Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Christmas comes but once a year

It's been a cold Christmas up here in the North of England. I don't normally expect snow in December. January or February is less surprising but this time it came quite early and we had a `white` Christmas. I know Christmas is supposed to be about family reunion and all that and this year we were expecting Mrs H's parents on Christmas Eve, but a 'flu virus and a big dumping of snow and ice on their side of The Pennines stopped that plan in its tracks. Over this side of the mountains we'd had our heaviest snow a week earlier. As I may have mentioned once or twice, my means of transport is a motor cycle that, apart from the handlebar grips, has no heater, no windscreen wipers and no roof, but there wasn't a day when I didn't make it into work. Thankfully, most days the local council and the highways authority had done a pretty good job on the main roads. The most dicey part of my journey was the first and last 25 yards, these being getting out of and into our snowed-up communal courtyard via the un-treated, un-snowploughed road of our little hamlet. Finally escaping from work and getting home at 9.45pm on Christmas Eve was the only time I got stuck getting in and even then a final push from, a by now `Christmas spirited`, Mrs HD saw me wheelspin and fishtail the big 1150GS into the garage and put it to bed next to the already hibernating Harley Davidson, who doesn't like snow but who's still got `snow time` under its belt from before the BMW joined it in the stable. The main travel hazard was, of course, everyone else. The worst offenders around these parts are the `pseudo landed gentry` in their 4x4 BMW, Mercedes Benz and Porsche Cayenne armoured personnel carriers. On a pre-dawn walk last week I watched one of the aforementioned come waltzing around one of the sharp bends in our village, slide sideways and slam into the kerb, doing a nice alloy wheel no good at all. My dog looked on with disinterest as the driver got out, kicked at his wheel and then grunted something about `supposed to be bloody 4 wheel drive`. I grunted back something about, `it may have FWD but its only got road tyres and you as a driver - chunt`. Like a lot of his type, he probably thinks the damn thing should go round the bend at the same speed it always does, like the day before when there was no frigging snow on the road - I reiterate, `chunt`. Later that day I was waiting in line at the garage to pay for a tank of fuel and two of these hooray henry's were in front of me discussing the `jolly hairy` journey they'd just endured, getting thus far in their 40 grand Land Rover Discovery and BMW X5 respectively. The exchange was a rather sad urbanite fable of derring-do, slips, slides and how brilliant they were in the manly control of their behemoth kiddie transporters. Judging from the loafers they were wearing they certainly weren't farmers. Then they turned round and saw your truly, fully booted, spurred and helmeted with credit card in hand. I said I was really glad that I hadn't had to follow them as I only had `one wheel drive`. I got the usual look us bikers get from this sort, a look I imagine the first alien visitor from another world will get when it's unlucky enough to land on earth to ask for directions. But I digress, I started talking about the family reunion thing at Christmas. We eventually crossed The Pennines on Boxing Day, taking our seasonal gifts to Mrs HD's family and jolly nice it was to see them, even if it was very dicey getting into their almost cut off snowed in village - thankfully, we had a trusty old VW Polo 1.4 diesel with two wheel drive! But our Christmas Day was spent home alone, just us two, the two furbags and the muttley. We got up when we wanted, busied ourselves doing very little, opened our gifts by our little Christmas tree, walked the dog in the snow, freezing air and sunshine, went back to bed in the afternoon, got up after a doze, did very little again and then chatted on the phone to my son and daughter way down south, but the whole day was just us. An uncomplicated, relaxing day with me best gal by me side. Loved every minute of it. PS. Hope you enjoy a little bit of Woodstock. Much water under the bridge, eh?

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Amazing Car-crime Prevention Strategy - The Home Office may just go for it.

