Brian's Brief Encounters

This is an Unofficial Kaffe Fassett fanzine. Brought to you from a Leafy Suburb of the Throbbing Metropolis.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


I love it when a plan comes together.

It seems I have been forgiven.

In turn I’ve now forgiven the Together Team for being underhand. I got back on to them to see if the captain’s spot was still available for the First XI. Sadly Sir Ian has this one sewn up and I didn’t even make it in as the twelfth person.

They have offered me a position as the fixtures secretary though. With the ‘Understanding Meaningless Surveys’ season (sponsored by the Plain English Campaign) fast approaching, I needed some opponents in a hurry.

Both the Fire Service and the Ambulance Service politely declined. They’re too busy saving people to take part apparently. So, I tried the ‘Fourth Emergency Service’. They advertise themselves as ‘The AA Team’ now and they take 37 minutes to get to an emergency call. They seemed like worthy adversaries.

A very happy lady told me that it was an unusual request and she had to consult with a supervisor. A not so happy man then pointed out that they were not a publicly accountable body and therefore they discarded all their survey results if they didn’t have at least ‘fairly satisfied’ ticked in every box. Then he hung up. What a shame. They sounded like the perfect team for a close fight.

That left me with only two choices. It would have to be either The (original) Ghostbusters or The ‘A’ Team. It was an easy decision in the end. I have sent an e-mail to Hannibal. The Ghostbusters have particle throwers and there’s no telling what these would do to a well-crafted survey.

In a final push to get you on the jazz, ready for the forthcoming battle, I have translated the final parts of the Values Consultation:-

4. We believe Success is how the Public Perceive Us – Every Contact Leaves a Trace

Ensure that our customers notice a difference

We have ‘customers’ now? Where’s my cut of the tips?

Ensure the messages we deliver to citizens and partners are the same as those we deliver internally

I’m doing my best. Where do the ‘customers’ fit into this one?

Remember why we are here

Errm… I have to confess to not keeping up with this one. Is it to catch bad guys still?

5. We will Value Each Other and recognise that we All Contribute to the Same Goal

Deal with performance issues consistently and fairly

Open and honest feedback sessions will be carried out regularly.

Invest time and resources in developing future talent

The Together Team is to get a Youth Academy.

Have the faith to invest in things that don't necessarily impact on the bottom line

How can we invest and not impact on the bottom line? Is this one of the successes we should be marketing?

6. We All Have a Part to play in Making this Happen

Stand up for ourselves and be counted

If you’d like an open and honest feedback session.

Recognise that staff need to want to do this and not made to

We can’t wait. Honestly.

Realise that we are all working towards the same goal.

Just remind me what that goal was again?

The less observant among you may miss the extra question tagged on to the end. It has a free text box so you can stand up and be counted if you like.

Q25. Is there anything that we have missed?

It’s lucky B.A. won’t get the chance to answer this one.

He might say “Shut up fool!”

Sunday, August 28, 2005


If you see white smoke over Small Corner HQ.

It’ll mean I’m the chosen one and will soon be going to take up my new position. Just one last task to complete before I head off to organise Billy Graham’s Persian pilgrimage. The obligatory drink-up.

There are a number of occasions when Police officers are allowed to indulge in a tipple or two. With 30,000 syndromites, someone is bound to be organising a binge drinking session at a licensed premises near you. It’s the number one cause of drunken Police officers. Now that night duty CID officers are being kept busy.

Like any Policing activity there are rules to planning a drink-up:-

1. Work out if you’re popular. If not, find someone who is and is leaving around the same time as you. Then tag along on their do. You’ll feel popular then. Even if no-one talks to you.

2. Find a suitable licensed establishment. Remember that if you work in Small Corner, under NO circumstances should your do take place there. It’ll end up with twelve half-cut officers arresting someone. Or a fight. Or both.

3. Send out a witty e-mail. Putting up notices is so old hat, no matter how good you are with Photo-Shop. No-one reads them as they could be about a new policy we aren’t following. Try to include funny phrases like ‘I’ve rented a phone box’ or ‘I’m finally going to put my hand in my pocket’. We haven’t heard them before and they always make us laugh.

4. If you are an unpopular, unattractive male officer. Bribe an attractive female officer to send out the e-mail for you. You’re bound to get a few male colleagues turn up that way.

