Not exactly Dixon of Dock Green but I learnt a lot
So, Initial Police Training complete and I am released upon the unsuspecting public of London around Waterloo, The Elephant and Castle, Lambeth Walk and the Kennington Oval cricket ground. Not an easy patch as I was to learn, but interesting.
As a single officer my new home was to be Gilmour Section House in the company of about 100 other coppers. I can’t say I relished the idea. We were granted a few days leave prior to taking up our postings which, having dumped my uniform and other kit in the section house, I made use of to go home and see parents and friends before returning once again to ‘the smoke’ to begin life as a London policeman for real.
Gilmour Police Section House near the Elephant and Castle
Out there for real
Kennington Road Police Station - 'The Nick'
(I took both these shots quite recently on a little wander down this memory lane. Apart from the cars nothing had changed)
As a probationary constable the first thing that happened on arrival at a new station was to be allocated a ‘parent constable’ who was supposed to become a ‘friend’, mentor, advisor and tutor and basically show one the ropes which included learning the geography of the area and the beats or patrols into which the patch was divided.
My ‘parent’ was an Irish chap whose name I can’t recall so I’ll call him Patrick. He was probably in his late thirties, tall, good looking in an Irish sort of way if you get my meaning although to be honest I’m not even sure what I mean by it. It’s just a look.
Pat had been about a bit and had been at Kennington Road – the ‘nick’ as I quickly came to call it in common with everyone else, for about six years so he certainly knew his way around. He was friendly enough when it came to showing me the ropes although there were times when I had the distinct feeling that I was cramping his style and this was particularly so when it came to chatting up women.
I’d heard talk about the Blarney of the Irish; well Pat had it in spades and I hardly remember a day when he didn’t go off duty with at least one or two phone numbers in his pocket. Mind you, I can give it some too if I’ve a mind to but at that time and feeling such a newbie that was about the last thing I was thinking about.
I recall one terribly embarrassing day when we were setting out from the nick along Kennington Road towards Waterloo. I saw this figure in a clerical black suit and dog collar coming towards us and even from some distance immediately recognised him as Father Maxwell our parish priest in Ashtead.
I knew instinctively what would happen but before I could explain to Pat or cross the road it became clear he had recognised me (which was surprising given the uniform and all) and was making an enthusiastic beeline towards us beaming broadly.
“Brian my dear boy”. He gushes, pumping my hand madly. “So here you are and me the first of the village to see you on duty.”
Of course with Mum’s church friends and the neighbours it seemed that half of Ashtead knew more about me joining the force than I did myself. “And I see you’ve made a friend already.” he enthused, grasping Pat’s hand too.
“Actually he is my parent constable, a kind of tutor.” I gabbled trying to cover my embarrassment to Pat’s huge amusement.
“Well don’t let me stop the parenting. Anyway I mustn’t keep the bishop waiting.” he said and then gave me a huge hug and was gone while I stood in a kind of blur with Pat beside me laughing his socks off.
Watching him disappear I remember thinking “Well that certainly wasn’t what I imagined my first encounter with a member of the public would be like but probably better that than some major crime or one of the fighting drunks we’d been warned about in Peel House”
Our shifts took a bit of getting used to, as apart from my brief spell of split hours working on board the ship, I had never done shifts and certainly not experienced night working. The standard pattern at the time for our station was six weeks of alternate early and late shifts between 6am and 2 pm and then 2 pm until 10 at night. This was followed by three weeks of night working between 10pm and 6 am. It was a bit of a killer at first but it actually worked quite well for me because my body took almost a week to get used to night working so by the second week of nights I began to feel almost normal.
Each shift began with everyone on duty ‘parading’, well just lining up in the parade room where we were inspected to see that we were smart and had all our appointments which we had to hold out in front of us to be seen.
There was one day when I somehow managed to forget my truncheon but thanks to the guy next to me who held his out in his left hand instead of his right while I just held out an empty fist, I managed somehow to get away with it as the sergeant glanced cursorily along the line. First thing after parade, I then had to beetle back to the section house to collect it. From then on I left it in my locker at the nick.