Renault and Ford are working on a new small car for women. They are combining the Clio and the Taurus, and calling it the "Clitaurus." It comes in pink, and the average male thief won't be able to find it, even if someone tells him where it's parked.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Ave Caesar, morituri te salutant - A Short Story of Guns and Young Boys in Police Uniform

My last course in tactical firearms training was in the mid `90’s up in West Yorkshire at one of the National Firearms Training Centres. It was a Tactical Advisers course and was to equip me to officially share some of the blame at any firearms incident that I was called to `tactically advise ` on. I chose to go to West Yorks because they’d been having quite a time and were one of the busiest forces outside London for firearms incidents and fatal shootings and I wanted to hear it from the principal officers as I was working on a policy for post incident procedures in my own force. By this time in my service I’d attended hundreds of firearms jobs, some very scary involving real guns loaded with real bullets being pointed at real people, but all of them, mercifully, resolved without a single shot being fired. The superintendent in charge of a division is officially in charge of everything, including firearms incidents, but superintendents were rarely trained or sufficiently experienced in such matters to be able to make the right decisions alone. Consequently a Tactical Adviser would be sent to liaise with them, give available options and generally enable the superintendent to sign up for the necessary actions to resolve the incident. It was that last bit that they seemed to find the most difficulty in coming to terms with, especially as they were expected to sign their name to agreed options. Many times I’ve seen a steady hand start to pause and quiver over that dotted line in the operations logbook. I was happy, as I’d speeded the introduction of that logbook to my force and those quavering hands always confirmed to me that it was the right thing to do. In fairness, there were a few supers` who one always hoped to work with, but they were in the minority. I’m sure things must be better now.

I had come a long way from my early years in the 70’s. I was authorised to use any weapon in my force’s arsenal including barricade penetrating chemical munitions (CS) and pyrotechnics (flash-bangs). I’d been trained to rescue hostages, to abseil from high places, be a rifleman (nice term for sniper) or a VIP protection officer, done jobs where my team had been transported into the fray by the military, via the briny in fast boats, and I’d worked alongside special forces commanders on tasks to help HM Customs to arrest armed drug runners. In fact, like most police forces these days, my unit was expected to handle any situation up to the point where our senior command, out of technical necessity, would hand it all over to the military for the final, violent solution. In my latter years on the Tac Team I would occasionally catch a glimpse of myself reflected in a window and find myself wondering how the hell I’d ended up dressed up like I was about to parachute into a war zone. How indeed? Well it all started a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

An armed London policeman on patrol was nothing new, even in the 70’s. In fact, right up until the start of WW2, any Met police officer, `suitably experienced`, was entitled to draw a revolver if they wished, but for some strange reason only on nights. The long held belief that our police are unique in being `unarmed` has always been slightly at odds with the real history of British policing although it was true that for the vast majority of officers it was truncheons only. My first station in Metropolis, always had the highest concentration of armed policemen deployed on the streets of Britain.

It has never been part of the job spec’ of a British police officer to carry a firearm and it still isn’t. You have to volunteer. If and when you were earmarked for what used to be called the “Defensive Weapons Course” you always had the option to decline it. Courses were run at Old Street police station, a place that even today is still very much associated with the Met’s firearms unit, CO19. By current standards the course was incredibly short, a mere 5 days duration, and focussed almost totally on marksmanship and weapon drills. If there was any training in tactical planning I certainly don’t remember it although we did do some sessions on building searches for armed suspects that was quite exciting and the closest we came to confronting a realistic threat rather than just a paper target. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was taking the first steps into what would be many years of armed policing and the scope and intensity of the training I would receive over the following 20 years was probably beyond the imagination of most senior officers of that generation. For me and my mates on the front line, the need for the Met to seriously professionalise its approach to firearms operations was already evident and a subject that was often discussed after live incidents, which were many and varied.

Although I had definitely not volunteered and certainly didn’t put pen to paper requesting it, I suddenly discovered I was delegated to attend a defensive weapons course a couple of months before my 2 years probation was up, so I assumed my bosses felt I was definitely in the police for the full pension. In fact, during my entire 30-year career I never once asked to be considered for firearms training, I was always approached and asked if I would consider doing it. It was April 1973, I was 20 years and 10 months old and had been in the force for just 22 months when I arrived at the hallowed Victorian halls of Old Street police station. One of the first things the weapons training staff did, even before the first tea break, was to state in very sombre terms that this training was voluntary and that if anyone was not willing to carry a firearm and if necessary use it with the probable consequences of killing someone, they were free to leave without further ado and with their honour and character unblemished. To my surprise a PC stood up, said `Thank you very much` and walked out. One of the class reckoned he was a stooge planted by the staff to see how we’d react. There followed a pregnant pause, just like when the vicar at a wedding asks if anyone knows why the couple shouldn’t be married. I kept schtum. There was no way I was going to turn this one down.

