Friday, 30 March 2012

Who am I? What happened? I shouldn't even be here.

.............But as for myself, I always wanted to join the Royal Navy. As a kid I'd be drawing ships, I could i/d most ships of the RN (we had more than a few in those days) and I could sketch a mean Fairey Swordfish (I'm not THAT old btw). I applied at the same time my best pal applied for the Air Force (same recruiting office) I was contacted for consideration of an officer cadetship, was interviewed, got the offer but it was conditional on me staying on at college to finish my engineering diploma (they'd have paid me!) and that's when it happened....somebody hit me on the head and 3 months later I woke up in the Metropolitan Police Cadet Corps. Hey ho, I might have gone down, badly, in the Falklands..... or anywhere. You just never know what our elected politicians might have plans for.

 We're never at the briefing when our fate is being planned. I'm lucky I'm typing this.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The application of justifiable force

During my previous life as a police officer,  I was one of a very small group of people that have the right to lay hands on a fellow citizen, under circumstances that are governed by the law. This action is in effect an assault, the application of force to the person of another without their consent. It is only particular circumstances that make this act lawful.

 As a police officer I always felt, and still believe, that if you ever got used to this and took it for granted, you had lost something. On a slightly different tack, colleagues would often say that they were never bothered by death and that they were `used` to dealing with death and its detritis. I never was. It was familiar to me, death in all its forms, be that violent or peaceful, from babies to the very old, but I never got used to it in over 30 years of service. I got used to dealing with it, but I never became indifferent to it.

The application of force is a normal part of the job. It can be exhausting. I always felt that most people never realised that. These people found out.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

The Long Goodbye - Requiem

Au Revoir mon Brave, mon ami,

"Neptunus Lex" 
Gaotha Aonach agus farraigí seo a leanas, Captaen

Monday, 26 March 2012


 The next post on this Blog will appear on Tuesday, March 27th 2012 at 2100hrs BST, 1300hrs Pacific Time,  precisely.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

This was not a premonition

What was it we were discussing yesterday about automatic weapons, borders and stuff? Look out, the Chechans are coming? No, they're here.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Something very suspicious

The right to self defence in the UK is very much enshrined in case law. That means there is no specific formal statute that lays down an easy to follow continuum of force so that us citizens can carry an abridged, wallet-sized aide memoire version of it in case we need to get ugly with some pain in the arse who is hassling us or wandering about the neighbourhood looking suspicious.  NB: Hard to find a legal definition of `suspicious` too. Not so in Florida, so it seems.

English law does sort of define this in respect of the offence of assault, creating a rather nebulous guideline that suggests when an assault on the person of another may be deemed justifiable ie. in self defence, defence of ones property etc. but all it says is that the force used must be reasonable and proportionate. Perhaps keeping it simple is the right way to go? The litmus test is usually left to the courts to decide but in all cases hitherto, the law Lords have always expected there to have been a degree of retreat until it is not reasonable to retreat any more, before force to defend is applied. As for defending the homestead, I always explained to my students that if the householder clobbered the burglar on the way in,(that's reasonably clobbered) there would be a far better chance of having it deemed justifiable than if the clobbering took place as said burglar was exiting the premises, as far more explanation would be required. I always had my own reasons and excuses well sorted in my mind, well in advance of any encounters.

 It is, therefore, a very bright, nay blinding spotlight that currently focusses on this.  And to cap it all, the very last thing that the community over there needs right now, in my humble opinion, is this.

I hope the Home Office's bright young reforming things take this into account when they sit down together and plan the re-structuring of the police service, especially the bit where they want to offload some of it to privateers.

I also hope old Clem, our local neighbourhood watch co-ordinator, doesn't get any ideas. The last thing the village needs is a lone wannabe avenger patrolling with his pitchfork and rabbiting lamp.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

First the Euro........

Another mad murdering criminal bites the dust in Toulouse. Just heard the questions from Sky News's man near the spot posing the interesting question, `where did he get all those weapons and how was he allowed to travel so freely?`

That's a question that was often posed during the Thatcher years, and she took some stick for her views.