5. Try not to notice your leaving card being passed round between your colleagues. At the same time you need to make sure your significant other knows what to ask for when they get a phone call about your leaving present. They’ll need a list of options. You may not be as popular as you think, or could be the fifth person leaving that week.

Once the big day arrives, please remember:-

1. Bring plenty of money. Some people have only turned up to give you the opportunity to buy them a drink. You owe them at least that for making you look popular.

2. Keep an eye out for the colleagues on soft drinks. They’ll be the ones to find when you need someone to take you home. They’re also handy if you’ve got the venue wrong and someone needs nicking.

3. Look out for higher ranking officers too. They’ll be the ones doing your leaving speech. If there’s a tie try and get the one who has met you more than twice to do it. It doesn’t really matter what they say, we all know you’ll be missed and we’ve all heard that funny story about you before. But, you need the speech so you can get your hands on the leaving present and card.

4. Towards the end of the night you might spot an unattractive, and very married, senior officer giving encouraging words of advice to an attractive member of the opposite sex in a quiet corner. Don’t worry, this is normal. It’s an integral part of the Throbbing promotion process.

5. Please take time to read the card. It will have taken your colleagues a good deal of effort to try and think of something hilarious to write in it. So expect the odd strange comment among the forest of “Good Luck” messages. Then you can open the present(s).

There should be at least one (cheap, and amusing for at least 5 minutes) joke gift. Then, hopefully, you’ll get the tickets for a holiday in the Seychelles. Or a pen. Remember to smile and thank everyone either way.

It’s the thought that counts.

Good Luck.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Shiny Packaging

“I have an RC factor of nil”

“I believe that this is the way forward”

“I’m in touch with the community and am well positioned to meet their needs”

Apologies, just rehearsing for my interview, I think I might have this modern speak off pat now. Several years of indoctrination haven’t gone to waste. I’ll have to do some more work on the long white beard if I’m to stand out from the other applicants though. There’re bound to be a few.

Talking the talk should be a breeze for all of us. Job interviews are the same everywhere. It’s a question of telling the panel exactly what they want to hear; including as many buzz words as possible. Don’t make the mistake of telling them what you really think or, heaven forbid, the truth.

In bygone days I may have been asked to tell them why I wanted to be God in twenty words or less. This was a far simpler process and, dare I say, more relevant? I’m well aware that the HR Directorate will be represented on the interview panel these days. They will want to know that I can recite policy to them verbatim. The policy I read for the first time to prepare for the interview.

It all started with the silver cars. That’s when we were first ‘re-branded’, by the people who want to ‘market our successes’. Since then it’s caught on faster than Su-Doku.

For a long time we had white cars with informative fluorescent stickers saying things like ‘ECILOP’. Now we have silver ones with catchy slogans on the doors. The first job Sir Ian had to perform upon taking office was to decide what message he wanted on his slogan. It’s a good job the Commissioners don’t change every six months or we’d get confused.

Initially we thought the change of colour was caused by the manufacturers running out of white paint, having used it all on re-sprays. But no, it’s for financial reasons. It seems that white cars previously owned by the Met don’t have as high a re-sale value as silver cars previously owned by the Met. Now we know; we drive them much more sedately, honest.

The magic dust was sprinkled over the world renowned Detective Training School at Hendon too. It’s now called the Crime Academy. I don’t know where this idea came from and I’m not sure if we have a Commandant Lassard at the helm either.

The renaming of our quaint old Area Major Investigation Teams remains a mystery. I can’t think they needed the new name to try and drum up more business. Seeing as they used to be the Murder Squad. Now they’re known as Homicide North, West etc. In fact Homicide East is soon to move into new offices. Somewhere in “Stratford South Central” to be exact.

With our new-found ability to never let a band-wagon pass us by without hopping aboard; we’re about to join the cut-throat rubber jewellery world. You heard it here first. Hot off the press are our dark blue mugger bracelets. I haven’t seen the press launch pack so I don’t know if we give them to muggers to help us spot them in a swimming pool, or if they’ll be like a force field. They’d work providing you have the band on the same wrist as the hand that’s clutching your 3G mobile. Try and get two, just to be safe. Can you believe there are already cynics who say that there will be people getting mugged for said item so it can be worn as a trophy? That will never happen.

