Evening all/Y Cyflwyniad
Noswaith dda, pawb. Probationary Constable Iolo Ap Merddyn, at your service. I can’t quite believe that this is happening but I’m on my first solo assignment. After all those months at the training centre, I'm actually patrolling the mean streets of East Denbighshire alone, making sure that the local youths are sticking to the lockdown regulations. Oh, and don’t talk to me about the weeks I spent doubling up on the beat with Sergeant Smith-Peterson. I don’t trust that man. He's always saying things like; “We don’t use hand-cuffs on the under-fives” and “You can’t arrest that old lady for jay-walking on a pedestrian crossing. Anyway, jay-walking isn’t a real offence.” And he’s English, the bastard. And he lives in Chester! So, he’s probably some sort of pervert.
It’s not like I needed all that training. I knew everything a cop needs to know long before leaving Machynlleth. I read every Welsh Language edition of the DIC TRÂCI comic books before I was ten. I love Dic! And that wrist watch of his! He could be in Merioneth and talk to people as far away as Ceredigion, maybe even further. Brilliant! But, as I got older I put away childish things - except Mr Cwtch. No man should be without a cuddly penguin. But I did move onto Raymond Chandler & Dashiell Hammett at Secondary School. I could quote every line SAM SPÂD uttered in the Malltaeth Falcon. I wanted to be PHILLIP MARLOWE so much I even wrote my own novel, Hwyl fawr, my lovely. But not one London publishing house even bothered to return my manuscript. The Saes philistines!
Still, I’m over that now. I’m driving a police-car solo, protecting the citizens of Wrecsam from themselves, the way I always dreamed. Well, in my dreams I’d be in one of those pursuit vehicles with a massive engine and a spoiler - the ones that can chase down Ferraris on the motorways. And, obviously, I wouldn’t be in Wrecsam, I’d be somewhere nice. Still, you have to start somewhere and the last police mini in Britain will do for now, I suppose, even if it makes me look like Mr Bean.
And here’s my first chance to rescue a maiden in distress! I wonder why that poor lady is standing in a bush in the rain at 9 o’clock at night. I’ll pull over and see that she’s okay… from a social distance, mask up of course, what with Covid and all.
Wish me luck!
The Public/Y Dechrau
At the training centre they say "Start every interaction with the public with a polite greeting". It sets nervous people at ease and helps de-escalate crises, or some such rwtch. So, I will. Or I would if I hadn’t pulled up further away from the old lady than I’d meant to. And if the old lady wasn’t six foot tall with a more impressive beard than Aunty Myfanwy's. I really wish I hadn’t forgotten my contact lenses!
So, what to do? I could just say hello and ask if he’s seen any suspicious characters around. But even without a mask I lose my words when I’m flustered. Not in Welsh, obviously, but no one in this God forsaken corner of Wales speaks the language of heaven. So, there’s no point speaking to this guy in anything but English. And, if I trip over my tongue, I’m going to look like a proper twpsyn, then get even more tongue-tied and look even more stupid and everything will spiral into a vicious cycle of making Iolo look like the sort of hillbilly everyone round here expects to come from Powys.
No, hang on. Got it! I'll get him close enough to speak to by beckoning him over with a crooked finger, make it clear who’s in charge of the encounter and give myself chance to calm down so I can get my words out. Once it’s clear that I’m in control I’ll just ask if he’s okay and be gone.
Balls! He’s not moving. I’m not going to beckon him again and have him ignore me a second time. And I can’t force him to move, it’s not like he’s under suspicion of anything. Although, I suppose, he doesn’t know that. He’s out here in the dark, just standing there in the rain. That’s suspicious, isn’t it? Who stands around in the dark getting rained on unless they’re up to no good? He might be casing the houses across the road to see if anyone’s left a window on the latch. He’s probably a burglar. If I can get him to let something slip I can establish a reason to search him and then… bam! The moment I find anything on him that could be used to force entry to a property, I'll arrest him on suspicion of going equipped and go back to the station a hero - the probationary officer who caught a prolific burglar ten minutes into his first shift! I could get a commendation from the Chief Constable!
“What are you doing out here?”
That was calm but authoritative, right? Maybe it was a bit aggressive. Maybe a bit rude? That’s a no-no at the training centre. To be fair, this bloke doesn’t look angry. He looks contemptuous, which is worse, obs. And he’s not even answering my question, the bastard! He’s just pointing at something and fiddling with his phone.
