Sunday, 23 December 2012

"Plebgate", "Dis'gate", "Bitchgate", "Comebackgate" "He said..they said.. yeah but no but yeah gate" - "Christmasgate?",anyone?

In my 30 years as a police officer I collected a few complaints, very few in fact. Some might argue that if you don't book or arrest anyone you'll never get a complaint - well that's probably true to a point, but then again every station has its `most complained about officer` who in my day was usually the one with the most arrests for obstructing/assaulting police. Whatever the arguments, there was always one's sergeant and inspector to ensure that all gladiators faced the games of the day or night well presented and with a cheerful chant of "Ave, Imperator, morituri te salutant".

  The one complaint I always remember this time of year resulted from me covering that vital part of the service that has been progressively handed over to non-police employees, the place where impressions are formed and reputations won and lost, usually within minutes of each other. Of course I'm talking about the front office in the police station, the public counter, the centre of advice, the fountain of all knowledge and the epicentre of cheery smiles and jolly banter. These days I think there is an award for anyone who finds such a place - and two awards if it happens to be open, but whoever performs such a role has my utmost respect.

I was covering the desk for a mere 5 minutes while the regular guy went into the crime property office to recover something to be returned to a rightful owner. This procedure was often accompanied by the comment, "I've almost forgotten what it looks like" from the poor victim, whose chattels had been gathering the, by now, thick dust of the snail's-paced criminal justice process. A ruddy faced man marched through what was, at the time, our brand new police station's glass double front door into the spacious atrium designed by the same architect that got the County contract for any new doctors surgeries, infants schools and courthouses. Apparently these other establishments' glass double-fronted doors lasted quite a bit longer than ours did. The previous police station's big wooden door had survived since 1840.

Mr. `ruddyface` wanted service and he wanted it now. I was in the process of taking details of someone's driving documents when the man decided that his case was more important and started to muscle in and interrupt me and told me that if I prioritised their respective cases it would be obvious that he should be dealt with immediately. I asked if he was reporting a crime in progress, someone bleeding or choking or any sort of life-threatening incident. He wasn't. He had suffered a burglary whilst he had been away for a few days but in his mind this took priority over some bloke who had been booked for a traffic offence. I told him another five minutes or so wouldn't make a difference and to wait his turn. He stood and fumed, theatrically.

I had made an error. It was under five minutes before he had my undivided attention. I took the report of his `burglary` which turned out to be the theft of garden tools from his garden shed (left unlocked). Nevertheless, these thieving bastards needed to be caught and punished, preferably by flogging or perhaps a day padlocked in the town stocks and then pelted with rotten apples. When I said it was unlikely that I could accede to his request to dispatch a detective and forensics expert immediately, he really flew off into a purple faced rant. I completed his report, told him an officer would be allocated the job and would be in touch in due course. As it was the day before Christmas Eve I said that although the station would be on `minimum cover` over the holiday, he might be contacted within a few days, although I would have circulated details of the stolen property within the hour. He told me he was a television executive and was too busy over Christmas and anyway he would be in Barbados for two weeks and not to contact him until January 6th. And I thought it was urgent?

Actually, `minimum cover` was a bit of a joke, as it still is today. In reality, this meant that over a 24 hour period covered by three shifts, instead of having four officers per shift covering 120 square miles of a small country town and numerous villages and hamlets, there would only be two per shift. `Minimum cover` was relative and whoever it was that set this imaginary number over Christmas had clearly never worked at Christmas themself, with its good will to all, punchy drunks, the heartbreaking domestic violence incidents and sudden death calls. I wished Mr telly exec` a `Happy Christmas` as he left the station. He thought I was being sarcastic and later that day made a formal complaint against me. My chief inspector dealt with it `informally` (before `informal resolution` to complaints was actually invented and made part of the process) and when we spoke in his office the next day, Christmas Eve, just before we both booked off duty, he gave me `advice` a handshake, a glass of scotch and wished me a Happy Christmas. (I think he was being sarcastic though).

On my first Christmas Eve as a sergeant, me and my five officers dealt with ten or fifteen 999 emergency calls, and other calls in between, in the forty five minutes leading up to midnight, finishing off by bouncing fighting drunks from the town centre church at midnight mass. By 0100 I was down to three officers for the rest of the night shift. A domestic `seige` followed a brief respite, where a drunken husband had seriously assaulted his wife and then barricaded himself into his garage with his `rifle` and the family dog as hostage. We resolved this as he poked what we identified as an air rifle out of the door far enough for my trusty local beat officer to break his wrist with a short sharp blow from his lignum vitae truncheon. Job done. The man complained later about the use of excessive force, but at least it wasn't me who delivered the blow. Had it become protracted I would probably have had to respond in my other role as duty team sergeant on the force tactical fireams unit, with greater force options at my disposal. I was lucky. So was he.

Over the last few days I have read such sorry tales of woe over this `plebgate` debacle and what has been variously described as the total breakdown of trust between the police and our (Conservative) Government. It has left me sick at heart for the job I did for half my life. I cannot recall such systematic bitching and crafted tactical press `briefings` and `between the lines` innuendo's of such finely tuned quality before. I hope my modern day counterparts can rise above it, just as we did in the 70's, 80`s and 90`s, but it is bad and this country can do without this shit. And if someone has `stitched up` the former Government Chief Whip, then they shouldn't have. If the course of justice has been perverted, the guilty (all of them) should face justice.

 My sister even telephoned me very late at night (I was actually in bed) earlier this week to ask me if I knew it was all being debated `right now` on "Newsnight". Now, there's a dichotomy!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Don't try this at a marina near you

Slow speed control is a skill that requires practice, balance, practice, practice....... and a yacht.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Farewell Ferg

MAG lost a big big brother last week - Wherever you are, Ferg, enjoy the ride.

500 bikers to see him off, that would have included, police officers, lawyers, nurses and other health care workers, retail workers, clericals, engineers, military, mums, dads, whoever - Ferg was known by many and his `church` was broad indeed.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

T'is the season.....

Headed south at the weekend and took my four and a half  yr old grandson to "Santa's Grotto" on Saturday, which on this occasion was located in a classroom in his school.

We'd just got to the front of the queue, next to the beautifully crafted `North Pole` setting (and some elves) when the lad lost his bottle and backed out in front of `L'homme en rouge`.
I always used to pride myself on my quick thinking and sound decision making under stress and so I did what any good grandad would do, I told him that it wasn’t really santa, just some bloke dressed up in red, wearing a false beard and wellies and that I pulled the self same stunt nearly 30 years ago at a similar event and managed to con his uncle (my son) and 30 other kids into thinking I was Father Christmas. That did the trick and on our second approach we nailed it, got the picture and the present.
Ok, ok, so I bubbled Santa, but I was getting desperate and the lad has to learn sometime.

Friday, 7 December 2012

A question of honour?

The puerile call made to the hospital looking after the Duchess of Cambridge seemed hilarious to some, in particular the two Australian yahoo's that did it. It wasn't funny and it certainly wasn't clever although those two pricks seemed to think so.

Systems should have been in place to ensure that such things (common enough) could not happen. They usually are, when people with even a moderate threat assessment are involved. A simple solution usually involves the use of a simple password, known only to the principals and those very close to them. My short post a few days ago, on this incident, made that aformentioned point. The fact that people in the chain of events who were solely employed to look after the well being of patients in hospital were subjected to this failure is part of a greater failing completely outside their remit - and that should have been made clear to them from the outset.