After this inspection we were allocated our beats or patrols together with our points or ringing-in times. This was all well before the time of personal radios so in order to keep a measure of albeit distant supervision over patrolling constables we were required to be at certain places known as points at a particular time during the shift. Usually these points would be at or near public telephone boxes so that the station could get in touch if they needed to pass out information. Other points that included a ringing-in requirement would be at one of the three or four Police Boxes on the division.
Yes the good old TARDIS was very much in evidence then and was indeed a very welcome bolt-hole at any time in bad weather or especially in the early hours of a winter morning.
Only about 3-4 feet square they had a shelf at about waist height that served as a writing surface, a stool and a telephone that could also be reached from the outside by opening a panel and was intended for the public to call for police assistance. Believe me it is surprising how quickly one could drop off to sleep even in such an uncomfortable space.
Those who can remember police boxes before they had a second incarnation as Doctor Who’s time machine may recall a light on the top. This could be made to flash when the station wanted to contact the bobby on that particular area so that, although the phone had a low volume ring tone, a policeman passing some distance away might also spot it and come to take the call.
I mentioned beats and patrols just now and whilst they were both a constable’s area of responsibility they were slightly different. A beat could be quite a large area the size of which basically reflected its nature. For example a rural area beat could be extremely large on the basis that the population and property density were low whereas in more densely populated urban areas beats were smaller.
Patrols were in general even smaller than a beat and were usually arranged to provide fairly intensive police cover for an area that might be seen as vulnerable.
For example, Lambeth Walk was a single street comprising mostly lock-up shops, some with flats above and it was located in what used to be regarded as a relatively high risk area. Favourite targets were the cigarette shop and off-licence. At the time few of these had sophisticated alarm systems, if any, and so were quite often victims of burglary. For this reason, just that single street justified its own bobby and this was designated as a patrol and was actually surrounded by a larger separate beat area.
At times there could be ten or a dozen constables parading for duty.
Looking around us today it is hard to believe that there ever was a time when local commanders had the luxury of deploying so many officers on a shift.
Not that long after this it all started to change of course with the introduction of ‘Panda’ cars which certainly did provide officers with much needed mobility and a better response capability. However, human nature being what it is, they also provided a comfy cocooned environment in which to withdraw especially if the weather were bad. And so, in my opinion, began the great separation between the police and communities that has been a feature in so much urban unrest over the years since.
Just going briefly back to Lambeth Walk as an example; community relations there in the 60’s were such that if I wanted to it was possible to spend a full eight hour shift just walking down one side and up the other and the street was only a couple of hundred yards long.
On the way you spoke to almost every shopkeeper, had an ice cream in Luigi’s and a couple of cups of tea. The locals actually valued their beat officers and wanted to talk to them, in the course of which it was possible for the attentive copper to pick up all manner of useful information.
There were two other things that Pat taught me during my parenting period that certainly were not on the official curriculum.
You’ll recall my comments about the discipline code and it being against all the rules to enter licensed premises whilst on duty ( except of course, in the pursuance of that duty) so as I said, doing so in contravention of this was absolutely the last place you were going to find me. Right? - WRONG!
On this particular day we were on an early shift and due to finish at two o’clock and we were wandering casually (sorry – patrolling) along, just nattering about this and that and I swear to this day that I never saw it happen. One moment we were on Bowling Green Street just near The Oval cricket ground and the next or so it seemed, I was standing in the back kitchen of a pub with a half-drunk pint in my hand.
Clearly this was pretty run of the mill as far as Pat was concerned judging by the casual and relaxed manner of his conversation with the landlord but it suddenly hit me like a bolt from the blue. “Shit! What the hell are we doing?” I thought, and as the reality dawned I was hit by such a panic attack that I remember I started to shake and I can recall as clear as day my knee-caps jigging about with a life of their own.
Obviously I tried not to show it but I can tell you I was never so pleased to get out of anywhere as I was on that day. I had these visions of us being discovered by the sergeant and my career going up the ‘’Swannee’ almost before it had started. Just goes to show, you need to watch where you’re walking!
There was another thing which, whilst equally against the rules, was very useful and I, along with many others got into it on a routine basis.
