It's a Guy Thing

Nostalgia: The Stories Cops Tell

© Ian Kirke 2022 / @ianjkirke 

Has storytelling become a lost art? Have we become so insular, buried in our mobile technology often connecting with people we have probably never met in a virtual world of imagery and diminished literary content that storytelling has become a thing of the past? If so, I think that is sad as I was fortunate enough to be exposed to the most wonderful stories when I was a fresh-faced junior police officer. Why did my rank and age have a bearing on the consumption of these tales? Well for the first seven years or so as a Constable this entry-level step introduced me to several older soaks that by virtue of a conscious decision or the fact that they had failed to overcome that bastard of a first hurdle, the Sergeants exam, had remained at that rank for the entirety of their service. The syllabus of this wretched thing, at the time I joined in the early 1980s, was contained within the aptly named ‘Police Promotions Examinations Manual’ (containing both the Sergeants & Inspectors curriculum) housed in a hardback blue cover that resembled a breeze block yet marginally bigger. Coupled with the fact that as a Constable I spent an inordinate amount of time in the back of a police transit cozied up next to many of the orators of these magnificent yarns. 

As I climbed the ranks my elevated seat at the front next to the driver disconnected me from this culture along with the realization that the discord created by rank, especially when colleagues later called me Sir, had canceled my membership of this very special club. 

The stories I will share are funny! But I must differentiate them from jokes or punchy gags which I equally adore. Storytelling has characters, context and the good ones will inevitably have a sting in the tail or a delightful twist at the end, which as opposed to stand-up comedy story tellers do not necessarily have to accentuate the importance of timing. 

Storytelling at its best is often labored and meanders making subsequent readings more prone to further embellishment. Equally the narrator holds court with the assembled audience who metaphorically sit crossed-legged around the campfire regaled in the splendor of this distinct art form. 

I have selected the following stories from my book, which I unashamedly promote, ‘Blue Lights with a Hint of Green’ as ideally, I would like to elevate this from the current confines of e-publishing to the bookshelf in the form of a touchy-feely real book. Now that would be my grandest story to date! I had to label it as fiction to protect some characters and to acknowledge that all good stories don’t inevitably have to fulfill the rigors of truthfulness. Good storytelling does not necessarily promote outright lies but significant exaggeration is a requisite skill. Some of these have been crafted by me with others having been absorbed during those halcyon days of the eighties. So, once upon a time… 

Returning to the small area beat office one day I was surprised to see PC Trevor Samuels. The Binfield beat man was approximately 159 years of age and spoke via a voice box full of gravel, shards of glass, and asbestos. I recall buddying up with him on one occasion, patrolling the lush green fields of the small village north of the main metropolis of Bracknell. We attended a first-floor flat in relation to a report of squatters. As we climbed the iron steps behind the shop that led to the well-kept flat, I recall seeing a small generator chugging away on the twee veranda. This was producing the electricity for the mob inside who were clearly professionals. Plastered upon the front door were several documents articulating their rights of occupation. 

Turning to Trevor I spouted out the law relating to adverse possession (as I was studying for my Sergeants exam!) and informed the control room that the landlord would have to initiate appropriate legal proceedings to eek these parasites out. Trevor grunted that they would be out by the morning. I smiled smugly. Even I knew that due process didn’t move that fast. The next day I discovered that the squatters had gone, and their smart generator had been smashed to fuck after three baseball bat-wielding characters dressed in black with matching balaclavas made an impromptu night-time visit! When we bumped into each other shortly afterward, Trevor winked and forced out the words, “Told you they would be on their way in the morning!”. Pouring a brew, I turned to Trevor. “Where’s Brian?” Without looking up he simply replied, “On fucking holiday.” Plonking his mug proximate to his withered hand the follow-up question tripped off my lips. “Where?” Without breaking pace, he grunted, “Ausbastardtralia.” What a skill! This guy could swear for the United Nations! 

Stan Sharples was a man mountain. No, he wasn’t! He was in fact a tub of lard! Around thirty stone he was, on the one hand, an iconic vision of the old-style pictorial bobby circa 1950. Huge, round, red chubby cheeks and hands like garden trowels. On the other, he was a fat slob who should have had his fortune read many years previously. Being that size he was a bloody disgrace to the police service. But in common with the general workforce modernization process he was simply bounced from one unfortunate team to another. And so he ended up at Bracknell after allegedly thumping a prisoner at Slough. His punishment? A move to Bracknell as Gaoler! Fuck me what a piece of outstanding decision-making by the incumbent hierarchy! Akin to, “Son you have got a problem with your drinking. In order to help you, we will install you as the bar manager at the King’s Head!” 