Fuck! He has a dog! He’s walking a fucking dog! Of course, he’s walking a dog. What other reason would a middle-aged bloke have to be out here in a dayglow windcheater, with a fucking day-glow, white husky with a flashing fucking collar on? Fuck, fuck and more fuck! Ten minutes into my first shift and I’ve started accusing innocent dog-walkers of being Spring-heeled fucking Jack! If Smith-Peterson hears this I’m toast!
Think Iolo, think! "If you keep your head there’s always a way out of a situation that will placate the public and still let you retain your dignity". That’s what Training-Sergeant Bevan always said at the academy, anyway. Mind you, Bevan’s from Swansea. Never trust anyone from the southern hemisphere, that’s what my Nain says.
“So, you’re saying that you’re walking your dog then?”
“I am walking my dog, officer, yes. Are you hoping to be a detective one day?”
Was that sarcasm? I don’t always pick up on sarcasm in English but I’m pretty sure that he didn’t mean that kindly. And I’m not having this fart in a jam jar being rude to me.
“That’s enough of that!”
That’s good. It’s forceful without being rude. Now, how to follow up a good start?
“I’m going to have to ask you for your name and address.”
Oh Dear God! What are you doing, Iolo? Please don’t let him ask why I want his name and address! If he asks, I’ll have to say I think he’s a burglar, then he’ll complain about being harassed on the street for no reason, then Smith-Peterson will hear and I’ll get a bollocking. Again.
“Edward Mardon, 2 Nant Grug.”
“Aren’t you going to write that down?”
“Aren’t you going to write down my name and address in your pocket book.”
“Yes, of course I am!”
I mean, I was going to write it down. Duh! It’s just that I didn’t have the pocket book ready because I didn’t think for a moment that this lanky streak of troeth would actually tell me where he lived. I dig in my jacket and scribble it down. Having some bearded tit tell me how to do my duty doesn’t sit well but what else can I do?
No, wait! Inspiration strikes like a gift from God and I’ve got him bang to rights!
“Nant Grug's over there!”
I point triumphantly down the road in the direction I’d seen him come from, the words tumbling from me like clowns from a tiny car.
“And you were going that way,”
I point in the opposite direction, with the grin of a lonely shepherd in a lambing pen.
“It’s an offence to give false information to an officer going about his duty.”
And it is too!
“Have you never been on a walk? Only, you don’t seem to understand how the concept works. I have to walk away from my home in order to walk back later. Or has the law changed so that I have to walk the dog round around my house in circles now? I can only apologise if that's a new lockdown regulation and I've missed it. I tried watching Boris's daily Covid update but, after I’d put my fist through two TVs, I thought I’d give it a miss. Still, if I’ve transgressed, Mea Culpa - I put my hands up. It’s a fair cop, guv. You got me bang to rights, good and proper. People like me need locking up.”
He has a point but that doesn’t excuse the dripping disdain.
“It’s an offence to give false information to an officer going about his duty.”
That was weak the first time. Repeating it hasn't made it any better but I had to say something to stop him talking.
“You don’t believe I’m taking Monsieur le Woof for a walk?”
He’s incredulous. He has good reason to be. I’m a twmffat who shouldn’t be let out on his own and who just needs to get out of this conversation asap. Mind you, I’m not the one with a husky called Monsieur le Woof! Still, this is not going well.
“Because if you’re thinking about arresting me, I’d think again,”
“Are you threatening me?”
“Threatening you? I’m aware that policemen are meant to start looking younger at my age, but I’m not in the habit of threatening minors. I’m just saying that you might want to think twice about arresting me because huskies are known morons. If you leave Monsieur Le Woof unattended here while we go to the cop shop, he’ll run under the nearest lorry. That’ll save me the bother of walking the hairy cretin ever again and get me a few grand in compensation for the loss of a much-loved family pet. Result for me but I doubt it'll make you very popular with your boss. On the other hand, if you take him with us, your claim that I was doing anything but walking my dog is going to be a touch undermined by the muddy foot-prints inside your Noddy car and the huge, steaming shit he’ll undoubtedly take in the custody suite. Still, your choice. Oh, and charging me for threatening behaviour could prove a difficult sell to a judge once I’ve played him the recording of our conversation.”
“Recording me without my permission contravenes my human rights!”
Where did that come from? Still, it might work if I double down on it.
“Recording a member of the emergency services without their permission is an offence under the 1997 Police Act.”
