Monthly Archives: February 2020

Motorbikes – my Triumphs!

For the few motorbike fans that I have (and I do understand if you are not one of them) here is the bike that I used to ride out to that weird accident, my 1960 triumph T100A, photographed back in the day when I still lived with my parents.

 

 

 

 

 

The other bike, the red one, is the police bike I usually rode. Ten years ago, in a moment of madness, I found it and bought it, stripped it right down to its parts and rebuilt it, bit by bit. Having done all that, I am thinking of selling it. I just don’t have the room for it. Sad but true!

 

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True Tale – BACK FROM THE DEAD?

‘He’s dead! There’s no way he could still be alive under there!’

It was only three miles away but it was an emergency, a road accident at roadworks on a remote country road on the outskirts of the city – and believed to be fatal. Against a strong headwind it would take at least thirty minutes to cycle there. The police station’s motorbike, an unwieldy ten-year old monster fitted with a heavy radio on its rear, was not available. Nor could we persuade the force traffic department to send out a patrol car. The only transport available at the police station were police bicycles – big black heavy-duty things with no gears.

I kitted up in motorcycle gear and wheeled out my own bike. Five minutes later I rounded a blind bend on a narrow, winding road flanked by high hedges and encountered the road accident (encountered is probably the best way to describe my emergency braking to avoid the back end of a huge, stationary truck).

I soon realised that this accident was very different from the usual two-car smash. Firstly, had the truck not been there, I would have plunged into a metre-deep trench dug in the road. Secondly, there were no cars to be seen.

An ambulance arrived from the opposite direction and pulled up at the far end of the roadworks. The trench I would have ridden into was short, and completely covered by the stationary truck that straddled it. Workmen ran to me. That’s when I heard the He’s dead bit. I did the usual things, got the workman with the red and green STOP/GO sign to stand around the bend to stop anyone coming around it and then facing what I had faced. Then the true-to-life version of the  “Hello, hello, what’s going on here then…” so beloved of comedians of the time. “What happened?” usually does it.

The only casualty I could see was the truck driver, not physically injured but obviously distressed. He had seen the road works signs, he said. He had braked hard, come around the bend, and then seen the trench with a workman standing in it. Unable to stop, he’d driven right over the man.

Because the trench was covered by the truck there was no way to get into it. One of the men had tried to squeeze underneath but had failed, saying he had seen his colleague lying dead in the trench. The driver didn’t want to back the truck off the trench because that would be disturbing the scene. I made him reverse it.

There was indeed a man lying in the bottom of the trench, with a pickaxe and shovel beside him. He didn’t lie there for much longer though, because when he heard the roar of the truck’s engine he stood up, nursing his head.

It took a while to work out what had happened. These were the days before compulsory hard hats. The very second before the truck came to a stop over him he’d ducked down to shovel dirt. When he stood up straight to see why the world had gone dark, he hit his head on the truck’s engine and knocked himself out.

The ambulance crew treated the workman for concussion – he had a lump on the back of his head the size of half an egg. They wanted to take him away to be looked at but he refused, saying he would lose a day’s pay.

 

 

 

 

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True Tale – INVISIBLE WIRE

‘Possible housebreaking, top end of Long Cross. CID on the way but delayed. Can you attend?’

I noted the details, replaced the radio handset and kick-started my motorbike. The house wasn’t that far away, I could be there in less than five minutes. A quiet approach was needed, no point letting an intruder know you are on your way (not that we had blue lights or nee-naw horns on our bikes back then. The road traffic department superintendent believed that his officers’ riding and driving skills should be so good that they didn’t need such things). I approached the house, switched off the engine, coasted down the hill and put the bike on its stand.

It doesn’t take detective training to know that on busy streets like this one, burglars tend to break into the backs of houses rather than the fronts. This house was semi-detached, so instead of going to the front door I walked down the path at the side. All windows, and the front and back doors, were closed. There was no sign of a break-in. By the time I’d returned to the front of the house, the lady who’d phoned us was there, standing in the doorway. “More things have gone missing,” she said. “It’s just like last time.”

The more questions I asked, the more I realised that there was no evidence of anyone else having been in the house. The lady lived on her own and had mislaid things. Unable to find them, her only explanation was that someone had broken in and stolen them. I checked with neighbours. They confirmed that though she was generally a level-headed person, she was very forgetful.

I did my best to console her but she remained unconvinced. Then CID arrived, an experienced officer twice my age. He had been there before, he said, several times. Like me, he was convinced there was no break-in. When the losses mounted up she phoned-in, convinced she’d been burgled.

“Help me,” he said. “We’ll wire the place up…”

The only way to describe what happened next is to say that we mimed unreeling rolls of wire and tucking it behind the sitting room picture rails – that room and the kitchen only, because these were the rooms where things tended to go missing. My colleague convinced her that we were trying out a new device that would call the police if a stranger entered her house. It was invisible so the intruder wouldn’t see it. When we had finished wiring the rooms she insisted that we also did her downstairs windows and doors. I felt bad about it. I didn’t like deceiving people.

It was around a year later when the duty inspector called me into his office. He looked puzzled. It was in the days before computer records and he’d been looking through old journals. ‘Last November,’ he said. ‘You attended a break-in at Long Cross. Would you care to tell me about it?’ Being able to read text from all angles is an asset that I probably learned during my time with the police. I could see that this particular bit of writing, an entry in a daybook, had my name against it. He also had a handwritten letter, addressed to the force’s Chief Constable. He read part of it out to me. It went something like this.

“… the man has not been back to the house since your officer came. I am sure there will be no more burglaries so I no longer need your invisible wire. Please will you send the officer to take it down so it can be used again somewhere else.”

“Invisible wire?” he said. “Care to explain?” I explained as best as I could, wondering if there would be disciplinary action of some kind. There wasn’t. “Better get on with it then,” he said.

“Sir? Get on with it?”

“You heard what she wrote. She wants you to take it down so it can be used again.”

I did what I was told. On my own this time, with the woman watching, I mimed going around the rooms, reaching up, coiling invisible wire over my arm as if coiling rope. Then I did the windows and doors. It felt like some kind of punishment and I still feel guilty about it. I suppose I shouldn’t. Because it worked.

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