There really is nothing worse, especially at the beginning of a week of night duty, than that awful overpowering tiredness that spreads over one like a veil in those small hours between 3 and 5 in the morning and one’s natural biorhythms are screaming to go to sleep. Well, as Pat showed me, there was an answer.
One of the police boxes where we had to ‘ring-in’ from was located close to Vauxhall Bridge on the embankment where coincidentally M division (mine) and L division bordered each other.
There was also an all-night garage very close by that was built into the railway arches below the lines coming out of Waterloo station and the garage offered long term parking under these arches.
It was in one of these arches where the all night garage (and police doss house) was located
Pat explained that over time a practice had arisen whereby night duty officers on the nearby beats were allowed by the garage attendant to bunk down in the cars for a couple of hours or so. So we’d give a note of our ringing-in times to the garage man and he would come and give us a shake a few minutes before we were due to make the call.
You could, I guess, say that no great harm was done and no-one was any the wiser although I doubt if the last bit was true because knowledge of the practice seemed pretty wide spread and it would have been surprising if the ‘guvnors’ weren’t aware.
In no time at all it seemed my two weeks ‘parenting’ with Pat came to an end and I was flying solo. Not exactly full of confidence but truthfully not feeling too bad either, and little by little the confidence grew, especially if you didn’t push the boundaries too hard.
On duty time was better than off duty for me because having no transport and all my friends being down in Ashtead and around I felt quite lonely a lot of the time, or at least I did until I got in touch with Theresa again.
We had not lost touch completely as I was still managing to get down to home from time to time and thanks to good friends and their transport we were still making it to the various dance venues including The Orchid Ballroom at Purley where Terri and I had first met.
She was working in London although still living in Mitcham at this time but we started dating regularly and doing the bars and discos of the West End which were really quite exciting and places like Tiffany’s in Shaftesbury Avenue, The Empire and the Blue Boar Inn in Leicester Square became our regular haunts.
There was another little (unlawful) bonus that came with membership of the Met and that was the fact that you could get into almost any London club, cinema or dance hall, bus or underground train by simply flashing the warrant card. Not right of course but just another one of those things that had become established over time.
Clearly, as a police officer you should always be asking “Why?” when someone offers little perks like free entry (or sleeping on duty for that matter)
Well as far as club owners were concerned, the way it was explained to me was that if there was ever any trouble, the management were always happy to think they had a few members of the force on hand to help out.
I could see that but never could work out what the petrol attendant had to gain. Keeping on the right side I guess – Just in case.
Bottom line however was that it was, in the words of the discipline code, an ‘improper and corrupt practice’ and when a few years later Robert Mark became the Commissioner and set about cleaning up this and many far worse practices, this was one of our little ‘perks’ that came to an end and quite right too I guess.
I remember my dad saying “There’s no such thing as a free lunch. Just be ready when pay day comes.”
We had so many laughs at the nick and although I never made any close or lasting friendships there was a tremendous sense of camaraderie and you could always rely on your mates looking out for you, and especially for us younger ones.
There was one young Scots lad by the name of Eric who joined with me and was also posted to Kennington Road. He was quite immature and if I was a bit of a fish out of water at first he was even more so. As one older bobby said “He’s about as green as the Scottish valley he came from.” And not surprisingly Eric took the brunt of quite a few pranks which most of us would have seen coming but he didn’t. The kind of guy that in another profession would be the one sent to buy a tin of elbow grease.
One night shift, Eric was allocated the beat that included Lambeth Churchyard where Captain Bligh of The Bounty is buried. At parade the sergeant announced that there had been some incidents of vandalism and asked Eric if after his meal break (about 2 –3 am) he would make a point of going and having a look around the cemetery. Well, for the pranksters this was too good a chance to miss and they got there ahead of him.
Eric was always whistling; whether on this occasion it was a bit of a self-confidence boost I don’t know but around three in the morning whistling Eric comes wandering into the cemetery, parks himself on a grave stone and starts to roll a cigarette at which point the ‘haunting’ begins.
Three of the lads from the nick draped in bed-sheets with torches underneath and rattling chains or suchlike emerged from behind some tombs and Eric was off like a long-dog up the Lambeth Road. He came bursting in the door of the nick with this tale of being haunted by ghosts in the cemetery shortly followed by the three convulsed with laughter and carrying rolls of sheets and other ’haunting’ kit under their arms.
