This week’s guest writer is one of my ex-students (he’s completed the whole course so an enormous well done to him). Nest Madden has shared his wonderful reminisces on my blog many a time. This one is a real treat:
As a young police constable at the end of the 1960s I hated night duty. It was before we all drove around in panda cars and we still walked set beats. There were four beats that we young coppers were dropped off at for our nightly patrol.
The van would deposit us at one end of the town and we would patrol for three hours and then we were picked up again, taken back for a meal break and out again for another three hours. As all the excitement happened during the first part of the night, the last bit dragged interminably until the van came back to collect us at about five-thirty.
If I hated nights my pal Mark hated them even more, he was always tired and bitterly complained that he couldn’t sleep during the day.
Now, I should explain, in those far off dim and distant days walking the beat meant patrolling part of the High Street and checking that all the shop doors were secure and locked. Occasionally some dozy shop keeper would forget to lock the front door to the shop. It also meant ushering courting couples out of the deep recessed doorways where they had stopped for a kiss and a cuddle. To prevent this some shops had wooden slatted gates on the front so you could see in, just, but you couldn’t approach the front door.
One such shop was the local newsagent. However the wooden, chest height, gate was somewhat ramshackle and could be lifted from its hinges to allow access.
Mark knew this and when he was on that particular beat he used to slip into this doorway take off his police great coat, spread it out on the ground, stretch out and have a refreshing nap.
One wet morning Mark and I were on adjacent beats so we were both due to be collected at five-thirty. I arrived at the pick-up point a little after five in the morning cold, wet and tired. Then I saw Mark staggering toward me. He was in a dreadful state. One eye was blackened almost shut, he had evidently had a nose bleed and his lip was swollen.
I immediately thought he’d been in a fight. I rushed over to him.
“Are you okay mate? What happened?”
“I’m okay,” he mumbled.
“No you’re not! What’s happened, Mark? Talk to me,” I said.
“It’s nothing,” Mark said.
“It’s not nothing, tell me,” I said. I was getting angry now.
“Well, you know the newsagent’s doorway,” he said. I nodded.
“I’d stretched out to have a kip. Well, the bloody papers were delivered early this morning and the bloke from the delivery company lobbed them over the gate. I got a bundle of Daily Mirrors right in the gob,” Mark replied.
Between us we cleaned him us as best we could and he hid in the toilet when we got back to the nick so the sergeant wouldn’t see him.