Those cynics are just dinosaurs who are Resistant to Change.

Not me though.

“I thrive on change.”

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Gissa Job

The last of the nice personnel ladies has gone off into the sunset clutching her carriage clock.

With her went the Personnel Notices.

They were, without doubt, the most widely read documents in the Throbbing Metropolis. They were our very own gossip column, containing all the vital tit-bits to discuss across the canteen tables. That is, after we’d finished the broadsheet crosswords.

Who had been promoted.

Who had moved departments.

Who had been sacked.

Who had gone back to their native county after using the Met to get into the Police.

Invariably, there will be a number of familiar names prompting comments such as:-

“I’m not surprised he’s found an office job”

“Wasn’t that Chief Inspector a probationer here last year?”

“I can’t believe they gave him a gun.”

Together with these important conversation topics; Personnel Notices contained all the information required by the Tardis Syndromites. With their passing we could have had uproar. 30,000 people wanting to be elsewhere and no means of getting there. It’d be like Southern England getting a centimetre of snow, in February, when its least expected.

Thankfully, there was some forethought and we had a team of gritters in the right place. Step forward the heroes and heroines of our HR Directorate. Recognising this potential problem, they launched their version of Personnel Notices. The imaginatively entitled ‘Human Resources Notices’.

Some people scoffed. Saying it was just a change of name. But, I beg to differ. There have definitely been some changes in the advertised jobs. The HR crew have waved a magic wand and got in touch with their creative side.

They have recently advertised a vacancy for God.

Well, they didn’t actually use that word. They dressed it up in fancy HR speak and called it a ‘Faith and Community Liaison Officer’. We all know what they mean though. They have asked for applicants to have:-

‘Knowledge of a wide range of beliefs, customs and traditions of faith communities; a detailed knowledge of at least one faith group with the view of developing relationships with other faith communities; and awareness of the sensitivities both spiritual and temporal between various faith communities.’

In addition they must have:-

‘The ability to motivate individuals and communities’

‘Good communication skills’

‘A high degree of motivation’

‘Ability to work with minimal supervision’

I have to say they haven’t given the job description much thought. They haven’t even mentioned the overtime implications of omnipresence. Thunder and lightning training doesn’t feature either. I’m guessing there might be an office and your own computer terminal in the package. A phone would be handy too. Just in case.

Far be it for me to question the wisdom of employing God, but is it really our job? I think there might be one or two other interested parties. I’m sure they’d want to have a vote or something.

It gives us a few procedural headaches too, like:-

Who would write their appraisal?

What happens when they go on holiday?

Is there a Met issue long white robe?

Who risk-assessed the job?

Will people be allowed to sue us after every natural disaster?

Will they be allowed to crash Police cars without getting into trouble with the Garage Sergeant?

Hopefully, I’ll be able to answer these soon.

After I’ve had my interview.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Constable Sensible

They’re not on the application form.

Yet, they’re vital.

They’re not covered at training school.

Probably because someone is yet to devise effective lesson plans to cover them.

Where would we be without them? In an office devising policy?

Street Policing is an art form. No matter how hard Tony and Reg try, it isn’t sexy. Not everyone is suited to it. Not a problem, we have lots of policies which are yet to be devised as well as a number of vacancies to be filled in vital non-street Policing roles. All supporting us of course.

I’m talking about the 5 senses:-

Common Sense. This is one of the biggies. I don’t blame training school for their lack of lesson plan. You’ve either got it or you haven’t. If you haven’t then there is only one way to learn. The hard way. Usually involving a certain amount of physical pain. Risk assessments are designed with you in mind.

A Sense of Humour. The other biggie. I don’t just mean finding Chubby Brown amusing. The ability to laugh at yourself is a must. Unfortunately, you will do something stupid very early on in your career. We will laugh at you. It will be brought up at every social gathering too. If you don’t have any common sense then chances are we’ll be wetting ourselves at your expense. Sorry.

We are world renowned for our sense of humour. Hopefully common sense will tell you when it’s appropriate. Police officers find something funny in almost everything we deal with. Little is sacred. Please remember this. Try to hold it in until after you’ve delivered the Death-o-Gram though.