Blame is like flying shrapnel and can be indiscriminate. Managers are there to shield their subordinates from this, to keep the paths of the frontline workers clear of obstructions so as to enable them to get on with their work and to support them when systemic failures occur - in health care everything else is subordinate to the care of the patient, or should be. I'm sure the manager of the Aussie radio station will be looking out for the mental anguish of his/her `subordinates in their time of anguish, once they are woken up with this news. For a dedicated nurse who took this failure very personally, a woman of honour, it is too late. 

As a dear departed friend would have said, `It is to weep`.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

If it moves.....

Just got back from walking the Jack Rascal Terrorist across seriously frozen fields. The road outside Chez Hogday was solid ice which set in around 9pm last night. You could tell that from the sound of passing cars and their revving engines and spinning wheels. Generally, the drivers of said vehicles around these parts tend to be newly graduated wankers playing `rally driver` in either their parents car or in some old hacker with a dustbin sized exhaust tailpipe, a plastic fin across the boot lid and an insurance premium that exceeds the value of the vehicle to the power of ten.

I was up at 06 double-O to make the sexydelicious Mrs HD her breakfast of porridge, sliced peaches, Lyles Golden Syrup and a mug of builders tea. I then wrapped up, nipped outside and scraped the ice from the widscreen, side windows and lights of her car, finally starting it up and setting the heating to full before she set off for work. Once the dawn broke I was out with the pooch and striding up the frozen road for a klick before striking out across the wide open spaces.

We noticed a particularly large number of these guys creeping through hedges and across drainage ditches before twigging our presence and then sprinting off into the sunrise. The JRT loves to chase but when these guys change into second, with 3 more gears to go, and he realises he's in overdrive with nothing left to draw on, he stops. JRT's are always dotty but rarely stupid. Then we heard the guns, at least six, probably a dozen, banging away about quarter of a mile distant, beyond a small copse, accompanied by a chorus of canine yelps. There was a hare shoot in progress. The JRT heard all of the aforementioned but refused to translate the barking for me. He likes to keep some things a secret. I think it gives him a sense of power and control over me.

I used to rough shoot, I used to clay shoot, I used to wildfowl. One thing I never did was shoot handguns in a gun club, before handguns were banned, as I felt no need. I was kept well trained in small arms by the police and when you've been trained to shoot at human beings, knowing that your point of aim and the weapons you were using could be terminally detrimental to their vital organs and then trained for the far more difficult task of assessing when not to, you tended to lose the desire to do things, like paintballing, for fun. I also lost my desire to hunt. It happened almost overnight. I just decided one day that it was over for me. I sold my two remaining shotguns, a Savage Stevens pump action and a Greener GP with its beautiful Martini action. I bought a decent camera and started photographing wildlife. My Labrador retriever became a non-working dog overnight. He took to his new life like a Labrador takes to water.

I went on a hare shoot once. My former in-laws were all rustics working in agriculture, more agri than culture. We turned up at the shoot and one of my brother in laws friends looked at me and said, "Is he safe"? He was assured I was. Later that morning this rustic was banging away with a Remington 1100 semi automatic shotgun (very `sporting`) at a jinking hare that was running straight at the line of guns. Safety rules dictated that one stops shooting when it runs towards the gunline but young Clem's adrenaline was up. He was swinging his aim towards me and I heard, rather than saw, his last shot as I dived to the deck and covered my head. Someone had a quiet word with him and he looked a little sheepish. If he'd looked a little hare'ish I'd have considered a snap shot in his general direction.

I learned that country types may have a born right to shoot on their land but they don't have the born skill to do so, that comes with training and experience. However, what is most worrying is that his type always think they're so bloody good with a shotgun.

Arise,, wait a minute...

A lifetime of public service, no previous convictions, never kissed the Director General of the BBC....
so what does a guy have to do do get nominated for an MBE around here???????

(The original version of this was created by Marty Feldman and performed with Tim Brooke-Taylor)

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Sexy photos, drugs and penis enlargement

Sorry about the above offers that I seem to be getting sent via post comments. Fortunately, I don't need any of what is on offer and only wish they'd send me something I really would benefit from.
Countermeasures will be deployed ufn.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

"Ave, Imperator, morituri te salutant"

The bloke with this video camera set up on the dash must be the luckiest guy on the road - either that or a bloody curse!
This must be why the Eu want drivers to carry a breath test kit in their car or motorcycle and for everyone to wear hi viz. I get it now :-/

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Brain exercises - Number 1

Do things differently.

 Move your bathroom mirror onto another wall, if you can.
Tie your shoes in a different order than normal, if you can.
Walk backwards occasionally - see how it throws your dog off kilter.

and listen to cover versions of AC/DC

by these guys

Friday, 23 November 2012

It ought to be against the law

A few posts down we were debating the scoping exercise regarding the introduction of laws to restrict the novice activities of novice drivers.

I don't like intrusive laws that tell me what I must or must not wear on my motorcycle, preferring to use my own judgment.

There are some things that the law, in a liberal democracy, really cannot fix 

and was that rider saved by a lucky pony tail? Maybe s/he even lived to go home and make his/her excuses


All Dogs SNIFF!

I get really irritated when I hear the news meeja referring to specialist search dogs as `sniffer` dogs. All dogs sniff. They do other things too, frequently, but does that get a meeja label? No.
I must get out more.


Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Tattoo you...

The Metropolitan Police has announced that any officers who have tattoos on their face, neck, above the collar or hands must declare them to their line managers or face misconduct proceedings. The force said it was aware there were officers with prohibited “visible tattoos” that
could not be covered with clothing. The Met said Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe was requiring those officers to make a formal written declaration to their line manager about these tattoos by November 12 or face disciplinary action.

 A written declaration? Why not a photo? And in my day, if you were good at rugby you'd get in regardless!

Makes you wonder what the Church of England might prefer, a tattooed male Bishop or an un-inked female one? Just saying...

Monday, 19 November 2012

The Young Ones

Years after several other countries acted on this subject, the UK is once again teetering on introducing legislation to save novice drivers from themselves and others.

I first became aware of similar restrictions placed on young/inexperienced drivers when we were touring Australia in 2003. Over there, if you have held a full licence for less than 2 (I think) years, you were not allowed to carry passengers except under strict conditions, penalty points incurred were doubled and your allocated drink/drive alcohol intake limit was zero. Even as a bit of a libertarian I couldn't find much in there to object about, having scraped too many youngsters from roads, lamposts and trees during my policing years. Very few of them were actually `unlucky`.

I don't want the state telling me I must wear hi viz clothing at all times on my motorbike. There are times when I choose to do so and some of that decision making process, quite a lot actually, is based on judgment which in turn is based on experience. When I first passed my test I nearly crashed dad's car through pure stupidity, too much speed in the wrong place, inexperience and peer pressure. I used up quite a bit of my lucky bag's* contents over the following couple of years. I actually agree with the gist of these proposals. I would perhaps build in a get-out clause whereby if a young driver then takes a separate course run by say the I.A.M. or RoSPA and passes, they get their restriction lifted. These courses are life savers - the standard driving test is not.

 I think this law will be an interesting one to enforce, but having seen the mess, the heartache, the sheer death and destruction up close and personal, I'd be ready to try it, unlike the stuff the French are churning out.

*When we're born we have a full bag of luck and an empty bag of experience. The knack is to fill the experience bag before the lucky bag runs out.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Glorious Mud

Boy did I have a ride yesterday. Its that time of year when all the agricultural types (and I'm surrounded by them out here) conspire against us motorcycle types to make a final concerted effort to get us sliding down the roads before the frost and ice arrives.

