When I was a little girl the above words were often spouted because few of us in our neighbourhood had watches. In fact a lot of us had very little of this world’s goods and so it made sense to believe it was perfectly safe to leave your doors unlocked and sometimes open. But just as there were policemen on the beat in those days there were also thieves about. I remember our gas meter getting broken into and all the pennies in the wooden moneybox Dad had made me were stolen.
I doubt the crime was reported to the police but Dad set about creating his own deterrent that would chop their fingers off if they tried to get in our house again and rob our meter or my pennies.
Growing up in the forties and fifties I developed what some called a healthy fear and respect for the police and other people’s property. Even walking along someone else’s wall and seeing a policeman approach would have me scrambling to the ground like lightening. When I found a ten shilling note amongst the autumn leaves on the way to the flicks I didn’t keep it but handed it in to the nearest man in uniform who just happened to be the retired soldier who was the doorman at the cinema.
My cynicism these days suggests that no doubt he pocketed it and bought himself a couple of pints when he knocked off work. My husband was also brought up honest. When he found a suitcase full of the old white five pound notes he took it home and showed his dad, who instantly ordered him to take it to the police station in Tuebrook and hand it in. This he did and that was the last he heard of it.
The closest I ever got to a policeman was when one visited our primary school to give us a puppet show and teach us our kerb drill. Occasionally at home there would be mention of someone called Icky the fire bobby who would come and lock us up if we didn’t behave. But he never did make an appearance. Our neighbourhood was working class but reasonably respectable. Although I remember hearing of a punch up outside the chippy around the corner and a lad getting his eye gorged out. My eldest brother’s brush with the police would seem ludicrous today in that he was taken to court and fined for playing football in the street.
Why am I chunnering on about the police, etc.?
Early yesterday my husband and I were doing our early morning walk. Normally we only meet dog walkers, cyclists and the odd jogger. We certainly didn’t expect to come across a very youthful looking policeman standing on the path. In the background we could see that tape one sees on telly in such programmes as Lewis, Midsummer Murders and George Gently which generally signals a crime scene.
Jokingly I said, ‘I’m waiting for you to say “You shall not Pass” just like Gandalf does in the Fellowship of the Rings.’
‘Sorry, you can’t pass,’ he said apologetically.
So we had to retrace our steps and make our way home by a different route. It was not the first time we’ve encountered a policeman on our walk. A few years ago there was a naked body in the canal which fortunately had already been reported to the police by a couple of fishermen. The police arrived a few minutes after we did and we were quickly escorted away from the spot. Not a pleasant experience as it reminded me that one of my aunts had drowned in the Leeds-Liverpool just a few miles away beneath a bridge in Kirkdale. It was during WW2 and I was only a toddler at the time so was unaware of the tragedy.
So where do the police figure in my writing?
My son, Tim, who has a degree in Screenwriting from John Moores University, had an idea to write a series about a police family. It never got to the screen because it was a period piece and he knew that it would be expensive to put on. He suggested I had a go at writing about a police family. I had already written a saga about the Liverpool’s police strike of 1919 a few years earlier called SOMEONE TO TRUST and enjoyed doing the historical research.
So bearing Tim’s idea in mind and I decided to do more research. In the library I was recommended a book called From Cutlasses to Computers - The Police Force in Liverpool 1836-1989. I found it fascinating and it gave me a respect and admiration for those earlier pioneers trying to bring law and order to Liverpool’s city streets and for those today, including policewomen who also helped with my research.
My police family can be found in MEMORIES ARE MADE OF THIS and IT’S NOW OR NEVER published by Severn House. Ask at your nearest library.
P.S. In today's Liverpool Echo it was reported that a man had allegedly been sexually assaulted in Rimrose Valley Country Park on Thursday night. The police were called to the crime scene.