For a short while, Stan joined my shift as a patrol constable. I always remember that by 2.05pm, five minutes into the afternoon briefing his shirt would be drenched in sweat and his forehead resembled a Google Earth shot of the fucking Norwegian fjords! Coming into work one day I had the misfortune to follow him into the backyard as he sat astride his Yamaha 100. I didn’t realize that such a model came with rear panniers. I was right. It didn’t. They were his arse cheeks! Anyway, moving on to the story involving Stan that when I first heard it, I almost pissed myself, and indeed every time I relay the facts to a new audience, I still have to be proximate to a toilet. 

Leaving the shower Stan duly grabbed a towel and began to dry himself. Where he started fuck only knows and how long it took didn’t enter into the famous narrative albeit he eventually entered his bedroom and sought a little sanctuary by sitting on the ottoman at the foot of his bed. Little did he realize that the innocent-looking piece of bedroom storage was full to the brim. In fact, its capacity had been breached causing the lid to sit proud of full closure. As his mighty frame accelerated towards the horizontal his testicles, following the true arc of relevant momentum, gracefully swayed backward comfortably into the gap between the lid and the lower part of the storage area. So far so good. Until that is his arse hit the lid and the rest just followed the normal law of physics! The sheer agony of what followed coupled with his inability to raise his mammoth frame resulted in a state of equilibrium until, that is, he duly fainted and rolled onto the floor. Apparently, the length of his subsequent hospital stay was decided once his balls had reduced from their FIFA football size to a more modest conker profile! 

One of my most favorite storytellers was a chap called Dave Bryant. When he spun a yarn, it was time to make yourself comfortable around the log fire and listen intently as pure comedy was sure to follow. In a previous life he had been an engineer with British Gas and during his apprenticeship, he, and a gang of other budding fitters, had to attend training events in Brighton. A load of young guys lodging in some no-star bed and breakfast was bound to promote some heavy shenanigans! One favorite that stood the test of time was one that was taken in turn. Due to the frequency of the seaside events Dave’s syndicate were able to duplicate this task time and time again. Hiding the ‘Turd’ became the norm. Arguably there were the usual hiding places of discarded shoes, coat pockets and wash bags. And if these didn’t prove successful then the smell usually meant an early discovery. However, a cunning apprentice had clearly decided to add a degree of science to this activity. The key elements would engage with masking the inevitable smell and thinking outside of the box. Or in this case, thinking inside of the tub! Friday and Saturday night went without the usual discovery. This guy was good. With Sunday only hours away the turd in question must now be rancid. But still no smell. Not even a whiff. Sensing defeat the team sat around the breakfast table on the Sunday morning and tried every conceivable method of interrogation. Whilst smearing margarine on their morning toast from the industrial-sized plastic box the ugly truth of the matter was suddenly exposed. Spreading shit on a thick white crust has, apparently, the same consistency of Flora! Mind you the smell was, apparently, eye-watering! 

And so to another British Gas seaside tale and my personal favorite. Grab a granny night was always an agenda item. Pulling a more mature lady was prime entertainment and the uglier and older the better! Having picked up some old trout the apprentice wanted a return on his investment of two or three Gin and Tonics! Wobbling out of the nightclub the lady managed to wrap her ample coat around her mature frame. With a large collar and knee-length coverage she apparently looked like a cross between Bet Lynch of Coronation Street fame and Christopher Biggins. Unfortunately, due to her intoxication, there was no way on earth that she could make it up the hotel staircase without the aid of a reinforced Stanner stairlift to his temporary love chamber. Then creative thought came to his rescue. Passing the iron railings, he had a sudden thought. Looking at the large collar the pieces fell into place. Successfully attaching her collar to the top of two railings the lady kind of hung there in an accessible and very upright manner. The undoing of a few buttons, the lifting of her skirt and rearranging her knickers then followed. And from then on, that piece of Brighton roadside furniture had a new title. Granny fuck fence! 