A Sense of Duty. I’m not talking US Marine Corps standards. Occasionally remembering that you have a job to do will suffice. There’s only so much time you can spend admiring yourself in shop windows. Computers are fun things; just don’t spend all day in front of one. Try to take the odd call too; otherwise your colleagues will be picking up your slack. If you fancy a duvet day then we have plenty of ‘disturbances in private premises’ calls. These should tie you up for a whole day with minimal effort on your part. If nothing else, it’ll get you back in front of the computer for a few hours.

A Sixth Sense. You will find that there are officers who a) don’t get into many fights b) arrest lots of people and, as a result c) earn lots of overtime. If you are a) rarely without a black eye b) nicknamed ‘Ghurkha’ and, as a result c) poor. Then you haven’t got one of these.

A Sense of Direction. Yes, people do often ask us how to get to a location. But that’s not important right now. Chances are you will find yourself sitting in the passenger seat of a low performance diesel vehicle at some point. The ability to read a map is useful. It’s also your job. Sod’s law states that the most urgent of calls will be at a place your driver hasn’t heard of. Please try to get your bit right. Having to do U-turns in heavy traffic, with lights and sirens on, makes the driver look bad. Expect a sense of humour failure. And some swearing.

If you can’t tick all the boxes then please get off the streets.

We’re short on new policies at the moment.

There hasn’t been one since yesterday.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Safety In Numbers

As a fully multi-functional Constable.

I can perform 70 or so tasks.

Not all at once, I hasten to add. After all I am male.

These tasks are defined by our control room system. This is based on a 30 year old ticketing system for the world’s favourite airline. Every call received is given a ‘type’ code which defines what type of call it is. For example ‘01’ is an assault and ‘10’ is criminal damage. With me so far?

Then we start getting clever. Sometimes calls can have more than one code. For example a ‘16’ (damage only accident) and a ‘26’ (Disturbance in a public place) is how road rage might be coded. Adding a ‘69’ to the mix makes it more entertaining.

We can even add a few letters to make things clearer. For instance a ‘06’ (someone has nicked my car) can have NOW added to the end (someone is nicking my car and I’m watching them while I talk to you on the phone. I could go out and challenge them but I haven‘t quite finished my dinner yet). It can also have FOU added (we didn’t make it in time for your earlier call and now someone has found the burnt out shell of your nicked car. Oh dear).

Some numbers are more popular than others. ‘29’ springs to mind. Some combinations are best avoided, ‘43/45’ is one to make you think about how good your life insurance is. Whereas a ‘45/48’ is one to get your camera phone out for.

Not everyone is as multi-functional as me. You can tell who they are. They’ll be the ones in a slightly different uniform and they always come in threes. You’re unlikely to see them at night or anywhere near water.

For £24k a year they can deal with 11½ of the 70 without first having a risk assessment done. These include things like ‘54’ (Lost/Found property) and ‘56’ (Insecure premises). They can also deal with a ‘49’ (collapse/illness/injury) but not a ‘34’ (drunkenness) or a ‘01‘. It’s fortunate that these are never combined.

Also among the 11½ are ‘45’ (explosion), ‘46’ (bomb threat) and ‘47’ (suspect device). Yet a ‘48’ (animals) would require a risk assessment. I am yet to see the appropriate form this assessment will be carried out on. I’m guessing cats, small dogs and cute rabbits are okay. Cows are definitely out.

Locationally challenged alligators could prove to be a dilemma. Technically they’re a ‘54’ too. Which is covered in the 11½. I suppose they could deal with it, so long as it wasn’t squiffy.

Then we get to a ‘32’ (community problems) which is not one of the 11½.

Seems a bit odd to me.

Like having a vegetarian butcher.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

A Minor Indiscretion

I might have misled you.

Please don’t get upset.

Or impeach me.

It was an honest mistake which I regret. In my excitement over the Values Consultation, I tried to get into an intern slot at the ‘Together’ Team. Only to find out that I was already a member! Wow. I’ve never been an unwitting member of a team before. Let alone one as prestigious as this.

Mulling this over with the aid of a Montecristo Mini, my exuberance was quickly expelled. I believe I may have left you feeling cheapened and used. Soiled even. I believed I would be helping the career of some deserving soul. All the time they had me frantically looking after my own self-interests. Now that my excitement is in the public domain, I’m hoping it won’t come back to haunt me.