Life after Mick, life after Lex, regrets and forgiveness

My friend died. He was killed in what is sometimes referred to, in a quasi-heroic manner, as`the line of duty`. If he'd keeled over and croaked behind his desk at his computer screen it wouldn't be referred to as `in the line of duty` even if he was at work. He was fit, healthy, hilarious, a half decent drummer, a quaffer of fine ales, a good rugby player and a bit of a handful on a night out in the West End. He was a Bow Street policeman and he was killed doing his duty. Do I miss him? Yes, in that he was denied the right to a long life, but then so are lots of people. We wouldn't have kept in regular touch, for our lives were different outside of work. We may have served together again, but we never had the chance to, as somebody killed him. We would probably have gone to the occasional reunion and laughed at his fat belly, our excess of grey hair, or lack of any hair. I haven't got a fat belly, never had, still exercise, still keep in shape. Perhaps he would have too. I think he would have.  Do I think about him? Yes, but not every day, not every week, I just can't predict when his grin, or the echo of his voice will pop into my thoughts. I was hit bloody hard when he died. Could have been me. A few months earlier it nearly was, in exactly similar circumstances, but I'm here and he's gone. His killers served less than 4 years in prison. Will I get over it?  That question is far too vague. Get over what, exactly? Only time will tell.

PC Michael Anthony WHITING QPM, killed after clinging to a car which had driven off after he had stopped and questioned the driver.       May 5th 1973

On a different tack, but still sailing into the winds of bereavement, I was thinking about the time, many moons ago, when my doctor's wife took her own life. A troubled soul, no doubt, to do something like that. She took prescribed medication along with three quarters of a bottle of Scotch whiskey, a blended variety although I can't remember the brand, but I do remember that she drank it from a heavy  cut glass whiskey tumbler, for it is in my minds eye as I type these words.

I remember, vividly, one part the transcript of the Coroner's report that my colleague prepared; it was an extract from the emergency `999` call made by one of her daughters, aged about seven. Her older sister, aged about nine, was desparately doing CPR as her sibling spoke to ambulance control. Good kids, well trained by Daddy for such things. They had just got off the school bus and walked into the house to find their mother, dead, on the lounge carpet. "Can you help us. I think my Mummy has died".

Some time later I was given the job of returning that bottle of scotch and the glass to the bereaved doctor, my doctor, in my village. My sergeant said it was cluttering up `crime property` and must be returned, against a signature. The glass and bottle sat in my office drawer for weeks. I got several memo's from my sergeant and several verbal orders for the register to be completed and to return the property against a receipt, a signed receipt. I knew that I would be re-opening an awful wound, but my sergeant was muttering disciplinary action, neglect of duty and other threats. I wound myself up and headed off, making it the last call of the day, after all, he was a near neighbour a mere half mile from the village police house, my office, my home.

Deep breath, long walk up a short drive, knock on door. Greetings, brief mutual exchange, explanation, open the bag, a peep inside, the change of his expression, a pain in my heart, business-like response, `Yes, of course` a quick scribble, `there you are... thanks H... bye` door closed.

I agonised beforehand and I agonised afterwards. Why isn't there an easier way of doing this? Should I just forge his signature and spare him the pain, no one would know, he'd never want this stuff back anyway. I should've just phoned him, offered to dump the stuff and get a signature without having to hand it over. Stupid stupid stupid. Then I considered the alternatives; awkward investigative questions asked months later,  neglect of duty reports, a discipline hearing, a career blighted or worse, he may have actually wanted the glass. Allegations of theft would follow and criminal prosecution. I did my duty and hated it.