Encounter 1. Less than a mile from home, at the start of my journey, I find `Benny` and his tractor, with its 6 foot high tyres and massive contraption bolted to it. It looked like a pile of moving scaffolding. From a distance it looked like it was surrounded by a flock of brown birds but as I got closer I realised the `birds` were clods of soggy mud being liberally sprayed along the road, landing with a dull splat (there are many dull splats living round here, too). I picked my moment, sounded the horn and passed him by onto the clean tarmac ahead of him. He didn't hear me anyway as standard fit motorcycle horns sound like a donkey with a sore throat, plus he was talking on a mobile telephone.

Encounter 2. Within 5 miles Benny's mates had done a great little number on a stretch of B road, through a series of sweeping bends, no doubt having been warned of my approach via aforementioned mobile phone. It was well spread about and they had taken great care to ensure that not only was there plenty of mud on the crown of the bend where my lean angle would be at its peak, but even the approach, where I would be slowing down/braking, gave the road a sort of `ploughed field on tarmac` effect. Nice. Thank you BMW for fitting traction control and ABS, albeit I managed without either, although a third wheel would have been handy at this point. 45 minutes later and I had reached my destination.

Encounter 3. The first half of the return journey was uneventful and enjoyable, with the temperature hovering around a balmy 10C with the skies clear and blue as the afternoon sun reached the last hour of it's traverse and descent. I left the A roads for the final 12 miles. Big mistake. Benny's mobile network of rustic chums in tractors had been busy whilst I'd been enjoying an americano and eccles cake with a chunk of Lancashire cheese. This time they'd had time to really do a number on me. So cocky were they, that they'd even put a sign up saying `Mud On Road`. As I slowed gently down on the approach to a right hander I met my nemesis. There was no `mud on road`, the road was mud, a mid-brown-inches-deep river of the stuff. From hedgerow to hedgerow it was a bloody swamp as far as my vision extended.  I am no novice and for the previous 3 winters in North Yorkshire there were only 8 days when, for safety reasons, I didn't use the bike to get to work because it was minus 12 and the council had run out of salt to clear compacted snow and ice, but this was way too much and downright dangerous so I turned round and found another way home.

Leaving mud on the road is actually a criminal offence, but its one of those things where nothing is done unless something bad happens - and anyway farmers put food in the shops and can't be expected to carry a bucket and brush around with them as they traverse the countryside shouting "Git orf moi land". Bless `em.

Now this is skid control. I was billetted for nine months in one of the buildings that overlooked this skid pan. I've watched those instructors, in big Rover V8's, chasing each other backwards with the grace of ballet dancers  (but I bet he couldn't do it on a motorbike).

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Diplomatic Immunity

It was Remembrance weekend and we had a visitor on Saturday afternoon. My wife's friend and former work colleague came a visiting from North Yorkshire and stayed over until Monday. They'd planned a culinary weekend, visiting my wife's new place of work, a `soon to be award winning` bakery and bistro in a little Suffolk coastal village. It's owned and run by a young Canadian gal and her parents from England and Jamaica - what a combination!

Mrs HD's friend is Japanese and although she has made England her home for some years now, she has lived, studied and worked in Paris and is married to a New Zealander. She says she'll never return to Japan to live permanently as the culture doesn't agree with her. We have met her parents on a number of their visits from their home in Japan, recently re-built after the earthquake. They are good sports. Her father speaks some English, her mother none. He is a hoot and last time he visited produced a harmonica he had been learning to play. I have to admit that being serenaded by a Japanese man playing two verses of, "On the Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond" followed by "Amazing Grace", on a mouth organ, in a Yorkshire cottage, was one of the more bizarre moments I have experienced.

 Remembrance Sunday was the day I'd decided that I was not going to play any part in what the ladies were planning, unless you count eating and drinking by the log burner at the end of the day. No, I had other plans. I affixed a big red British Legion poppy to my motorcycle and headed off to the Norfolk coast, a 90 minute ride. The temperature was hovering just a few degrees above freezing when I set off at 10.30 but it was dry and the early frosting on the roads had melted. At just before 11.00 I pulled off the A140 into a lay-by, switched off the motor and, with another chap who'd pulled up in a car, I observed 2 minutes silence. The sun was blazing away doing its winter best against the cold wind and I felt its warmth on my face. 
11.00hrs, 11.11.2012

 An hour and two minutes later and I had rolled to a stop in the main cemetery of the coastal town where the earthly remains of my Grandfather had been laid to rest in August 1914. He was a regular soldier of The Essex Regiment well before the war began. He died aged 31. I swept the leaves from his grave and placed the little cross bearing a single poppy, again provided by The British Legion, next to his headstone which in turn was provided by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission - two magnificent organisations. I had written the names of us, the six grandchildren that he never knew, on the back of the cross. I waited a while and wondered and wandered with my thoughts, then re-focussed and headed into town for a mug of builders tea and a fruit scone to sustain me for the return hop, due south, homeward bound. 

 The tea room was full to bursting with folks all wearing their poppies, many of whom had attended the 11am service at the town's war memorial. I managed to get the last vacant seat at a small table. Before I'd finished my scone the place had almost emptied (biker friendly, pure co-incidence :) leaving just me and two couples with small children, one of whom appeared fascinated by my flip front full face helmet, placed on the table in front of me. His eyes never left me as I paid up, jacketed up, buffed up, walked out the door and readied myself by the bike that was patiently leaning on its side stand right outside the cafe window. Little lad's eyes were like organ stops as I flipped the helmet's internal sun visor up and down a few times to add to his amazement. Switches on, dials alive and swinging, thumb the starter, gear, gone. I smiled inside my helmet, for I knew what that kid now wanted for the next 11 Christmases and birthdays. It was his mother I felt sorry for, remembering the look on my own mum's face when I told her I would like a motorbike for my 16th birthday.

The return journey was in falling temperatures with the sun lowering and giving me a few visibility problems as it's full beam hit me 20 degrees to the right of head-on. The thermometer on the instrument panel was showing 4C by the time I rolled into our village. I de-kitted and, having received a message that the girls were en route as well, I prepared the log burner and decided to put my feet up, put the TV on and watch a bit of the National Remembrance service I'd recorded.

I must have nodded off because I was awoken by the Jack Rascal terrorist whining by the window. They were back! I then realised that the TV was showing a film - shock horror, it was "Tora ToraTora"! I didn't think that would go down well, what with our Japanese guest,  so I quickly hit the channel button. `Shock horror 2`, it was a programme about the battle for Kohima, with hordes of Japanese soldiers bearing down on our besieged and embattled lads. I switched the darn thing off and went into the kitchen to make us some tea as they tramped through the door. I switched on the radio and selected BBC World Service thinking that would be a safe bet. Gor` blimey! it was a programme about the building of the Burma Railway and the 90,000 lives of POW's and Asian labourers it cost. Then I remembered Alan Scott, a friend of my father, who had a cycle shop in Kingsthorpe Hollow, Northampton. He spent time in a Japanese POW camp a mere 16 years prior to befriending Dad. I remember him, a very quiet man with an occasional nervous disposition. I recall how his wife once told my mother of how he'd accidentally dropped a tea cup that he was drying with a tea towel in the kitchen and how he froze and cringed briefly, before carrying on `as normal` and cleared up the broken pieces.
It's at times such as this that the trusty Anglo Saxon general purpose word for frustration, disdain, contempt, resolution etc  (I said it was a general purpose word) comes to my lips, and this was one such moment - "Bollocks", I snapped out of my unnecessary diplomacy, kept calm and carried on. This is what remembrance is all about.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Friday, 2 November 2012

"Chancellor of the Exchequer complains about police" - all sorted, nothing to see here, move along.

