We were sitting in the Thorns listening to the Nam vent his feelings about the Forces of Repression as he refers to Sergeant Brightstone and his ilk. I know it is the Nam who is the expert on all things psychological but I believe that he has a Problem with Authority which stems from his relationship with his father who was a captain in the Marines. Now I con cider that my attitude to authority, and the police in particular, is a healthy one considering my dealings with them, they are a bad thing and to be avoided so I arrange my life, as far as is possible, with this in mind.
"Have the police ever done you any harm Stanley?" asks Little Nance who prefers to believe that no one would do any harm to a living soul, as if the world were populated with Little Nances.
"No, not harm exactly," I reply, "in fact you could say that they did me a lot of good in the long run."
"How do you mean?" the Nam asks suspiciously.
"Well if it had not been for the police I might never have come to Wymsey."
"But it seems like you've always been here." Nance says.
"Well in 1975 I was living by the river in Watchester, I had a garden that ran down to the river, a dog and a wife. Life was good and amongst other things in the garden I grew certain plants to add to my pleasure." I look around, only the Nam seems to know what I am talking about, "these plants were illegal."
"Oh Stanley." Little Nance gasps with shock
"One sunny day in June I was at work when Jarry, my wife, rang me." "Hi." I said cheerfully.
"We've been busted." she said.
"Busted?" My brain did not seem to recognise the word.
"Yes, they took the plants away in a Sainsburys carrier bag."
"Yes, they're coming back at six."
"Yes, to give us time to decide who is going to take the rap."
"They searched the flat, turned the draw inside out, went through my underwear, poked around in the rubbish bins, said we ought to empty them more often but neglected to look under the cushions on the settee."
"Burn it!" I shouted as my brain begins to reassert itself, "and don't panic."
"It was not until I put the phone down that I realised that not only was Jarry not panicking she was actually enjoying it all. "
"Bust, in this sense, is a nineteenth century dialect pronunciation of burst." interjects John.
"Makes sense." says the Nam.
"What happened Stanley?" Nance wants to know.
"When I got home that evening there they were, Sergeant Peter Jones and DC Michael Stains of the Watchester Drug Squad. Jones had a nice enamel plaque around his neck - it depicted a cannabis leaf. They both wore jeans, denim jackets, had unruly hair and were oh-so-obviously policeman, Stains was over friendly whilst Jones was playing cool. Sitting around the kitchen table we decided that I would be the one to be charged with 'cultivating a Class B drug.' I was cautioned and then we sat drinking coffee while Jones continually rolled and smoked cigarettes - I think he was practising. He seemed to think that at anytime the good citizens of the cathedral city could be drowned in floods of drugs, vice, mafia and triads; the implication being that it was the pair of them that were stemming this evil tide. "Bloody good specimens, those plants, Stains smirked."
They took me to the station where I was charged and offered a lift home, now I did not want to appear ungrateful but I had had enough police company to last me a lifetime. I walked slowly home considering my new position in the criminal heir achy."
"Did you feel guilty?" asks Little Nance.
"No, there is a difference between breaking the law and feeling guilty." I reply.
"That seems to be a dangerous point of veil." The Nam says.
"Maybe but it's true. When I got home Jarry and I went over to our local - I needed something to calm me, as we entered the Cricketers a voice called out, "This one's on me Joe." There at the far end of the bar were Starsky and Hutch."Cheers." I replied and we took our drinks as far away from the two officers as possible. Jarry wondered what they were up to, we were aware that the CID used the saloon bar occasionally and had once been awoken in the middle of the night by three of them trying to climb over the eight foot high pub gate. They were signally unimpressed with my threat to call the police.
"It's obvious" I tell her.
"Tell me then."
"They've waiting for all our drug-crazed art school hippy friends to join us in order to have a mass bust, net scores of pushers and, as a result, get promoted to Special Branch."
"Are they dumb?"
"Are you going to buy them a drink?"
I decided to sit them out and Jarry, saying she needed more intelligent stimulation, went off to watch a soap opera. By nine the jolly coppers with three pints down them were still obvious and the only two people who might have been inconvenienced were easily warned by the simple device of following them into the toilet and telling them. One had come to the conclusion that the pair were drug squad officers and the other knew they were. With the help of Joe the landlord word had gone around the bar and I was happy to drink alone until they had gone which they did after their forth pint and through the window I watched drive off in the direction of North Frampton."
John had gone to the bar with our glasses, the Nam was looking at me with something approaching respect in his eyes whilst it was obvious that the Snorter did not believe a word of it.
