“It’s No Safe Here Constable!”
Now, you will have read of my ‘at times inappropriate’ behaviours?’ This tale is the living proof of when an innocent remark in my eyes is taken out of all proportion and lands me in hot water and unpredictable events! My off colour humour at times whilst not offensive to me, has caused and does cause others to view me … oddly.
Wednesday 9th October 1985 l was in the 22nd year of my life, a mere babe in the eyes of the wolves … ok, ok that is a tad over dramatic perhaps, but l was world wise in many arenas and yet so naïve in others it is truly scary!
The Power of Love by Jennifer Rush was in the UK charts at number one and would remain there for several weeks, alongside her and doing the rounds was Midge Ure’s If I Was as was Dancing in the Street by Bowie and Jagger.
I was one of the youngest Banqueting Managers of a huge Civic Hall in Guildford, it was the season, so these were the days when working from 6am through to 6am wasn’t unheard of – yes, long before these things ‘simply were not allowed’, but hey it was the 80’s! It was also catering, and anyone who has ever worked or careered in this industry knows just how gruelling it can be.
Many a time l never went home, l loved my job, l loved working so not returning home didn’t bother me that much during the banqueting season, however l had worked the previous ten days at almost 20 hours per day and the General Manager Otto, believed l was due to a break, and so on the 8th [Tuesday] at around lunch time, he generously gave me the afternoon off with the instruction to return at 7am the next morning — l know you are probably thinking WOW how remarkably kind of that man?
I used to sleep in the office on a bunk bed and in fact my office resembled a kind of ‘Man’s Cave’. Back then l used to be an ardent pipe smoker, so l had a pipe rack filled with pipes of various styles, l was a weapon enthusiast so had crossed swords on my walls, you know the normal ‘touches’ or should l say ‘touché, and then l had my very military like bunk bed. I had a beautiful desk, not the common desks that head office dished out to its premises, oh no, this was a beauty; it was mine and sat very well inside the already rather eccentric surroundings!
The only annoyingly odd thing in my office was the blasted safe! It was a wretched eyesore – it was an old fashioned model, a chunky Chubb as l used to lovingly refer to it as, and the damn thing was l thought initially bolted to the floor. According to the management it weighed in at just under 700kg, so ‘according to the powers to be’, there was NO WAY, it could be moved, it was just too heavy! It was a twin key model, l had one key and the General Manager had the other, so it could never be opened unless we were both there or both keys were.
I wore mine around my neck, and it was never left anywhere, it was always on my person. On average that early in the season it didn’t really hold that much perhaps £2500 and most of that was bar floats [We had 12 bars in the Hall], most of the big takings were transferred out into the night safes at around 11pm the previous night, or transferred down to the head office safes.
My office was situated at the back of the building near the staff toilets and the stockrooms and the kitchens, l was about a hundred feet away from the back door to the building, which even at my own concession was horribly insecure, a mere door, with a single key lock, glass panelled you know horrible security in truth, but the firm l worked for were at times known for their lackadaisical ways concerning this matter.
In the season getting an afternoon off was often met with bewilderment by me, l didn’t particularly treasure them’. I wasn’t fond of returning home, and so l tended to still work of sorts often meaning that l was out very late and most times just walked around Guildford or visiting chefs l knew who owned restaurants and we would enjoy banter and a drink into the early hours, and then returned to my office.
So in essence, in many ways, l SHOULD have been sleeping in my office on the night of the 8th, and perhaps had l have been there, then the disturbing events of the 9th ‘might’ not have actually occurred! But l wasn’t instead, l walked in bright eyed and busy tailed on the 9th to be greeted by an alarming sight!!
Which was, seeing the ‘Chunky Chubb’, halfway down the corridor from my office!!
Half way down, the beast had been dragged and scraped along the lino flooring, huge gouges displaying its ungainly path. If this wasn’t bad enough l had to fight my way through half a dozen boys in blue, who were all eyeing me up warily!