Discipline and standards of behaviour must be maintained. Transgressions, where behaviour falls below what is expected, will be dealt with quickly, firmly and appropriate to the circumstances.
The two officers knew this to be the overriding objective of the chief superintendent as he considered the case before him.

They had been on duty, in uniform and in a police vehicle with responsibility for supporting other officers engaged in protecting the small cluster of buildings containing over 260 rooms in Downing Street that are homes to the Prime Minister, The Chancellor of the Exchequer and The Government Chief Whip. At 4am, on the last legs of what was a very quiet night shift, the car pulled up to check on the outer perimeter protection teams. A few words and maybe a joke or two were exchanged, a cigarette smoked and then they were off. But this time it was different.

As the 3.5 litre V8 automatic Rover saloon car gurgled across the gravelled expanse of Horse Guards Parade a devil whispered in the ear of the driver - and he listened. He gunned the motor and the car quickly picked up speed, small stones scattering and clattering on the belly pan of the dark blue police car. Swinging the wheel over to the left as he squeezed the accelerator, the car drifted into a graceful arc that left a large "J" mark on the gravel. With minimal effort he straightened the slide, picked up more speed and repeated the move in the opposite direction, this time leaving another big "J", but a reverse image of the first one. The car was then slipped into reverse and similar manoeuvres were conducted as it danced its waltz, strictly come backwards, across the hallowed expanse that is better known as the place where the Brigade of Guards perform Trooping The Colour every June. As the dust settled, they were gone. The audience that was treated to that disply of finest, Hendon-trained, vehicle control was a small select group consisting of 3 officers of the Metropolitan Police "A" Division, who were delighted at the spectacle - and the rudely awakened Chancellor of the Exchequer - who was not.

The Chancellor was a very popular man with the police at Number 10. He had an outstanding war record and was very friendly, with a light and personable style. Justice would be swift, firm and appropriate to the circumstances, just how The Chancellor would have expected it, after all he was a former wartime RAF pilot who doubtless knew a bit about high jinx in the officers mess. The two officers in the Area Car were soon to be enlightened as to their fate later that day by a wake up call to come in and stand before the divisional chief superintendent who, under such circumstances, had no respect for 8 hours sleep after a night shift. They didn't expect to be paid overtime either. They knew their boss very well. Sentence was passed. Case closed. They were just grateful to be alive.

The following night the shift paraded at 2145hrs as they always did, but this time there were two extras. The two officers who thought they were deploying to the front door of Number 10 Downing Street were re-assigned to other duties, much to their delight. The two `extras`, thereafter known as "The Horseguards Two", took up position on the famous doorstep - and would do so every night, uncomplaining, for the next three weeks. No Police Federation (union) reps were involved, no complaints, no politicking, no media, no messing. "Quickly, firmly and appropriate to the circumstances" End of.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Policing Commisars

We have elections for the brand new concept of Police and Crime Commissioners in a few weeks. For me, the most pressing question to date has been what I'd have thought was a very basic one, `who the fuck are they`? I only got the names the other day, but as to my previous question `WTFAT`, I'm still none the wiser. Voting for someone whose credentials and abilities are a mystery is just like any other election. I was really hoping for something better than this.

And another minor point; anyone know if we're going to get  `Courts Commissioners` as well; people who can oversee and bring some understanding and relevency to sentencing and methods of criminals' rehabilitation? It occurs to me that as good a level of service and efficiency as the police may attain, it won't matter one iota if naff all happens once the crims are processed into a spluttering, stuttering system - a bit like putting top grade fuel into an engine that has no oil. Or is that more vital information that has yet to be made available to me?


I was looking for a new bike.We'd be moving to start a new venture and I would be back on the treadmill, commuting a fair distance to work. I had been hired as a consultant for an interesting, one could even say `unique`,  project. My days as a consultant were now over. I had succeeded in being selected to head the centre that would be the launch pad for the project I had helped to create.

I trawled the motorcycle press to study form. I wanted a general purpose machine that was big and powerful. Commuting doesn't require `big and powerful`, I require it. I wanted something I could load up with luggage and travel distances on, but I also wanted something that was lively, handled as surefootedly as a mountain goat and was above all a pleasure to ride. I started looking closely at the adventure/enduro types and after shortlisting what I fancied, set about fixing up test rides from local dealers. Always interesting and great fun.

I had ridden the big Honda Varadero and a couple of BMW GS's before deciding to try a bike I'd always had a strong liking for, the Triumph Tiger 900 triple. My nearest dealer was an hours ride away and so after confirming there were some in stock I rolled across into the next county on my Harley Davidson Road King. This bike was my retirement gift to myself and I had no intention of letting it go in a trade off. I was buying a second one, the first time in my life I felt I could afford to run two quality bikes. I kicked out the big, chromed stand which Harley Davidson refer to for some strange reason as the `jiffy` stand and let the bike rest over easy, assuming that familiar lazy lean to the left that all Harley's have, like how a person would prop their head on their hand whilst sat casually at a bar.

I found a lovely red Tiger complete with colour coordinated luggage and sat on it, stared at it from all angles and then ran a dozen or more questions through my head all asking pretty much the same thing,  `can I live with this?`. I wandered over to the lady behind the desk and requested a test ride. No problem. My documents were checked and she motioned to a colleague to push the bike out front. She then said, "We don't allow unaccompanied test rides so one of our staff will come with you". I had never heard of this before, but I needed to ride that bike so, whatever. I asked how I was to be accompanied, thinking that a pillion rider could be tolerated, although I wouldn't get on the back with a rider I didn't know. It turned out that the young woman who pushed the bike out was going to lead me around and had re-appeared in full leathers carrying a helmet. She said `I'll take out the new Daytona, I love riding that bike`. And so it began.

We rolled out of the dealers, me on a larger capacity but enduro-styled machine following saleslady riding what was a very, very quick sports bike. She led me out of the town and onto a road that headed out into the countryside. Before we'd even reached the end of the 30mph speed limit she wrung its neck and the bike leapt off like a TT racer which, in effect, it was. I wound up the Tiger and was immediately impressed by the 900cc triple cylinder motor which was a dee-light. It flew and I quickly gained on the lady and her beloved 675 triple - until she saw me in her mirrors and then off she went again, front wheel clawing into the air. I glanced down and saw that, in a blink, I had gone from legal to 40 mph beyond the National speed limit. Although I was comfortable on this empty, straight road at this speed, I was certainly not wishing to break the law in such a flagrant manner and on a bike I had barely even warmed up. I rolled off the throttle and decided to do my own test ride regardless of Betty Boop and the rocket between her legs.

The following 30 minutes found us swinging through multiple bends and blasting along straights. I was riding noticably quicker than her through the former and she was disappearing ahead on the latter, whilst I rode my own ride, legally. The final few minutes were on a dual carriageway that led back to the dealership. I sat comfortably on the big Tiger and decided I really liked it, especially that fabulous motor and its very apt tiger-like snarl as I opened it up. I was doing 75 as we approached the 50mph limit signs. Rocket woman was behind me for the only time during the ride. As I crossed the 50 limit, my speed was exactly 50, just like the police driving school trained me. The lady on the Daytona went past me in the outside lane at a speed I would estimate at being in excees of 110mph - well in excess, although I'd never prove it in court!

