Way back in the 1980’s when you arrived in the United Kingdom you were given a briefing by the RAF commander who was the base liaison. He was, in fact, the only RAF member attached to the base and a bit of a character. His briefing to the newly arrived ‘yanks’ was funny. Full of little anecdotes and homilies. He was very informative as well.
Part of the spiel he gave had to do with the average age of the houses in the area and the differences in the way that the local police force operated.
The average house age turned out to be about 300 to 400 years old. We were all suitably impressed as this meant that these houses were older than our home country. The local police were called Bobby‘s if they were on foot and ‘Sir‘ if they were in a patrol car and had pulled you over.
I only met one ‘Bobby’ and in this case Bobby was a she.
I had moved off base and was living in a ‘cold-water flat’ that consisted of one room and not enough space to swing a dead cat in. I shared a communal toilet and shower with about fifteen other people. A little later I moved from my tiny first floor flat to a much larger ground floor flat that had a communal shower and toilet in a separate room that was shared with only one other occupant. The new flat was also ‘haunted’ but that’s another story.
First floor is English for the American second floor and my ‘new’ first floor flat had curb-side parking that was only legal between the hours of six in the evening to eight the following morning, weekdays and all day for the weekend. I was dating a barmaid who worked in my ‘local.’
A ‘local’ was the term used for a public house aka pub. I loved the pub. It was a great social gathering place and a good way to meet the local folks who lived in the villages close to the bases. My first local was a very rough pub. I had decided to change my local after two rather exciting nights in a row. The first night I had sat at a table and was enjoying a prawn sandwich and a pint of lager when a fight broke out.
It sort of ranged from one side of the central bar area to the other where I was seated. When the fight moved to my side of the pub, I kept a wary eye on the action while wolfing down my ‘sarnie’ and drinking my pint. When the action got a little too close for comfort, I decided to grab the sandwich in one hand and the pint in the other and move. I had just stood up and taken one step away from the table when the two combatants slammed into the now empty table missing me by a hair.
The second ‘exciting’ night was literally the next day when a drunk made specific threats to the publican and his wife. The publican was a huge chap and he was also an ex-policeman. Lifting the bar top up he lunged through and grabbed the drunken lout by the scruff of the neck. He drug him to the pub entrance and held the trouble maker up with his left hand gripping his collar. His right hand flung the pub door open and then curled up into a fist which smashed into the back of the drunk’s head. He then physically threw the now semi-concious thug into the busy street.
When one of the other customer’s questioned the publican about the thugs possibly getting struck by a passing vehicle, he looked coldly at the customer and said, “Fuck him.”
Later in the same evening, a girl got glassed in the face. For those of you who are of a more peaceful nature, getting ‘glassed’ is where someone breaks a pint glass or bottle and then shoves the remaining shards into someone’s face. Very bloody and painful it leaves a large scar.
I then decided that my Uncle Sam might not be too impressed with my choice of pub so I moved to the hotel bar that was catty-corner across the street from my current pub. There I met not only local business men and their wives but folks from all over the world. I met people from Australia, Canada, and London. In those days, to me at least, London seemed exotic enough to class as a world away from where I was living.
As I said, I was dating one of the barmaids who was half American and since she did not get off work till around midnight each night, our dates started late and finished even later. Oversleeping became a bad habit. One that got me in trouble at work and with the local police force.
Because I was oversleeping I was violating the parking laws and got three parking tickets in rapid succession. On the fourth morning, I had leapt out of bed and rushed out to move my car before I could get yet another ticket. The car was an old rust bucket that a friend had practically given me when he left. It was hard to start.
Just as I got the old heap running, someone tapped on my window. I looked up into a set of the most beautiful eyes I’d ever seen on a human being. Those beautiful eyes belonged to an equally beautiful face. Unfortunately both eyes and face belonged to a female cop.
She made a window rolling gesture with her hand. I turned the car off and rolled down my window.
“Good morning, sir. May I see your driving license.”
I fumbled for my wallet and passed the license over. She took the license and walked a few steps away from the car and spoke into a radio that had a microphone attached to her shoulder epaulette. After a moment she came back and leaned down to hand back my license and look at me sternly through the window.
“I see that you have gotten a few tickets already.”
“I really should give you another one.”
“Do you think I should give you another one?”
“If I don’t give you another one, will you keep parking here illegally?”
“I hope you appreciate that I’m giving you a break here, sir.”
“I don’t ever want to catch you parking here again.”
“Have I made myself clear?”
“Right then, get this car moved and, sir?”
“Have a nice day.”
“Yes Ma-am, thank you Ma-am, and uh, you too Ma-am.”
As I moved the car I couldn’t help but reflect that I’d just met the most gorgeous woman I’d ever seen anywhere and that the full extent of my conversation with her had been, Yes Ma-am, No Ma-am and you too Ma-am. While she was telling me off, I’d felt like a naughty two year old caught with his hand still in the cookie jar.
The worst part of the entire encounter was that I’d never even gotten this stern angels name, not that it would have done me any good. I’m sure the police have a few rules about fraternizing with known law breakers.
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