Pigs (three different ones)
GERARD YOU ARE!!”
Not the most astute critique, I know,
but we were just fifteen. The Pink Floyd song
would volley from the mouths of my home gang
every time a panda car rolled slow
to cast a cagey eye on us then slew
away from those street corners where we’d hang,
and mumbling some Prog Rock lyrics wrong
summed all the insurrection we dared do
(though never quite so loud the pigs might hear.)
You could be wondering what these cops had done
to rouse the artful surrogate for jeers
from me ‘n’ Baz ‘n’ Spaz ‘n’ Jess ‘n’ Ron,
so read on till I’ve made the reason clear -
we had a case for such a carry-on.
Ironic truth: my Dad was part to blame,
a Parish Councillor who did his bit
to shield our village from the insidious rot
devouring ‘70s England. What became
his law-abiding son’s relentless bane -
the village “Pig Patrol” - was largely got
through Dad’s unstinting lobbying for it.
For local kids it was a huge arse-pain.
Sandhurst lacked a true crime-ridden feel:
the nadir was illicit cider swigged
by under-ageds, or drunks behind the wheel,
so cops bigged-up what felonies they twigged
and we made easy targets for their zeal.
Just hanging out with friends could get you “pigged”.
I got my equitable share, as did my mates.
The worst, I still recall, with Spaz and Ron
when Skip entrusted us the keys to plan
our Scout troop’s happening at the Church Hall Fête,
a meeting that went on into the night
till, ambling home beneath a silvery moon
the rozzers stopped us and we faced a man
engorged with swill of arrogance and spite.
What’s our names? Where’re we going to?
Where’ve we come from? The latter question lead
to apoplexy from the Boy In Blue
when Spazza piped up honestly and said
“the Scout Hut”, but the copper’s view was glue:
“You’ve been at the allotments, wrecking sheds!”
No amount of pleading could persuade him
that we were dutiful, upstanding Scouts.
He oinked at us like we were little shits
and every plea of innocence just made him
more malevolent and more deriding.
He let us know he’d marked our cards as louts
and he’d’ve nicked us but for an alert
just then who’s urgency was overriding.
So that’s the reason my teen attitude
to flatfoots held some leeway for improvement.
I reckoned they’d be uniformly rude
as that aggressive plod. My thinking was imprudent
but rooted deep and not to be reviewed
till Toxteth, where I slummed it as a student.
Ironically, they got me there red-handed.
I’d supped till chucking-out time at the pub,
found first my flat door flat and next got nabbed
by half a dozen bizzies who demanded
to know the person nurturing one hundred
healthy little hemp plants in a lab
established in my flat-mate’s room? No fib
leapt quickly to my tongue which was encumbered
by half a dozen pints I had consumed,
and in no time the fuzz exacted from
my addled brain the detail that this room
was quarters of my friend (let’s call him Tom),
currently at his folks’. I had assumed
the cannabis carer’s role whilst he was gone.
A cruel happenstance, a dick explained:
the bacon had been called about a break-in.
The robbers flew scot-free but Bill came poking
round the burgled flat and ascertained
the presence there of certain plants which tend
to yield illicit substances by smoking,
and though I was the victim they’d be taking
me to their place, for a long weekend.
I weirdly thought the ‘tec a decent bloke.
Heroin was what he hoped to beat.
He didn’t give a fuck what students smoke
so long as they don’t sell it on the street.
“Had ‘uniforms’ not beat us here,” he joked,
“we’d stash them outta sight, your home-grown treats.”
He let me get to bed and sleep it off
on trust I’d turn myself in, come the morning.
I didn’t sleep a wink, my cortex churning
with visions of my life mashed in the trough.
But “Hope” Street was just that, and I retrieved
a little confidence whilst promptly learning
that every snout does not have porcine leanings
contrary to the wisdom I’d received.
Of course they had to deal with greater crimes
than students farming weed; in retrospect
they probably thought we were a waste of time
when they had all the city to protect.
But rather than dismissing me as slime
they quizzed me like an adult: with respect.
What I noticed first was coffee mugs
they used for morning break: each had a pig,
some in farmyards, others wearing wigs,
some were blowing whistles chasing thugs -
it must’ve been the station’s running gag.
