NEW BOOK – THE FLIGHT OF BIRDS – ALAN HOWARD (OUT NOW)

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

The Third Policeman… and all the rest.

The terrible row brewing about the possible appropriation of policemen’s pensions for the greater good of society strangely set me to thinking about The Third Policeman.
Like poor Brian O’Nolan, who died still waiting for its pub location, policemen have often to wait 27 years for the realization of their dreams: pensions double those of the average public sector workers whose pensions are up to six times those of private sector workers (those that don’t fall by the wayside  through battle-fatigue or worse).
It was while listening on the radio to the union’s representative pointing out the incredible stress most policemen suffer, unlike soldiers, firemen and medical staff, that justified their justified index-linked pensions and early retirement, that my cynical reaction was suddenly turned on its head by the realization of my own possible contribution to the early demise of those with whom I had irritably interacted on occasion. And, yes, it must have been around 27 years after I started driving that the trouble began…

On the first occasion, after passing a bored police patrolman while turning left in the right-hand-lane on a dual-carriageway-roundabout and continuing on that dual-carriageway to overtake a dozen or so vehicles, through the next roundabout and on, veering left to turn right on an overhead roundabout, along another dual carriageway overtaking assorted vehicles past two more roundabouts until, as the dual carriage ended, I noticed the wail of a siren and flashing lights behind. Naturally, I slowed to let past this vehicle on its away to some emergency (the station to which they return for tea was not many miles ahead).
Sensing the alacrity with which I gave way, the police car pulled over and stopped just ahead. Two officers climbed out and strode over. Instead of shaking my hand in congratulation at the rapidity of my avoidance-response, as he leaned into my driver’s window the offside officer removed the key from my ignition and offhandedly asked if I had my handbrake on just as his fellow gave my car an almighty shove up the backside. The first then asked me out for a chat. His comrade, seemingly upset at my car’s unresponsiveness to his manly thrust, despondently kicked at its wheels for a while as the first questioned me about my automobile and credentials.
When I admitted it was my eighty-year-old mother’s car, an old Peugeot 205 diesel (twice written-off and twice resuscitated – unadmittedly) that I was driving, aged fifty-something, he let me go with a warning about driving without ABS. I guess he felt sorry for me, though how he could tell through my jumper, I don’t know.
But it was my proudest moment when he announced, before he left, he had been chasing me all that way in a Pursuit Ford Cosworth.
I had never felt more elated since I evaded, in that same car, four men in a BMW 3-series messing about on the motorway by overtaking me, slowing down and repeating the process, who mistook my flashing lights as some sort of invitation to meet.  Leaving the motorway, some sixth sense jumped into gear and I pulled up behind them at a roundabout at the end of the motorway sliproad at just the right distance to enable me to accelerate past them as all four jumped out to say hello. After an exciting cross-country pursuit of some eight miles to the next the next dual carriageway I pulled into a layby to watch them rocket past at 90 miles per hour in the outside lane, waving merrily to me, so much did they enjoy our little race. Oh, the joys of Friday evening commuting in that trusty old Pug!

The second incident: after a Christmas bash in the offices of a London newspaper and one or more –my memory is hazy after all this time – glasses of wine, I drove home to Sussex (in the days when people used to do that kind of thing – drive home, I mean).
On that same dual carriageway I was pulled over by a policeman (happily I don’t remember if it was the same one or I might have suspected something amiss, though he didn’t seem that sort) who insisted I blow into his little bag. The sheer excitement caused palpitations that precipitated a sudden rapid breathing resulting in a final massive puff into his tube that registered nothing at all, so that I was permitted to return home and have a happy Christmas after all.

In fact I have now come to believe policemen are indeed my friends as they frequently stop me to see how I am and admire my cars and often coming knocking at my door to let me know how others have commented on my overtaking skills.  They take time out of their busy schedules to fraternise, such is their warmth.

Why, one even called at our door on Christmas morning, after my son, with his infant daughter in hand and arms full of presents, on arrival in our street inadvertently ‘threatened’ a poor resident who, in the spirit of the season, had kindly warned him of the illegality of parking on a public highway outside his own house, to warn my son that language likely to strike terror into the quailing breasts of citizens righteously protecting their personal space was to be avoided at all costs.
That these officers can behave in this most friendly fashion despite, as you can see, dealing with the dregs of humanity in grave situations at great (and I emphasize) ‘personal risk to themselves’, including I might add the grave risk that they may not even stay in the force long enough to maximise the benefits of their final-salary pensions, is a testament to their outstanding upstandingness, for which they should of course be duly rewarded with index-linked early-retirement benefits the rest of us (non-lottery winners) can only dream of.
Indeed, I would go so far as to suggest they be given the opportunity to undertake, at public expense, further training to enable them to engage upon a second career to occupy that greater part of their lives so that their well-deserved years of retirement are not prematurely curtailed through dying of boredom.

But, “what’s all this got to do with Flann O’Brien?” you might ask.

No comments:

Post a Comment