I’ve only ever felt the hand of the law on my collar and henceforth into the back of a police van once in my life, and that was all a terrible mistake, honest guv it was.
It would be 31 years ago, probably almost to the day when I and two friends went shopping into Leeds city centre for sun creams and other such things in preparation for our forthcoming lads holiday to Corfu, August 1980.
Four of us were going to that island in the sun (as sang Demis Roussos, whatever happened to the singing circus tent ?) and the fourth member of our little gang of soon to be burnt to a crisp youths was Charlie Smith, he of policeman fame, and the only reason that he wasn’t with us that Saturday afternoon is because he was on duty, in the city centre.
And so not coincidently we crossed each others path during the afternoon, he and another police officer doing their “strolling around town with your hands behind your back like in The Bill” routine and we stood and chatted for a while and showed him all of the Bergasol high protection sun cream that we’d bought and he declined from contributing to the cost for he did not use such rubbish, he used his mothers own invention – sun protection cream made from olive oil and vinegar, yes you heard me right, yes he fried himself in Corfu, but thats another story.
And as we stood on the busy city centre street chatting away he turned his back on us slightly and spoke into his police radio then turned to his accompanying officer to tell him “They’re sending a van”.
What he had done, the lazy sod, was to order a police van to come and pick them up in order to go back to the police station for their proscribed break time, thats Millgarth Police Station in Leeds, its a five minute walk from where we were, stressful job is walking around the city centre in a “The Bill” stylee.
A few minutes later a police Transit van appeared in the pedestrian precinct and a driver jumped out and opened the back door, “This is him here…” spoke Charlie to him and pointed at me.
The driver, not knowing that this was all just a playful playground prank by what I considered to be one of my best friends, came across and grabbed my arm in what can only be described as “an arresting mode” and shoved me over to the van where he then encouraged me by means of hard shoves to climb up into it, thinking that the driver was also joking I started to struggle, a crowd of old ladies with shopping trolleys quickly gathered and I cried out that I’d only stopped to ask him the time.
I thought Charlie Smith would wet himself, he was bent double with laughter but as I was flung ungraciously into the back of the van his mate nudged him and they both stepped into the fray, told their driver mate that it was all a joke, threw me back out of the van, waved a cheery goodbye and buggered off at speed leaving me stood in the middle of Commercial Street in Leeds surrounded by a baying crowd of old ladies who even now were describing to each other what it was that they’d heard I’d been arrested for, these ranged from shoplifting to murder and war crimes.
I shrugged my shoulders and they regarded me with deep disappointment and reluctantly turned to walk away, their Saturday afternoon entertainment spoiled by wrongful arrest and a policeman who thought it was funny to have his mates flung in the back of a police van.
In turn I thought it was hilarious when PC Smith suffered third degree burns one week later in Corfu, lads humour is strange isn’t it ?