Writing the stuff down that's not allowed on the AWARE terminal.

Monday, 28 March 2011

The Source Of Thames

According to the Ordnance Survey, this is where the Thames first rises 130 straight-line kilometres west of London. Just to the north is the site either of an Iron Age hill fort or a Roman encampment, the exact nature of which is awaiting an episode of Time Team. Apparently there is a soggy field, a stone to mark the spot and a chance, after a particularly wet winter, that you might see some water. You approach down a minor road that turns to gravel once you’re past the private houses it was built to serve. The line of the river is marked by a dense stand of trees, and the source of the Thames is beyond that.

Monday, 28 February 2011

Fats Navarro

This is one of my dad’s favourite trumpet players and had the kind of bright sad life that jazz historians get all teary eyed about. It’s the kind of life my dad might have had if my mum hadn’t come along and taken care of him.

Born in 1923 in Key West, Florida Fats muscled into the New York jazz scene in the late 1940s playing with greats like Charlie Parker, Coleman Hawkins and Benny Goodman. My dad says that he might have been the greatest horn player ever if he hadn’t got hooked on smack, contracted TB and died in 1950 aged just 26.

Sometime I wonder if there isn’t something about really great jazz musicians that attracts this kind of self destructive behaviour but my dad says that anyone can be stupid it’s just that when they’ve got a talent you miss them when their gone.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

100% Brain

The incomparable constable Perky accused me of using the other 90% of my brain to do the things I’m not really supposed to talk about on a public forum. I asked her what she was talking about and she said it was a well known fact that we only 10% of our brain.

This, I suspect, is news to our brains or at least those of us who use to actually use them to think stuff. In the first instance it’s bollocks because keen people like Dr Walid have been attaching electrodes to people’s heads for years now and have found that we, surprise surprise, use all of our brain. In the second instance it wouldn’t make sense biologically since having a brain uses up some ridiculous percentage of our total energy budget and evolution doesn’t hand out free lunches to unnecessary organs – if you’re going to stay – says the organism – you’re going to work. So I don’t know about you personally but I’m using 100% of my brain all the time.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Thursday, 24 February 2011

University College Hospital

University College Hospital takes up two whole blocks between Tottenham Court Road and Gower Street. Founded in the nineteenth century, its main claim to fame was as the teaching hospital for the University College of London and the birthplace of one Peter Grant, apprentice wizard. Since that momentous day in the mid-1980s, half the site had been redeveloped into a gleaming blue and white tower that looked as if a bit of Brasilia had crash-landed in the middle of Victorian London.
Chapter 6: The Coach House

In 1848 it was the venue for the first ever operation conducted under a general anaesthetic and is currently a world centre for cryptopathology although only about three people actually know that. The eccentric Edwardian folly, known as the Cruciform Building, was built in 1906 but has recently been sold to the biology faculty of the University College London so that their students can do their strange and terrifying experiments in a suitably gothic environment.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Skeleton Army

In 1861 William Booth resigned from the Methodists in Liverpool and headed for London where, in the grand tradition of metropolitan reinvention, he founded his own church and took Christ, bread and social work to the heathen natives of east London. In 1878 he declared that he was tired of being called a volunteer and that he was a regular in the army of Christ or nothing at all; thus the Salvation Army was born.

But no army, however pure its motives, occupies a foreign country without resistance, and this was provided by the Skeleton Army. Driven by gin, bone-headedness and growling resentment that being the Victorian working class was bad enough without having to be preached at by a bunch of self-righteous northerners, the Skeleton Army broke up Salvation Army meetings, disrupted marches and attacked its officer corps.

The emblem of the Skeleton Army was a white skeleton against a black background – a badge worn by right-thinking ne’er-do-wells from Worthing to Bethnal Green.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Beverley Brook

Beverley Brook is a river in South London. She(1) rises in Worcester Park and meets the Thames opposite Craven Cottage(2). Unlike most of her sister tributaries most of Beverley Brook flows above ground and thus has a suburban character and isn't lost in any way whatsoever. In fact given that she runs through at least two Royal parks she's not nearly so 'street' as she likes to make out.