Captain Bligh’s tomb in Lambeth Churchyard
On another occasion Eric was on duty as night telephonist at one of those old switchboards where you had to plug leads into sockets until they criss-crossed like some sort of crazy cat’s cradle.
When a call came in a little flap on that particular line would drop down to alert the operator and on this board, apart from the incoming public lines (you could actually phone a local police station in those days!!), there were all the ring-in lines from police boxes around the division and various internal extensions.
Just by way of a little prank all the rest of us synchronised our watches and on the dot of the agreed time we all picked up a phone or dialled a number so that at the other end poor Eric was faced with a mini-avalanche of these falling tabs which he frantically tried to answer all at once. Childish I guess but just the sort of thing that happens in work groups, raises a smile and helps the time pass. There was another very funny (in retrospect) incident and against me this time.
This was also on a night shift but in the early morning as it was just getting light. I was on patrol in Kennington Road when I smelled burning and quite strongly too. Looking up in the half-light I suddenly saw this huge cloud of smoke coming from a building a couple of streets away and was convinced I’d stumbled on a major fire.
Fortunately there was a call box nearby so I sprinted up to it and called the fire brigade and then started to run back towards the fire although locating the actual building was difficult as it seemed to be in the centre of a block.
After a couple of minutes I heard the sound of fire engines heading towards me and at about the same moment found an alley that appeared to head for exactly where I imagined the seat of the fire would be. Running up the alley I started beating on the only door there was which after a few of moments was opened by a guy in a white overall.
“I think you’re on fire I gasped.” and was not amused when a broad smile began to spread across his face. “Don’t just stand there I shouted. Get everyone out. The Fire brigade will be here in a moment”. The expression on his face changed slightly but he was still apparently amused
“Oh you haven’t have you. It’s a smokery. Didn’t you know? Don’t worry. You’re not alone. It’s happened before but not for a couple of years now.”
I was speechless with embarrassment especially as two burly firemen who had clearly already sussed out the situation, came up the alley grinning broadly too.
We had walked past this place on several occasions over the last couple of weeks. If only Pat had told me. Apparently it is a daily occurrence. After the required smoking period large vents in the roof are opened to let the smoke escape and the contents to cool. I never even knew what a smokery was. I certainly do now!
There was another occasion too when I nearly came to grief due to my lack of knowledge and experience. Close by Waterloo station there is a Road called Mepham Street that runs alongside the railways arches carrying the lines out towards Charing Cross. At number 5 and actually built into the railway arch there was a pub called The Hole in the Wall, widely reputed at the time to be not only the dirtiest pub in London but also the haunt of criminals.
Indeed the whole area was terribly run down and awash with vagrants and prostitutes. A very far cry from today when after the extensive rehabilitation of the whole of the South Bank area the Hole in the Wall still exists, but today is a bistro style gastro-bar or whatever the term is. Talk about a great survivor.
Well on the night in question I’d noticed what to me appeared to be three highly suspicious looking men parked up in the shadows close to Mepham Street in a fairly scruffy old Humber Hawk car. By virtue of the fact they were doing nothing but loitering I observed them for a while and having decided they were up to no good decided to investigate.
They could not have been less cooperative, initially declining even to open the windows. They point blank refused to give an account of themselves and whilst they were not in any way aggressive, I had begun to wonder, as my confidence evaporated, quite what my next move would be if I decided that they might be arrestable under the vagrancy Act. There were after all three of them to my one!
In the event I was saved by circumstances when from the interior of the car there came the sound of a radio transmission and it dawned on me that I had come close to arresting a trio of undercover coppers. They then came clean, showed me their cards and told me in no uncertain terms to go away before I ruined their observation.
I discovered later talking to colleagues back at the nick that the ‘The Sweeny’ as the Flying Squad are called were notorious for giving young coppers a hard time and have even allowed themselves to be arrested before admitting their true identity. Quite hilarious I guess from their point of view but I’d have died of embarrassment if my little adventure had gone that far.
