Thursday, 31 May 2012

Private Policing, No more ACPO, Problem solved

I haven't posted anything connected to my former life in the Met and the Bumstead Pleece Force for quite a while. Haven't felt the urge as it's all gone a bit quiet whilst the Martians hatch their plan to invade and take over the police service of the UK (not sure about Scotland yet). I've kept in touch via a blogpal called Lex over here at the Thinking Policeman's Blog.

There's much talk of the privatisation of police services across the UK in the rush to make it all more efficient and better and stuff cheap, not to mention `robbing pensions to pay G4S` . I have seen this sort of thing in other formats. In the early 90's I was looking closely at the Dutch criminal justice system. I actually quite liked it and still do when I think about it. I liked their liberal democracy, their justice system with no jury trials and I even spent some time in one of their remand prisons. High rates of reoffending, just like in the UK but there was a much greater air of calm inside.  Maybe the state of the art workshops, where the prisoners got a share of the profits from goods they produced for local shops and stores was a factor, or that the accommodation was better than the hotel I was staying in? There was even a waiting list of people patiently biding their time on `bail`, still going about their daily lives in order to serve a sentence that had been handed down when the prisons happened to be `full`.We sort of have this, only it doesn't involve getting locked up at all, nor the threat of being locked up, nor the means of reducing your pending sentence by good behaviour during your waiting time. I thinks it goes by many names, one of them being `the suspended sentence` the others having similarly misleading titles. Their system; `you are going to jail, but not just yet....` Our system, `you won't go to jail, providing...well, nothing really`.

I had an interesting conversation with a senior officer from Belgium - well any conversation with a Belgian is interesting, especially if they get excited and revert to their native tongue which transforms the sounds and syntax to something resembling those Aquarians from the tv show "Stingray" for those of you old enough. No one can get close to comprehending Belgian or Dutch, except the Belgians and Dutch. This senior Belgian officer told me that he was experiencing something of a crisis of staffing. The local Mayor of his district (also the administrative head of the local police perhaps similar to the proposed  `commissioners`?) had a budget problem but he also had a plan. He had ordered the deployment of his Municipal Police to do a close scrutiny of the local farmers, checking their licences, animal movement registers in fact all things rural. This took up an inordinate amount of police time and resources. Why do this, you may ask, when there are more pressing matters for the forces of law and order to attend to. It was explained to me thus;

By being able to show that his Municipal Police force was fully engaged in law enforcement (albeit agricultural and rural matters) and that he had all these other crime and disorder problems without sufficient resources to cope, the Mayor could apply for the support of the national police service, at national government expense, to sort out his crime and disorder problems. So you had the rather odd situation of the municipal police counting sheep whilst the national force policed his busy urban areas. Now that's policing on the cheap.

I'm not saying that's what our government has in mind...I'm just sayin`

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Just do it.

As I anticipated, the weather predicted by the BBC weather man, was nothing like the weather man predicted for my ride down to the south coast and back yesterday. OK, it was dull, grey and cool in East Anglia like he said when I set off at 8am and it was still dull, dark and even cooler when I got home at 10.15pm, 390 miles later. But the thunder and lightning I was expecting didn't happen and at the halfway point spent with son, daughter and the grandchildren, it was too hot to stay out in their unshaded garden for long. It was heartening to see them all. I love them dearly as does Mrs Hogday, who couldn't come as she had to go to work to continue financing my indulgences. I'll make her a cup of tea when she gets in.

The new bike is a real mile mucher and is starting to fit me. I ache a bit today but a walk with the dawg soon fixed that. My helmet visor and leather jacket was spattered with flattened former flying objects. I averaged 58 mph on the way down and according to its clever trip computer I averaged 61mpg which, for a big, powerful motorcycle is pdg. The return journey started at 7pm which, on a Tuesday in the UK, tends to mean that the main roads are almost at their quietest, allowing me to maintain a legal top speed most of the way (including the 10% + a couple of mph) - Ok I was cruising at 76 for miles and miles (whistles a tune - a nervous reaction when fibbing a bit). The return 195 miles was completed in 3hrs 15 including a 10 minute fuel and empty stop. I don't watch the clock normally but its good to know what the big beast does. The mid range torque is massive and tweaking open the throttle at 70 in 6th results in a giant invisible hand shoving you forwards as if you'd dropped down two gears - whoosh, gone, just like that. I can really appreciate the LED gear indicator showing me a big number of the selected cog. On this bike, that is a very useful item. Engine braking is equally powerful.