If you fancy a walk along her mossy banks where the newly reintroduced water vole gambols in a life and death struggle with the local domestic cat population then here is a map...

View Beverley Brook Walk in a larger map

(1) Definately female - trust me on this.
(2) Home ground of Fulham F.C.(3)
(3) F.C. stands for Football(4) Club.
(4) Football is the English word for soccer.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Ugly Buildings: Horseferry Road

The City of Westminster Magistrates Court is around the back of Victoria Station on the Horseferry Road. It’s a bland box of a building built in the 1970s and is considered so lacking in architectural merit that there's talk of listing it so that it could be preserved for posterity as an awful warning.

Inside, the waiting areas maintain that unique combination of cramped busyness and barren inhumanity that was the glory of British architecture in the second half of the twentieth century.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Chocolate Valentine

I was looking for a cheap place to buy microprocessors but found myself browsing Ghanaian chocolate instead. Now for those of you who fell asleep during geography Ghana is a major producer of cocoa beans but like most developing nations gets itself royally screwed by the foreign companies that manufacture the actual product elsewhere. The real money in cash crops is what you do with them between the farm and the punter and the big mark up that involves. This is what economists call adding value and getting it done in your own country is the difference between actually being a developing country and being that shit poor place where bad things happen..

Obviously the Ghanaian Finance Ministry know this too and so to promote indigenous chocolate eating of indigenous chocolate they have declared the 14th of February as Chocolate Day. All over Ghana, they hope, romantic boys are giving romantic girls bars of Golden Tree chocolate (or maybe even the deluxe gift set). I on the other hand am spending Valentine’s day with my Police Officers handbook brushing up on my court procedure in case I have to give evidence at the magistrates court.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Things Not To Do: Losing Your Warrant Card

According to PC Perky our friend Special K managed to lose her warrant card while having drinks in the pub with five senior officers. Now she has to go down NSY and ‘explain’ what happened to the powers that be. Whatever else happens – there will be forms.

Warrant cards are very important because a) they identify you as a sworn constable with powers of arrest and detention and, in my case, a member of an organisation with more people in uniform than the Swedish Army. This can be a very comforting thought when you’re confronting belligerent drunks at three o’clock in the morning – especially if they’re from Stockholm.

They also b) get you free travel on the tube, trains and buses. That’s why most officers working in Central London live in the suburbs and commute, bigger house, cheap commute and the only draw back is that you’re living in the suburbs. Not me I now have the best rent free digs in the history of policing – with free food thrown in.

EDIT: NSY stands for New Scotland Yard.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

While Using the Tube

A few do’s and don’ts while travelling on the underground.

Do not stand around chatting to your friends while blocking the entire width of an access tunnel. Many commuters are desperate to get home and they wont mind if its over your crushed and bleeding body.

For the love of god when going up the escalator do not stand on the left. You walk up on the left and you stand on the right – it’s that simple.

If you are carrying a large rucksack try to make sure your hands are clearly visible at all times or you will find that your fellow passengers will slowly drift away towards the other end of the carriage. Do not leave your rucksack, or any other bag, unattended in the station or the carriage as having your luggage destroyed in a controlled explosion often offends.

Anita Blay Has Some Good Advice

Tuesday, 8 February 2011


Because sometimes more really is more!

The TSG are the Territorial Support Group. These are the guys that tool around in Mercedes Sprinter vans with equipment lockers stuffed with everything from riot helmets to tasers. Every borough command has a couple of these buzzing around their operational area, especially at closing time, and there’s a reserve force held on standby just in case of unexpected events. I suspected that current events counted as unexpected.
Chapter 12: The Last Resort

We may take the piss, and we do, but sometimes, when you’re facing off against a pub full belligerent drunks or a hen party that’s just gone very very wrong there’s nothing quite as comforting as a TSG van pulling up to the curb. Because they only turn up when things go pear shaped they have most complaints of any branch of the Metropolitan Police. This allows us ordinary coppers to don our halos and basically blame everything that goes wrong on them.