The traffic control practice we’d done in Peel House certainly stood me in good stead at Kennington Road because we manned several traffic points in the area on a regular basis.
One was on the Embankment at Lambeth Bridge where the roundabout invariably became blocked. To be honest it was really better left alone but sometimes just by stepping into a more prominent and visible position the appearance of the uniform was enough to bring a little more patience and courtesy out in the drivers, which is all it needs really for things to sort themselves out.
The other point which always did need to be controlled was up by Waterloo station at the junction with Westminster Bridge Road and Lower Marsh and almost under the wide bridge over which all the lines came out of the station. There really should have been traffic light control but for whatever reason there wasn’t and so it fell to us to man the junction during peak periods.
It was very daunting at first due to the sheer volume and proximity of the traffic and not without its risks. One colleague actually lost the back out of a boot to a passing bus which was certainly a bit close for comfort
Nevertheless after a while I came to love that traffic point and felt really confident whirling around and waving my arms and with all this traffic mine to command. I remembered seeing films of the traffic police in Rome and tried to emulate them. I was pretty good at the control bit but nowhere near as stylish as they are.
The only down-side to this traffic duty was the pollution which was aggravated by the confined area being almost beneath the bridge. I dread to think what it did to my lungs but I could certainly brush clouds of exhaust soot out of my uniform at the end of a session there.
Numerous pigeons used to nest or roost up in the girders of the bridge and immediately below were several bus stops where queues would form at peak times. A favourite trick of the police area car drivers was to turn off their ignition and coast for a few yards as they passed below the bridge and then turn on the ignition which caused the cars to back-fire and startled the pigeons into crapping on the bus queues below. Extremely infantile certainly, but to us quite hilarious.
Actually this silly nonsense caught up with me some years later when I tried the same trick, left the ignition off for a bit too long and blew my exhaust system off completely at some considerable cost! Karma in action I guess.
Drink and its consequences have always featured large in police work and drunkenness in its various forms took up quite a lot of my time on late and night shifts. Apart from the spin-offs such as serious assaults, domestic violence and drunken driving that tended to occur away from where the drink was consumed, our main concerns were ‘drunk and disorderly’ and ‘drunk and incapable’ the full title of which is ‘incapable of taking care of his/her self.’
If anything this last was the one that created the most demand because what tended to happen was that on a Friday night (pay day for many), large numbers of working men, and it was almost invariably men, would hit the pubs and drink until they were chucked out either for being drunk or at closing time.
So around 11pm in the area between Waterloo Station and The Elephant and Castle there were usually dozens of drunks many of whom were literally incapable of taking care of themselves, spewing up all over the place, falling in heaps along the pavements or tottering out in to the traffic.
Often with a drunk who hasn’t got to quite that state it is possible to jolly them along to find their way home and a little bit of banter can go a long way to calm things down and let everyone move on happily.
At the very least, getting them off our patch and onto the neighbouring division before they finally became incapable was a common objective. (Unless of course one needed the arrest as I shall explain shortly)
Unfortunately, and this was often the case in this area, many were too far gone to respond and had to be arrested for their own safety and over time quite an efficient process for mopping them up had been established.
At one time called the ‘Black Maria’, the dark blue Morris 30cwt van was the favoured vehicle for prisoner transport in the Met and the practice would be for half a dozen of us to go out with the van and almost literally ‘hoover’ up the drunks from the road and pavements.
On arrival at the ‘nick’ each was presented to the station sergeant to be charged with being drunk and incapable and locked in the cells overnight to sober up and appear before magistrates in the morning.
Evidence was never a problem because the evidence was pretty much the same in each case – “slurred speech, reeking of alcohol, and unable to stand. He’s drunk Sergeant.”
There have over the years been a number of cases where police have assumed drunkenness only to come seriously unstuck when their ‘drunk’ has died in custody. So while the ‘sausage machine’ approach was appropriate 99 percent of the time there was a heavy responsibility on the station sergeant when accepting the charge to be sure he was looking at a drunk and not some other situation. However from my own experience there were times when the volume and throughput was so high that getting the job done became the priority. Fortunately it never backfired on us in my time there.