Our two instructors had the bearing of a couple of old soldiers and so I wasn’t surprised when the first one, a wiry bloke with a friendly face confidently introduced himself as Nick, followed by an emphatic, “ex Royal Marines”. Our other instructor was Chris, who seemed a little older and sterner. Nick looked fit for his age and Chris had a capable manner and I’d quickly concluded that I wouldn’t argue with either of them. We were in the classroom for the morning and the first session was on the law and the use of force that, frankly, left me no more enlightened than when I heard it the first time during my basic training at Hendon. This whole use of force thing seemed ambiguous, couched in case law and numerous judge’s opinions and left me with the uneasy feeling that as a police officer, particularly an armed police officer, I was going to be permanently out on a limb and if the shit did hit the fan I’d be on my bloody own. The fact that this issue is still being argued about 35 years later confirms how right that feeling was.

After lunch we were divided into two groups, with officers from A Division and Special Branch (SB) forming group one, whilst the remainder became group two. This was because `Royal` A and SB would carry the Walther PP 9mm semi-automatic or `self-loading` pistol (SLP). The other poor sods would end up with the archaic Mark 4 Webley .38 revolver, which was actually considered obsolete decades earlier. Its muzzle velocity was so slow that on an outdoor range, at a target 50 yards away, you could often see the bullet wafting down the range towards the target! The Walther PP, however, was altogether more stylish and is almost identical to James Bond’s favourite, the Walther PPK. The only difference is that the PP is about an inch longer where it counts, in the barrel. (Sorry Bond fans!) `PP` stands for Pistole Polizei and `K` for Kurz or `short`. I would soon be using this fact to great advantage, impressing anyone who showed the remotest interest by telling them that my PP was bigger than James Bond’s.

The reason for its issue to A and SB officers was simple - we would be carrying daily and the Walther was more compact and therefore more easily concealed. In those days the Home Office and the police bosses didn’t feel that openly displaying firearms was appropriate. This need to protect public sensibilities was probably understandable to anyone who didn’t have the responsibility of carrying a firearm on the sharpest edge of the front line but with the appalling holsters we were issued with it just gave a few more seconds advantage to a would be attacker. Not only that, but there was no such thing as body armour, I mean the stuff had only just recently been issued to the bloody Army in Northern Ireland so why the hell should the plods get any? Despite this, there was never any outcry or demands from the Police Federation, whose Reps were not amongst the ranks of armed officers, we just got on with the job. We were clearly not expected to have the drop on the villains and the conclusion we drew was that it was clearly preferable, and far easier, for the organisation to square up a dead copper than it was a dead villain, or worse an innocent member of the public. And it seemed that nowhere in this mish-mash of blame were any references made to senior officers taking any responsibility at shooting incidents. Once again, how right we were to feel suspicious.

Before we could get our hands on the Walther we had to clear the first hurdle, handling the smaller, less powerful but quite deadly High Standard .22 calibre SLP. The lesser mortals went straight onto the Webley revolver, as the drills required were far less complex. I say `lesser mortals` because it was becoming obvious that us `Walther` men had started to develop a distinct air of superiority. I swear some were already developing their own `Walther walk` and Hollywood poses that would doubtless be practised later that night in front of bathroom mirrors or before bemused wives and girlfriends!

