Tuesday, September 25, 2012

My Andrew Mitchell Moment.

Before we start I should stress that the whole situation I am about to describe was resolved perfectly amicably, with apologies on both sides and with the band having been given permission to play one more song – we closed with a stirring version of I Fought the Law which, as you will see, was the perfect choice to defuse any lingering resentment regarding the presence of the filth. I mean respected members of Her Majesty’s Constabulary. We were young. And it was in no way as confrontational as that time Steve got stopped on his bike and had to answer truthfully when the officer got out his notebook, licked his pencil and asked for his name. “Umm…Constable”.
How we found ourselves setting up the band’s equipment on the lawn outside the nurses’ flats in the first place is a little unclear from this distance. If I recall correctly it wasn’t terribly apparent the morning after either. All we can know for certain is that it seemed a terribly good idea to perform for the good people of the nursing profession and, hey, if a few punks from the pub turned up too, what was the harm? Bearing in mind that this was in the days when closing time really meant closing time I have no idea how we gathered either all the gear or all those people and managed to rendezvous about two miles from the town centre where we’d been drinking until eleven o’clock, but we did.

After a few spirited renditions of popular classics of the day it became apparent that not everyone shared our enthusiasm for al fresco beat pop, especially not at that time of night, as the familiar silhouette of a police Transit van hove into view across the street. Emerging from the bowels of the machine came a slight figure - prodded, it seemed, by some other, visibly burlier figures, who continued to remain seated. It was maybe a trick of the light that made it look as if their shoulders were shaking slightly in the moonlight.
As the young officer approached us The Singer sidled over to me and raised an issue of concern. “I know this guy – I was at school with him”. It’s endearing, I think, that in the time of Thatcher’s Britain - Orgreave, anti-nuclear rallies and all - our principal concern in coming into the orbit of our local mob-handed police force was one of social embarrassment. We stopped the performance, he approached closer, the outer tendrils of our audience circled behind him, murmuring oaths in stage whispers. Tension prickled on the backs of our cut-off t-shirts. It was clear that he had also recognised his old playground chum and was not relishing the stand off. Vague hoots from the van drifted across the greensward. “I don’t want to seem like a wanker, Steve…” he began.

“That’s odd” replied his erstwhile confrère, “Because you look like one”.


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