At the dealers I handed in the keys and grabbed a coffee from the machine. Ms `Valentino Rossi` re-appeared in her corporate kit, her cheeks still rosy flushed from her exhilerating ride. Together with the other lady they came over and asked me what I thought of the Tiger. I gave them my considered views on its many and various qualities and concluded that it was a brilliant bike and how I was deighted that Triumph were producing such good kit. My riding `supervisor` agreed and then told me that she thought I was a `really good rider`, which she wasn't expecting on account of the fact I `arrived on a big Harley` and how she felt she couldn't have gone any quicker through the bends yet I seemed to be breezing through them and that she thought I was going to pass her. I then said that I knew the bike was very quick but that I had no desire to exceed the speed limits by as big a margin as she did. I also pointed out that I wasn't a Harley rider, but that I was a motorcyclist who happened to own a Harley.

I finished my coffee and told the manager lady that I'd think about it. As I turned to leave I had a change of mind and decided to clear the air, for I was troubled. I asked her about the accompanied ride policy and then mentioned how much her sales lady enjoyed the Daytona and seemed very confident on it. I then said that I would be brutally honest and stated how I believed she was lucky  that I wasn't some sort of `Alpha Male` rider that might have seen this fast lady on a fast bike as some sort of threat or challenge, both equally dangerous things. I pointed out that riding in excess of 100mph whilst leading a perfect stranger out on powerful motorcycles was, in my opinion, a very risky business. She took it quite well and apologised, saying that she knew the other gal `loved that 675`. I told her I was more than happy with the test ride and that I was simply stating that the next man who wants to test a bike and gets behind her colleague might not have the same riding experience as me and, worse, might feel the need to exert himself beyond his limitations - I reiterated, a very risky business .

 I then noticed a pile of leaflets on her desk. They were publicising "Bikesafe". I pointed them out and we got into a conversation about the scheme. She thought it was a good idea and told me that all her staff had taken up the chance to ride with a Class 1 advanced police motorcyclist and how much they had benefited from the experience. She asked me if I'd taken it up. I told her that I had spent my last year in the neighbouring police force, that I was the deputy head of the traffic division and that going round all the bike dealers persuading them to support the scheme was one of the most positive things I did in that time. It was at this point that I noticed her previously healthy complexion change and the colour rapidly drain from her face, turning a sort of milky grey. Her expression changed to one that I imagine was prevalent during the French Revolution, in the lines awaiting the guillotine. I said `cheerio` and left. I think the conversation had just about dried up anyway.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Buy British (boots)

The news tells us that unemployment has fallen by 50,000. I don't see this as a green shoot of recovery but I am hoping. What can I do to help? I'm not working although I probably could, but I have a private pension  so I am more likely to do voluntary stuff these days. I remember in the late 60's there was a big campaign to `Buy British`. One could argue that, these days, our industrial clout is not even a shadow of its former mighty self and so buying British is easier said than done, but one has to try.

But when we do find gems in our midst we should shout about it. We have a great boot and shoe business in North Yorkshire. Their products are sold all over the world. I have read journals of bikers who have ridden the Americas, Africa and all points south and those who shod themselves in these boots always said they made the best choice and wouldn't ride in anything else. The much studied "Ride" magazine's products test section always puts one of their products in the top 3.

They also make walking, mountaineering and other `outdoor` boots, some of which are first choice for military, including elite special forces.

I rolled into their factory/showroom in Richmond on Monday. We were en route home from a few days in the Lake District. They measured me up, noted my dimensions on a card, which they would store on a database, and we were on our way in no time. They didn't have my size in stock but sent me an email to say they would be making my boots soon and that they would be delivered in about 3 weeks. They are less expensive than some boots whose longevity and resistance to water has been deemed `questionable` in tests. A riding pal has them and should be a salesman he loves them so much.

The downside? It occurred to me that they are so well made and the aftercare service of repairing and re-soling is so good, they may be the last boots I buy. Talk about a mortality check :0 mind you, I soon got over that as I pranced around the kitchen listening to a bit of "Saxon" on Planet Rock - until my reading glasses fell into my porridge, golden syrup and blueberries, duh.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Meanwhile, in France.....

It would seem that the Queens of the Eu, the French, are going to lead us all to safety heaven because they do know what's best.

They have conducted Le research and discovered that a sleepy driver/rider behind the wheel or handlebars is just as dangerous as a drunk one. In fact, sacre bleu, they found that drivers who were either drunk OR sleepy were twice, yes that's deux fois, as likely to cause un accident as someone who was sober or well rested (or perhaps even both of the latter).

 Is this why they have introduced compulsory carrying of breath test kits to all motoristes and mandatory wearing of hi viz to le moto riders? Stands to reason really. If you are in France and driving or about to, you will be able to administer your own breath test. I'm not sure if instructions then require you to place yourself under arrest, caution yourself against self incrimination and then get yourself to the nearest police station, but I bet they're working on it.

Planting incriminating substances or weapons in your back pockets and self inflicting yourself with blows that won't show the bruises are apparently optional. (flick knives are still legal in France, I believe).

And to add insult, a researcher in the USA, Christopher Drake of The Henry Ford Hospital Sleep Disorders and Research Centre in Detroit, Michigan said, "We know from experimental studies that just four hours of sleep loss will produce as much impairment as a six pack of beer". If it really was mainstream American beer they used, I can't see this research holding water, unless it improved the driving in which case they may be onto something.

But finally, some sense. I read in my informative Biker periodical "The Road" that a blue plaque is to be unveiled at The Ace Cafe on November 4th to the Third Earl of Harrow, aka Screaming Lord Sutch. 

Dave, I miss your common sense. Rave in Peace old chum.

U.K. D.I.Y.

My old contacts tell me that some 1,200 Met police officers are receiving their "Dear John/Jane" letters saying their services are no longer required. These are to officers who were employed under the 30+ and 30 + PLUS schemes which, like it or not, have been a major contribution to the service. This scheme has been defunct in many other forces for some time so the Met has done well to hang on thus far. The scheme basically re-employs officers who have reached their retirement point of 30 years service, but who were offered the chance to stay on beyond that date, at a proportionally reduced rate of pay.

This comes at a time when the Government seem to be getting all excited about `allowing` people to whack burglars who enter their homes (uninvited and with intent to steal, rape, comit GBH etc., of course, otherwise they wouldn't be burglars). `Scumbags` posing as meter readers etc require extra caution as some may actually be genuine and work for utility companies requiring those £digits£. The smoke and mirrors here is that folk have always been entitled to use reasonable force in defence of themselves and their property, so I wonder what's new? Surely it's nothing to do with political party conference time, is it?

On a different tack, but having a ring of similarity about it, I phoned my health centre last week as I had earache. They are fantastic, friendly folks. I got an appointment for 20 minutes later!! I had to get my skates on (my motorcycle gear actually) to make the appointment in time - I was impressed at the speed of the service. The doctor checked out the offending lughole and declared `wax on the eardrum`. I told him that I suspected as much as I'd had my ears syringed 6 weeks earlier, having had to apply olive oil for 2 weeks prior to (a common biker symptom due to wearing earplugs) but the nurse's `Ear O' scope` wasn't working, neither was the one she borrowed from a doctor's office, so she couldn't be sure she'd dealt with it properly, something that turned out to be correct. I was sent off with more instructions to administer olive oil for a week whilst they sent for new light bulbs for their otoscopes - or was this just a cunning ploy to buy them time?