Although I don’t want to get bogged down with the technicalities and science of pistol shooting, I do feel it is appropriate to explain a little of what we were up to and to dispel any thoughts that this was an easy discipline to master, although some took to it more naturally than others. By day 2 both groups were on their respective `full bore` weapons and we were all hitting our targets at up to 25 yards and with varying degrees of accuracy. Initially, the Webley men had an easier time of things as this tired but trusty old warhorse had only two basic drills, `load and fire` (aiming is not a muscle-memory `drill` which is why I didn’t include that one). The Walther required a good deal more dexterity as not only did it have a 7-round magazine to load but there was also the matter of pulling the slide back or `making ready` followed by a controlled lowering of the hammer and flicking the safety catch off, using both thumbs, before holstering the pistol ready to rock and roll. This mode of carrying was unofficially referred to as “one up the spout, safety off” and although sounding a trifle risqué to the casual observer it meant that the first round could be fired without having to first release the safety catch, a useful contingency when you are facing a near-death experience. For this first shot the trigger pull was very long and required 12-14 lbs pressure, just like a revolver which doesn’t have a safety catch anyway because the heavy trigger pull is considered a safety feature in its own right. But for us Walther men, the real bonus was that it gave you a vital extra second and one less drill to worry about if the world suddenly went pear shaped and you had to draw and fire to save a life. Cocking a gun’s hammer back reduces the trigger pressure to a frighteningly light 2-3lbs, the merest twitch of the finger. It is not recommended as it can result in an unintentional bang, as many negligent shooters will have experienced. Cocking the hammer is only reserved for carefully aimed shots when you have time and cover or you are an actor and the director wants you to look more butch in the scene. For this very reason of not wanting negligent discharges (and doubtless to prevent officers from doing a `Hollywood`) many SLP’s currently issued to police forces are `double action only` models, but more about negligent discharges later.

By day 5 we had each fired hundreds of rounds at numerous targets in a variety of stances; standing, sitting, kneeling, prone and even using our weak hand. We were told that officers had been known to get shot in their good arm during confrontations and so we needed to be capable of shooting accurately with our weak hand – these guys thought of everything. I remember someone asking what we should do if the Walther suffered a stoppage and we only had one hand working, as you’d need your spare hand to operate the slide to clear the stoppage – I thought that was a great lateral thinkers question as that little problem would be a bloody nightmare. We were told that stoppages were rare and in any case there wasn’t time to show us on this course, but that it would be covered in our follow-up training. It never was, but that great lateral question would be answered sooner than any of us realised. Within a year the excellent Walther PP would be withdrawn after an incident during which HRH Princess Anne’s personal protection officer, Inspector John Beaton of Special Branch, would be shot, along with my colleague PC Mick Hills from Cannon Row and the Royal chauffeur. A deranged man named Ian Ball, armed with a revolver and an SLP, would attempt to kidnap `HRH` in The Mall. 3 bullets, the first of which would incapacitate an arm, would hit John Beaton. He would manage to get off one shot before his Walther PP would suffer a stoppage that he would not be physically capable of clearing. Ball is still locked up, claiming his conviction was down to an error in the way the police recorded the date of the incident, getting the wrong year on all their statements and incident logs. A truly inspired argument. He must have been referred to a top defence barrister. Maybe one day he'll be released. Maybe he would have been already had he not picked on the Queens daughter?

Not being equipped with the foresight of the vulnerability of the Walther’s magazine spring, we carried on working our pistols for all we were worth and by the final day our hands had sores and calluses from operating the pistol’s mechanisms. We were ready for our final exercise and the crucial qualification shoot that would ultimately decide if we were to become Authorised Firearms Officers (AFO’s). The only tactical exercise I can remember us doing was, by today’s police weapons training regimes, hopelessly inadequate but nonetheless was better than nothing and actually quite well put together. It certainly generated some stress, that’s for sure. The training area at Old Street Police Station had a series of rooms that were connected by doors. Each was set up to represent a room in a private dwelling. At the start point we were briefed that there had been a post office blagging and someone had been seen going in to these premises with what looked like a gun. Our task was to work our way through each room and react to whatever happened before us, just like it would be if we did it for real – in what could be a few days time as newly qualified AFO’s, just us, no body armour, no ballistic helmet (these `essentials` wouldn’t appear for nearly a decade) - simple as that.

