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`.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Relaxing in the saddle

A `glute` of  British monkey bums (and one Dutch) en route to Hanksville, Utah, 2003

 Riding a motorcycle is relaxing in a strange sort of way. When you examine the facts it shouldn't be, but for me it is. There comes a point in a journey when you feel you are in what modern middle and long distance runners refer to as `the zone`.  For me, that zone is the place where one is comfortable but fully focussed, aware of your surroundings, making necessary adjustments to your speed and position on the road, scanning the environment for potential threats and reacting to them promptly and smoothly whilst ensuring that all the time you are making progress.

I think the relaxation comes from focussing on something that I strive to do well and then finding myself achieving that for a prolonged period. It feels slick, you are going with the flow and working well, riding to `the system`. Physically and mentally, riding a motorcycle is more tiring than sitting in a car yet my old back injury is less troubled from sitting on my motorcycle than in a tin box. But there comes a time when the zone moves away from me and I start to struggle to stay with it.  That moment is usually because of physical elements interfering with my part in the journey; feeling cold, hungry or experiencing the annoying pain in the arse that all bikers get and refer to by a variety of euphemisms including `monkey bum`.
Not my actual bum

I'm still breaking in my body to the new bike and currently my monkey bum starts at around the 100 mile mark. If I choose not to stop I can alleviate it by an number of exercises I have developed over my years in the saddle. Taking the weight off a little by pressing up with my legs, not enough to be clear of the seat but enough to ease the circulation, works for a while as does clenching and relaxing my `glutes`. Eventually, one has to stop because physical discomfort eventually reaches a point where your concentration leaves the road and dwells on the pain. That is dangerous. I think I want an Airhawk for Christmas.

 Last Sunday I set off on a 200 mile ride to visit my daughter, son and grandchildren. The 100 mile mark was coming up, as indicated by my backside. I was on a motorway and so reluctantly chose a service area for some tea and a bum rest (Mrs HD had provided my doughnuts!). I walked about, stretched and then waded into the cafeteria, crowded with Sunday travellers. It was the last weekend before the schools re-open and I suspected that, for many, this was the end of the final summer outing because there was a large proportion of children scooting about. I got my mug of tea, sat in a soft comfy chair and tucked in to my Pump Street doughnuts.

But this was not relaxation. The babble of the masses, squabbling and shouting at their naughty children was getting to me after only half a jam doughnut. Adding additional pain to my senses was the bloody `lift muzak` and a really naff version of "The Girl from Ipanima" wailing away somewhere above my head. It was quite nasty, but being a biker I rode through the pain, reached into my jacket pocket and re-fitted my earplugs. It was wonderful hearing the irritating assault on my aural senses start to fade away as the foam slowly expanded in my ear canals. Bliss.

It was good to get back in the saddle, get back into the zone - and relax.

"This is not my beautiful wife, this is not my beautiful bike, how did I get here" (with apologies to `Talking Heads`)