Monday, 7 February 2011

The Naked Ladies

Right next to Eel Pie Island, where my dad and Mick Jagger once played, is a council owned garden with a set of beautiful white marble statues of naked women. I looked them up on Wikipedia which gives the mundane story of how they come to be there but I have my own suspicions as to why they all got restoration treatment in 1989. My governor says that it’s an important shrine but he hasn’t told me who to yet.

More importantly the statues have inspired a local ale called, appropriately, The Naked Ladies. I’ve tried it and its very good. Now you don’t have to be half Sierra Leonean to appreciate the role beer plays in traditional religions as a libation and an outright bribe so I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. If you you’re down there why have a look, have a pint and pay your respects.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Things Not To Do

Don't laugh this could easily happen to you.

Look how fast the robbers get in that car - I swear they must have practised that.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Capital City

I am a free man of London
and that makes me
a Prince of the City.

Chapter 13: London Bridge

Thursday, 3 February 2011

How to talk Proper

A good tutorial on how to talk proper if you unfortunate enough to be born posh or American. Study it well my son and you will find yourself blending in at any bleeding social event or appearing as an extra in 'Lie to Me'

The Iain West Forensic Suite

Its official name is the Iain West Forensic Suite, and it represents the Home Office’s best attempt to make one of its mortuaries look as cool as the ones in American TV shows. In order to keep filthy policemen from contaminating any trace evidence on the body, there was a special viewing area with live autopsies piped in by closed-circuit television. This had the effect of reducing even the most grisly post-mortem to nothing more than a gruesome TV documentary.
Chapter 2: Ghost Hunting Dog

The forensic suite is attached to Westminster Mortuary and is named after the cheerfully flamboyant pathologist Iain West. A man who’d had his gloved fingers inside the vitals of such luminaries as Robert Maxwell and Jill Dando and it’s down to him that we have a computerised database of injury photographs – never access this on a full stomach by the way. I personally could do without ever going in there again – thank you very much.

Our Founder

Nature and Nature's laws lay hid in night:
God said, "Let Newton be!" and all was light.
Alexander Pope

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Slang: Old Style

Jack: a detective.

Lurcher: Essentially your basic greyhound crossed with a collie or similar in order to produce a fast dog with brains that can be used for poaching, racing and hare coursing.

Lush: An alcoholic beverage .

Lushery: A place where a lush may be had. A low public house or drinking den.

Plant: A victim.

Put the jack on: Inform to the police (see Jack).

Slag: A person of low self esteem, a woman of loose morals, someone Ray Winstone doesn’t like.

The End of My Probation

The Metropolitan Police Service is still, despite what people think, a working-class organisation and as such rejects totally the notion of an officer class. That is why every newly minted constable, regardless of their educational background, has to spend a two-year probationary period as an ordinary plod on the streets. This is because nothing builds character like being abused, spat at and vomited on by members of the public.

Towards the end of your probation you start applying for positions in the various branches, directorates and operational command units that make up the force. Most probationers will continue on as full uniformed constables in one of the borough commands, and the Met hierarchy likes to stress that deciding to remain a uniformed constable doing vital work on the streets of London is a positive choice in and of itself. Somebody has to be abused, spat at and vomited on, and I for one applaud the brave men and women who are willing to step up and serve in that role.
Chapter 1: Material Witness

'You seem to have run out of city.'

From chapter 13: London Bridge

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Orientation II: Covent Garden

Some usefull vocabulary

Aggro – violence, aggravation, both of those at the same time.

Hendon – the Metropolitan Police's training school.

Nick - either
a) to make an arrest. ‘We wait outside the window and nick them when they come out with the TV…’ or the ever popular; ‘You’re nicked my son.’
b) a Police Station, presumably because it’s where you take people once you’ve nicked them. Hence ‘My nick’ ‘Down the nick’ or used as part of proper name ‘Charing Cross Nick.’
c) to steal. ‘Oi you nicked my telly’.