Our instructors were clearly on a tight budget but they were nothing if not innovative and had set up some very ingenious targets. They would yank wires or throw switches, causing the targets to appear before us (or behind us if we missed checking a wardrobe). Some were unarmed `no shoots` and others were very definitely armed and dangerous, well deserving of two rounds at five pence apiece. This exercise was as much to test our judgment as our nerve and marksmanship and although the set-up was crude compared to the multi-million pound digital systems that now adorn police ranges up and down the country, it was all we had and it got our adrenaline flowing. As well as the spring-loaded targets there was a crude sound system that played pre-recorded conversations and various threatening noises. We were supposed to identify the threat presented to us and then deal with it `appropriately`. For this exercise our guns were loaded with wax bullets. This was a `home made` concoction of melted candle wax set hard in brass `empties`, re-fitted with primer caps that had just enough oomph to project the hard wax `bullet` onto the target, with remarkably good accuracy up to about twenty feet. Walther men had to use a revolver, as the primer cap was not powerful enough to work the self-loading action of the pistol.

We each took our turn at working our way through the dimly lit exercise rooms, issuing verbal challenges and snapping off paired shots when we thought it was appropriate. I had a pretty straightforward time and having been ambushed by both armed and unarmed `targets` I had reacted well to both sorts, which had settled my nerves by the time I’d got to the final room. I re-loaded my Webley and wiped the sweat from my eyes before shouting, `armed police` and booting the door open. They had clearly saved their best room to last for as soon as I stepped in, a mannequin target holding a sawn-off shotgun sprang up from behind a sofa. I quickly engaged it, dropping into a combat stance, pushing out the gun in a two handed grip and bringing it up until it broke my line of vision before snapping off two rapid shots, scoring a nice pair of hits mid-torso. There was much shouting and screaming from the back of the room, which sounded to me like criminals attacking terrified hostages. As I shouted another challenge and moved to the right, a second `villain` appeared to my left wielding a huge bowie knife. I snapped another pair of shots off and two more waxy splats appeared on the mad axeman’s chest – I was a killing machine! As I took cover behind an old filing cabinet, the final target was about to appear. At least I hoped it was the final target as I only had two shots left. There was more shouting and screaming followed by the sound of heavy footsteps on stairs. Suddenly a target rumbled into sight from the darkness at top of a staircase. I whipped up the Webley and was about to snap off my final pair of rounds when something made me check myself and I simply dropped down behind the cover of the filing cabinet, keeping the gun on aim but not firing, unsure if I had done the right thing. The instructor suddenly boomed out “ENDEX, ENDEX` which I later found out meant that the exercise was all over – Nick was in the Royal marines again.

Despite the lights coming back up to full brightness the room still seemed dim and I still couldn’t see the last target all that clearly but then I suddenly got that sinking feeling. I had cocked up. As I surveyed it from my position, squinting through the yellow light of a couple of meagre 40 watt bulbs, I could clearly see that it’s chest was full of recently patched up holes from my previous colleagues marksmanship, but I had not fired at this target. Shit! Nick talked me through my first two rooms and he seemed well pleased with my efforts, including the `no shoot` targets that I had clearly identified and whose lives I’d spared. But what would he say about the last one, the one with all the holes in it, the one that I’d failed to shoot? He seemed highly amused and a little surprised because the first thing he said to me was, “Nearly everyone shoots that one, especially the blokes from the Sweeney for some reason”, referring to the `legendary` Flying Squad. “Nice to see you got that one right, well spotted son”. I was quietly relieved. It was a `no shoot` after all. The trouble was that in all the excitement I still wasn’t sure why but had the nouse not to admit it, especially after Nick’s glowing critique. Trying not to make it too obvious, I casually strolled over for a closer look and then it all became crystal clear. I had actually been confronted by a life-sized effigy of a vicar, complete with dog collar and crucifix and brandishing the Holy Bible in a threatening manner – no wonder the Flying Squad blokes had filled him full of holes.

For the final qualification shoot I managed to drop only two shots out of fifty fired, a score that classified me as a `marksman`. That title always puzzled me as I figured, how could a `marksman` be allowed to miss a couple? I soon learned what a difference it was when fear of imminent death was entered into the equation, but this could never be re-created in a training range – never. Anyway, I was elated to have passed the course. Less than twenty four hours later I was in `Alpha 102`, the Met’s only armed response vehicle, knowing that if there was an urgent call to an armed job anywhere in Central London, I was likely as not to be the first AFO on the scene. I relished the challenge and hadn’t even heard of body armour. I was two months short of my 21st birthday and earning 20 pounds a week.