"What happened next?" Little Nance wanted to know.
"When I got home from work the following evening Sergeant Jones was there drinking coffee with Jarry and I found him there every night for week after. Well, I can appreciate that if a person is the kind who wants to be a policeman then he will want to be a good one but it seemed to me that Jones was being a little over conscientious. When I tackled Jarry she said that I was being too sensitive and when pressed accused me of having a grudge against the police. "Bloody right," was the only thing that I could think of saying.
Eventually, I put on my best clothes, went to court, admitted how stupid I had been, promised never to do it again and paid fifty pounds to have the plants destroyed. Jones was still drinking coffee with Jarry and I no longer felt safe in her company so got out and came to Wymsey. I believe that they eventually got married - Jarry & Jones - and he moved to Special Branch where to this day he organises the burglaries of little old ladies who sign petitions.
"I think it is very sad Stanley, does it mean that you are still a criminal?" Little Nance is on the verge of tears, his view of the world seems to have solidifies at nursery school."No, I've been rehabilitated and expunged from the records like Stalin."
"And cuckold by a copper." cackles the Snorter salivating into his beer in appreciation at his own humour. We have an unwritten rule when the Snorter behaves like this - he is ignored. Our thinking being that he will sense our disapproval and modify his behaviour, thus far we have no evidence to suggest that we are likely to succeed in this endeavour.
"So how do you feel about the law now?" The Nam asks.
"Well Gordon, the way I see it is that there are millions of people in the world and we can't be friends with them all. I find it helpful to eliminate avoid and ignore certain sections of humanity such as evangelicals, estate agents, politicians, bingo players and your forces of repression. Life's too short and exciting plus I have a limited amount of energy."
"But don't you think that they should be stopped?" The Nam is attempting to get back to where I came in and I regret using his phrase.
"Probably, anyone for a drink?"
As I go to the bar I hear the Snorter say, "He'd have more energy if he wasn't rotting his guts with lemonade."
When I return to the table the Snorter wants to know how long it is since I had a decent drink.
"Do you feel better for it?" Nance asks.
"Difficult to say really - you know me - always landing on my feet."
"That's 'cos you go with the flow." says the Nam.
"Rubbish, more likely because he's been expunged."
"What does expunged mean?" Nance wants to know. "
"Blotted out, like last Friday night." replies the Nam.
"Except that I remember Friday night extremely well, I remember taking you home. one by one, and putting you each to bed." I say.
"That was very kind of you." Nance says gratefully and I can sense that Little Nance does not want me to say any more.
"I woke up with my boots on." grumbles the Snorter.
"That's because you went to bed with them on." I snap.
"Have you heard that Brightstone is giving a talk to the W.I. next week?" asks the Nam.
"No, whatever is he going to talk about?" I ask.
"Vandalism and the Rural Police Force"
"The way he tears around in that Panda of his I reckon there's no bloody difference." mutters the Snorter.
"Oh Snorter,"moans Nance.
"We haven't had vandalism in Wymsey since the Dissolution." John says.
"Oh yes we have." I reply mysteriously. "
When was that then Stanley?"
"Last Friday night, you ask Sam."
"What happened then?" the Snorter asks.
"Put it this way, I had to give Sam the total contents of the RAGBAG fighting fund." I tell them pulling the empty jam jar from my jacket pocket and placing it, open, on the table. "There was £1.80 in there."
"Oh dear," say Nance as he places fifty pence in the jar.
"That's right." Having made my point, I put thirty five pence in the jar and push my glass towards the Snorter who is so convinced that he did something terrible on Friday night that he goes to the bar without a word.
"Engels visited Wymsey in 1842." John informs us.
"Maybe he should have a brass plaque alongside Kranzig's." I say smirking at the Nam. "
Hey, I like it, how about in place of Kranzig's." he replies.
"Trouble is, where is the proletariat of Wymsey?"
"All run down by bloody Volvos." the Snorters says returning with our drinks.
"Except for you and Charlie Stebbings." Nance reminds him.
"It was the Enclosures that did it." John puts in.
"Yea, but the countryside was over manned." Without our tempering influence the Snorter would be somewhere to the right of Hitler.
"Now it's over-volvoed," states the Nam who drives a rusting VW beetle.
"Have you ever had a car Stanley?" Nance looks at me with interest.
"No. You tend to bump into policemen if you drive a car."
"In fifteen years of motoring I have yet to bump into a policeman," the Nam grins into his beer.