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‘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?’  I could see that this particular bit of writing, an entry in a daybook, had my name against it (being able to read text from all angles is an asset that I probably learned during my time with the police). 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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Leuchars Airshow: Never again!

Bad Day at Black Rock.* (for Black Rock, read Leuchars Air Show, Scotland’s answer to Farnborough).

Decided to go to the Leuchars Air Show, having been assured by announcements in the media that the RAF, the police, the AA and Fife Council had got to grips with the show’s infamous traffic jams. Paid lots of money for advance tickets – and as I had the three-year-old (who will soon be four, as he reminds me more than occasionally) – I bought the pricey ‘parking on base’ tickets rather than the park and ride ones.

I have just returned home after a day sitting in the car in the worst traffic jam I have ever encountered, worse than anything I have seen on the M6 between Manchester and Birmingham (Ha! You call those things traffic jams? You ain’t seen nothing!). THREE HOURS to travel two miles and with 10 miles still to go! At 12 noon (and with two superbly behaved children in the back – not once did I hear ‘are we there yet?’), and having just been told by two police officers that the jam went all the way to Leuchars, I did a 12-point turn in the road and headed for home, joining the hundreds of drivers that had done the same since we got in the jam. After sitting there for 3 hours, common sense had told me that things were not going to change, and simple maths told me that as I had taken 3 hours to drive 2 miles it would take me over 6 hours to get to Leuchars. As the authorities had announced they were going to stop cars entering the gates in 2 hours time, there wasn’t much point continuing.

You cannot put 2 pints into a 1 pint pot, guys!
– which is exactly what you are trying to do. When will someone in authority have the guts to say that it is physically impossible to get that number of cars into that part of Fife in the time that is available? There is an easy solution: stop ripping off the public; limit the number of tickets that are sold, don’t keep selling the damn things knowing that half of us don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting anywhere near the show! These jams are legend, so surely, from a moral point of view, continuing to sell numbers of tickets well above the number of people that can possibly get to the airfield on those roads, and in the time available, is simply a rip-off. I might as well have torn up £20 notes.

I saw more aircraft when I drove past Edinburgh Airport that I saw at Leuchars. I took my camera. I even bought a spare battery. As I never even got to see a plane, the one below will have to do. It’s HH’s Spruce Goose.

Am I angry? You bet.
As I said at the start, never again!
Hundreds – possibly thousands – of others will be saying the same thing.

*For those that don’t know – an old but brilliant black and white movie.


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