I encountered the usual variety of dickwads with the majority being the premature exitulators, that's those that cut across from the outside lane, just ahead of your front wheel, then brake and wiggle across the hatchings as they try to squeeze themselves off at that exit ramp they should have prepared for about half a mile back. In equal first place were the `thumbs up the arse` disassociated passives cruising along at 55 like the dumb muts they are, in the middle and occasionally outside lane, and who are a major contribution to frustration and death threats. The M25 was actually a doddle.

Got a text from an old pal this morning telling me that an old friend and former colleague was out jogging last week when he collapsed and died. He was 61. I've been reading his blog with envy for what seems like an age. It's link is on the right or here: Gran Fuga. Dave and two mates motorcycled from the northern wastes of North America and then into and across South America. They got back in February. What a ride. The blog is worthy of your time, although it is really a diary with pics. I commend it to you as an example of what you can do if you have the motivation and can decide to devote the life-time to do it.

People say motorcycling is dangerous. Well it is, a bit, sometimes, if you let it. At least Dave did the ride and then conked out jogging. The real tragedy would have been conking out a month before he was due to start the ride. I'm still stunned and saddened at his passing.

Ride free Dave. I wish you dry roads and a following breeze old chum.

Sunday, 27 May 2012


I've managed to put some miles on the new bike and started getting it used to my shape and style. I think we'll like each other although we're still on polite terms rather than real buddies. All my bikes have talked to me in their own way. You can have a relationship with a bike whereas a car, is a car, is a car. Just like my previous BMW, an 1150GS, the R1200R is a technological gem and the latest twin-cam motor is just about as far as the Boxer will probably go, with rumours of a brand new engine buzzing around the bike media.

The bike is a `Roadster` and therefore has a slight lean forward riding position, but without the wind-penetrating full fairing and having your knees up by your chin like a race horse jockey. That stuff is ok on a race track but becomes crippling after about 50miles on public roads. As for riding in a busy town or city on one of these track replica rockets... not nice at all. I've nothing against track ready road bikes, I just can't see the point, for me anyway and this was brought home to me some years ago when a guy on a fabulously manic Kawasaki followed me around a busy M25. I was on my Harley Road King and was coming back from a day at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford. After 40 miles more or less together, through the heavy fast flowing traffic, we both pulled off at a service station. Me for a pee and he for to stretch his aching back and massage his aching wrists and hips. Well at least he didn't ask me to do anything. He told me that his 70 mile ride home from work was a crippler and he always had to soak it off in a hot bath. When he found I'd come from Cambridge and still had another 80 miles to go he said `You look like you could keep on going to Lands End and you'd just need a beer at the end. If I was following you that distance I'd need an ambulance`.

That's why I don't do hyper sports bikes, much as I admire the technology that allows them their blistering performance.  I'm happy with my 110 bhp, and wonderful 115Nm of torque (far more useful), ABS assisted mega powerful brakes (one finger only required for a full emergency stop), traction control, heated grips and razor sharp handling. There's enough grunt to slingshot me from one bend to another in a very short space of time. I don't want adrenaline rushes, knee scrapers, ultra high speeds (my bike will top 135mph - but not with me on it - unless I've accidentally ridden it off a cliff). Riding brisk and sharp and safe, without pissing anyone else off in the process, is my desire.
The lean angles I can achieve on this machine is a world apart from the Road King. That big chunk could hold a line through a bend just fine, but you had to line it up with foresight if you didn't want to ground the footboards on tighter curves and roundabouts.

I like the journey more than the destination and I never miss the chance to dip into a new old place as I make my way there. Here's a few pics of the places on the way and the last 5 of a peaceful little haven on the Alde river estuary that I dipped into on the way home on Friday. A fitting resting place for Private Miller of the Royal Fusiliers, a thirty nine year old soldier of the Great War who died 8 days before the Armistice.

A very old Suffolk village church

"If you hum it, I'll play it"

The church at Iken


Beautiful flowers in the wild churchyard at Iken

RIP Private Miller, in a far, far better place

I've got a day trip lined up for Tuesday. 200 miles there and 200 back. The weather forecast is `British summertime`, so I think I'll put the luggage boxes on, wear my airmesh jacket and pack the waterproofs and a spare pair of gloves. We'll see how my muscles and joints feel on Wednesday morning.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

A Day at the British Museum

A special feature, a garden highlighting American plants
I consider myself very lucky to be a citizen of Great Britain and to now be living within a £20 train fare from this wonderful capital city of mine.

American gals

This is an endangered plant in its home State of Maine ( not surprised if we're pinching them)

Entrance to the British Museum

Taking in the Bloomsbury architecture over a cup of Venezuelan hot chocolate

As you enter the British Museum....

.....and look back....