“Morning.” – A chap in a rather dowdy looking grey suit said, “Work here do you then?”
Perhaps it was the response which seemed to incite some bemusement to all the watching eyes, l know not. Perhaps l should have said nothing, but how can anyone not say anything to such a trifle question as that?
“Well of course, l wouldn’t be here, if l didn’t would l? I would be somewhere else and not looking at you lot eyeing me up and down like l am some kind of blaggard!! I am the manager here.”
“Been here long?”
“Well you can clearly see l have only just arrived surely?”
“No! I meant how long have you worked here?” Dowdy suit enquired.
“A couple of years, but you didn’t actually ask that of me did you? You asked if l had been here long? To which point having only just arrived to find Chunky Chubb in my corridor, l can only but answer with more of the obvious – as in ‘not long at all!”
The problem l have today and was no different to yesterday was/is when conversation takes on an illogical air to it. Don’t ask daft questions of me that are blatantly simple! Of course now in my fifties and looking back to my early twenties l can see how the misinterpretations may have come around.
Dowdy suit started to look quite interested in me as a person now …”Do you find this funny then?”
“Well as a matter of fact l do, yes. “It’s no safe here, constable” l jokingly retorted, thinking that Dowdy would see the humour also.
“Meaning what exactly?”
“Well” I answered laughing, “The Chunky Chubb, the impossible to move iron beast of the wings, is somehow alarmingly a good fifty foot from its actual location, so it’s no safe here, as in it’s not safe and also, as in the safe shouldn’t be here, do you see the irony of this situation?”
“What l see is some cocky whipper snapper trying to tell me how to do my job!” Dowdy snapped.
“How can l be telling you how to do your job when l don’t even know what your actual job is? I mean, you are not wearing a uniform, therefore one must deduce you are either some bod from head office or perhaps a detective? As to your interpretation of me telling you how to do your job, how can you even ask that of me, let alone yell that at me?” I answered as harshly.
“Do you find it strange that you should happen to be in this corridor at the same time as this safe?” Dowdy stupidly enquired.
“Well of course it’s bloody strange, this thing weighs in at 700kg, which is not light l assure you. Some silly bastard or two has evidently tried to run off with it, after a failed safe break! I mean not trying to be funny, but it’s hardly rocket science is it? Furthermore, they have tried to drag it out of the door, if l was you, and just a suggestion, not ME trying to tell you how to do your job, is l would be looking for fellows who are walking around today like men in their 90’s without a Zimmer frame!”
Dowdy sort of snapped he went from a whitening of the skin, to a deep purple in l think around ten seconds flat! It was most bizarre!!
“Jenkins!” he yelled at one of the boys in blue, “I want this chap arrested!”
I was dumbfounded, arrested? Arrested?? What on earth for?
Even Jenkins seemed a little taken aback. “For what?”
Dowdy still struggling with his new facial colouration was becoming infuriated “Wasting police time, suspicion of burglary and being cocky with a policeman!”
“You are joking?” I said. “For being cocky? That’s not an offence, my Dad’s an ex Met copper, and he has never mentioned it being a crime about being cocky! Insulting, abusive and violent absolutely. But what about your senseless stupidity, who arrests you for that? You are a blundering dowdy suit at best if you think l am guilty of dragging Chunky Chubb fifty foot down the bloody corridor by myself!”
“I will make you talk, and you will tell me of and about your accomplices!” he spat
“You are a fool, call this coppering? I have seen better coppering on water pipes than this malarkey!” I yelled back now fully realising that my hands were being shoved behind my back and cuffs were going on! “This is a defilement of my rights, being cocky is nowhere as damaging as being a moron!”
I think the use of the term moron was a little too much! I was carted off down the remaining corridor by Jenkins just telling me to ‘Shut up, don’t make this madness any more worse than it is Son!”
As l was cajoled out of the back door, Otto my general manager strolled in looking all dapper and equally as cocky, his jaw dropped to the floor seeing me squirming and struggling, with dowdy suit behind me yelling …”Add resisting arrest to his sheet Jenkins!”