Winter Arrived Yesterday - It's Grim Up North

Took these snaps on our usual walk. 2 minutes from my garden gate. I can't grumble at my surroundings. North Yorkshire is the most beautiful county I've lived in, so far. However, the `Beemer` comes out later this morning and I ride it into work, because I believe the local and County Council when they tell me they have gritted the roads. `I'll dip my toe` before I decide I have to resort to a £4 bus ride @ £1 a mile. OK, I fibbed a bit, the first pic is my pal shovelling snow off his drive in Newmarket, Ontario, last March!!! OK, I fibbed again. Actually, it's his wife!! What a pal, what a man! (Sorry John, but you're just asking to be `outed` for this).

Friday, 18 December 2009

Hah, Bumhug, and mobile phones

I'm typing this out, at home, in the middle of our third blizzard in less than 24 hours. Being England, a blizzard is not like the ones my cousin Jane gets in Cobourg, Ontario, in the depths of their winter, but for me, the last 18 hours has seen a lot of heavy snow falling and swirling, with the air thick white and visibility down to just over 100 yards. Quite a bit has settled around here, the garden is under about 4", although a text just in from Mrs HD says that 4 miles up the road and it's all stopped - the snowing, that is. Aha, a snow plough has just trundled through the village. I may yet ride to work later. Its nearly the Christmas holidays. I'm in a bit of a quandary over this time of year. Not a religeous type, having lost my faith many years ago, I still enjoy the Christian celebrations and give due deference to them and the faithful of other persuasions. But I do not like the commerce of our Christmas, one little bit. Yesterday, during my Pilates class, the coach was playing `Christmas` songs instead of the usual background music. As song after song played, I could hear two ladies in the class identifying each tune with a TV commercial - "Oh this is lovely, the Marks and Spencers ad` or ` Isn't this one Tesco's?` My feelings were nicely encapsulated in an editorial written by an acquaintence of mine in the latest publication of the quarterly magazine of a motorcycle orgainisation I have supported, sporadically, over 3 decades - The Motorcycle Action Group or `MAG`. The magazine, "The Road", is a very entertaining and sensible read, probably because its editor Ian Mutch, one of the founders of MAG, is also a very sensible and entertaining fellow and several times published author of books for the discerning biker. He was recently treated to a thug driver's violent abuse as they almost met on a London road junction, Ian being on his trusty pedal cycle at the time - his other bike is a Harley. It was of particular relevance to me, as a `white-van man` tried to unknowingly hospitalise me yesterday as he blathered away, his mobile phone clamped to his left ear, whilst negotiating a mini roundabout, left hand struggling with the steering wheel and indicators (which is why the direction indicator signal never came). Thank you, BMW, for those fabulous anti-lock brakes on my `other` bike, that big 1150GS. I got the 0800 number on the van, together with the vehicles fleet i/d that invited me to grass up any crap driving, so I rang it when I got the chance. I actually got through and a nice Northern lass was most supportive and sympathetic. I expect nothing as usual, so that I won't be disappointed, but I wanted to play my part in trying to prevent an unnecessary death further down the road. I have reproduced Ian's sentiments below, in italics, with his permission. If you're a biker, JOIN MAG! Speaking of crashing, a motorist tried to kill me on my bicycle recently. You know how you can tell when someone is approaching a junction too fast with that `I really can't be bothered braking` message coming at you loud and clear. I slow right down in these situations to broaden my options and did so on this occasion. To my surprise the driver did brake and virtually stopped and then when I was six feet from his bonnet, hit the gas, spun his wheels and charged forward. I was at walking speed by now and with brakes that can stop me on a sixpence I was able to stand the bike on its front wheel as the madman shot in front of me with microns to spare. My tirade of abuse provoked him to slam on his brakes, stick his hideous head out the window and challenge me to a fight. He acted like a total psycho and inviting him to apologise produced nothing but more violent threats so I took his registration and called the police. Most people will ask what the point in that was, since they will do nothing. In fairness, without a witness what can they do but check him out and hope that they catch him at home unloading Kalashnikovs from his boot. (HD: No Ian, they won't even do that). (This is the Christmas bit) Worse than violent thugs is my local supermarket which has had a life sized animated Father Christmas waving his arms and yo ho ho`ing at me since Nov 7th. I detest the commercialisation of the birth of Christ. Actually, I resent the premature celebration of everything as if life is too dull to be savoured for itself, without carrots of excess forever being dangled before ones slavering faces on the most insincere of pretexts. And as if jolly mannekins and homicidal thugs bring insufficient misery, I've just heard the police in Sussex are stopping bikers who aren't wearing hi-vis kit and giving them orange vests. Come back Father Christmas, all is forgiven. That sentiment in bold italics did it for me. Well said Ian. But at least the Sussex police weren't giving out sensible shoes and blankets to pissed women tottering home in the wee small hours in micro dresses and transparent knickers. By the way, I hope you enjoy the bit of classic Johnny Cash and friends at the top. Ride it safe. Do check out the below links: Motorcycle Action Group Bikerlifestyle Pics