The words are out of my mouth before passing through clearing. Monsieur Le Woof may be a cretin but even he wouldn’t have said that. I mean, there is a 1997 Police Act but I don’t suppose there’s anything in it about Human Rights. Still, this bloke won’t know that unless he’s a lawyer. Iesu Faban, don’t let him be a lawyer!
“According to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, 2003, Chapter twelve, Subsection four, you’re talking out of your helmet.”
Balls! He is a lawyer!
“Look it up, Poirot. Members of the public can document the emergency services in the course of their duty unless they're on private property and have been asked to stop or they are stopping the emergency services going about their work . But this is a public footpath, and I’m standing ten metres away from you while we’re enjoying what can only be described as a truly charming conversation. So, I don’t think you could really say I was stopping you doing anything.”
It’s bullshit. I know it’s bullshit. He knows I know it's bullshit. He’s no more a lawyer than I am. He just trying to out bluff me. But can I afford to call him on it? What if he really is a lawyer? I need to end this now. I need a comeback that will shut this twp’s arse up once and for all and then, while he’s still worrying about getting into a tangle with the law, I’ll let him go on his way with a stern warning!
“Yeah, well. Move along. We’ve had complaints!”
And that was not the comeback required. While the bastard’s still laughing, the Mini’s underpowered electric windows slowly put some glass between us. I’ve never been so glad to have a mask covering my face. I haven’t been this ashamed since Miss Cantor caught me trying to peek at the girls changing for PE in Year 8.
Facing the music/Yr Uchafbwynt
“You said what?”
Peterson-Smith isn’t happy.
“I told him he had to move along because we’d had complaints.”
“Yeah, well… I… He didn’t argue.”
“Because you closed the window and drove off, knob-wit. And he has all this on tape?”
“You just said he did.”
“No, I said he recorded it on his phone. He wasn’t carrying a tape recorder. ”
“Congratulations, Iolo, you are, without even the slightest sliver of a doubt, the stupidest colleague I’ve had since I left the canine unit. And I’ve shared shifts with hobby bobbies who couldn’t tie their own laces without sticking out their tongue. You're a mess. I’ve owned clearer-thinking shoes."
Philip Marlowe would have said "I am a mess. And I'm not very tall either. Next time I'll come on stilts, wear a white tie and carry a tennis racket." I stopped after "I am a mess."
“Fortunately for you, Iolo, I'm here to clean up your mess. But I'm doing this because I’m not taking the blame for not teaching you how to deal with members of the public. I’m going to find some way to scotch that recording before it gets either of us in bother. And then you’re going to spend the next two weeks doing nothing but visiting Primary Schools to administer Cycling fucking Proficiency tests. Got it?”
What can I do but nod?
“Good, now get in the back, tell me when you see him and get ready to cover yourself with the blanket, you feeble-minded fucktard!”
Smith-Peterson’s car isn’t a Mini. Its speedo goes into numbers that I’ve never seen in a car before. The Mini starts shaking uncontrollably over 45mph. One day I’ll get to drive something like this. One day I’ll be able to tell Smith-Peterson where to shove his truncheon. But not if the boss hears that recording. I’ll be lucky to pass my probationary period. So, I keep the blanket ready round my shoulders and my eyes peeled and we go looking for the smug twat with the I-phone. How hard can it be to spot someone in a fluorescent jacket walking a white dog with a flashing neon light on its collar?
Harder than you’d think. It’s been forty minutes and I’m starting to despair. Smith-Petersen has driven me past three Primary Schools already, just to point out the bike-sheds. Pine Lane is the last school within two miles. Any farther away and we’ll be out of range of a dog-walker. And, heaven be praised, there he is, the bastard. Smith-Peterson’s already seen him so I drop down into the footwell without a word and cover myself with the blanket in case he gets close enough to look into the car and the sight of me puts his back up.
Smith-Peterson pulls into the drop off zone in front of Pine Lane and waits. I sneak a peak of the prick walking down the hill in our direction. It looks like he’s thinking about crossing the road to avoid us. It’ll be interesting to see how Smith-Peterson deals with that. But then… no. He’s carrying on towards us, just fiddling with his phone. I crouch down to avoid being seen. Smith-Peterson opens his window.
And I’m the one who's meant to lack experience of dealing with the public. Hey! isn't exactly from the training manual.
“Hey! Sir! Mardy! It’s me.”
“Gosh, James? Is that you? I haven’t seen you since you left school... when would it be?”
“2005, sir. You were my form tutor. And you taught me Maths for two years.”
