I’ve just come across some of my Dad’s writing that I had the pleasure of transcribing after he died.
He didn’t get too far in writing his memoirs, but the 30 pages I do have are treasured.
I’m sure he’d have made a great blogger!
Here is a little story from his time as a policeman.
More so on Fridays
Back in 1967, I was transferred to a small cotton town in East Lancashire. To be more accurate, it had once been a cotton town. In 1967, it was better known for shoes, carpets and unemployment, the latter being the more predominant. A small town of some 16,000 inhabitants it nestled in the Pennine lowlands just on the cultured side of the Lancashire/Yorkshire boundary, namely the Lancashire side.
The climate was fierce. Snow came early and left late. During the worst of it, the roads into Yorkshire were blocked, a blessing in disguise, and would remain so for days. In summer, the grass on the surrounding hills turned from white to dark brown, that being the most noticeable change in the passing of the seasons. You have heard the poetic term, lowering hills? These hills got ten out of ten for lowering.
It is said that people are shaped by their environments. After a few months serving on this masochist’s paradise, I was prepared to believe it. A high percentage of the committed crime was violence-orientated and there was very little good-class financial stuff. Sometime in the town’s history there must have been an incredible amount of in-breeding. Whole platoons of miscreants all similar, either in name, appearance or outlook, would create havoc in the town centre, all with the same lack of reason.
Being a small town, the highest ranking officer actually stationed in the place was Inspector. The division containing the town boasted a Chief Superintendent. This worthy was a man who had everyone’s respect. A man of high principles, he preached in a Methodist pulpit on Sundays but did not expect you to share his beliefs. Drink and strong language were not to his taste, needless to say, but he showed tolerance when encountering these traits in others. All in all, a good man in the true sense of the word.
The town was Bacup. The Chief Superintendent was not a man you would associate with Bacup. Nevertheless, to Bacup he came late one Friday night. His timing was a little off. Friday night was the night the local cretins held their weekly break a plate-glass window contest. Giro-inspired local brew would be consumed in large quantities prior to this public-spirited activity which invariably resulted in the cells being filled shortly after midnight.
I had just returned from a tour of the local hostelries and was perusing the message pad prior to going home and giving the wife a good listening to, when the Chief Superintendent arrived. The time was 11.30 p.m., not a good time for visiting. He cut short his salutations when he spied a clapped out old bird cage on the enquiry desk. Contained in this clapped out old bird cage was an equally clapped out old mynah bird. An old seaman had died suddenly that day and his bird had been brought to the Police Station for safe-keeping prior to being despatched to the RSPCA or wherever. Now the seaman must have been a profane old devil for the bird, obviously not understanding badges of rank, greeted the Chief Superintendent with the words, “Squawk off, Squawk off”, or words to that effect.
Ignoring the impertinence of the straggly black bundle, the Chief Superintendent advanced on the reserve-duty officer and enquired as to the whereabouts of the duty Sergeant. The reserve man, an about-to-retire tongue-in-check individual, informed him that the Sergeant was engaged chasing an escaped monkey up Bankside Lane. “Squawk off”, said the bird. At this point the Chief Superintendent developed a suspicious glint in his eye. “Monkey?” he said, “Squawk off”, the bird said, “Bloody hell, its bitten Dodsley”, the radio said, verifying the monkey tale. True enough, as it later transpired, PC Dodsley had taken hold of the monkey only to have his wrist chewed. Slightly appeased at the existence of the monkey, the Chief Superintendent turned to me and said, “Is it always like this?” “More so on Fridays”, said I, only to be rewarded by the return of the glint.
For the next five minutes the dialogue between radio and bird, to the best of my recollection, went something like this:
Sergeant: Why didn’t you stick hold of it?
Dodsley: It bloody bit me!
Bird: Squawk off.
Sergeant: Dont be soft, you won’t get rabies.
Dodsley: Rabies, rabies, why did you say rabies?
Sergeant: It’s on that shed roof, up you go.
Dodsley: Squawk off.
Bird: Squawk off.
Dodsley: I need a jab.
Sergeant: Monkey first, jab later.
Dodsley: I’m off at 2 a.m., ask for assistance.
Sergeant: Squawk off.
Eventually, the monkey was caught and the radio was temporarily silenced. During the comparative calm the bird continued to insist that we should all make ourselves scarce, but we did our best to ignore it. This brittle serenity was shattered a few moments later when the local drunken bobby basher, one William James McKenna, was thrown bodily through the Police Station door by two dishevelled, bloodstained beat Constables. He slid smoothly over the highly polished linoleum floor and came to rest at the highly polished shoes of the Chief Superintendent, where he promptly evacuated the contents of his stomach. “Squawk off”, said the bird. The Chief Superintendent’s shoes now had a decidedly wet look and did not smell of Kiwi. The monkey then appeared on the scene being led in by two panting officers of the law who had definitely less go about them than their captive. The Chief Superintendent looked ruefully from shoes to monkey to mynah bird, who issued one final directive. “I should have listened to you earlier”, he said, and disappeared into the night.
I have tried, and I think with some success, not to exaggerate this story. The Chief Superintendent has now retired, but prior to doing so often regaled audiences with his version of the tale. He probably still does. The facts remain the facts. Maybe my timing of the dialogue is a little out, but basically the story is true.
© Ray Goldsack, 1993