My first taste of promotion meant a trip up to headquarters in the number one uniform and highly polished boots. Assistant Chief Constable George Hedges, a silvered-haired barrel of a man who was held in great esteem by all, came to us in turn. All four of us were awaiting an audience with Charles Pollard, the Chief Constable. The laying of a hands-on ceremony by the big cheese to celebrate the first rung on the promotion ladder. “Amersham” responded the first. “Aylesbury” came the second. The third I can’t really remember other than it was some out in the stick’s location. Then it was my turn. “And where are you going?” I proudly declared, “High Wycombe, Sir”. His response was most cutting but on reflection pretty much illustrative of that particular posting. “Who did you upset?” 

Turning to matters of judiciary it was abundantly clear that the officer in the dock was nervous. Giving evidence at Crown Court was always arse clenching. The theatre and customs made it a pretty hostile environment to be in, even if you were innocent. The defending Barrister had seen the twitchiness of cops many times before and his chess playing was closing in on checkmate. “What exactly did you say to the defendant when you arrested him?” The nerves abated and the officer addressed the judge. “I informed him that he was under arrest for burglary your honor”. The Barrister persisted. “The exact wording if you would please officer. Verbatim.” The officer paused and looked around the court. There were no friendly faces on show. The Barrister followed up with the killer blow, “Remember officer you are under oath.” The lawman cleared his throat and rather sheepishly looked at the judge and spurted out, “OK shit stick you’re whizzed!” As the defendant rose to give his evidence the judge momentarily looked up and before the smug Barrister could quiz his client said, “And by the colloquial language used by the arresting officer did you clearly understand that you had been arrested for the burglary in question?” to which the rather dim defendant cheerfully replied, “Oh yes”. Thus, proving a lawful detention and ultimately firing a torpedo through the defense. 

As the song went (to the tune of ‘Robin Hood, Robin Hood, riding through the glen’) on the Miners dispute in the 1980s when we were all bored in the back of a transit van being driven by one of these odd creatures, “Traffic man, traffic man, pregnant wife at home. Traffic man, traffic man, pregnant wife at home. Pregnant wife at home, will it be a cone? Traffic man, traffic man, traffic man.” Back at court, the defense turned upon our uniformed petrol head. “Officer you claim that you are able to determine the speed of most vehicles based on your years of experience within the Traffic Department. Is that true?” Turning to the bench, and no doubt bristling in confidence with the wonderful endorsement of his abilities still ringing in his ears, our white-capped chap replied, “Indeed your worships.” Throwing a pencil across the courtroom with gusto the slippery solicitor beamed, “How fast was that traveling then?” Without breaking his stride, the reply was simple. “Your worships. I have never driven a pencil before.” 

Back on the thin blue line, George Carter was a very funny but often cruel colleague who seemed a law unto himself. He had a fascination with his own todger. Not that surprising as according to legend it was quite a monster! Once at the urinals he looked down at my modest specimen and said the immortal line, “It’s like a penis, only smaller!” And yes, I still use this gem every now again. During the miner’s strike in the early eighties Armpit (Steve Armstead) had fallen asleep and was snoring for England. Others had barked at him, nudged him, and thrown all manner of pieces of clothing at him but to no effect. One remedy cured all. George promptly unzipped his trousers and gave Armpit something to chew on! 

Keeping with the anatomical theme as a Police Trainer I had the dubious pleasure of occasionally performing the role of Duty Officer at the Force Training Centre. Essentially this required me to ensure that the onsite police bar was closed at a sensible time. Legend has it that Home Office points of alcohol sale have no licensing hours and, according to the general consensus, they could stay open 24/7. I have yet to delve into the archives of central Government protocols and have no way of authenticating this claim but, to be frank, does it matter? Ensuring that any drunk cops were safely away back to their rooms before midnight was my overall aim. A little before 10:30pm my pager buzzed into life with a message requesting that I contact the bar staff (usually junior officers on a residential course) urgently. I did so and was informed by a rather hushed voice that a Support Group officer (those that occasionally carry guns) was taking bets on how many two pence pieces he could place in his foreskin. By the time I arrived at the scene he had enough in place to afford a bag of crisps! 

And there my storytelling, for the time being, will be drawn to a conclusion. Whilst I trust that I raised a giggle or two I sincerely hope that I have misjudged the perception that this form of human communication is on the decline. After all, we all have a story to tell!