For nearly twenty years after I would be jabbed by that doorstep encounter at random times. I'd be sitting down watching a film at home and suddenly the thoughts of that afternoon would bust it's way out of my mental filing system and into my consiousness and I would say "Oh no" out loud or under my breath. Until one afternoon at police HQ, when I'd been sitting on a selection board and had taken a break for tea. I found myself in the canteen and padre, the Reverend Mike, came over and joined me. Greetings, mutual exchange, small talk, then the subject changed and I thought of my doctor. I told padre my story. Without changing tone he said that if I could spare him two minutes he'd cure me.
 `OK Rev, Go for it.` 

"Look at you now, a senior officer with twenty five or more years experience in all sorts of ways, blaming a poor kid with a mere six years under his belt and faced with something he hadn't encountered before and with so much more to learn before he gets to where you are now. Why are you blaming that person. That person wasn't you, he was a different person. Don't blame yourself for something someone else did. Give him a break, forgive him his lack of experience.". Cured. Oh wise padre.

Someday I'll forgive myself for everything else that gets to me. But not today. Not just yet.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Getting back in the saddle

I have got to get a post up. Lost my blogpal 2 weeks ago. Been spending a lot of time with what has unofficially become The Lexians who, I have to say, have rallied round and stuck together in an amazing way. What great people.

Neptunus Lex, Capt. Carroll LeFon USN Ret'd, was a great writer and prolific blogger. I am kicking my arse back into gear with a couple of bits, totally plagiarised but in the spirit of brother Lex who, like yours truly, loved the historical novelist Patrick O'Brian. So below is an extract from "The Fortune of War" and I chose it specifically as we await a funeral for our chum. Following that is a link to a BBC Radio 4 broadcast that although involves flying, is more in my old domain than Lex's, but I think he'd have loved it - a poet in a police helicopter. I can't get more Lex than that. It's all I've got at the moment.

    `You spoke of a funeral?`
   `We bury poor Lawrence of the Chesapeake`.
   `Should I come too? I can be ready in a moment. I should be very willing to show the respect I feel, if it is usual`.
   `No, the custom is only men of the same rank, apart from those detailed to attend and his own officers`.
All the post-captains in Halifax were gathering on the gunwharf; he knew most of them, but he only had time to greet one or two before the clock struck; exact to the minute the coffin came ashore with its escort of Marines, and the cortege formed behind it, the few American officers who could walk, the soldiers, the captains two by two, the generals and the Admiral.
   They marched to the sound of a muffled drum, and the cheerful streets fell silent as they came. Jack had taken part in many processions of this kind, some of them very poignant indeed - shipmates, close friends, a cousin, his own officers or midshipmen - but he never regretted an enemy commander as he regretted Lawrence, a man quite after his own heart, who had brought his ship into action and had fought her in the handsomest manner. The steady beat, the marching steps in time, caused the bitter disappointments of this morning to fade from his mind; and at the exactly-ordered ceremony, the chaplain's ritual words, and the rattle of earth on the coffin, made him very grave indeed. The firing party's volley, the last military honours, jerked him from his thoughts, but not from his gravity. Although death was so much a part of his calling, he could not get rid of the image of captain Lawrence standing there on his quarterdeck just before the first devastating broadsides; and he found the reviving cheerfulness among his companions particularly jarring.  It was not that their respect for the dead man was feigned, nor that their formal bearing until the time the gathering broke up was hypocritical, but their respect was for an unknown, though certainly brave and able commander - respect for the abstract enemy, for officerlike conduct.
   `You knew him, I believe?` said his neighbour, Hyde Parker of the Tenedos.
   `Yes, said Jack. He came to see me in Boston. He had captured one of my officers when he took the Peacock, and he was very kind to him. He commanded their Hornet, you know:a fine gallant fellow. As gallant as you could wish.`
   `Aye,` said Hyde Parker, `that's the devil of it. But you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs, you know; you can't have a victory that counts without a butcher's bill`.

From the British/American War of 1812 to present day London. Hope my American friends can get it via the below link. Enjoy:

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Moving Mysteriously On

I have been down in my boots since learning of the death of my blogpal `Neptunus Lex` who died at the controls of his Kfir jet fighter in an incident at Fallon Air Base in Nevada.

