graves cemetery in this town is the final resting place of over 1,000 airmen, mainly from Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, who gave their lives serving with the RAF in the skies over England and Europe during World War 2. As a piper played a lament and the representatives of civil authorities and the military laid wreaths, local schoolchildren moved among the headstones and laid a red rose on every grave. For anyone who has family in this place, they should know about such gestures and how their forbears memory is revered and remembered. As the ceremony concluded, I spoke to a corporal from the Royal Irish Regiment who was an instructor at the Army training campus. I asked him if he knew a particular trainee, as my cousin's grandson is training there at present - another Coldstream Guardsman in the Hogday family. He wasn't in this instructors platoon, but no matter, we had a chat. I told him how I saw some of his lads enjoying the fireworks the previous evening. He said, "Yes, but it didn't last long. There was a gang of civvy blokes wandering about looking to start trouble with them. They cornered two of our boys in town and assaulted them. They`re in hospital". `Squaddie/Matelot bashing` was always a problem wherever I served where there was an army or navy establishment nearby. Even as a police cadet at Hendon, there were certain places in the vicinity our instructors banned us from going, not because we caused trouble, but because the locals recognised us for what we were and thought it good sport to try it on with us. Early this morning I was pondering my weekend as I walked our dog, the Jack Rascal Terrorist. I took the above snaps on my mobile. I felt the sun slowly warming my back, but it was clearly the beginnings of winter. I snapped a picture of my long shadow lying across the frosty field and stood awhile, watching it get slowly shorter. I suddenly thought of it as being like my life slowly receding and me powerless to stop it. If I'm lucky, no black cloud will come along and shut it off, at least not for another 50 years or so. Then I thought of the remembrance services I'd attended and those young trainee soldiers, full of fun on the common and of the evil group of Britains "finest" who in some perverted way got a big shot in their own pathetic ego's by putting two of these teenaged servicemen in hospital. I tried to remember anything really bad that I'd done to someone else during my life, that could possibly make me feel the way I was feeling at that moment. Thankfully, I couldn't. I wanted to find the people that did this horrible thing to those young soldiers, put a .32 calibre round into the back of their heads and then call up the local council street cleansing services to remove their worthless corpses from where I'd dropped them. I hate myself when something gets the better of me and makes me think like that, as I like to think I can rise above such thoughts, but not this morning I regret to say. My blood pressure wasn't helped when I watched Sky News and the article about `the personal letter` that our Prime Minister wrote to the grieving mother of a young Grenadier Guardsman killed in Afghanistan recently. Brown should stick to what he does best - whatever that is - and let someone with a real appreciation of what it means to lose someone in this way to write his `sorry` letters for him. My sister just phoned me. My nephew, injured in an IED blast on only his fourth day in Helmand Province, is being flown home today. His hearing has not recovered and his back injury is causing concern. He is obviously not currently fit for frontline duties and will be re-deployed to a less intense role for 6 months, but he was lucky as he is the only one still walking after the explosion that killed his Lance Corporal. I suppose this is a small blessing. That was my weekend. I hope yours was OK.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Murder at an Afghan checkpoint

Grenadier Guards are deployed throughout the province of Helmand. They have several key roles. One of these is mentoring the Afghan National Police and to do so they deploy in small detachments to work, shoulder to shoulder, with these people out on the ground in their `back yard`. They work alongside soldiers from other regiments in this particular training role. As a concept in British military affairs, this is nothing new.
Much is said about that country and the corruption that has overshadowed the recent "elections". Politicians have banged dispatch boxes and stated their disgust at what was revealed, but haven't they got it all wrong? There was only corruption from our perspective, there is only double dealing and murder from our perspective. As far as Afghanistan goes, that is the way of their stone aged tribal world and has been so for centuries. Democracy, as we know it, has no meaning there, at least not in a short, ragged and bloody intervention that we have seen over the past few decades. Nothing is more blurred than the line between `policing` and soldiering where soldiers work in what the military refer to as "low intensity warfare". The risk of being cut off and ambushed, or betrayed and killed when at their most vulnerable, like 5 of our soldiers were the other day, are massive. And there is nothing more dangerous than engaging in `low intensity` warfare tactics on the outermost edge of that rather glib sounding definition, in a place like Afghanistan. But what happened the other day was not high or low intensity warfare, that was murder - but perhaps only from our perspective.

