Monday, 25 August 2014

"Police Five" and other innocent brushes with The Law

Police Five recently made a comeback on Channel 5.

I remember when the original programme first hit our television screens in the early 1960s with Shaw Taylor as the presenter. Now in his late 80s he presented the Channel 5 show.

One day someone knocked on our door to ask if he could take some photographs from the window of my parents' bedroom. Apparently this window in our second floor flat was the ideal place to take some action shots of the recreation of the robbery that had happened in the business opposite. This was when we lived at the Borough in London.

I was off school on the day the photographer was due, home on my own. I cannot remember whether it was a school holiday or whether I had been poorly. When a knock at the door finally came, it wasn't the photographer but two plain clothes police officers to protect me. One of my parents had telephoned the police station with doubts about leaving me on my own and this was the result. The remainder of the day for me was spent playing cards and drinking tea with these two fellows. They must have been bored out of their wits. The photographer never came.

The police officers told me to leave the milk on the doorstep (this was in the days when everyone had their milk delivered) and when my mother came home she started a tongue lashing about how lazy I was because I "couldn't even be bothered to take in the milk". Her attitude soon changed when faced with the two men.

Anyway, checks were made and the photographers eventually arrived, this time when I was at school and one of my parents was at home. The stills were shown on the Police 5 programme but I don't remember whether or not the robbers were caught. Although exciting at the time ~ I suppose in my lonely-only world of childhood I felt like I was on the set of Z Cars ~ the incident is insignificant now.

My mother had a circle of friends, one of whom was married to a Special Constable. On one occasion I was asked to join them at the Policeman's Ball (no kidding). Having stayed in Oxford for a while and attended a ball or two, I wore the pink brocade gown and pearls I had worn on those occasions.  My mother said nothing. I am recording the humiliation of arriving at the Policeman's Ball to find that it was not a formal affair at all. To make it worse a string of pearls broke and the beads scattered everywhere. On the plus side, every female was given a manicure set, some of the pieces of which I still have.

Knowing this Special Constable did have its benefits. One night when I was followed home on a train I was able to ring him from the station and he took me home. Mother was far from pleased, not about my being followed but because I had called out her friend.

It was on the evening my 25th birthday when my then friend Gillian and I were walking from Glasgow Central Station to the University of Strathclyde Students' Union disco to celebrate. I felt a tug at my bag, to see it disappearing along the street clutched in the hand of a young fellow. Believe it or not the words "Stop! Thief!" ejected from my mouth as Gillian and I gave chase. Other people joined in and the fellow was eventually caught  by an off duty policeman. My joy was tempered somewhat when I found that my brand new handbag, given to me by my mother for my birthday and was being used for the first time, had been dropped in a puddle. Part of the lining was soaked and forever stained but other than that not much damage was done.

Gillian and I had to go to the police station to give statements. In our finery of long skirts, high heels, jewellery and makeup, we were ushered into the front of a Black Maria like a pair of streetwalkers for the journey, the thief safely locked up in the back. I got my bag back with nothing missing. The young fellow had escaped from a youth detention centre a few days previously and would be sent back. So no charges were brought and we were allowed to go on our way to the disco ~ in the back of a police car.

So Dave and I were enjoying our stay at Matlock Bath. We had walked into Matlock for a meal and were in Matlock Bath walking back to our B&B when we saw a Border Collie running backwards and forwards across the main road running alongside the river. Fearing an accident we managed to catch the dog but there was no disc with name and contact details. Being not far from our lodging we managed to get the dog there and Dave ~ always prepared for anything and everything ~ found a length of rope in the car which made a makeshift lead. The dog obediently came to the telephone box with us while we rang the police.

Could we please take the dog to the Police Station? We couldn't take him in the car because Dave had had a pint or two so we had to walk back to Matlock. One of the policemen thought he knew who the dog belonged to but had to put him in the kennel in the meantime. The dog had for some reason taken a liking to me and was reluctant to go. Not long after the policeman and dog had disappeared, the policeman came back: "Excuse me, madam. Would you mind coming with me. We can't get the dog in the kennel." 'Madam' went and the dog did as requested. We received an apology for the dog not being collected but there were not any police cars equipped to carry dogs available. But we did get a lift back to our B&B in a police car. We just hoped that nobody was looking out of the window.

Then there was the time we went on a drive to Derbyshire. It was one of Dave's rest days and the car had been fixed at the garage a few days previously so we decided to take Billy, our Border Collie, for a run around Black Rock. We travelled without incident on the motorway and pulled off onto the exit slip road. As we did the car ground to a halt. I had just enough time to take my mobile phone from my bag and to start dialling the breakdown company when a police car screeched (or so it seemed) to a halt and two burly fellows got out to admonish us for stopping on the slip road. When they saw our poor engine and realised that we couldn't move another inch even if we tried, they were extremely helpful. Eventually the breakdown lorry arrived, one that would accept a dog as a passenger, and had to take us back all the way to Cambridgeshire. Just as well Billy liked being driven around. It's just a shame that he missed his walk. But we consider ourselves lucky because if the car had stopped working on the motorway ...

We were going to Elena's wedding in Margate. We had accommodation booked for the night of the wedding but not for the night before. We had accepted a lift on the Friday and thought that we could find a room when we got there. The hotel where we were to stay on Saturday was fully booked so we started to look at B&Bs for vacancies. We found one not far from the hotel. When freshening up we could not help but notice that there was only a small hand towel between us. We asked the proprietor about towels to be told: "You've got one." This set the tone of the accommodation. It was only mid-afternoon so we were able to go shopping and buy some decent towels. It didn't make much change to the facilities in the room because the used water in the sink didn't drain away. Our complaint didn't make any difference.

We enjoyed our evening with family in their hotel and we managed a decent sleep in our room. The following morning using the sink still wasn't an option but there was nobody using the bathroom so we were each able to make full use of it. Breakfast was uneventful until we heard more voices and the dining room filled with bodies. It was a police raid. Thankfully it didn't affect us.

We found refuge with family in their hotel until our room was ready. The wedding was a wonderful occasion which went, as far as were concerned, without a hitch.

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