Thursday, 13 November 2014

The day after the day after Armistice Day.....

It’s the day after the day after Armistice Day.

However, on the 11th, just before 1100hrs, my faithful Jack Russell, Monty, and I stood at our village war memorial alongside a few other local residents and a dozen schoolchildren, approximately half of our tiny primary school. The fourth stanza of Binyon’s poem, For the fallen was spoken. As the church clock struck eleven, we observed a two minute silence. Then we left.

When I got back home I read the final paragraph and then the epilogue of the book I have been reading these past few months, purely co-incidental that I finished it on this day. It was about the British Redcoat in the era of sword and musketry. The final paragraph came as a footnote to the Battle of Waterloo, June 18th 1815. I shall share it:
“Thomas Pococke of the 71st did not care. Having survived the Peninsular and Waterloo, his only concern was to to be given a discharge and return home. He got his wish in the winter in 1815…….`I left my comrades with regret`, recalled Pococke, `but the service with joy. I came down to the coast to embark, with light steps and a joyful heart, singing, “When the wild war’s deadly blast was blawn”. I was poor as poor could be; but I had hope before me, and pleasing dreams of home`.
Arriving in Edinburgh by ship, he went straight to his parents’ home. They no longer lived there, nor did the new occupant know their address. Fortunately the landlord remembered Tom and took him to his mother for a tearful reunion, the first in nine years. Pococke spent the next two years completing an account of his time in the army and sent it to a friend in the hope that it might be published. It was in 1819. But by then his mother was dead and he, unable to find work even as a labourer, had disappeared. Having left the army sound of body and without the requisite twenty years’ service, Pococke was not eligible for a pension. He was last heard of working as a road mender `with a number of other poor labourers thrown out of general employment`. Thus did Britain reward `that best of all instruments…British Infantry`.

In the epilogue, the last words were fittingly a quote from a soldier whose Prussian (later German) Army would dominate Europe’s battlefields from the mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries in much the same way the British Army had for the century and a half before that. `For battle`, wrote Baron von Müffling, Wellington’s former Prussian liaison officer, in 1816, `there is not perhaps in Europe an army equal to the British, that is to say, none whose tuition, discipline, and whole military tendency, is so purely and exclusively calculated for giving battle.` He added:
`The British soldier is vigorous, well fed, by nature highly brave and intrepid, trained to the most vigorous discipline, and admirably well armed. The infantry resist attacks of cavalry with great confidence, and when taken in the flank or rear, British troops are less disconcerted than any other European army. These circumstances in their favour will explain how this army, since the Duke of Wellington conducted it, has never yet been defeated in the open field`.

That is why I support the Royal British Legion.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Fair wear and tear....

Had a faithful old tooth removed yesterday. It had served me well for almost 50 years. Needed a root canal jobby a few years back but apart from that it was doing great. My Portuguese dentist has told me I have great teeth and healthy gums... with one exception, the aforementioned LR5 (who I shall call "Mo"). Pure bad luck caused an infection to set in, post aforementioned root canal, which in itself was a great piece of work, but hey, sh1t happens and Mo had to be retired.
Plan `A` was to remove Mo and screw a Titanium implant into his place to take a ceramic in a few months but the X ray showed that Mo's foundation was no longer rock, but sand - a bone graft would be needed. But quick thinking dentist coolly announced that next to Mo there was a long-time gap where LR6 once lived and this will be ideal for the implant, so it was `job-on` after all. Can't remember how I lost LR6, but what with the space he'd long ago left behind suddenly coming in so unexpectedly handy, nay perfect for the tactical option (and me being a bit of an aviation enthusiast) I'm re-naming LR6 "A.10"! (I thought about "Spad", but this is the 21st century and after all we are talking Titanium).
So I'm all numbed up and the Op begins. A couple of taps, the insertion of a small explosive charge, a dull crunch and out comes Mo. The infected section of jawbone is cleaned, grafted and we move on to prep area A.10 for the titanium screw. A two, three and four mm drill bit do their thing - well not quite, as the 3mil seizes solid in the healthy, rock-solid bone, the drill suddenly stops and my dentist is flung sideways with the torque reaction.Another hi tech piece of specialist dentistry has to be deployed. I think I heard him call it an `Apertado Pequeno Bastardo`, which judging from the sound and feel of things through the numbness is probably Portuguese for, `Mole Grips` (probably titanium as well, although I swore I could smell WD40).
Space `A10` was completed in record time (about 8 tracks from the `Adele CD` playing in the background - just as well because I think he told me there were `21`).
I aimed some antiseptic fluid in the general direction of my mouth, rinsed out the bone and gore in an action resembling a lawn sprinkler, and then let my dentist give me a facial makeover with a sterile wipe. I sat up and looked at the lovely nurse who had, for the last 90 minutes, been kneeling on my chest forcing my mouth open with steel instruments pressed hard on the bits of my lips and mouth that still had working nerves. Trying to smile I said, "Ice pack please". She then slapped me across the un-anaesthetised part of my face and stormed out. I was bemused. The dentist ran after her and she returned a short while later full of apologies. It was a simple mis-undertanding caused by my anaesthetised tongue, what I said being encrypted by the novocaine and coming out as "Nice rack Miss" *.
I'm feeling a bit better this morning, despite the stitches in my gum, and looking forward to getting the full A.10 by the end of the year. Until then, you can call me `Gappy`, although you can't see it until I laugh real hard.