I phoned for another appointment at midday yesterday and was seen 5 hours later, again, pretty good. This time, nursie had a lugscope that was working (either that or she was  speaking very convincingly) and a few minutes later I could see/hear/everything again! Out came stale extra virgin olive oil and a sundried tomato. Deep joy.

I just wonder what government strategies will come forth so that the new concept of DiY policing will migrate over to the health service?

Monday, 15 October 2012

We all deserve a little piece

Nobel Peace Prizes - Please take one (or two)

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Savile Row - Suits you, sir?

We have a problem. It  appears to involve attitudes to women and not just in the workplace. It appears to be `still widespread` but I'm not exactly sure how wide that spread actually is because I haven't studied it, but I know many have and they say it is.

Having started work as a sixteen year old in the late 60's (when teenagers really did work - ooh, another sweeping generalisation?) I found myself in a little agricultural unit where there was a disproportionate number of women working on a sort of production line where carrots were cleaned and bagged. I worked at the heavy humping end, or rather the beginning, of this line. Every now and again I would have to enter the place where the women were. I was warned about it. It wasn't so much a `forbidden zone` or even a `no-go` area, it was more a `go carefully or `be prepared` area. When I did have to enter the domain of the she-beasts I found it both highly amusing and strangely enjoyable, but then again I only had to be in there for a few minutes before re-joining the men's section where I toiled with another young guy and the occasional presence of the foreman. I even had my lunch separate from the ladies, although I suppose I could have joined them. I don't think anybody did though.

My memory of entering the ladies zone is now one of vague images of women whose ages I cannot be sure of and whose faces I can no longer conjure up with any accuracy. I can just recall the noisy banter that came my way, banter that included graphic, highly detailed physical activities involving me and random women from this little gang, activities that I had a vague idea about but absolutely no experience of. I think I made some jaunty, jovial reply that caused a few laughs and giggles. I never stayed there long enough to find out if this would have worn me down or made my life miserable, but a few years on I would occasionally think of them and wonder how I'd fare if I took some leave from my career and go back for a couple of weeks casual labour, just to see what might transpire now that I was armed with a little more experience. This remained a mere passing fantasy.

I heard some of this lady's speech on the BBC radio news this morning. Wow! She was firing on all cylinders. It was great stuff. The article put me in mind of  a great piece of writing by the author,  world circumnavigator by motorbike and journalist, Ted Simon, on his thoughts about the Australian leg of his 4 year journey as recounted in his best selling book "Jupiter's Travels". Here's an extract:

It was a continent I only knew as a caricature. perhaps because it was so far away, the only images that seemed to travel the distance were absurdly overblown. Australians were the ancient Gauls of the twentieth century, a good hearted people so untouched by the nicities of civilisation that with one sweep of their good intentions they could do more damage than an elephant in Harrods.
Australian women, I knew, were big and brazen and went about the streets dressed and made up for the stage in the belief that the right way to catch a man was to incite him to rape. The wounds sustained during this savage form of courtship were soothed by swimming two hundred lengths before breakfast.
Australian men were big and bronzed and wore shorts and singlets from which their muscled limbs extended like four strings of sausages. At the end of one of the upper strings was attached either a tennis raquet or a small bottle of beer called a `stubbie`. They ambled about in hot sunshine being disgustingly frank about their natural functions and waiting to be incited to rape. If one of these King Kong figures appeared over the skyline the thing to do was run for your life.

This was a remarkably perceptive piece of writing and, for me, pretty much captured the comic images as capitalised by the wonderfully erudite Barry Humphries and his most famous Australian alter egos Dame Edna Everage and Sir Les Patterson. Of course Ted Simon was merely making a point on prejudice and the above passage was immediately clarified by the following:

I looked around me with the freshest eye I could imagine in the dusty December heat. I saw men ambling in singlets and shorts. Their muscles looked remarkably like sausages. I saw women who had apparently slipped offstage during the interval of a matinee performace of  Cabaret. They looked as though anything less than rape might be mistaken for indifference. I noticed that many men wore tailored shorts with cute little slits up the seams like cheongsams to show a little extra flash of thigh, and the obscene thought crossed my mind that maybe they were hoping to be raped as well. 
I saw some men, still in their youth, with the grossest beer bellies it was possible to imagine, cultivated at great expense, and I was overcome by the noise people made and the difficulty they had in showing each other affection.
Then one day I set out to photograph these things I had noticed. Not one revolting beer belly came my way; not one girl was dressed in such tasteless extravagance as to be worth recording. To my annoyance I saw men and women appearing to be softly and openly appreciative of each other. The truth bore in on me that I had been seeing only extremes in the crowd; the most flamboyant, the most threatening, the most crass, just as an Australian in London would see only Poms in pin-striped suits and bowler hats.

And so here were are, once again, being treated to the debate about male sexual predators. I have seen them in the workplace. I have even evidenced examples of it and brought my concerns to the attention of senior managers through formal and established policy and procedures. In the case I flagged up, nothing was done and I believe that others suffered from this failure of senior `management` to act. I admire anyone who stands their ground and where necessary blows the whistle. I despise those who fail them when they do. The current celebrity case that has become headline news does not surprise me in the least. I once met the individual and if ever someone had `something of the night` about them then, in my opinion, this one did.

But I do hate to hear the `all men are rapists`crowd who use these cases to claim quod erat demonstrandum. They are out there among us, that is true. The really clever ones are often those you might consider the least likely. Some end up in court - and some get knighted.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Remembrance is alive and well

There is only one mention of a motorcycle in this story.

On Wednesday night I went to this small museum. My wife had bought us tickets to see one of their occasional film shows. This particular evening they showed 3 films, the last being about “Operation Titanic” , when American bombers were based in Russia, which was the only `officially produced` film shown.

The first two films were recently discovered and were special for a couple of reasons, the first being that they were shot in colour, most unusual for that time and the second and most special reason was that they were shot by aircrew. They were home movies, a personal record of life on a USAAF/RAF air base in the East of England. East Anglia (us English were once known as “Angles” in ancient times) was turned into one huge American airfield, predominantly bomber bases. Col. Jimmy Stewart aka George Bailey (only a couple of months before "Its a Wonderful Life" can be shown on TV once again) flew from an airfiled 10 miles to the north of where I type this and within a 5 mile radius were numerous other airfields that were the home to B24 Liberators which were gradually replaced, as action intensified, by B17 Flying Fortresses. Other bases were gradually equipped with P51 Mustangs and P47 Thunderbolts, the “Little Friends” who at last had the range to escort them all the way. Memorabilia is everywhere, if one chooses to seek it out.

The footage was as fascinating as it was poignant, with the happy faces of young Americans larking about wrestling each other and playing up to the camera, just as kids do on beaches and playing fields. Other images showed nervous but determined aircrews posing beneath their giant machines, some smiling bravely for the camera but all of them showing more than a trace of apprehension. The footage taken from the aircraft as they lifted off from the base near the small Suffolk town of Eye showed a landscape that is still recognisable today, albeit that the airfield is now an industrial estate.

What really delighted me was that the visitors centre, a typical WW2 `Nissan` hut that I was sitting in, was packed to its parabolic steel rafters. It was a `sell out`. On this chilly autumn night local people from young teens to folks in their 80′s had come along to watch the films. The couple I was sitting next to were near neighbours of mine. They were in their early teens when the Americans came. The man is now 82 and his wife a little younger. They are both fit and active. He bought himself a Harley Davidson Sportster a few years ago, encouraged by his wife – my kind of gal!