I didn’t lie to you intentionally. I fear, by first only telling you part of the story, you may think ill of me. To try and make amends I’ll give you a rundown of some more sections of the survey. Mr Kendall has told me to keep it brief.

2. “We must have Pride in what we do and Build on Opportunities to Learn”

We’re still “living” these values and will:

“Allow time for personal reflection”

This is the five minutes you are kept waiting before you get your scheduled, open and honest feedback.

“Allow staff the freedom to take risks and sometimes get it wrong”

I don’t think this one has been run past my mates in the Risk Assessment Empire.

“Appreciate the importance of getting the little things right”

That’s more like it.

“Preserve our shared knowledge”

Write everything down. For good measure transfer your written notes onto at least three different computer systems that still refuse to talk to each other.

“Identify where we could do better”

Hopefully, your feedback session has cleared this one up.

“Talk about and market our successes”

Great idea. Look out FooTSiE 100 here we come!

3. “We are all Leaders and believe that Leadership must be Modelled and Supported”

“Be visible”

You will wear your high visibility jacket in extremely hot temperatures. Others will make sure the TV cameras get their best side.

“Set vision and direction”

Yep, got those. Anyone got any ideas on the destination?

“Be selfless and act with humility for the common good rather than with personal agendas”

I think this one might have slipped past the censor’s defence.

“Be accountable for our actions and decisions”

This one too.

“Take responsibility for making difficult decisions and support others doing the same”

That’ll be three in a row. Time for a substitution methinks.

“Ensure that the leadership message comes from the very top”

Well saved. They had me worried there for a while.

I hope this has made amends for my earlier indiscretion and I trust no-one will be splashing leaked evidence on the front pages?

If you do, I can only say it constituted a critical lapse in judgment and a personal failure on my part for which I am solely and completely responsible.

Or, I’ll go ‘No Comment’.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

A Word From My Sponsor

Every occupation is the same.

We’re just better at it.

In fact, until net-speak and txt spk came along, we were the undisputed champions.

I’m talking jargon here. If you ever listen to a conversation between police officers you might find yourself wondering if the Space Shuttle has brought some hitchhikers back.

To ease your eavesdropping and to enable you to nod sagely at the appropriate points; I have provided a small selection for you (more can be found via the slang-fest link):-

Pig- Polite, Intelligent Gentleman.

Rat- Really Adept at Traffic law.

Suit- A person who spends his/her time at a desk on the phone and computer.

Wooden-Top- A person who spends his/her time at domestics.

Plonk- Police officer who wears a funny hat.

Tit- Hat worn by wooden-tops for the benefit of tourists’ digital cameras. Plonks don’t have these.

Probationer- The officer who just gave you a ticket for no seatbelt.

Ghurkha- Someone who has forgotten their powers of arrest.

Ghurkationer- Someone who needs to update their CV.

Bandit- Someone who earns a lot of overtime.

Guv- Someone who doesn’t get paid any overtime.

Suspect- Potential customer.

Slag- Valued customer.

Body- Potential/Valued customer wearing handcuffs.

****- Transitive or intransitive verb. Earning the orator a Public Order warning.

****(2)- Transitive or intransitive verb. Earning the orator an upgrade to body status.

****- Noun. Often used by customers who can’t pronounce ‘Constable’. I blame the education system.

Brief(1)- Someone, paid for by the taxpayer, to tell criminals to go ‘No Comment’.

Brief(2)- An officer’s identity card often used as a cash substitute.

Disco Pass- See Brief(2)

G.T.P.- Businesses who recognise Visa, Amex, Mastercard and Brief(2).

L.O.B.- A call which did not require Police presence.

No offences, advice given- Another call that didn't require Police presence.

Domestic- Yet another call that didn't require Police presence.

Good Call(1)- Very rare occasion where police presence is required.

Bad Call(1)- The rest of the 11 thousand or so daily calls.

Good call(2)- What your partner says when you have pointed out one of the more attractive members of the public.

Bad call(2)- What your partner says when they think you need an eyesight test.

Window Licker- Err… this one is banned now.

Nutter- So is this one.

Person Suffering from Mental Health Problems- Window Licker or Nutter.

Force Feeding- Sampling the culinary delights created by Michelin starred chefs employed to look after the delicate palates of Police officers.