* Surely I must be joking by now? Of course.

Friday, 3 October 2014

"Eheu Fugaces, Postume Postume"

Met a bloke I hadn't seen for bloody years very recently. He'd got himself into a shedload of trouble and currently awaits a sentence. He didn't say anything to start with as he assumed I'd heard about his big mistake, which I hadn't, despite it making the press. I felt sorry for him, more so for his innocent family. He wasn't a child molester/sexual deviant, a thief or a breaker of bones. He'd let a chain of events get out of hand and had made a huge error of judgement that could cost him a loss of liberty by way of an exemplary punishment. I told him he'd be lucky if he got it suspended but his admission, clean sheet and conduct prior-to would be a sway in his favour. `The thing is`, I told him, ` we all make genuine mistakes and get things wrong through occasional bad judgement which, in itself, is caused by many factors but mainly inexperience. If we could go back in time to do things better, most of us would, so we shouldn't judge the less experienced soul we once were, based on the experience we have today`. I don't know if that helped.

It also got me thinking about people I've encountered throughout my working life, who I may have either misjudged, let down or disappointed in some way. If I got it wrong, I wasn't wrong deliberately. If I got it right but they didn't like the outcome, well, maybe I could have gone about it in a different way, but I couldn't see it because, at the time that was all I had. I have given evidence in court as a character witness for a defendant. I have also declined to give prosecution evidence when a former colleague was being prosecuted because it just seemed like a witch hunt. For me, it is all about the ethics and if he was guilty beyond reasonable doubt then they wouldn't need me to over-egg the pudding of justice. Sometimes the prosecution looks like its using a sledgehammer and to me that is distasteful.

I never turned away from doing something I believed needed doing. I could never ignore something bad because turning a `blind eye`, is to condone and if you are paid to get things done properly and don't, then you are a fraud and not earning your keep. I never set out to do harm. I'm sorry if I did, but my intentions were always to do what I believed was the right thing, however personally damaging it was for me to do so. By the same token, I don't bear any malice or ill will. It's done and forgotten. Life is way too short. So if you are out there and you see me, do say hello. The slate is clean.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Home Sec socks it to `em

 This image is a simple illustration of what we old farts called `reasonable suspicion`. It took years of training to detect it - some officers never managed it. Some, however, did manage to grasp the basics. Some I knew could even find their own arse with one hand (given a few clues). But in the late 20th and early 21st Century, due to the need for progress and enlightenment, `reasonable suspicion` was removed from the statute books and replaced yes, "alarm and distress" (and an investigation team of internet hackers).

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Do you suffer from memory loss? (I can't remember)

"Training", is about providing hooks to which you can hang facts, figures, words and deeds. This is because we tend to think in images not letters. You make a learning point by associating it with an image, an action, a funny story, an interesting anecdote, the more outrageous the better. Making it memorable is the job of the trainer.
I know this works because someone asked a now senior police officer if they ever knew me. The chap said, "Hmm, 1983, I was a probationary officer on a regular training week at the police training school. Motor Vehicle Construction and Use regulations practical. He was our instructor. He appeared around the corner riding a motorcycle, no hands, with his crash helmet on back to front. Yes, I remember him". That made oi larrf
(Funny thing is, I can't remember it!)