As the last film came to a close, it showed the base closing down for good and the American airmen locking up shop and flying home. The base commander had opened it up to local people and laid on refreshments so that they could bid their farewells and wave off their American neighbours for the last time, in beautiful peacetime. Local farmers,  children and pretty young women in their best dresses could be seen waving off the last aircraft and then turning to each other in the strange silence that they knew, this time, would remain.  It was not entirely a party atmosphere because losses at the base had been heavy, hence the nickname given to the group, “The Bloody Hundredth”.  We were told by the museum curator of one particular raid where fourteen B17′s left Thorpe Abbotts to `deliver iron and steel to Germany` and only one aircraft returned. A shattering statistic for one base to bear, after one raid. 130 men, gone, from just one base, in a single mission.

As the lights came up I turned to my neighbours to ask a question and noticed that tissues were out dabbing moist eyes.  I said, “I bet it was strange once they’d gone”. The man replied, “Oh yes, it really was, but lovely and quiet, we knew they weren’t going to get hurt anymore”. His wife said, “We really missed them” and her husband agreed.

May we continue to remember.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Good afternoon, here is the news

Just got back from a shopping mission to Norwich on the bike. Blimey, there were some strange sights there. It was as if the city was today's mystery tour destination for coach outings of `secure unit` inmates, victims of freak tattoo and body piercing accidents, tourettes support groups and talentless tone deaf street musicians. Luckily I blended in nicely, so no one bothered me and the lady on the Clarins counter in Debenhams was really helpful when I forgot what moisturiser I was supposed to get.

and in other news...

Eloped schoolgirl and her teacher found in France...

Well, the media do have their uses. ...although it is unclear how much help was received from the French lot.
Perhaps they'll try and score some plus points to mitigate the "low-life" rating they currently have although it seems that the threshold for sexual shenanigans for French girls is different as, under French law, a 15-year-old is not considered a minor in sexual terms, so says Sky News. I bet a load of men drafted that piece of legislation, as once happened in the UK. Until not so long ago, indecent assault on a 14 yr old girl only carried a maximum penalty of 2 years imprisonment, whereas an indecent assault on a male of any age could get you 10.
So you never know, there may yet be some `topless` pictures to follow, because if there's a sniff of sexual intrigue, they'll tittilate it. Oh and one more thing, Tourette was French.

and finally, on a more serious note, one of the British victims of the Kathmandu plane crash has the same name as a friend of mine. The world cannot be that small, surely? But whoever they are, may their gods be with them.

Good afternoon and be nice to each other.... sleep tight.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Motorcycles I have had (or am still having) relationships with

Not all of these are/were mine as I wasn't much of a photographer in the early days. Many have simply been lifted from Google Images. Several of these were actually of the exact type I rode as a police officer. I did have one or two original snaps but they are still in the boxes I quickly filled when I ejected from my `previous life` back in 1996. One day I'll have a sift and post, just for a laugh.

Current steed, a 2011 BMW R1200R. Hum your chosen warp factor and it'll play it - will it be my last? I doubt it, but its a fine one to finish on regardless.

Despite its massive bulk, the Road King is a great riders bike. You can buy this one. Its for sale in a main dealers right now! Swapped for the one at the top. 1,450cc's that resonate through the pipes like `a burst of dirty thunder`, to quote Hunter S. Thompson, who described that sound to a tee. 9 years faultless service. I wonder if it misses me as much as I miss it?

Stablemate for the Road King, above. I did 25,000 miles on this marvellous bike (even though they look like they're assembled in a tumble drier). Sold to a very lucky Polish guy who was definitely no Ewan and Charley wannabe.

My guys on Traffic used to love staying in touch with me, even after I'd retired. It was a 40 limit I'd just entered as the laser checked me out. Note my speed - perfect use of the system

16 years old, so much to learn, so little time and such inferior riding gear (apart from the Belstaff Trialsmaster)

This Z200 was given to me to test for police rural work. I gave it back to the workshops with a report. They gave it back to Kawasaki.

Heritage Softail. My retirement gift to myself. Traded 2yrs later for the Road King
Honda CB200. 2 policing years on one of these doing my version of "Heartbeat". It weavy, me no likee weavy.

Another police steed of mine - a BSA Barracuda for rural beat work. I liked it but workshops ran out of spares (and patience)

A Rickman Metisse with 150cc Zundapp 2-stroke motor. A dingbat. Great across ploughed fields too. Leaves a thick smoke screen as a calling card. It seized when I was doing about 60 and nearly killed me.

Wish I had this now. My beloved Yammy XS 650. Truly bulletproof (although it was never actually shot at) Still desirable as a modern classic

Susuki GSX 250. Tres rapide. Never missed a beat, never even blew a light bulb.

Another Honda and IMO one of the best 250 singles ever built

Yet another Honda and again, IMO, one of the best 125 singles ever built. Still going strong in the Far East, Afghanistan and other shitholes, some even have oil put in them, occasionally - whatever, they'll still work. Used it as an inner London commuter, a perfect role.

First legal ride, a Honda 65 Sport, yet another totally over-engineered Honda motor that will run forever with or without oil. Goodness how I abused that bike until I grasped the idea. My 16th birthday present. I rode it to school on the big day to sit my GCE O level Physics (which I passed). Passed my bike test 3 months later and bought.....(see below)

....this raving beastie. A howling Honda CB 250 Supersport. 1st genuine 100mph 250 and a mere £289  19 shillings and sixpence, brand new. My one you've already seen above. The original tyres were 99% plastic :0 Rode it all over the North with my best mate on the back, reading a paperback mostly (my mate, that is). Only 1 prang - once I'd changed those bloody tyres for real Avon ones.

A BSA B40 350cc. Not their best bike, the military version was good though. I rode it to The Ace Cafe, London, in 1969, the year they had to close down. The big end went on the ride back, in sympathy with The Ace, thankfully re-opened and hopefully still thriving - check out the hyperlink. Gave it to a garage in Neasden who said they could fix the big end for 40 quid, which was 2 months pay at the time. Thats what I paid for it in the first place so I walked away, figuring I'd had a cheap years riding from it. You can pick a fair one up for £1500 these days.

and finally..... My Norman Nippy moped, aka "Street Boss". A `tinker job` that I was too young to ride on a road. Had to push it 2 miles to an old Navy airfield (honest officer). I fashioned a plastic funnel to the carb to give it a ram air induction effect I'd read about in a car magazine. I think it gave it additional top end as it nearly hit 25, just the once.


Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The Pleb just won't go away

Here are a few recollections of the more innocuous things that have been said to me over my policing years. I've forgotten all the really vicious, spiteful and blindly aggressive ones because they were two a penny and par for the lowlife we encountered.  Some got arrested for their outbursts, others received locally administered `advice`

"Oh we're alright now, here come the police" ; Said by the leader (and millionaire businessman) of a local fox hunt who was having a bit of bother with `saboteurs` and their `rent a mob` of Surrey University students on £10 beer money for the day. I went straight up to the saboteurs' organiser and said, "Hi Tony, how are you today". His reply, "Hi Hogday, good to see you". The Huntsman kept clear of me after that. Honours even.

"I want you to sort this out now. I pay your wages" ; Said by too many people to mention. My response, depending on my mood, was along the lines of,  `along with me and about 2 million other ratepayers, so if we divide them by the police budget, I calculate that you pay for about 10 seconds of my time, which you've just used up`.