“Do Biochemists feed their plants with drugs?
Is that the reason these have grown so big?
You should be doing Botany!” they ragged.
When I declined a lawyer they seemed quite content
with my changed story now my head was clear.
The statement I submitted read “No comment”
then I was free on bail till Tom appeared.
At once I phoned the twat and begged in torment
“Get ya fuckin’ arse back over here!”
Fate was on my side, ‘cause Tom agreed
to commandeer all blame and take the flak.
His altruism got me off the hook.
The Judge took pity on him and decreed
a discharge, with the hope his science degree
would help erase the ink stain from his book,
since he was middle class (and was not black.)
The Beak gave one wig-nod and we went free.
And for my part I walked out from the court
persuaded that the filth were not all scum,
and might’ve lived my life out with this thought
unscathed, my sense of outraged justice numb.
The line of all-white court officials brought
no premonition of what was to come.
My twenty-second birthday two years later,
drunk again I am not proud to say,
I lurched at random like a ship at sea
rolled by waves without a navigator,
only kept from crumpling in the gutter
by Jerry, my good friend, as drunk as me,
through the streets of Notting Hill, as high
as any brace of raving midnight nutters.
Quite where we were heading I don’t know
but veering into Ladbroke Grove, we ran
upon blue lights that strobed a vile tableau.
We saw a black guy crushed against a van
with twelve bluebottles buzzing for a go
at hammering the life out of the man.
I made my mind up quick what we should do:
“Let’s get the fuck away from here!” I squawked.
But Jerry had a mouth that never shirked
a chance to welly-boot the Boys In Blue.
The subsequent few minutes are a blur.
Jerry launched a diatribe that irked
the Thin Blue Line enough to drop their work
and centre on the author of the slur.
My friend went down beneath a rain of fists.
I grilled a gammon, “What you done with Jerry?”
His greasy pork-rind fingers clamped my wrist.
I sensed the man could pulp me to a jelly
but knew my rights. “So is this an arrest?”
“Shu’ up yuh commie pinko!” Pigman parried.
“What’s the charge?” I slewed across the floor
of a Black Maria, briefly smelling
sweat and vomit. Jerry, bruised and swelling
round one eye, was there. They slammed the door
and sped to Paddington Green. A puff-faced, dour
desk clerk took our names and had us spilling
our pocket contents out, his trotters sealing
all in labelled bags, his look a glower.
The passageway resounded with a din
of souls in torment, baying rage and pain.
They marched us to a subterranean den,
charged with drunkenness. We were detained
but who the black guy was, what he had done,
and where he went we never ascertained.
A regular had been banged up there first:
a local vagrant camping in the cold
who’d get arrested any night he could.
Within an hour my throat was raked with thirst
reacting to my bounteous birthday toasts.
I banged the steel door till a scuffer stood
beyond the grill, and though our cell-mate stewed
with animus, I ordered from our host.
Fifteen minutes lagged and then the grill
slid open and a plastic cup came through.
The tramp swore blind the drink would make me ill:
“They spit in it! They’ve spiked it with pig-poo!”
But I was now so dry I took the swill
and gulped it down despite what it might do.
I stretched out on a bench along the wall
and plunged into a raw, uneasy sleep.
At 3 a.m. a noddie kicked my feet
and laughed “This is your early morning call!”
With little cash and four more hours to kill
till tubes woke up, we trudged the freezing streets
till close enough to home that we could steep
the summit of a night-time taxi bill.
Of course, our outrage hosepiped forth in torrents.
We swore we’d shortly sue and raise the roof
but all we held was hearsay and abhorrence:
to press a cast-iron case we needed proof
years before the death of Stephen Lawrence
forced the Met to face the sordid truth.
Nowadays I view things in perspective,
or focussed through the telescope of time.
The man you see’s a more deliberative Tim,
less disposed to shoot off cheap invective.
A job like that will always seem attractive
to those whom most of us would rank as “crims”,
but whilst there’s gangs and rape and violent crime
a counterweight of justice must stay active,
and though I’ve been unjustly reprimanded
I know the perfect world for which I’ve yearned
may never have the old popo disbanded:
we must respect The Law. Through tears I’ve learned
that such respect may never be demanded:
it holds no currency unless it’s earned.