Friday, 19 September 2014

Scotland the Brave

I support the Union and I congratulate Scotland, even those who said they'd sooner vote for the Taliban than The Union - I forgive the Scot that I actually heard say that - for he knew not what he was really saying (and was possibly thinking `rugby`). As for that pugnacious tosser Salmond, I have nothing to say and will keep my personal thoughts of him to myself.

Thank you, Scotland. I will always respect you.

Friend? If you see these flags you are among friends.
Enemy? Best you keep moving.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

! "IT WASN'T MY F A U L T" !

Chatting to a biker a while back, my old riding buddy Jim was on his Paris Dakar 1000GS re-fuelling when a sport bike pulled up behind him at the fuel pumps. 
Race-rep-man says’ “They’re good those old Beemers with all the metal luggage and stuff. Whats it go like?”
Jim says, “It gets me from here to Morocco and back no bother, but it can be a bit tricky when loaded up”.
Race man says, “Have you dropped it?”
Jim says, “Only when stationary, getting it off the centre stand, but then I’ve dropped every bike I’ve ever owned at some time or other, usually when loaded”.
Race man; “Why couldn’t you hold it up”?
Jim, “Have you ever held a fully loaded bike, with 7 gallons of fuel in it, and have your foot slip on diesel or gravel”?
Race rep, “No, but I dropped my last bike a couple of weeks ago. This is a spare while i wait for the insurance. I was having a really good progressive ride but as I came off the motorway I hit a very uneven patch of road surface which caused me to lose it and the bike slammed into a Volvo estate at the top of the slip. Bloody road maintenance”.
Jim, “What speed were you doing when you got the wobble”?
Race rep, “Well I left the motorway at about 140 but I was just below 100 when I hit the ruts. Anyway, I might get a GS when I’m an old geezer”.
Jim, “I doubt you will”.
Race rep, “No, seriously, I like GS’s”
Jim, “No, I meant you won’t ever be an old geezer”.

Cheery wave and off Jim went.
I wonder if the Race replica man got it?

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

My Kingdom for a horse (or an MRI)

I had a great week at the Police Rehabilitation Centre. Many of the physiotherapists were former NHS employees and they were brilliant (as I'm sure they were when they were with the NHS). All the health care professionals I saw during the last 10 months were also truly impressive, but I got my physio treatment as quickly as I did because I paid into the police welfare fund for 32 years and as a retiree I am still entitled to apply for treatment.

Now, take Richard the Third, beaten to death at the battle of Bosworth, 1485, the location of his remains undiscovered until 2012. After extensive scientific forensic examinations including X-Rays, CT and MRI scans, the news re King Richard III has just been released.

Taking into account the lack of health care in 1485, but factoring in his position in society (he was `King` after all), the population increase over the following 500 years and the added complication that his remains were unknown and I roughly calculate that, all things considered, he still got his MRI before I did

Friday, 12 September 2014

It's been a long time, been a long time, been a long lonely lonely lonely lonely lonely time (drum roll)

House moving, head injury, week in police rehab all mounts up. So here's a little post to no one in particular, as all my regular passing visitors have probably all found jobs by now....

Re-posted from social media elsewhere. Its a lazy way to get back to blogging but just like a sunken ship full of jihadist's a start.

Our destiny, as bikers, is not always in our own hands, we all know that. The statistics alone are bad enough to make us realise this. 

In my last week of work I was at a fatal crash of a biker. No other vehicle involved. Massive impact into a lamp post, at high speed, on an urban 40 mph restricted road. The poor lad was not `unlucky` (no inference re the above video is intended) , unless you include the lamp post in his way after he lost control, which caused his body to go from 70 to zero in a second. Had he missed the lamp post, he would have piled into bushes and trees, the former which may have slowed him or the latter which may still have killed him. The luck he needed was after he lost the bike. 

I put his severed left leg into the body bag with the rest of him, once the investigators allowed it. Limbs are really heavy, legs especially. I can still remember the surprise I got when I lifted it off the road. It was still clad in leather from mid thigh down, and wearing a boot. It was severed just below the groin. The blood and gristle didn't make me feel sick, it was the tragic waste of a life and my thoughts of his family that did that. This memory lingers on because I used to occasionally ride with a group that included his Dad. I rode out with him the following week. Dad said it was a cathartic experience for him. I never told him I was at the crash as I couldn't see the point. He didn't know what I used to do. 