Breakfast or Curry- Deemed to be the only two dishes to satisfy delicate palates.

Kebab- A non-specific meat dish. Staple diet of Throbbing officers when not being Force Fed.

Trumpton- Duracell fans who are very adept at cutting the roofs off of slightly dented cars. Get them round if you’ve overcooked the chips.

L.A.S.- People who make drunks disappear, take our carefully applied bandages off and know which nurses are currently single.

Damage Only- See L.O.B.

P.I.- A Damage Only with ‘whiplash’.

Serious P.I.- A chance for Pigs, Rats, Trumpton and the L.A.S. to hold an impromptu street party.

We may have lost our jargon trophy and be sliding down the acronym Top 40.

But we’re still Kings of the mnemonic.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Hail To The Chief

An open letter to the new Chavland Guvnor:-

Roger Baker
Chief Constable
Essex Police

Small Corner
The Throbbing Metropolis

Dear Sir,

Could I start with an apology? I am afraid I was unaware of your appointment until I read about one of your innovative policies in the gutter press. I realise that this might not be the most auspicious of beginnings to our relationship. However, I feel that I should be as up front and forthright as you appear to be.

I have now read your many internet biographies (it wasn’t on a Wednesday, honest guv) and am conscious of your distinguished career to date. I couldn’t help but notice that this is your first professional foray south of the Watford Gap. As such, I fear that some of your down to earth northern ways could ruffle a few southern fancy-dan feathers.

This may well be impertinent of me, but I would like to offer you some southern fancy-dan feedback of your first few months in charge.

I understand that you have politely requested that all criminals who visit your county bring their toothbrushes with them as they won’t be going home. Whilst I’m sure this was a request made with the best intentions there are a number of problems I can envisage.

You appear to have assumed that criminals have a home. In a lot of cases this may not be correct. You could be encouraging the homeless to visit you in order to be re-housed. Very noble of you, but is this really the job of the Police? As for their toothbrush ownership, I’m afraid you might be assuming this one too. In my experience with fancy-dan criminals, I have found their oral hygiene to be in a generally abysmal state. It is very rare to find any of them in possession of said item. Unless they are part of the bounty liberated from a high street chemists.

Have you considered the legal implications of your appeal? Will possession of a toothbrush be considered a criminal conspiracy offence? I only ask as I sometimes visit the Southend Riviera and I would appreciate not being arrested as a result of my ongoing battle with plaque.

I have read that you have banned your staff from sending e-mails on Wednesdays. You have requested that your staff either pick up the phone and talk to people on this day. Or, indeed, do this face to face. Again it is obviously a reaction to the North/South divide on your behalf. That is not the way we do things down here. We don’t ‘speak to’, we ‘engage with’ people for a start. The computer is considered a place of worship for a number of policy makers who daily transcribe and transmit their sermons from their electronic pulpits. I’m sure that you would not want to be remembered as the architect of the Essex Inquisition.

I note that urgent e-mails are still permitted. Does this include really funny internet jokes?

The Grapevine tells me that you have spent some time engaging with your headquarters staff. Your interest in how they fit in to the crime fighting sphere was well received. Your prompt re-assigning of a large number of them to front-line policing may not have gone down so well. I trust that your Risk Assessment, HR and Diversity Directorates will be getting a much needed boost in numbers?

I only ask as I can see some difficulties with them going back into the shift work trenches. We are in the height of barbecue season. I fear that weekend work could impact on numbers attending. This in turn could affect your local economy, with sales of flavoured chicken pieces going into recession. I also note that your county did not do particularly well in the National Police Golf Championships. By committing more troops to working outside weekday 9-5’s I’m afraid your team won’t fare much better next year.

Modern day policing is all about getting our priorities straight.

While you are in the midst of encouraging change throughout your Chavdom I’d like to ask you to consider some local bye-laws with relation to:-

White Stilettos
Chequered clothing (especially baseball caps)
Ra-Ra skirts
Cheap Bling


Love & Kisses,

Brian XXX

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Public Information Broadcast

Are you sitting comfortably?

Mobile phone switched off?

Have you brought your note taking equipment?

Good, then we’ll begin.

Today’s lesson is brought to you courtesy of HM Government. More specifically, the Highway Code. Remember it? I guessed not. A little refresher for you then.

