Dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard

Oh how I wished I had had occasion to dial 999 and ask for the coastguard.

I used to spend all my days as a child strolling along clifftops, eyes screwed against the glaring sun, gazing out to sea, perusing the waves on the lookout for capsizing boats or swimmers in difficulties just so that I could put this excellent Public Information Film into practice, dash for the nearest public phone box and dail 999 and ask for the coastguard.

Or to be correct, to ask for the coastguard in that nice Northern accent that Joe the cartoon character uses, “Hellooo, is that the coast{swallow}guard ?”.

I only once dashed for a public phone box when I was a kid and I didn’t make the call, rather I helped to shove another boy into the phone box and encouraged him by means of slapping around the head to dial 999 and ask not for the coastguard for that would have been silly, for we lived in Leeds, 70 miles from the coast.

No, we made him dial 999 and ask for the police for we had seen what we were convinced was a burglary in progress.

What it actually was was someone who had been painting their upper storey window frames and had left a window open for the paint to dry with the ladder still propped up against it, but how were we to know, we’d watched the Public Information Films on TV and knew that the police wouldn’t mind if we got it wrong and called them out to a man who’d just been painting his upper storey windows off a ladder – so we rang them.

And then we ran away.


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