One problem was that at very busy times, it was difficult to keep track of which officer had arrested which prisoner. In practice it made little difference anyway as the prisoner wouldn’t remember and the charges and supporting evidence were the same in each case.
The simple approach on such occasions was to just allocate a bobby to each prisoner (or even two or three prisoners) and put his name down as the arresting officer. At the end of the day it didn’t really matter, although what the Police and Criminal Evidence Act would have to say about that today, I dread to imagine.
We did have a very funny incident one day, Easter Bank Holiday I believe. We had once again ‘hoovered’ up all these drunks that turned out to be more than we could accommodate in the cells at Kennington so a decision was made to ferry a few down to Nine Elms nick in the blue van.
This was certainly going to solve the problem until the van broke down on the one way system down by Vauxhall Bridge. We finished up getting the three or four escorting coppers and as many of the prisoners that could actually stand to push the van in what was quite busy traffic until the driver managed to ‘bump start’ it and we all got back on to finish the journey. I don’t actually recall anyone doing a recount of the prisoners we were supposed to have but fortunately they were all there, probably because they were too inebriated to even think of doing a runner.
They say ‘It’s an ill wind etc.’ and such was the case with a drunk or any other arrest you made on a night shift.
Finishing a night shift at six o’clock you could walk back to Gilmour House and be in bed by half six or quarter to seven. However, if you’d made an arrest this meant getting up again in time to get to court for ten. So living in the section house was very useful as it was immediately over the road from Lambeth Magistrate’s Court.
Normal practice was that we’d stick our uniforms on again and slip over the road to the court where if we timed it right our case would quickly be called. This was another ‘sausage machine process’ and the stipendiary magistrates had it down to a fine art. Once your case was called your prisoner was invariably in the dock and entered a Guilty plea before you could even get round to the witness box. The clerk would say “Any trouble officer?” you’d say “No trouble your worship.” Next the magistrate would ask the offender if he had anything to say to which the response was usually “Sorry Sir” or quite often “I’d like to thank the officer for looking after me.”
Your man would be fined £5 or one day and as he’d already been in custody overnight he would then be released to shamble off to do the same thing again tonight or next pay day. One even asked me if I wanted to go and have a drink with him!
Overall the whole process could take less than three quarters of an hour and you could be back in bed with four hours time-off on your card. Oh I forgot to mention that didn’t I!
Police regulations stated that if you had to return to duty within eight hours of finishing a shift we were entitled to four hours overtime. This was not paid but accrued as time-off so if you had some important social function coming up and no annual leave due it was quite an easy matter to ensure that in a week of nights you had a few arrests and consequently enough accrued overtime to be able to book the time off when you needed it.
This is not of course to say that people were arrested that shouldn’t have been but it did mean that one could choose to be more or less assiduous according to your needs.
We certainly saw many different sides of life as a coppers in that area and one aspect that always touched my heart was the number of homeless and rough sleepers.
I’m ashamed to say that many of my erstwhile colleagues were less than sympathetic to people’s situation and would just move them on. Sometimes just ‘on to somewhere else – so long as it’s not on my beat’, without any consideration at all it seemed to me. There were a couple of hostels in the area but to be honest judging from what I saw, you’d be more comfortable and safer on a park bench.
I was quite often on the beat down by the river. It used to be called The Festival Site as it was that part of the embankment where the Festival Hall now stands but where The Festival of Britain was held in 1950.
These days, The South Bank as it is now known, is quite an attractive and arty area with lots going on but back then it was little more than a large car park and a bit of a walkway with a few benches beside the river. It was popular with the rough sleepers and I saw no reason to move them on and quite often would have a chat and even got to know one or two a bit.
One of the ’down and outs’ as they were often called was a woman who was probably in her forties. I was intrigued as to what had brought her to that situation but unlike some of the others she was very private and would never say much about herself.
She put me very much in mind of the song ‘Streets of London’ by Ralph Mctell when he sings about the homeless woman carrying her world in two carrier bags. Every word of that song is so accurate and I saw it all in the area around Waterloo as a young and quite naïve policeman.
South Bank and Festival Hall in the 60’s
One aspect of the job I didn’t enjoy was the ongoing probationer training. Apart from private study (ideally on a daily basis, but rarely so in my case) we also had to attend a weekly half day session at Southwark nick were our classes were held and where it quite rapidly became clear that I was not really keeping up with the required work.