194: Emergency vehicles.- This is the paragraph I’ve chosen, at random, from this most useful of documents. It’s quite a tricky one to explain. Bear with me; I’ll try to make it as painless as possible.

You- Yes, this applies to everyone, even if you are a bus driver.

should look- Okay, I know it’s a struggle to occasionally glance around you when driving. Manufacturers have tried to make it as easy as they can with mirrors. Once you’ve finished applying make-up, examining the length of your nasal hair and/or checking your incisors for remnants of last night’s spinach quiche; please use them to check out the state of play behind you. Every six seconds is the optimum timing. Once in a while will do for a start.

and listen- If your bass-box, sub-woofer, rap CD combo is setting off car alarms and seismic sensors; it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to hear very much over the Byronesque lyrics and thumping bass line. Could I suggest turning it down to below tsunami inducing levels? How else will you hear the conversation on the mobile phone pressed to your ear?

for ambulances, fire engines, police or other emergency vehicles- I could understand if you failed to notice a stealth bomber. They’re quite difficult to spot, especially in poor visibility, even with the aid of your radar detector. We try to make it as easy as possible with bright stripes and catchy words like ‘ECILOP’ and ‘ERIF’. If I had my way I’d add ‘ELICEBMIOUYYAWGNIKCUFEHTFOTUOTEG’. Unfortunately, the Diversity Directorate have told me I’d need to put it on in at least 47 languages and we haven’t got enough sticky letters for that.

using flashing blue, red or green lights, headlights- Please don’t confuse us with the chav-mobile sporting tasteful blue neon lights on the bonnet. They won’t let us have those.

or sirens.- Three of the most irritating noises known to mankind have been designed specially for us. ‘Hi-Lo’ is my number one choice, for it‘s particularly grating melody. By changing quickly between them we can be even more irritating. And no, I’m not running late for my tea break.

When one approaches do not panic.- Unless you’re a learner driver, then we fully expect you to stall in an impassable position. The rest of you should know better. Don’t leave it until the last second either, you just slow us down. Your chances of driving into a parked car are greatly increased too.

Consider the route of the emergency vehicle and take appropriate action to let it pass.- This is the tough bit. HM Government are far too polite to say what they really mean. ‘Get out of the way’ just about sums it up. I apologise if it adds 5 seconds to your school run.

If necessary, pull to the side of the road and stop,- Adjacent to traffic islands isn’t the best place. I challenge you to find a Throbbing van without damaged side panels. Guess how they got damaged? Not on the traffic island, that’s for sure. The brow of a hill is another not very clever spot. Until they fit our vehicles with periscopes please avoid these too.

but do not endanger other road users.- This includes us. Turning out of a side junction, in front of an emergency vehicle, then immediately pulling in and stopping is your favourite. If this Blue Light Roulette were an international sport we wouldn’t need Kelly or the four men in a boat.

Thank-you for listening.

You can put your pens down now.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Stopping A Bus, Bare-Handed

“Right, drop your belts in the corner and let’s get warmed up”

Uh-oh, this isn’t good news. Baby Sumo is already showing signs of excitement. His lips are moist and he looks a bit flushed.

This particular semi-annual Officer Safety Training day was gonna be a sweaty one. We won’t be sitting round watching C*O*P*S out-takes, marvelling at the Americans’ baton work.

As Baby Sumo runs us through the risk-assessed warm-up, things are getting worse. He’s now salivating and I think I’ve spotted some perspiration on his nose.

Baby Sumo isn’t actually the offspring of a large, nappy-wearing Japanese gentleman. He’s not even Japanese. After a lifetime of practicing Juditsuate-fu, he now instructs us on how to keep ourselves safe out on the mean Small Corner streets.

He’s a Speak-Action-Think kind of guy. For the past few years he’s had trouble getting his hands through airport security checks. He’s also immensely strong and hasn’t quite realised it. The anguished squeals of delicate Police officers that he’s heard, on many occasions, haven’t made the point.

By now, Baby Sumo is positively drooling. One meaty fist is thudding into the opposing palm, emphasising important bits. His state of arousal is soon explained with that dreaded word. Apparently, we’re in for a day of “groundwork”. His favourite.