Metropolitan Police Ranks

PC or Police Constable: the brave men and women that are the back bone of the Police Service, out in all hours and weather to be selflessly spat at, abused and vomited on by members of the public. I for one salute them especially since I'm now no longer one of them.

DC or Detective Constable (DC): someone who has passed their detective exam and got a nice job in CID or a specialist unit. Try to get here as soon as possible in your career unless you've got your eye on ACPO (1).

Sergeant or Detective Sergeant (DS): Even more exams, even more paperwork, even more responsibility but on the other hand you get to boss people about. If you're friendly you can call a Detective Sergeant by their first name but I like to stick to sarge, guv or boss - just to be on the safe side.

Inspector or Detective Inspector (DI): this is where you get to be in charge of stuff, a shift, a specialist unit, one third of a murder squad. I've been told it's not as much fun as it sounds but I think I'll wait and see.

Chief Inspector or Detective Chief Inspector (DCI): Here you walk the razors edge between the light, ordinary plain speaking coppers, and the darkness, business speak obsessed control freaks. You will be a running a nick or a murder squad, people below you will be coming to you with their problems and will expect you to know what to do, your superiors will be coming to you with their problems and will expect you to sort them out!

Superintendent or Detective Superintendent (DSI): My boss is a DCI, in fact everybody I know's boss is a DCI. I don't know the precise purpose or function of this rank I just bloody well do what I'm told.

Chief Superintendent or Detective Chief Superintendent (DCS): Congratulations you are as high as you can go without selling your soul to ACPO(2). You are in charge of a entire Borough Command or a major specialised unit you definately have your own parking space that much is certain.

ACPO(3): stands for the Association of Chief Police Officers, a dark and sinister conspiracy that is part trade union, part coordinating committee for all the police forces and part NGO. You are inducted into ACPO when you reach the rank of Commander, beyond that are Deputy Assistant Commissioners, the Assistant Commissioners who stand at the left and right of the Commissioner himself, the Deputy Commissioner and finally the Commissioner himself.

(1) I'll explain later.
(2) Patience.
(3) See I said I'd explain later.

Monday, 31 January 2011

Orientation I: Greater London


Every police station in the country has at least one HOLMES suite. This is the Home Office Large Major Enquiry System, which allows computer-illiterate coppers to join the late twentieth century. Getting them to join the twenty-first century would be too much to ask for.

Everything related to a major investigation is kept on the system, allowing detectives to cross-reference data and avoid the kind of cock-up that made the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper such an exemplary operation. The replacement to the old system was due to be called SHERLOCK, but nobody could find the words to make the acronym work so they called it HOLMES 2.

You don’t get to use HOLMES for every day crime that’s what AWARE is for, as MERLIN is anything to do with kids, CRIS is for crime reports and ENCOW is for training programmes. The POLICE NATIONAL COMPUTER (PNC) is something else entirely. When you log in into HOLMES you have to use your warrant number which means the operators can track you make an unauthorised inquiry.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Extracting the Michael

Cockney, as it is spoke has several ways of expressing disbelief.

Bollocks. (Not to be confused with ‘bollocks!’ – with the higher pitch; indicating an unwelcome surprise or ‘bollocks’ with the lower pitch; indicating extreme dissatisfaction – Cockney, in some instances, can be regarded as a tonal language.)

Do me a favour! – don’t think of me as being so stupid as to believe that.

Are you taking the piss? (This must be differentiated from the statement; ‘You’re taking the piss!’ which shouldn’t be used in an aggressive fashion unless one is prepared for physical confrontation.)

Are you extracting the urine? Favoured by Police, Ambulance and Fire Brigade personnel so as to protect the delicate ears of the media.

Are you taking the mickey? Another euphemism employed to insulate those of refined sensibility from the rough honesty of the everyday world.

