You will read many blogs and tweets from serving Police Officers, or retired ones like me, telling you about their traumatic experiences. I am not about to contradict or undermine those stories, each one of them is valid in its own way. I too, along with just about every Police Officer I have ever known, has experienced something that has traumatised them, and in some instances changed there lives. It truly is A Job Like No Other.
I want to tell you something about another facet of policing that is seldom publicised. I have no idea why it is so rarely spoken of because I can’t see how it can do the public perception of the Police anything other than good.
Back in the late 1980s I was at a time in my career when I was what the Met used to call a Home Beat Officer. I didn’t live on my beat but I had a permanent responsibility for what happened on it. I liaised with the schools, became a School Governor, had regular meetings with a large multi-discipline hospital and kept up to date with any sporting events which might be taking place. At the time it contained the Home Ground for a Premiership Rugby Union side who’ve long-since outgrown it and moved away, but it was fun while it lasted.
Hidden away between all of this was a small, Council-run Children’s Home, it used to be a Baranardos Home at one time, but now the Local Authority had the responsibility for it. As I say, it wasn’t very big, less than a dozen children lived there, with a few live-in staff. Most, if not all, of the kids had mental or physical disabilities. I first got to know them by offering to be their Father Christmas one year. All went well, plenty of Ho Ho Ho’s, presents were given to the kids, normally donated by local businesses. They loved it.
But it all got too much for one poor lad, there he was sat upon my lap, Father Christmas asking “and what would you like for Christmas little boy?” or words to that effect. My answer was a warm wet feeling in my groin area. Poor little lad had pissed himself all over Father Christmas.
Undeterred, a while later, a large charity (I believe it was the Variety Club, but can’t be certain) ran annual events for kids such as these and would take over Thorpe Park or Chessington World of Adventures for the day so that kids such as these could have the place to themselves, liberally sprinkled with stars of Film and TV. All I had to do was give up my time and find a way of getting them there. The Met were brilliant, they laid on a coach and driver for the day at no cost. Health and Safety today would have had a field day. Anything up to a dozen kids with their associated problems and only me and whatever workers the home could field to look after them. It was exhausting, but once we got there, there would always be sufficient TV stars etc willing to lend a hand and give these kids the day of their lives.
I don’t normally ‘do’ kids but there was something magical about seeing these kids forget their various handicaps for the day and have fun. One year my wife and our younger children were also invited to come along and join in the fun (not that they’re handicapped). I don’t know if they will remember it, but I do believe they also enjoyed their day (and I was glad of a bit of extra help).
At the end of the day we delivered them back to their Home, tired but happy. I probably appreciate it more now than I did then, but it made those days A Job Like No Other.