I have been moved to silent tears on any number of occasions since, by the reading of so many touching comments and tributes from his amazingly wide circle of readers, brothers in arms and blog followers from across the globe. I traded ribald, good humoured banter with many of them and, through this medium, got a feel for what they were about and I feel for them in their sorrow as I would for any good friends. It is a `first` for me, this `friends I've yet to meet` thing.

Although I started blogging anecdotes from my police career I have always had an interest in current affairs, politics, military history, aircraft plus life, the universe and everything and I found all of the aforementioned in abundance at Lex's place.  I would occasionally correspond privately with him on issues of mutual interest and always received a reply, sometimes in detail, sometimes short and sweet but always with courtesy and great warmth. He paid me a great compliment by flagging up a recent post of mine as a little pot-boiler on his blog, to fill a gap whilst he was away from his computer keyboard. I took this honourable mention to heart. I was chuffed as nuts.

This last week has been a bit of a trial for me. Just a few days before Lex's fatal crash I lost a friend of some 30 years standing. He finally succumbed to the ravages of Parkinson's disease, aided and abetted by that killer of the weak, pneumonia. His wife asked me if I would prepare and read a eulogy at the funeral service and I agreed. Then as the day drew nearer I found out that I was actually conducting the entire service, with his sons and daughters adding personal tributes. That was OK too. They were grief stricken but did a great job. His family are Roman Catholic but one of his sons became a Bhuddist, and was a pillar of calm. The service itself was `humanist`.  As for me, despite the best efforts of my parents in getting me Christened and sending me off to Sunday school every week as a child, I am not a religious man, per se, but I always try to live to codes that good Christians will recognise. I respect religious faith and will join in that of others when invited. Over the years I have received much support and help from the police Padres I've known and, as a senior police officer, found myself on several occasions suggesting a troubled officer could do a lot worse than speaking to `Father Mike`. As for me, I've always felt I was too scientific for religion but I'll admit that I do `feel a force` that I have been unable to explain.

I started this post about Lex and wanted to share it primarily with his friends, because something happened yesterday that involved me and our much mourned brother and I wanted to share it. It was a little shake up call and left me astounded and amazed but ultimately with a smile on my face,  not unlike how many of Hizzoner's posts did. I had driven the delightful-delovely Mrs Hogday to a small estuary town in Suffolk, where she was going to meet the proprietor of a business that she was considering joining. We had never been there before and so having dropped her off outside the Wild Strawberry Cafe I drove to the riverside car park and thought I'd take a stroll.

Woodbridge is a quaint old town with a quiet waterfront, a tidal mill and a nautical history. It was also a watering hole for many American service personnel who were based here during the Cold War years. One of Lex's regulars rattled many a window in the surrounding area, flying F4's out of  RAF Woodbridge/Bentwaters and his successors did likewise with their whispering A10's. I decided that I would take a few snaps on my mobile phone camera and perhaps post them up on the blog sometime, with just a covering story and a few fitting words. And this is what happened, in chronological order:

First place I came to was this pub, "The Old Mariner". `Great sign`, I thought. `I bet Hizzoner would insist we took a sample in there`.  This town is a little maze of side streets and back alleys that were evocative of a different era, of a wood and sailcloth navy, of victuallers and sailmakers that Captain Jack Aubrey and Dr Stephen Maturin would have known. I took my photograph and strolled on up the hill.

I came upon this rather interesting house. Probably 15th century. I didn't have time to enter the museum just down the road to check. I briefly pondered on the souls who were born there, lived there and died there. The air was chilly and the street was quiet, the main shopping thoroughfare being lower down the road. I took my photograph and moved on.

Just a little further up the street was this hostelry. If you cast your eye down the street you can see that I hadn't come very far. I think, by now, this would ordinarily have called for a small Guinness (for strength) but it was before noon and I wasn't in the mood to drink alone. Onwards and upwards.

Aha! A civic building methinks. Yes, its the old Town Hall. I am beginning to recognise where I am. Just behind it is the small square where I dropped off Mrs HD.
I can almost smell the coffee.

