Tag Archives: police

1822. You’re under arrest

“You’re under arrest,” said Ms. Plod the Policewoman.

The all-powerful Chairperson of the country had issued a decree making it compulsory for everyone to cover their face with a mask. Here was a group of three people not wearing such a mask.

“You’re under arrest,” repeated Ms. Plod the Policewoman.

“We’re just grabbing a bit of healthy sunshine,” they replied. “What’s wrong with that?”

Ms. Plod the Policewoman looked down. She was a little embarrassed. What a silly thing it was to have been instructed to go about arresting people not wearing a mask.

The three under arrest offered no resistance. Thank goodness for that! It was always difficult putting handcuffs on more than one person if they objected. Especially if she was working alone. The Chairperson of the country had decreed that every member of the police force must arrest at least six people a day for not wearing a mask. Six! That is why Ms. Plod the Policewoman was doing the job wearing the same as everyone else, as a civilian, incognito, so as to catch people by surprise.

Fortunately Ms. Plod the Policewoman was adept at quickly reaching the daily quota.

“You’re under arrest,” she’d say. Generally speaking these three guys in the nudist colony were a pretty docile bunch.

1741. Filling in her day

What a mess! Frederica had popped out to the shopping mall for a brief period of time – she didn’t want to buy anything but she was simply filling in her day – and when she returned the house was flattened. More than flattened; it was kindling. A jet plane had whooshed from the sky and crashed on top of her house. Thank goodness Frederica lived alone and there was no one inside. She didn’t even have a dog or a cat.

Apparently the pilot had ejected and was safe somewhere else. The fire brigade were at the house but they weren’t doing much; just looking really. There was not much they could do. There didn’t appear to be a flame in sight – just a pile of kindling awaiting fire, and some electric cables that the fire brigade were making sure no one went near.

The plane had hit the house and then had skidded out of the way into a field beyond. The plane was a write-off naturally, and on the way into the field had utterly destroyed Frederica’s back garden and fence.

Frederica was in shock of course, but the scene was so surreal that somehow she had trouble realizing that the pile of stuff in front of her was actually her house. If it hadn’t been for the row of fava beans she had planted neatly to the side of her home, she would not have recognized anything to do with her place.

Frederica went to a fire fighter to ask what happened, and all she got was “Step back, lady, it’s dangerous.” So she stood there by herself and looked. What else could she do? A large gaggle of onlookers had gathered and most were either laughing at the bizarreness of it all or muttering concerns as to whether or not “someone had been inside”.

What added to the strangeness of it all was that no one was asking whose house it was. Not the fire brigade, not the police. Frederica went to a policeman to ask if he wanted her name or anything, and all she got was another “Step back, lady, it’s dangerous” with the addition of “This is no time to be troubling us with silly questions”.

Before too long (they had clearly disconnected the electricity) a large bulldozer and front-end loader arrived and began clearing the house and putting it into large trucks which took everything away to goodness knows where. Frederica wanted to ask “But what about all my stuff?” but the official answered “Lady, stop bothering us and let us get on with the job.” Quicker than Frederica would have thought possible the entire section of land was cleared including the row of fava beans. Even her shattered fence had disappeared.

All of this took no longer than two or three hours (Frederica had lost all sense of time) and in the end, when all was done a man appeared with a sign which he hammered into the ground near where her front gate had once been. It read: LAND FOR SALE.

One by one the gaggle of onlookers disappeared. The fire brigade left. The police left. The heavy vehicles left. Frederica was left alone shocked, confused, and puzzled. It would have made a classic painting of a woman standing forlornly before a subdivision of empty land if only there had been a Cézanne or someone to capture it.

And that’s what can happen if you’ve nothing better to do than wander aimlessly down to the shopping mall to fill in time.

1700. The hand we’re dealt

Look at that! 1700 is a round number if ever there was one! Usually for such a significant number I deviate into some true narrative or other. This time I’ve hit a complete blank. I don’t believe in “writer’s block” but I must admit that these last ten or so postings have been like trying to get blood out of a stone. I wanted to get to Story 1700 before Christmas and then have some time off until sometime in the New Year. And so I’ve drawn a blank. Let me think…

Well I’ve thought of something… but I don’t know if I should chat about it or not. Counting up it happened 33 years ago!

The photo incidentally is not of what I am going to talk about – it’s of another group unknown to me, but it gives the general drift.

I dare say those involved have long since moved on. I was teaching Music and English at St John’s High School in Hastings, New Zealand. Hastings had a pretty “varied” population. St John’s High School was a boys-only school and the only High School in the city that would accept students who had been expelled from other schools and couldn’t find another school to attend. That’s how I ended up teaching a class of 24, 14 of whom had a “history”. They were all aged 14. Montzie, for example, had a criminal record since the age of six.

The school didn’t have a great number of resources. My classroom was an old shed set apart from all other classrooms and in the middle of a field. We called the shed “The Shack”. The record player and all the stuff for music were in The Shack. The trouble was: The Shack couldn’t be locked. I told the class that if anything was ever stolen from this shack I’d “have their guts for garters”. (I also had to explain what garters were).