"Don't you know who I bloody am?" ; Said to me back in 1972 by a little Welshman who happened to be a Labour Member of Parliament. In those days MP's didn't have I/D cards, only Parliament employees (proles, plebs, minions that sort) were required to carry them! We were supposed to ask for i/d cards only from the workers and recognise the Members so as to wave them through without further inconvenience. I didn't recognise this one, hence he threw a tantrum. A senior, in service, colleague next to me said, "Excuse me Mr Jones, do you know this officer? "Of course I don't" came the reply, "Well how on earth do you expect him to know you, having only been posted here for the day?"
   There is a variation on this response that I heard used on one occasion. A drunk driver who knew a few senior officers used that one as he was being breathalysed. "Do you know who I am" , was quickly responded to by a war-weary officer who, pretending to press the tx button on his radio, said, "Control from 323, I've got some twat here who doesn't know who he is". It wasn't clever, it wasn't funny and we asked that officer to leave it all to us and be on his way.

"You're just a bloody pleb" ; No one ever used that one on me. My response would probably have been to refer to the old Metropolitan Police Instruction Book, which had an answer for almost everything. In this case I think the advice was along the lines of, `Idle and silly remarks are unworthy of notice and should be ignored`.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

A Few Good Men

I haven't had much time for commenting on Hillsborough, in fact I've little to say on the subject. Like others, I'll simply watch the wagon with the big band on it that is clattering up the path to the High Courts of this land. What I will say is that in 1993 I had the benefit of attending a senior officers course on the management of disaster and civil emergencies and one afternoon we had a very detailed briefing from one of the disaster's senior investigating officers (SIO), a senior detective from what I believe was the West Midlands Police. Suffice to say that I too was left with the impression that there was a good deal of drunkenness and rowdyism from the fans en route to the game, but then there often was at the numerous football matches I attended during my police career. My experiences as a police officer at these sporting events almost put me off professional football for life.

What I will say is that if senior officers have gilded some lilies and altered statements to put themselves in a better perceived light, it hasn't surprised me. But neither has it made me feel that the South Yorkshire Police is untrustworthy, yet sadly that will be the impression gained by a lot of people.

I was once deceived, lied to and ultimately let down by a few very senior officers. I had presented them with evidence that revealed misconduct, the details of which I won't reveal for that is not my point. I did it by the book with a detailed report supported by evidence noted in my personal notes. It wasn't very nice but it could have been dealt with easily, using the discipline code and procedures that every force has. They didn't deal with it in that way, there was a `fudge` and at a very senior level the matter was in effect unofficially written off, hidden, ignored call it what you will. It cost me a lot of lost sleep and other things I may not even be aware of.

What I didn't discover, until years later, was that my report never followed the official path but simply `disappeared` en route. It never reached the intended recipients in the discipline and complaints department (or `professional standards` as they are now known). So some years later, when another incident involving the subject of my report raised its nasty little head again (as tends to happen when things aren't dealt with properly) and I was asked about the matter, I explained that as far as I was concerned that case was closed and as no action was taken at the time I had no desire to re-visit it and, furthermore, I wished to say no more on the subject other than to refer the investigators to my original report.

It was then that I discovered my original report didn't seem to exist. `Never mind`, I thought, `the few individuals in that chain of command wouldn't forget such a thing, would they`? The new investigators could just ask them. To my surprise, no one remembered anything, not even my immediate supervisor, with whom I'd spoken to at length, for it was a very thorny issue. He could not possibly have forgotten such a thing. Yet he actually denied that our conversation ever took place. He was of even higher rank by now so perhaps the memory plays tricks when the oxygen gets thin at high altitude? I would like to have seen his face when I remembered I had kept copies of my original report at home, just in case and which I personally delivered to HQ (after taking further copies of course). I have no idea of the details, what the final outcome was or whether or not my report was ever used. I didn't try to find out. I was not interested.

So what am I saying? Well, in the above case I am saying that a very small number conspired to protect someone or something. I have no idea why. I know who the individuals were, you could count them on the fingers of one hand with a thumb and pinky to spare. They were very senior officers. One of them saw to it that my report never left his office in a readable condition. The other later denied that my report and the conversation we had about it ever took place. I have no idea what happened years later, when my photocopy of the original appeared, but as he was further promoted I can only assume that his lapse of memory excuse held true. He probably considered it a trifling matter. I saw it as a matter of integrity. I would not wish to see this man ever again.

Going back to Hillsborough, the fact remains that it doesn't take many to tarnish many. Senior officers represent a very small percentage of the overall compliment of any police force yet they carry much responsibility. If some of them choose to deceive, rather than admit fallibility, over something as massive as Hillsborough then that small number can have such a disproportionately large effect, QED. I would always understand genuine error made with the best of intentions, especially when under pressure and would do my utmost to support those who, despite their best efforts made at the time, fell short of perfect.

Sadly, I reiterate that I am not surprised that some senior people appear to have muddied the waters and worse. If there is credible evidence of malfeasance and breaches of the criminal law then those responsible will surely wish they had simply told the truth and be hoping that their gods will help them, because I for one wouldn't lift a finger to.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Is this the police we deserve?

That question is being asked a lot lately.

Incidents like the horrendous and brutal murder of two police officers yesterday in Manchester, by gun and grenade, remind me that my former life as a police officer still has a hold on me despite a decade passing since I walked away with my `un-plundered` and hard-earned pension, paid for in blood and injuries (one of which followed me into retirement) as well as costing me a big percentage of my monthly salary. We deserved nothing less, as do todays generation of police officers.

I will publicly express my horror, sorrow and anger for the loss of those two policewomen but frankly, from my background, it goes without saying that there is a deeper, intangible feeling and I feel it now as hard and personal as if I were still a serving officer. Although my last 12 years were served as a `senior officer`, I was regularly out on the streets on ops of one sort or another, including regular patrols with my team when I was managing a division. It was the way I was, it was how I liked to do things and I didn't stop doing it that way to the day I signed off on my radio with the force control room for the last time - there was just a short, `Mike Mike Zero 2, Roger, goodnight sir`. Nothing special, that suited me fine, although in my previous force (the Met) there would have been no deference to my rank as it would be deemed `excessive use of air space`.

I loved being a frontline officer. In my last 3 weeks of service I was at the scene of a fatal road accident. I was nearby at the time having just finished a job I disliked intensely, interviewing someone who had made a complaint about a police officer, when the call came in and I attended to support my guys on the scene who had their hands full. I remember the afternoon in minute detail, right down to me putting the severed, leather clad and booted leg of the dead biker into the undertakers body bag, alongside the rest of his earthly remains. The sheer weight of detached limbs always took me by surprise.

I will not comment on the usual debates that are buzzing in the media as I tap this out before starting my day.  If a new angle on an old theme appears I might be moved to respond. The cynic in me might get all acerbic about how the headlines won't all be about a member of the Royal Family's sunbathing style at last, but I will simply close by adding two more links and answer my own rhetorical question, the one that doubles as the title of this post.

That pretty much sums up my thoughts at the start of what will be a day of reflection for me; reflecting on friends I've lost in the line of duty, of their friends and families and for the families, friends and colleagues of two police officers who yesterday, before the break of day, set off from their homes to do a days work as officers of the Greater Manchester Police and who were prevented from completing their tour of duty.
Is this the police we deserve? I suppose it depends on who you mean by `we`.