Are you extracting the Michael?
A recursive elaboration of the above to impress upon the refined that despite one’s rough hewn manner one has a ready wit and a extensive vocabulary superior to that which you gained from your expensive private school you posh bastard.

Scene of the Crime: Hampstead

Friday, 28 January 2011


Eusapia Palladino

Eusapia Palladino was a famous Italian spiritualist who tooled around Europe around the turn of the 20th Century giving séances and displays of levitating tables to the obviously gullible and to people who should have known better, like Pierre Curie.

She was married young to a conjurer, which should have been a bit of a clue, and maintained a coterie of supporters despite the number of times she was caught cheating. Her name became a byword for spiritualism. Hence ‘a touch of the old Palladino.’

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Case Progression Unit

Motto: We do paperwork so real coppers don't have to.

The theory behind the Case Progression Unit is very sound, police officers, so the established wisdom has it, are drowning in paperwork, suspects have to be logged in, the chain of evidence must never be broken and the politicians and PACE, the Police And Criminal Evidence Act, must be followed to the letter. The role of the Case Progression Unit is to do the paperwork for the hard pressed constable so he or she can get back out on the street to be abused, spat at and vomited on. Thus will there be a bobby on the beat and thus shall crime be defeated and the good Daily Mail reading citizens of our fair nation shall live in peace.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Scene of the Crime: St Paul's Church

Known as the Actor’s Church to avoid confusion with the sodding great Cathedral up the road St Paul’s of Covent Garden was built in 1631 by Inigo Jones. The Earl of Bedford, who commissioned it, asked for nothing more than a barn for his flock but Jones, who liked a bit of Italian, decided to give him ‘the handsomest barn in England..’

He also managed to build it backwards but not because, whatever Lesley says, he was drunk at the time. Jones’s problem was that no self respecting Italianate building in the style of the Northern renaissance could possibly go without its grand portico with the Doric order columns and the big slab of a lintel handing overhead like an accident waiting to happen. But being a Church the altar had to go at the East of the building, which would block any grand entrance from the Piazza.

So Jones, being amongst other things, a theatrical gent, stuck a fake entrance at the East end with the Doric columns and lintels and whatever and put a more a modest but equally nice entrance on the west end for your actual punters to get in. Over the years the portico, mainly because it had a roof, has become a famous location in its own right. It was there that Samuel Pepys saw the first ever recorded Punch and Judy show and that Audrey Hepburn did her flower girl scenes while displaying the worst cockney accent this side of Dick Van Dyke.


I'm going to suggest that Purdey and Special K watch this like a million times. That way they'll know what people are saying to them and will stop asking me stupid questions.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

The Sweeney: For real this time.

Motto: ‘We’re the Sweeney son and we haven’t had any dinner.’
For those of who are foreign or educated at a private school ‘The Sweeney’ is your actual Cockney rhyming slang for Flying Squad (Sweeney Todd = Flying Squad) which is in turn cop speak for the armed robbery squad of the Specialist Crime Directorate (which does what it says on the tin). Founded in the 1920s they made use of those new fangled horseless carriages to charge around apprehending criminals wherever they may be. I’m not going to say they were corrupt in the 1970s but during court appearances you couldn’t tell the cops from the robbers. They’re still the geezers with the tasty motors, the good suits and the handmade shoes that every proper London copper wants to be.

Monday, 24 January 2011

A Few Coupons Short Of A Pop Up Toaster

Sometime I think they want to get caught. Case in point. We were called in as back up by Operation Bumblebee who’d set up a fake fencing operation to catch burglars and shoplifters.

This is where you set up in a shop front or a market barrow and spread the word around that you’re willing to pay cash for stuff that fell off the back of a lorry – no questions asked. Then when the likely lads come wandering in you take their picture, you tag what they bring as evidence against them and check it against your register of stolen goods. Then either you arrest them then and there or you follow them home and upset their whole family (usually by arresting the whole family). This kind of operation is a firm favourite of CID officers up and down the country because a) you get to sit on your padded CID backside and let the criminals come to you and b) it gives you a really favourable spike in your clear up statistics.