Monday, 2 November 2009

One Less

I am posting a message that was sent to me today by an old friend, former colleague and TA soldier. It's about a man us Hogdays feel we knew quite well, although we've never met him in person. The e mail I received is not an `urban legend` because I checked it out and it is true. It's about a man called Darrell Powers, known to his Brothers in Arms and anyone who has seen the HBO TV series Band of Brothers as "Shifty". Shifty volunteered for the airborne in WWII and served with Easy Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of the 101st Airborne Infantry. If you've seen Band of Brothers on HBO or the History Channel, you know Shifty. His character appears in all 10 episodes, and Shifty himself is interviewed in several of them.I met Shifty in the Philadelphia airport several years ago. I didn't know who he was at the time. I just saw an elderly gentleman having trouble reading his ticket. I offered to help, assured him that he was at the right gate, and noticed the "Screaming Eagle," the symbol of the 101st Airborne, on his hat

Making conversation, I asked him if he'd been in the 101st Airborne or if his son was serving. He said quietly that he had been in the 101st. I thanked him for his service, then asked him when he served,and how many jumps he made.

Quietly and humbly, he said "Well, I guess I signed up in 1941 or so, and was in until sometime in 1944 .. . . " at which point my heart skipped.

At that point, again, very humbly, he said "I made the 5 training jumps at Toccoa, and then jumped into Normandy . . . . do you know where Normandy is?" At this point my heart stopped.

I told him "yes, I know exactly where Normandy is, and I know what D-Day was." At that point he said "I also made a second jump into Holland , into Arnhem ." I was standing with a genuine war hero . . . . and then I realized that it was June, just after the anniversary of D-Day..

I asked Shifty if he was on his way back from France , and he said,"Yes. And it's real sad because, these days, so few of the guys are left, and those that are, lots of them can't make the trip." My heart was in my throat and I didn't know what to say.

I helped Shifty get onto the plane and then realized he was back in Coach while I was in First Class. I sent the flight attendant back to get him and said that I wanted to switch seats. When Shifty came forward, I got up out of the seat and told him I wanted him to have it, that I'd take his in coach.

He said "No, son, you enjoy that seat. Just knowing that there are still some who remember what we did and who still care is enough to make an old man very happy." His eyes were filling up as he said it. And mine are brimming up now as I write this.

Shifty died on June 17, 2009 after fighting cancer.

There was no parade.

No big event in Staples Center .

No wall to wall back to back 24x7 news coverage.

No weeping fans on television.

And that's not right.

Let's give Shifty his own Memorial Service, online, in our own quiet way. Please forward this email to everyone you know. Especially to the veterans.

Rest in peace, Shifty.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Mnemonics and how to remember a legal definition

P = Private place
O = Over 21
O = Only 2 persons
F = Freely consenting
That was the mnemonic that I was taught by the Metropolitan Police Training School, Hendon, in 1971, to help me remember the law regarding those occasions when I needed to decide if homosexual activity that I might have stumbled upon, would be lawful. Our class instructor even referred to it as, "The Poof's Charter". David Steel (who championed the Bill through Parliament) would not have been pleased, but at least the mnemonic helped me pass my exams, as well as accurately separate lawful acts of homosexuality from the other sorts. I took my duty as a guardian of public morals as pragmatically as I could, but most of my arrests, of this nature, were for offences of `importuning for immoral purposes`, the most common being cross-hand boogies in a public place whereby members of the public were offended or outraged. Simple stuff really. But the police don't have to deal with this sort of thing very much these days.
However, its now 2009 and my spies tell me that a sergeant in a police station meal room... somewhere... recently... in England, was watching `Match of the Day`. Arsenal scored a goal and the multi-millionaire sportsmen showed their appreciation in the usual way by showering each other with kisses and bum-gropes (don't know if tongues were being used, but perhaps a Sun reader has a pic on his mobile that will appear in a later edition and earn him a grand). The 26 yrs service sergeant got up and walked back to his duties, but just before he left the room he made the strategic error of all strategic errors and muttered that the Arsenal players were `just a bunch of poofs`. A PCSO present in the TV room reported him and he is now being investigated by a team from the professional standards department for Gross Misconduct, a discipline offence that could get him the sack. My spy also tells me that the PCSO had `an ongoing issue` with him as the sgt had been chasing said PCSO for poor timekeeping.
Perhaps the sgt was taught the law by the use of that same mnemonic, but was mistaken by the degree of sexual activity he'd witnessed? I mean they were certainly in a public place, there was more than two of them, some or all of them may have been under 21 and the consent may well have only been given because of peer pressure but either way, any of those four elements would set off the nick-ometer. If he was Hendon trained from that era he may just have a defence, but I think he'll struggle. As a West Ham supporter and someone who counts a number of homosexuals and lesbians as close personal friends, I am in something of a quandary over this one. My homosexual friend will often refer to his friends by saying things like, `Oh I was out with the poofs last night`. Now whilst I would never use that term to describe Arsenal footballers, I have occasionally been heard referring to them, in previous clashes with my beloved Hammers, as a bunch of cnuts, without any complaints. How times have changed. NB: PCSO, for any trans-Atlantic visitors to this, or other UK police type blogs, stands for Police Community Support Officer. Please Google it yourself, or read about them elsewhere on UK cop blogs, as I have to keep an eye on my blood pressure.