“Yeah, not so much. They’re not big on the Cosine Rule.”
“I suppose not. Do you know, you're the second policemen I’ve spoken to this evening. I can’t recall when I last spoke to a cop before tonight.”
“Yeah, I was going to speak to you about that. Did you talk with a colleague of mine about three quarters of an hour ago on Tŷ Hyll Lane?”
“The angry infant?”
The cheeky twat! I’d get out from under the blanket to tell him what I thought of him if Smith-Peterson wasn't here.
“He is quite angry now that he’s spoken to you.”
“Well, I wouldn’t have been quite so sarcastic if he hadn’t pushed my buttons, James. I’m generally very pro-Police but I’m quite anti being insulted by foetuses in uniform. Perhaps you should teach your junior officers some manners before letting them loose to insult the public.”
“We try. We really do. But some of them just aren’t that bright.”
"I suppose not but I'm surprised that someone like that is still allowed to be a cop. When I was your age a sack of spuds could pass providing it didn't have a criminal record but I thought they'd made the entrance requirements for the Police tougher these days."
"No, the opposite really - they abolished the five foot ten minimum but you're still accepted providing your IQ exceeds your height in inches."
"Then your colleague must be exceptionally short."
Smith-Peterson laughed. I hate that man
"They don't call him the Powys Pygmy for nothing."
Bastards! Five foot five is a good height in Machynlleth. Trahaearn, my brother-in-law, is only five-eight and they call him Jones the Giant
I was glad of the blanket. It was the only thing hiding my blushes. Nain says that eaves-droppers never hear any good about themselves. Mind you, Nain also says that thunder is the sound of clouds colliding and that there's no such place as France. If only!
“Perhaps you should break it to him that he’s not cut out for the job, then? He looks young enough to enjoy going back to making Play-Doh animals at Nursery. He might learn a thing or two while he’s sticking crayons up his nose.”
“To be fair to my colleague, it’s his first day out on his own. I’ll rip one of his bollocks off with my teeth when I see him next. He won’t do it again, not if he wants to save the other one.”
“Assuming either of them have dropped!”
“In his defence, he’s still learning, sir. Which is why I stopped really. It’s just that he’s a bit concerned that you taped your conversation. Could I hear?”
There’s a pause while the old prick fiddles with his phone.
“I can’t find the audio app. To be honest, James, I’m amazed I found it last time. I don’t even know why I started recording except that when I was a child the local plod was always rude to me and my mother would never believe me. I tell you what, if you can find the app, you can delete it.”
I can hear Smith-Peterson pulling on some disposable gloves so that he can handle the prick’s phone. Then I can hear our interview being played back. It’s mortifying. But not as mortifying as listening to the prick and Smith-Peterson laughing.
“Such a Muppet!”
“Reminded me of Gerald Bostock in your year at school. Remember him, James? He stole the Superglue from his Technology lesson and hid it in his underwear. Glued his old man to his thigh and had to be rushed to the Maelor hospital. I expect he's a policeman too now. Probably Chief Constable.”
Smith-Peterson ignores him.
“The thing is, sir. Can I delete this recording?”
Please! Please! Please!
“Must you? I was looking forward to playing it to my wife. Was I committing an offence taping him? I’ll admit, I wasn’t entirely convinced by his legal argument.”
“No, you were fine recording him. It’s just that we find it quite hard to retain cops for more than a couple of years after they finish training – they find less stressful things to do. So, we’re kind of keen to keep this one despite his thinking-impairment. He has the making of a decent cop one day."
A small glow of pride reinforced the white heat of embarrassment below Smith-Peterson's thermal blanket.
"Well, he has the makings of some sort of cop. The truth is, what with Covid, we haven't been able to train anyone at all in twelve months. So, we're trying to hang on to whatever we have. And Iolo’s so worried about this recording going viral and the Chief Constable hearing it and… Well, you can imagine.”
“And you promise not to let him speak to anyone else like that?”
“On my honour as a graduate of Pen Dinas High School!”
“God, don’t say that, James. One of the little bastards in the Lower Sixth stole the Deputy Head’s car and crashed it into a bridge last month. Funniest thing that’s happened at school in years but hardly a badge of honour.”
“But I can press delete?”
“I suppose so.”
For a Saxon, Smith-Peterson is decent bloke really.
“Thanks. Do you mind if I Bluetooth myself a copy first?”
“For training purposes?”
“Not really. But this lockdown bollocks will be over eventually and the boys down the pub will love it.”