I found myself guarding two of these sad little statistics and we got chatting. They said that they thought there was something iffy about the whole thing because the prices were too good. So I asked them why, if they thought that, did they come into the shop? They said, because the prices were so good they had to risk it.

I told Lesley about it and she said a) why didn’t I take down that conversation for use in evidence later and b) all criminals are stupid. If they weren’t, she said, police wouldn’t be able to catch them.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

The Sweeney

What every proper red blooded London copper wants to be when he grows up.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Stab Vest

Out on the streets of London you don’t worry about being shot, because that hardly ever happens, what you worry about is getting stabbed because that happens a lot. To avoid have sharp bits of metal stuck into your favourite body the well dressed young copper around town wears his stab vest.

My particular life saver is a metvest™ for which I was fitted right at the start of my probation. A metvest is basically a torso shaped fabric cover into which you slip the armour plates that keep your tender young bits from being pronged by an over excited member of the public.

There’s two types of covers; covert; which is white, smooth and designed to be worn under your clothes so you can stay safe and fashionable. And overt which is black, has lots of pockets, a docking clip for your airwave and, just in case people still have trouble identifying you, a badge that says Metropolitan Police: working for a safer London.

Monday, 17 January 2011


One of the advantages of weird shift patterns is that you can go to weekday Matinees in the West End and have the cinema to yourself. Me and Lesley popped out to the Leicester Square Voyage, whose motto is ‘never knowingly overstaffed’, and saw Megamind. I thought it was brilliant but Lesley kept on complaining about the physics which is, apart from anything else, my job. The other thing I noticed was that we were both finding it way funnier than the little kids in the audience. Most cartoons have adult jokes to keep the parents happy but I think Megamind is other way round.

I had to explain the Metrocity/Metro City joke to Lesley.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Beware Angry Little People

Got this from Special-K who says it happened before Christmas but it made Lesley laugh so much she fell off her chair in the PC's writing room. Apparently they got a report of a women being set on fire at a pub on Dean Street. So she and a PC from my nick called Purdey tool over and find this distressed, and slightly singed, lady in a fur coat outside.

She tells them that a guy inside keeps trying to set her fur coat on fire. Purdey, wanting to look good in front of Special-K, assures the lady that he'll take care of this and would she be so kind as to enter the pub with him and indicate the miscreant with the wayward cigarette lighter.

In they duly go and there's the suspect, dressed for the opera including a cape and no more than four foot high not counting his top hat. He is, in short, what my dad would call a midget and what I'd call, being a PC PC, one of the little people.

Now the thing about being a policeman is you're supposed to loom in an intimidating manner over suspect and witness alike. In fact 90% of the job can be achieved through the deployment of tactical looming. Fights can be broken up, confessions extracted and motorists chastised with little aggro and, more importantly, less effort. But there's such a thing as overkill.

Poor Purdey couldn't work out what to do, did he stay upright and shout down at the top of the guys head, did he sit down, or kneel down? In the end he adopted a crouched stance which set the whole pub to laughing. Lesley said he should have picked up the 'little person' and stood him on a table.

Now the little guy was, in addition to being an opera buff, an animal's right nut which was why he was setting the lady's fur coat on fire -- as a protest. Purdey did his best to explain that free speech stops short of attempted arson but the little person wasn't having it. He considered nicking the little bastard but figured that slapping the handcuffs on would make him look even more of a prat.

The moral of this story is, unless you're sure nobody is watching, only pick on people your own size.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Charing Cross Nick

There are two good things about Charing Cross nick.

1) It's got the biggest custody suite in London so on weekdays you never have to worry about cell availability.

2) The Canteen runs 24/7 which means you can have bacon sandwich with your EAB even at 3 AM.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

I've Got This

This is for Lesley who keeps saying I should emigrate to America and get a job with the FBI as an Obama decoy. I keep telling her that it's the Secret Service not the FBI that deals with threats to the President but she don't care.