A quick headcount reveals a worrying statistic. 4 girls and 7 boys! Not very good odds at a school disco. Potentially catastrophic under these mating conditions. Realism isn’t a factor in the Risk-Assessment world and with lawsuit prevention a priority, girl on girl action was guaranteed.

During the hamstring stretches there was a lot of male bonding going on. Quick glances, subtle nods and conspiratorial winks. In these circumstances what we are all looking for is someone who’s not too big, obviously. Too small and they’re slippery, with bony bits that catch you in distressing places. Too fit and they’re going to exhaust you with their enthusiasm. What you need is a medium sized bloke with a paunch. I was smiling, on the inside; years of neglect had finally paid off. I was getting plenty of winks.

I was feeling reasonably safe. There was just one the hurdle to overcome. Natural selection. It’s common practice in the mammal world. Baby Sumo is definitely an Alpha mammal. We were firmly ensconced in his world. He was in charge and any dissention would be painfully punished. Even the brave amongst us wouldn’t be pointing out flaws. That was a task best left to the foolish. It would be poker faces all round until we had our new partner pinned down in a quiet corner.

Through waterfalls of dribble, we were being told that too many of our colleagues were getting injured and he had taken it very personally. He was going to do something about it. With fist and palm violently colliding he made his play.

“The bus stops here” Thwack.

It was clearly heard by all. A titter.

6 accusatory, and relieved, pairs of eyes turned towards the titterer. Closely followed by an almost lustful gaze from the titteree.

Baby Sumo had his bitch.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Changing Times

It’s just not good enough.

I asked for your assistance and look what happened.


Maybe you’re far too busy with other matters to consider my needs? Well, that doesn’t help me does it? What am I supposed to do now? It’s too late to apologise, you had your chance. I’m taking matters into my own hands, in a vigilante approach to debating.

I propose a democratic process. Where we are all free to join with like-minded folk and stand for election. The biggest number of like-minded folk from one particular group gets to be in charge for a few years. They get to decide what rules the rest of the country should live by. As well as other pretty neat stuff.

They could set these rules based on promises made before the election. Or, they could base them on their own morals and beliefs. Or on what the people who voted for them want. Too boring? They could try setting them based on whatever the flavour of the month is in the popular press. That would work. After all, no-one in the Fourth Estate has an agenda.

Now for the tricky bit. Who do you get to enforce these rules?

As we’ve already agreed, you need to have someone. If you’re going to start from scratch you need to get it right. That means the first thing you need is a recruitment policy. This will probably be beyond the capabilities of a single lady. No matter how nice she is.

You’ll need a whole Directorate for this one. Of course, they’ll need to set their own rules. To give them a bit of a leg up I thought I’d make a suggestion for part of their policy:-

No job applicant will be treated less favourably than another on the grounds of sex, marital status, race, colour, ethnic origin, nationality, religion, politics, disability, age, social position, sexual orientation or is disadvantaged by conditions or requirements which cannot be shown to be justified.*

Seems pretty inclusive to me. You wouldn’t want stereotypical robots would you? Those that conform to your ideals? That would exclude many people. It wouldn’t be fair.

Say someone who supported one of the more extreme political parties wanted to join? It wouldn’t be right to reject them for this. It would be against policy anyway. Wouldn’t it?

You may get one or two problems with whatever recruitment policy you decide on.

For instance, there could be an expensive, government funded report that highlights errors. Like the 2001 National Census. I’m not talking about the under representation of those of us in the Jedi religion. It’s much worse than that.

We’re institutionally sexist.

Well, we must be. The census says so. Over 51% of the country is female. Yet, only 20% of the Police are of the same sex. How can we mere blokes be expected to understand the needs of the fairer sex? How can we effectively engage with them? How can we provide a visible presence that lets them know we’re on their side? How can we offer practical advice on shoe/frock combinations?

Of course we can’t. I struggle with this every time I go to a ‘disturbance in private premises’ call. My first instinct is to sit down with the bloke and put the world to rights over a beer. I have to fight this urge, to make it look like I’m interested in what the little lady has to say.

That would be the first problem I’d address if I were you.

You could set targets. We like targets.

The more unachievable the better.

(*courtesy of South Yorkshire Police)

All ramblings Copyright(c) 2005/2006 by Brian. Ask First.