At twenty years of age my thoughts were understandably often elsewhere, namely, when was my next date with Terri or when was I next going to be able to get back down to Surrey and see my friends.
I still had no car at this point which was fine, even a positive benefit when living in London but for keeping in touch with the Surrey ‘scene’ I had to rely on public transport or the kindness of my mates for ferrying me around. The net result was that despite the undoubted interest of the new job I was becoming progressively disenchanted with the negative aspects and I began to cast around in my mind for an alternative occupation.
After unsuccessfully exploring a couple of sales rep positions which interested me mainly because a major perk was the company car, I suddenly thought about the possibility of trying to get into the motor trade on the sales side.
While I was thus preoccupied in the late summer of 1964, life was dramatically disrupted by Mum being taken ill and whisked into hospital for a hysterectomy.
The precise detail was never spelled out to me and I sometimes wonder whether the full import of her condition was explained to Dad. I rather suspect that the phrase ‘woman’s problem’ might have been all he knew. (Or perhaps that was all he felt Angela and I needed to know). The truth as I discovered later was that she had cervical cancer for which the treatment at the time was the complete hysterectomy but there was no follow-up radio or chemotherapy as there would be today.
For me this was the final straw in deciding me to leave the Met and return home. My search for a job intensified and fortunately quite quickly bore fruit in the shape of a junior car sales position in Ewell which was quite near home.
It was probably in the August or September that I went for the interview at Ewell Downs Motor Company which was a main dealer for the Rootes Group range of vehicles that included Hillman, Humber, Sunbeam and Singer cars.
I was initially interviewed by Geoffrey Welton the Managing Director, and all seemed to go quite well. He then called in the Sales Manager Jack Moxley who I immediately took to and it seemed that the feeling was mutual because after a few minutes chat and a private moment between them I was offered the job.
It was my plan to go home to Ashtead after the interview, especially as I had some positive news to convey and was about to set out when Jack explained that he lived in Leatherhead and could drop me off en route.
His name had seemed vaguely familiar when we were first introduced but when he explained where he lived the penny dropped with quite a clang. I realised he was the father of a certain young lady I’d taken out a few times before writing my car off and had invested numerous hours and many gin and tonics in my attempts to make her my number one in the seduction stakes.
I prayed she had never mentioned my name indoors and it appeared that she hadn’t because on several subsequent occasions when Jack took me home for a drink we both played out the charade of not knowing each other until then.
So, that’s how it turned out that in the October of 1964 I left the Metropolitan Police, returned to live at home and took up a new career in the motor trade.
If my life until then had been somewhat cosseted in my comfortable family surrounding plus a certain amount of fairly safe adventure, the next few years were to prove very different.
I mentioned at the beginning of this little wander down my personal memory lane that some thanks were owed to Jane Baker, tutor of the Guildford WEA writing group.
When, clutching my pages of notes, I presented myself to the group and explained that I had in mind to write an autobiography, one of the first things Jane asked was what sort of time period I planned to cover. Well I hadn’t thought of that one!
She pointed out that it might be wise to divide the years of my life thus far into several significant periods and write about each in turn as a complete memoir covering just those years. (Or, I guess, risk still be writing on my death bed!!)
So that became the plan. The foregoing pages have meandered through the first twenty years of a not very distinguished but hopefully interesting and often amusing life.
I cannot say that at the age of twenty I was terribly mature but then I doubt that many can and having some fun is probably the thing to do during those years prior to taking on the heavier responsibilities of life.
However, as I set out on the compilation of my next offering I am aware that it is going to be a very different experience.
It is going to look at the following thirty years of my life during which time I experienced several bereavements, two marriages; two children; one divorce; major career change; a significant inheritance, a range of successes and failures and a major breakdown.
I’m alright now though and would be delighted if you’d care to join me..
It's my intention to continue this blog with extracts from my second memoir that recounts the four years as a 1960s motor trader and almost thirty years as a policeman in Surrey - yes I returned to the fold and saw my time out eventually retiring as an Inspector.