'THE GOD OF THE STATION'
Saved from being torn limb from limb by a hostile crowd,
will Alan be charged with a public order offence?
Alan sat squashed between two policemen who had accessories hanging from every square inch of their uniforms. 'No need to worry Sir. Just a short journey and the Desk Sergeant will deal with you,' said the very young man on his right. He could hear the radio crackling as his successful capture and imminent arrival were reported to the local police station, two minutes later he stood crestfallen before the God of the Station.
'Now then Constable, why is the gentleman standing before me?'
'Well Sergeant, PC Springfoot and myself were watching the speeches being made on the green, when this gentleman,' he turned and stared at Alan as if to affirm his guilt, 'appeared on the stage and began speaking. We didn't really pay any attention at first as the speeches had being going on for over an hour. It soon became clear that something was wrong when people began booing and hissing and shouting unpleasant words at him. We quickly surmised he was an infiltrator and likely to cause a breach of the peace. So, Sir, there being an unfolding scenario, we quickly escorted him from the area, and here he is.'
Alan felt the admonishing gaze of the Sergeant who raised his eyebrows and looked over the top of his glasses at him. He was at least twenty years younger than Alan.
'Has he been arrested, Constable?’
'No Sergeant, not even cautioned. It all happened so quickly and so close to the Station. We suspected a breach of the peace was about to take place so we acted immediately. And here he is.'
'Very good Constable. If you and Constable Springfoot would supply me with a report, ASAP, I will speak to Mr…?’ he looked enquiringly at Alan.
'Newman, Sir. Alan Newman.' Alan reflected that he had slipped into the subservience of his generation. Respect for authority, the rule of law and the inevitable feeling that he had obviously done something wrong. A form of 'original sin' that afflicted most people born in the nineteen fifties.
'Right Mr Newman. Is this true?'
'Yes Sir. I am afraid it is.'
'I have little idea what happened, except that you are involved in a possible breach of the peace.' He overtly subjected Alan to a visual professional appraisal.
'You don't appear dangerous to me, so if you will take a seat in that room behind you, I will interview you shortly. Of course Mr Newman, you won't attempt to escape?'
Alan thought this was a rhetorical question and so offered no reply. This was much to the chagrin of the Sergeant who repeated his demand in staccato form. 'You - will - not - try - to - escape. Will you, Sir?'
Suppressing a desire to giggle, Alan adapted a severe expression and fixed the Sergeant with an old fashioned look.
'No Sir, I will not attempt to escape.'
'Good Mr Newman, please take that seat where I can see you.' He pointed to the adjoining interview room and theatrically effected a split second grin.
Alan sat at a formica topped table watching the comings and goings around the custody desk, the Sergeant popped his head in the door once, to state that, 'he was still there then.' After half an hour he returned clutching a thin brief of A4 papers and took a seat opposite ,flicking the door expertly to, with his foot.
'Well Mr Newman, it seems you gave caused quite a stir. After your,' he paused and raised his eyebrows at Alan, 'removal, - the crowd became a little restless and for a short time started chanting, "Europe, Europe". I am pleased to say that has finished and calm has returned. I am satisfied that you are not a political agitator and simply wanted to represent an opposite view.' He sighed deeply, 'indeed a view that I have some sympathy with. But you have to understand Mr Newman, that presenting an opposite view to the many protests that occur in Greenshore can incite trouble. They are not interested in your view. They are speaking to themselves - in an echo chamber, if you like. Indeed there are some officers here that would have issued you with a caution for 'breach of the peace', or a warning if you like, which if you had of refused could have led to your arrest. A caution is not a conviction but it could be used as evidence of bad character if you were to go to court for another crime. So in a way it is a semi-official admission of guilt. I understand you may find this controversial, and so might I, but we all need to be careful don't we Mr Newman? Do you understand me? Will you give me your assurance you won't be discovered agitating in my manor again?'
