Thursday, 10 October 2013

An Emotional Day

I think I mentioned that I had to go to a funeral on Tuesday afternoon?  Forgive me if I didn't but the memory is not what it was, too much to remember each day methinks.

My father was a policeman, he worked in the county of Somerset for many years, mostly out of rural police stations when there was still such a thing.  He had many good friends amongst his colleagues, the last of whom sadly passed away at the end of September.  My mother and I both felt we wanted to attend the funeral of Dan who had been a really good friend to my father.  In 1977 my father suffered a major heart attack and during his recovery and subsequent depression it was Dan's regular visits that got him back on the mend and back into work again.  Dan was a large, proud, Welshman whose loud laugh I will never forget.  Sadly during his later years Dan suffered from Alzheimer's and to see such a once upright and amazing man reduced to a living skeleton who didn't know where he was or who he was made me very very upset.  What it did to his family I cant begin to imagine.

I had decided that I was not going to be sentimental, or to cry but when I saw the coffin being carried in, draped with the Welsh flag and the police helmet sitting atop the coffin I started to cry, my mum too was in tears. 

It was that symbol, the helmet that suddenly brought back so many memories of my own father and his stature.  When I was small all policemen were built like barn doors, at least 6 feet tall every one of them, and with personalities to match.  I grew up surrounded by this group of men and their families that made me feel safe and protected.  Only now do I look back and realise just how much these men gave to the local communities in which they lived and worked, each bringing their own touch to the job they had to do and going beyond the normal hours of duty.  I have known my dad come home to supper during his night shift and take his best pair of boots to give to an old tramp whose own shoes were falling to pieces and on another occasion, a cold Christmas Eve, he came in and asked my mum if we had plenty of food in the house, she replied we had and he took a box and filled it with food to take to an elderly man who had been caught poaching because he only had half a loaf of bread in his cupboard and no money to buy any food.  Instead of charging the man, he took him a large share of his own food to help him out.  Would that happen now?  Id like to think it would but you know in today's world I wonder.

When my dad joined the police force and had completed his basic training, he was given a bicycle so that he could cycle between phone boxes where at a given time he would receive a call from the sergeant at the police station who would then give him instructions on his next call out or investigation that was required.  Hence the term point duty.  Imagine having to do that in all winds and weathers.

Dan, also had his old police bicycle as had my dad.  My mum and Dan's daughter gave her two sons the old bicycles and they restored them and took them to France on a cycling holiday last year.  I think both Dan and my dad would have been very happy to see those bikes put to good use again.  It just goes to show how well built they were that they lasted over 50 years.

Being a policeman's daughter meant you couldn't put a toe out of line, it was quite hard sometimes as the village kids could be very cruel and call you names, especially if your father had given them a telling off for something.  I never told my dad and mum what had happened, I doubt they would have minded much anyhow, they were firmly of the belief that it "toughened you up" as a child.  Im not sure being on the receiving end of this that I agree, its a bit scary when the village thug, taller and bigger than you threatens you if your father ever tells him off again.  The last village I lived in was a very hard place to be, tell a potential boyfriend your father is a copper and he was gone.  Only the decent ones stuck around, perhaps that was a good test.

So, it was an emotional day, to see the widows of some of the men my father had known for years, good, steadfast friends who supported each other through all their hard times and good times, who enjoyed retirement together, bowls and coach outings and laughing at memories.  They were always up to mischief, the chief inspector had a hard time with them, often they were called in for a reprimand but always seemed to come out smiling, not bad men, just full of mischief.

I recall my father coming home when I was about 9 and explaining to me and my mum that he had got into trouble with the local police station for singing.  At that time my dad used to ride a police motorbike across the mendip hills to patrol his beat and my dad was riding out on a gorgeous summer's day and stared to sing his favourite song, "Oh for the wings of a Dove", okay not so bad you might say until you learn that my dad was tone deaf, couldn't hold a tune for his life and had forgotten to turn off the radio between him and the police station control room, because he was on his bike, engine going, helmet on and singing he couldn't hear the pleading of the control room operator to turn off his radio and they had to endure two hours of my dad's singing!!!!! 

I think that someone should write a book about their antics and about their kindnesses and help in their local communities because policemen aren't like them anymore, they don't have the time and the paperwork and the rules and regulations make it too difficult for them to do their job, half the time the "local" policeman doesn't even live in his/her locality, they don't know the local people, their problems or their lives, cant share in the daily life of the people around them like they could when living amongst them.  All those little country police stations are gone, closed down, sold off, you can still tell some of them because of the old glass blue bottle in the porch apex above the door.  The belief that very often a sit down and a cup of tea and a chat about the problems can do more good than a fine or an arrest.  Of course there were arrests, there was danger, the time my dad had to go and tackle an axe wielding nutter who had murdered the village postwoman and seriously injured her neighbour.  He muttered when I hailed him as a hero, oh by the time I got there he was being held down by two blokes, I suspect that wasn't partly true but Im so glad he was okay, hearing it about it happening made me very very scared till I found out he was fine. 

So here is my tribute to all of those amazing men I grew up surrounded by, Thank you for making the world a better place, to have known you all was a priviledge and to have had one of you as my dad makes me feel very lucky, I just wish I had realised how lucky when you were still alive Dad!!


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