This chap was carved circa 1250 BC! Yes, thats circa 3000yrs ago.  Living proof that there were biker helmet laws in ancient Egypt -they were probably riding Harley Davidsons. Notice how the figure on the right has modern jeans and sneakers worn the wrong way round - kids and fashion, duh.

The fab Bloomsbury Square


and ditto again

The fab new Metropolitan Line tube trains - besmirched by a litter lout. Ought to be made to sweep and tidy the entire fleet.

It is indeed true, that if you're tired of London you're tired of life. But seriously, it was great to be wandering round the British Museum, virtually the only Londoner there!

Monday, 14 May 2012

The Hog has gone.....

Yup, traded my trusty Road King after 9 years of faultless service to my freedom requisites. I was in mourning.....

until I collected this one last Friday.....

I sure won't miss those 220lbs of weight I've also traded in the same deal. Should I change the Blog title? Kraut Day Afternoon? , Hun Day?  Schwein Day ? Too risky, I'll schtick.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Military Aid to the Civil Authorities

When I was policing events and things, the biggest flying object I could call on was a Pilatus/Brittan Norman `Islander` .

Now this is what I call an air support unit

Dead man riding

So there I was riding my big motorbike home through my little Norfolk town with panniers full of groceries. It’s one of those rare little towns that has no pedestrian crossings, no traffic lights, no parking charges, a hardware store that sells everything and, furthermore, staff that knows everything about what they sell and it’s opposite an electrical store that is just as good. It is old fashioned England.
I became aware of a `motorcyclist` following me. The first thing I noticed was the short sleeved West Ham United footy shirt the rider was wearing, even though it was starting to drizzle. No problem so far, I’m an East End boy and a lifelong Hammers supporter myself, although clearly not `wellard` like him as I was wearing my winter riding jacket buttoned up to the neck, plus my trusty buff. Maybe he can’t afford a winter jacket? Fair do’s, a good one will set you back at least £180, mine was a lot more. He can wear what he wants as far as I’m concerned. 2nd mirror check and I then spotted the tatty `L` plate and yoof-like face peering out of the helmet as he weaved up behind me, clearly intent on showing me a rusty silencer (did I mention the noise?) so the inbuilt defensive countermeasures suite in my head started to light up. 
Speedo check. I’m doing 30, its a 30 limit. I’m in a residential area and we are approaching a 4way  cross road junction as he pulls out to pass me, wringing the neck of his 2-stroke whizzer (I happen to have a soft spot for 2-strokes too, so still no prejudice creeping in, just apprehension of potential death or injury). He smokes past me. I’m still doing 30 mph although I’m now rolling off the throttle anticipating trouble as there is a car at the junction wanting to do something. West Ham yoof then anchors on hard right in front of me as he seems to want to see if its true what they say about Harleys and brakes as well as attempting a right turn at the junction. By now my defensive suite has confirmed the original suspicion that he is a dangerous pillock/prat/twat/dickhead. The fact that we were almost upon the junction when he chose to overtake me was lost on him. I brake gently to regain the safety gap that he stole and contemplate a shouted word after him, but choose not to, as I always do. He rode off into the housing estate, doubtless chuffed and smirking at passing `an old wanker on a f`ing slow Harley holding him up at 30mph` - in the 30 limit. No thought about the car waiting at the junction that could have gone for the crossing and `T` boned him. She actually saw us both coming. Top marks lady, for today the pillock was lucky it was you.
As I rode away I pondered how I might have helped this kid. Should I have followed him, engaged him in conversation, encouraged him to get some training, offer him the benefit of some of my 4 decades of biking experience and training and maybe a few tips about joining MAG? Nope. `He’ll be dead soon`, I thought, `or he’ll tell me to `eff off` or worse. Then I wondered how the Eu legislator- zealots will help him. Make him wear high viz? Well I spotted the claret and blue quick enough. Make him have a breath test kit in his back pocket? Make sure he hadn’t tinkered with his stock silencer? Nah, the rusty holes in it were caused by mother nature and neglect. I figured that he was just a pillock. If he’d have been in a car he’d still be a pillock. You can dress up a pillock in an Armani suit but you’d still have a pillock – he’d just be in an Armani suit. He’d be a pillock butt naked. It wasn’t the motorbike that made him a pillock, so what has all this mounting, burgeoning EU sponsored legislative crap gushing out of Brussels got to do with me and the thousands of other bikers who don’t ride like him? Whatever happened to cause and effect or putting the oil where the squeak is?
Maybe if I see him in town without the bike I might try starting that conversation, I’ll be really subtle. Yes, I think I will. I’ve seen too many dead and injured pillocks not to want to try. I hope he made it home OK.