 Now that's a place I could sink a pint. Adnams beer is up there with the very best of British, but do not despair friends, the Irish know their business, Guinness is served everywhere (for strength). Thinks: `This could be a good place for Mrs HD to work. For the `Wild Strawberry` is next door, I could come to fetch her as an act of love and devotion, park the car in the square, park myself in the Inn and then she could drive me home. A great plan.

What a place this United Kingdom is. Right opposite the pub, just up the road from the other pub and a little bit beyond "The Old Mariner" they stick this sign! At this point I felt sufficiently amused to take a picture of the sign as I thought some of my American chums who might view this would see the irony of it. But fear not if you want to raise a glass in Woodbridge, for the ordinance will not apply to us quaffing ale at the outside tables of the pub, providing we all keep calm and carry on. Plus, if push came to shove, I'd invoke `the old school tie`.

It was as I was taking this picture that I became aware of a couple standing just behind me. It was a man and a woman, a husband and wife - and British. She was reading the sign and told me, with a smile, that she was curious as to why I was taking a picture of it. I explained that I was killing a little time and also taking photographs of pubs and places that I felt a recently departed friend of mine would have been interested to see but, sadly, I would never be able to take him. I went on to briefly explain the circumstances. I didn't go into fine detail.  They told me that they were just visiting the area for a short winter break and that they lived in Oxfordshire, which is several hours drive away. They too had never been to Woodbridge before.

I mentioned that Lex lived on the West Coast and of how I, and others like me, came to know him through his writing. Then the spookiness started and this is how the conversation went:

"So whereabouts did he come from?" 
 "Near San Diego, though he was a Virginian". 
"Oh, how strange, we used to live just outside San Diego up until a few years ago"
`What a co-incidence that I should meet an English couple, in a Suffolk town, that neither of us have ever visited before - and that you lived near San Diego". 
"Yes, that really is a strange co-incidence". 
"We have Canadian friends who often stay there over the winter months". 
"Yes, it's a lovely temparature then. We were there not long ago visiting our old friends. You'd like it, they have trolley buses. It's very quaint. We always go to an English styled pub called Shakespeare's Bar, you'd really enjoy that".

At this point I had to do a mental re-boot. I was casually taking pictures whilst thinking of a man I'd never met. I bump into an English couple I'd never met before, in a town none of us had been to before, 6000 miles from San Diego, which is where they just happened to live until recently and they'd just recommended I visit sometime and take a drink in Shakespeare's Bar. OK..... 
I took a chance and mentioned the Shakespeare's connection. I got an old fashioned look from them but I managed to assure them that I was not a crazy person. We laughed at the co-incidence. We exchanged pleasantries and bade each other farewell. As they walked off towards towards the quay, I heard a vehicle pull up next to where I was standing, by that sign. I heard the door close but didn't turn to look straight away. Mrs HD suddenly emerged from "Wild Strawberry" and as she walked towards me I noticed that the vehicle that had parked next to me was a Nissan Warrior 4x4 truck. I took a photograph of it.

I like to think of myself as scientific, logical, rational, open minded but whatever I think I am, that morning in Woodbridge, yesterday, was something rather different. It is to savour.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Capt Carroll LeFon USN Retd - "Neptunus Lex" a very special man

`Lex` was killed yesterday in a flying incident in the aircraft in the photograph . 

Naval aviator, fighter pilot, writer, husband, father.
 An outstanding man. 
There is a big hole in The Universe and the earth is somehow diminished now he no longer resides here.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Word Verification

This has been getting on my tits of late. I found a couple of `spammed` comments from poor old Sparkflash, a trusted commenter who did not deserve to be robotically dumped on the naughty stair. For your convenience, I have turned the bloody thing off until I feel the need to engage it.

A rage against the machine it ain't, but it might make things easier for people like me who, when they see a couple of squiggles they have to type, tend to walk away mumbling.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

A Murder by any other name

The story behind the headlines or, put another way, todays front page is tomorrows fish and chips wrapper.

Another forgotten hero who was a Cadet colleague and friend of mine. Those of us who lived it, don't forget.

Somebody please define "Justice" ?

Rest easy. Peace to your families.