Saturday, 12 December 2009

A Pledge, A Pledge, my Kingdom for a Pledge!

Spare a thought for a guy I know well, a serving police officer of over 24 years experience. A frontline officer for most of his service, he's been battling with a nasty medical condition that's laid him very low. He has had quite a bit of time off on sick leave with it, but seems to be winning the fight and is much better, although the force Medical Officer has deemed that he needs regular hours to aid his recovery and continued well being. This has resulted in him coming off his beloved beat work. However, he feels his fate may be worse than death, as he is now in fear of being posted into a department...yes, thats right a department that ensures the implementation of....THE PLEDGE (Bollocks don't come in much bigger loads than this). Faced with the prospect of joining the `team` that has the heavy responsibility of, amongst other things, thinking up slogans and creating stickers that say "Drive to Arrive", to then be stuck in all the police vehicles in the fleet, he fears he may soon be in the queue for stress counselling, something he never thought he'd need. I wonder if this bloody Pledge and its stickers is what Home Sec. Alan Johnson's 10% cut in overtime is paying for? Or perhaps we should all just go to church and pray for common sense guidance to prevail. Well it's what Tony Blair did in a crisis, wasn't it?

Cool Hand Hogday?

Job Title: Community Service Supervisors
Job Type: Contract / Part - Time
Job Location:
Job Salary: £10 per hour
Job Benefits:
Job Employer: Criminal Justice Skills
Job Skills:
Our client, a high performing Probation Area, has an urgent requirement for Community Service Supervisors This is a superb opportunity for those who are looking for a part time role to help keep them busy! Successful candidates will have previous experience of working with offenders and come from a Police, Probation, Youth Offending or Housing backgrounds. You should also have practical experience of work such as Gardening, DIY, decorating etc Your main duties will include supervising a team of offenders (up to 6) while carrying out community service tasks including gardening, litter picking or ground clearance. No previous experience is necessary as on the job training will be given. This is a contract position starting ASAP I didn't realise that crime pays £10 an hour? The above job spec was sent to me today. Sadly, I never had time to pick up any decent gardening skills during my police career and my DiY is strictly `do it for Myself`, so I won't be applying for this one - unless, of course, I get to sit on a horse, wear a cowboy hat and mirrored sunglasses and carry a Winchester .30 30 rifle

Monday, 7 December 2009

RIP Richard Todd

It was with sadness, as I was driving to the south of England last Friday, that I heard of the death of the British actor, Richard Todd. Apart from being a star of the silver screen of his generation, Richard Todd was also a war hero, a role he played down with considerable modesty.
He was one of the first allied soldiers to land in France on D-Day, June 6th 1944, at a little past midnight. He was an officer of the Airborne who supported the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry who's combined exploits that night were, by any measure of bravery, skill and daring, utterly breathtaking. I blogged about this quite some time ago so will link it here should anyone wish to read it again. In the famous Hollywood film, "The Longest Day", Todd played the leader of that outstanding foray into occupied France, Major John Howard, so his role in the film was something of particular significance and poignancy.
But what really piqued me was the way the BBC News on Radio 2 announced it. Some may call me a pedantic old fart, but when it comes to reporting on anything connected with what was one of the greatest Coup de Mains in history I expect, for the sake of the preservation of the memory of Richard Todd and those who embarked with him, that the bloody Beeb give greater detail to this utterly remarkable feat of arms. Lest we forget, or cause this generation to fail to grasp it in the first place.
"Up the Ox and Bucks!!"