“Rory what on earth is happening? Why are you wearing cuffs?” Otto enquired.
“For being cocky to a stupid policeman Otto. The man is deranged l assure you, say nothing to him about Chunky Chubb’s position!” And off l vanished into the outside courtyard. With his voice trailing off, “Who is this Chubb fellow?”
The journey to Woking police station and their holding cells in the back of the car was quite awful l can tell you. Jenkins and some other chap were laughing and joking all the time about how funny it was that l had snapped at Mallard who was new on the job, and this was his first proper case. “The Bungling of Chunky Chubb!”
Oh yes l thought, all very bloody funny, except l am cuffed in the back of a police car heading into unknown territory as some wanton criminal!
“Do l not get a call or something?” I enquired from the laughing policemen.
The other chap just looked around and laughed …. And laughed and Jenkins almost lost his grip of the car as he joined in the apparent humour.
“Well do l?” I asked now as my anger and stress was dissipating and fear and stress was building. My mind now travelling at a hundred miles an hour thinking, my life is over, l am going to be a criminal, a police record, l might go to prison and oh good grief, this cannot be happening, surely not? This isn’t Victorian England, and these two blunderers are Peelers! Oh my, what happens if l go to prison l could be locked up and all sorts of things could happen to me. Could l make my fellow inmates laugh? Would l become someone’s toy????
For the duration of that journey, l was left to my own crazy thoughts and imaginings, with two hyenas in the front, occasionally looking back at me and bursting into hysterics? We arrived at Woking station and l was frog marched into the front desk to be greeted by the desk sergeant. “Good morning Sir, been a little naughty have we?”
“Naughty? What on earth do you mean naughty? No of course l haven’t been naughty!” Jenkins replied with “The gentleman is to be charged with being cocky sarge, wasting police time and oh yes suspicion of burglary!”
The desk sergeant if he was surprised, held himself in check, and ran his eyes over my attire … grey herringbone double breasted suit, crisp white starched shirt, bright pink tie and the shiniest shoes known to mankind “Burglary you say Jenkins?”
“Yes sarge, suspicion of moving a three quarter iron safe fifty foot down a corridor sarge!”
“Apparently sarge, l am not here to question the decisions of Detective Mallard sarge, l am just here to deliver the villain!”
“Villain??” I exploded. “I am not a bloody villain!! All l did was challenge the imbecility of the situation sarge!”
“You don’t call me sarge Son, you call me Sir!”
“But you are no more a sir than l am, you are by rank a sergeant!”
“Oh yes, the cockiness, l can most assuredly see!! Ok, empty your pockets ma’lad!”
“Why, what on earth for?”
“Give me your laces as well please, and your tie, and those cufflinks, your watch as well please if you don’t mind.”
“Well l do mind actually, how can l tell the time if l don’t have my watch?”
“Not my problem, hand the lot over.”
“But why my shoe laces and tie?” I enquired.
“So you don’t hang yourself of course!” he answered.
“But why on earth would l wish to hang myself??”
“Well, one never knows with people Son. Hand them over.”
After emptying my pockets, Jenkins was instructed to place me into Cell 3, l yelled behind me, “I want my call, l am allowed a call!!” The desk sergeant walked over to me and simply said “Right telephone number you wish to have rung please?”
“Do l not have the right to call them myself?”
“This isn’t The Bill sonny; this is a real police station! Home number is it?”
“Yes, it is, please give her a call and tell her that l have been arrested for being cocky please. Because l am no suited cat burglar!”
I arrived at that station at around 08.45am that morning, and was released at 16.55pm that evening. My things were handed back to me, and l was pushed out the door, l received no questioning, no interviewing, no one spoke to me at all during my incarceration. I was awarded two cups of tea. My Father was the one who got me released, l wasn’t charged, but l was told l had to see the Chief Constable the following week?
This was far from over; the nightmare had only just begun.
Part 2 coming soon!