“Don’t worry,” they said, “we’d never steal from you.” We were the only school Music Department in the whole city that hadn’t had all its electronic equipment go missing. And then it happened. One night, the classroom was stripped. The policeman was very nice about it. He took notes and said he’d keep an eye out. That wasn’t good enough for Montzie and friends. Did not the policeman want to know the names of those who took the stuff? Did not the policeman want to know the place in the city where these thieves stored their stolen goods? The policeman was kind of stunned!

With such information it still took six months for the police to act. In the meantime insurance paid for new equipment and when our goods were returned we had two of everything. And Reuben, a master of the “five-finger discount”, would most days bring five or six long-playing records that he’d “got from the shops during lunch break” to replace the records stolen. I explained it was wrong. It was above his comprehension. He was helping out. (And I might add that not even the shops wanted to know because the packaging had been removed).

Many other things happened during the year which can wait another time, except to say I am a master pickpocketer; for they passed on skills you wouldn’t believe. I was never party to their activity, but they were surviving in the only world they knew.

The highlight came when I was selected (because I was pretty good at it) to represent New Zealand at an International Youth Theatre Festival – with theatre performances from Germany, England, India, South Korea, Australia, United States and New Zealand. It was inordinately expensive to get a theatre team to the festival and to survive a week. That is when I started to write little musicals for elementary schools and market them. Within two easy weeks, we had enough money to travel. I suggested we do a performance about New Zealand’s many endangered species. And would you believe? The class wanted to dance it, and from all the five-finger discount stolen records to dance to they chose extracts from Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” and Ravel’s “Daphnis et Chloé”. At least I’d taught them something!

It was street-dancing. They did the choreography themselves. It was an outstanding hit! The boys were so well behaved and more charming than I could believe. At the end of the performance the audience didn’t clap; they stood and sang a song they all knew. It was very moving. The newspaper reviews were stunning.

I dare say these kids would be heading for their mid-forties now. Those who aren’t dead are possibly in prison. I know a couple have done murders and some are destroyed by drugs. A teacher can’t keep in touch with everyone.

But they were one of the nicest and most talented group of kids I’ve ever taught. A pity they weren’t dealt much of a hand.

(A Happy Christmas and New Year to all! See you some time in 2020!)

1219. Candles and husbands

Ivanna was a cemetery visitor. She had buried three husbands over the years and each year on the same day she visited their graves to say a prayer and light a candle. Not that she was allowed to leave a candle burning in the cemetery but Ivanna was not one to be over fussed by rules.

Ivanna liked to light all three candles with a common flame. It provided some sort of unity to the remembrance, as if to say that each consecutive husband didn’t mind his position being usurped after his death. Lighting three candles from the one flame was her way of acknowledging that acceptance.

The trouble was that all three husbands were buried in three different cemeteries and each a few miles distant from the other. Not to worry. Ivanna always brought four candles; one for each grave and a fourth to transfer the common flame by car to the next cemetery.

The first candle was lit. Ivanna set off for the next husband, carrier candle aflame and car windows tightly shut. It’s not impossible to drive with just the one free hand.

The second candle was lit. Ivanna set off for the third husband, carrier candle aflame and car windows tightly shut. It was then that Ivanna was stopped by a policeman.

“What are you doing driving along with just the one free hand and the other holding a lighted candle?” asked the policeman.

Ivanna explained her little ritual to the very nice man and he smiled and said it was a dangerous thing to do but if she left her car on the side of the road he would take her to the next graveyard himself in his police car. So he did that, and they did it every year after. They’ve been married for eleven years now.

833. I’m not here to moralize

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Constable Alexander Mistletoe has had a busy day.

First of all, the fire brigade had been called out to a blaze starting in the backroom of a church hall. He had to be there to keep the crowd back. And he acted as spokesperson:

“Fortunately,” he said, “the church hall had sprinklers and an alarm system installed. It shows the value of having a sprinkler system, and completely warrants the cost of a fire alarm installation. Because of this, we were able to save the building. Everyone should check the batteries in their smoke alarms throughout the house. It is quite irresponsible not to do so.”

Next, Constable Alexander Mistletoe had to attend an accident. A pedestrian had been knocked down by a car:

“Unfortunately,” he said, “the pedestrian was deceased at the scene. It highlights the importance of wearing bright clothing with reflectors when walking along the side of the road. It is quite irresponsible not to wear bright clothing.”

Next, Constable Alexander Mistletoe went in search of a missing teenage boy. His parents were in a panic. He was eventually found at a friend’s house.

“This,” he said, “highlights the importance of letting other people know where you’re going and your estimated time of return. To behave responsibly in this matter would save a lot of police time and energy. Always let others know where you’re going.”

Next, Constable Alexander Mistletoe arrested a drunk man for loud and bawdy behaviour.

“This goes to show the importance of drinking responsibly,” he said. “Far too many people have not learnt to know the limits of what they can and cannot drink. And how much they can drink.”

“And, Constable Mistletoe,” asked a reporter, “do you think people are learning from their mistakes?”

“How would I know? I’m not here to moralize.”