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Keep fit techniques for those `hard to convince` groups

You never know, if we can con people into driving considerately, we may even find a cure for `road rage` and high blood pressure as well....

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Money's tight, times is hard, here's your bloody Christmas card

The Rocking Song Little Jesus, sweetly sleep, do not stir; We will lend a coat of fur, We will rock you, rock you, rock you, We will rock you, rock you, rock you: Fur is no longer appropriate wear for small infants, both due to risk of allergy to animal fur, and for ethical reasons. Therefore faux fur, a nice cellular blanket or perhaps micro-fleece material should be considered a suitable alternative. Please note, only persons who have been subject to a Criminal Records Bureau check and have enhanced clearance will be permitted to rock baby Jesus. Persons must carry their CRB disclosure with them at all times and be prepared to provide three forms of identification before rocking commences. Jingle Bells Dashing through the snow In a one horse open sleigh O'er the fields we go Laughing all the way A risk assessment must be submitted before an open sleigh is considered safe for members of the public to travel on. The risk assessment must also consider whether it is appropriate to use only one horse for such a venture, particularly if passengers are of larger proportions. Please note, permission must be gained from landowners before entering their fields. To avoid offending those not participating in celebrations, we would request that laughter is moderate only and not loud enough to be considered a noise nuisance. While Shepherds Watched While shepherds watched Their flocks by night All seated on the ground The angel of the Lord came down And glory shone around The union of Shepherds has complained that it breaches health and safety regulations to insist that shepherds watch their flocks without appropriate seating arrangements being provided, therefore benches, stools and orthopaedic chairs are now available. Shepherds have also requested that due to the inclement weather conditions at this time of year that they should watch their flocks via cctv cameras from centrally heated shepherd observation huts. Please note, the angel of the lord is reminded that before shining his / her glory all around she / he must ascertain that all shepherds have been issued with glasses capable of filtering out the harmful effects of UVA, UVB and Glory. Little Donkey Little donkey, little donkey on the dusty road Got to keep on plodding onwards with your precious load The RSPCA have issued strict guidelines with regard to how heavy a load that a donkey of small stature is permitted to carry, also included in the guidelines is guidance regarding how often to feed the donkey and how many rest breaks are required over a four hour plodding period. Please note that due to the increased risk of pollution from the dusty road, Mary and Joseph are required to wear face masks to prevent inhalation of any airborne particles. The donkey has expressed his discomfort at being labelled 'little' and would prefer just to be simply referred to as Mr. Donkey. To comment upon his height or lack thereof may be considered an infringement of his equine rights. We Three Kings We three kings of Orient are Bearing gifts we traverse afar Field and fountain, moor and mountain Following yonder star Whilst the gift of gold is still considered acceptable - as it may be redeemed at a later date through such organisations as 'cash for gold' etc, gifts of frankincense and myrrh are not appropriate due to the potential risk of oils and fragrances causing allergic reactions. A suggested gift alternative would be to make a donation to a worthy cause in the recipient’s name or perhaps give a gift voucher. We would not advise that the traversing kings rely on navigation by stars in order to reach their destinations and suggest the use of RAC routefinder or satellite navigation, which will provide the quickest route and advice regarding fuel consumption. Please note as per the guidelines from the RSPCA for Mr Donkey, the camels carrying the three kings of Orient will require regular food and rest breaks. Facemasks for the three kings are also advisable due to the likelihood of dust from the camels’ hooves. Rudolph the red nosed reindeer Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer had a very shiny nose. And if you ever saw him, you would even say it glows. You are advised that under the Equal Opportunities for All policy, it is inappropriate for persons to make comment with regard to the ruddiness of any part of Mr. R. Reindeer. Further to this, exclusion of Mr R Reindeer from the Reindeer Games will be considered discriminatory and disciplinary action will be taken against those found guilty of this offence. A full investigation will be implemented and sanctions - including suspension on full pay - will be considered whilst this investigation takes place.