I am a `libertarian` at heart. I don't like excessive law. I don't like to preach or judge in cases like this either so I'm taking care just to speak for myself. These crashes, these deaths of strangers, still get to me. That brave, dignified mother's words got to me, as did the words I've heard from other parents whose tragedies I had to share but the tiniest part of, for the death is just the beginning for them. After 45 years in the saddle I still try and do what ever I reasonably can, as a biker, to try not to add to the odds already stacked against me. I hope that what I do actually swings the stats in my favour. Even a few percentage points might help as you never know which ones you'll need. I just don't want to waste whats left in my lucky bag of life. I wish peace for his family and his friends and to all my unknown riding pals out there.

Friday, 30 May 2014

I want your boots, your clothes and your biggest BMW GS

I had to chortle at this and it's `little` dig at motorcycle snobbery
(P.S. I used to ride a GS and a Harley, amongst many others, so I have suffered for my `art`, but I never, ever, had a whale foreskin riding jacket :-/)


Thursday, 24 April 2014

The genius of Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder

A lot of people won't know this, but in my early days in the Metropolitan Police Diplomatic Protection Group, circa 1974,  "Puddin on da reeeetz" became something of a cult battle cry as a direct result of 3 of us seeing this film in Kensington Road.... also, if correctly shouted, it would get us in to a lot of otherwise exclusive night clubs....after work, of course.


Wednesday, 9 April 2014

`All in all, it's just another...........`

I've just been watching the `big trial` in South Africa on the BBC News.

When one has been subjected to the rigourous UK police firearms training regime throughout one's service, including responsibility for the implimentation of a miriad of policy and post incident procedures, one cannot help but take a closer interest when various reasons for firing at a wall, for fear of what may or may not be behind it, are proffered as a defence.

I think, for the first time since I discovered it back in the `70's, I actually believe that the famous Welsh martial art of Llap-Gogh is being so proffered!

Sunday, 30 March 2014

It's a long way to the top....

...if you want to rock and roll

I'm all for starting at the bottom and working one's way to the top - gives one so much more time in the afternoon to get on with running things.

Ridin' down the highway
Goin' to a show
Stop in all the byways
Playin' rock 'n' roll
Gettin' robbed
Gettin' stoned
Gettin' beat up
Broken boned
Gettin' had
Gettin' took
I tell you folks
It's harder than it looks

2nd verse gets close to the truth, too:
Gettin' old
Gettin' grey
Gettin' ripped off
Gettin' sold
Second hand
That's how it goes
........................................summed up my 30 years quite well.

Friday, 28 February 2014

Time the police took a lower profile

 I was in `the smoke` last weekend, paying a visit to Ronnie Scott's. As we made our way back to our hotel through the night people of Soho, a Met police car stopped outside a restaurant to sort out a dispute. They were in a bloody Hyundai hatchback, all coloured up like a Haribo chewy sweet. I was dumbstruck. Still, I suppose if your going to dent something, it might as well be cheap.
I am old enough to have gone on patrol in the last of the 3.8 S-type Jags in the Met Police, circa 1970. Two versions: mean jet black for your standard `area car` and lily white for traffic division. No fancy day-glow striping, no logo's, no puke-inducing corporate mantra-message stencilled on the side, just a single blue light and a small `po-leece` sign on the rear, no-see-us-coming-till too late....oh take me back to reminiscence central...

 One fun-filled memory of an early outing in a well worn Jag 3.8S springs to mind. 
On an emergency call in Lewisham, south London, to a fatal RTA. Shifting from 2nd to 3rd passing through 60+mph and climbing, the driver suddenly handed me the gear lever that had come out of its housing and said, "Find me 4th will you"?
 Cool guys those Class 1 advanced, Hendon trained, drivers.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Justifiable Homicide, violent criminals and perceptions

Before I move on from this subject, I wanted to add something.

I believe that the principal officer in the Duggan case was fully justified in resorting to the use of lethal force. I believe this, based on the fact that a jury considered all the available evidence, both factual and circumstantial, and came to the same conclusion. I forgive the jury any discrepancies in respect of their decision surrounding the location of the criminal's handgun because there are aspects of this type of operation, psychological as well as tangible, that they could never fully appreciate unless they were trained and then deployed on such an operation. I believe they did their best considering they could not have been made to feel what the police firearms officers feel in the build up to such tasks and especially in the crucial moments before making the decision to fire.  The closest they could get would be to spend a while on a modern police range to try a few shoot/no shoot scenarios for themselves. I can see some merit in that and once when I had the authority to do so, I had all of our county coroners spend a day with us to see just how intense the training was and, in particular, how the `justification to shoot/not shoot` exercises were far harder than teaching accuracy with an MP5 carbine. 

I also believe it was the correct decision because, many times in my own career involving armed operations, I had been briefed, and had briefed others, in preparation for the arrest of criminals who were suspected and likely to have been armed with a firearm and who were likely to have used it to resist arrest and I know from personal experience the immense stresses that have to be managed in such tasks. Thankfully I have never shot anyone, but I was given lots of opportunities.

I was once briefed in respect of the arrest of suspected members of a terrorist organisation who had committed a mass murder in another country and who had then been traced to a British city. My team was called in to arrest the suspects. The briefing I received outlined their previous acts of terrorism. There were literally pages of information - acts of murder  and attempted murder by firearms and explosives, across Europe. The day before my task, they had planted a bomb in London that had been disarmed by explosives experts - the same day that they had committed the atrocity abroad.

My team was briefed that we would have military support if our task became an `incident`, but that for reasons that were not divulged in detail, we, the civilian police, would have the lead on this operation. Our assistant chief constable was expecting that we would suffer casualties, although he did not tell us this until we were de-briefed after the arrests, later that day. But he didn't really have to because it was pretty clear from the briefing what we could expect.

To say that my teams (entry and containment) were in fear for their lives as we deployed, would be 100% true. The stress in the atmosphere was almost touchable.  I led one of two entry teams. My inspector led the other. As `my` room was breached, quite dynamically, at just before 0600 we were confronted by three men and they were challenged very firmly (our words could be heard down the street) to stand still and put their hands up. The man who I was challenging failed to do so, failed to show me his hands, which were hidden behind the bedclothing he was holding in front of him. I challenged him several times to drop the bedclothes and show me his hands. Allowing for my own perceptual distortion, which was aided and abetted by adrenaline, there were what seemed like several seconds when I was considering if he could in fact shoot me. I moved my index finger to the trigger of my pistol and was within a demi-ace of squeezing off a shot into his chest when the bedclothes dropped and I saw his empty hands. I knew I was about to shoot him and that the likely outcome could well have been his death. Perhaps he could sense that too?  He possibly couldn't even speak English very well or maybe was just scared stiff. We were both lucky. That incident has been hanging out with me for thirty years.

With all the attendant cirumstances taken into account from the history of that terrorist group, the intelligence, the information I had been given about their bombings and shootings and what confronted me in that tiny bed sitting room on that summers morning in August, I was lucky not to have fired, but I also know in my heart that within the next blink of an eye I would have done so. I know I was correct not to have fired because of hindsight - in the fraction of a second before I would have shot him, he dropped the covers and I could see he was unarmed. The bit I am unsure of is that just suppose he was a second slower in doing what he did and I had shot him.  Would I have been judged as wrong by a similarly constituted jury who did not feel and perceive what I did in that grubby little room in an English city. I had been briefed and given a task to perform. I was doing my duty. I was a volunteer, as all firearms officers are - people would be well advised to remember that volunteers can say `no thanks` at any time. If there are no volunteers, there are no firearms officers.

The intelligence gathered was not done by me but by others, scrutinised by others, vetted by others.  We who crashed the door and entered that room simply acted in good faith and tried to stay alive in the process.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

`Kill TV`coming!!

The prevalent, `it's not my fault`, attitude strikes yet again, but I fail to see how this will change all that. Still, it will make a nice change from home videos from the front line of Afghanistan when our troops finally escape from that hell hole.

Cameras in police custody centres were initially viewed with suspicion but soon earned the trust and respect of officers. Having a camera strapped to my body armour during my time at the very sharp end would have been highly questionable,  as I did not want any more kit strapped to my already sagging back than I absolutely needed to do the job. But hey, they're much smaller these days. Good luck guys.

Sad for any family when one of their flock chooses a life where violent death features high on the list of possible outcomes. One day, just maybe, we'll hear some dead blagger's grieving auntie sobbing, "this would never have happened if only he'd got a job with Tesco".