He grinned and his blue eyes sparkled, 'but please, Mr Newman, please realise this might have ended differently.'
'I give you my word Sergeant, but more so, I thank you for an explanation and for your understanding. When I left home a few hours ago I would never have imagined that I would be sitting in a police station, on the verge of incurring a police record.'
The policeman stood up and offered his hand, which Alan took, and shook meaningfully. 'Straight home Mr Newman. Let me show you out.'
On the steps outside, Alan paused and absorbed the enormity of his evening. Young policemen had saved him from being torn limb from limb by a baying crowd and then, by the skin of his teeth, he had escaped a Kafkaesque nightmare, whereby he became criminalised without having committed a crime. The dying embers of the day cast a diffuse light across the city, a sign for prospective revellers to begin weekend celebrations, a sign for Alan to go home. At the bus stop a No. 6 obligingly arrived immediately. 'Uptop', he was able to sit in his favourite seat at the front and view the world from a different perspective, watching people who didn't know they were being watched. With time to think, Alan decided not to tell Jane about his adventure, she never understood his compulsions and by the end of any conversation neither would he. As he walked the last 200 yards home, the allure of a cup of Yorkshire Tea was foremost in his mind and maybe a crumpet, if there were any left.
A cacophony of phones greeted him as he walked through the front door, his mobile, Jane's mobile and the house phone.
'I'm back, your phones ringing darling. Jane are you there? Can you hear me?'
The ring tones had all switched to answerphone so Alan ignored them and headed towards the bedroom, expecting to find Jane lying in bed, reading. She was in bed, but unusually lying completely under the covers.
'Hi you. Well that was interesting. Just what you'd expect really, every speaker railing against Brexit.'
Muffled from the depths of the duvet came the subdued reply, 'Not every speaker.'
‘Well, every one I heard.' Jane emerged from under the duvet looking strangely agitated.
Two of the phones began ringing again. 'Your phone's ringing again, it was ringing when I came in. Shall I find it for you?'
In a strange voice, reminiscent of the girl in The Exorcist, Jane replied, 'It's been ringing non stop for the past hour, so has yours and so has the house phone.'
Alan knew something was amiss, but for the life of him, he could not make the link between the strange voice and all the phones ringing. Deep inside he had an unpleasant and instinctive feeling he had erred. He quickly checked for any unsolicited sexual adventures that could possibly have come to light - pointless, there weren't any. He wasn't bankrupt - yet. He hadn't crashed a car.
Inanely he found himself asking, 'are you ok, anything the matter?'
'Anything the matter! Anything the matter! My partner appears on the news for two minutes spouting political claptrap, in front of my entire family and friends the world over. And you ask me is anything the matter! But no, that's not it. There's more to come. Suddenly two policemen arrive and arrest him and drive him off in a police car. And you ask me if anything is the matter. Oh no, just a normal day I tell them.'
The tone of voice had started calmly and at a low pitch. It was now far more aggressive with the words spat out from between clenched teeth and the pitch now very variable.
Alan quickly assimilated the situation and took the plunge. 'It is true I was apprehended…'
'I know! I know! I saw you, everyone saw you. Everyone in the world saw you.'
'But I wasn't arrested, I wasn't even warned. Just advised. The Desk Sergeant was very sympathetic.'
'But it's not you who needs sympathy. It's me. I need sympathy. Of all the men in the world, millions of them, I could of chosen any of them, but no, I chose you. And the highlight of your life, your own spot on the news, spouting, of all things, Brexit.'
'But if I was delivering a pro- European speech, you would be lauding me to the world. You're only embarrassed because you don't agree with the subject matter. Remember, I am majority.'
'Not in my world your not.'
He left the sophism unanswered. Against a background of ringing phones and texts, Alan told Jane the full story and soon they were both crying, Alan with laughter and Jane with frustration. He regained his composure and went downstairs to make tea.
Together they watched a loop of the days news, it came across as a more expansive event than Alan had realised. If the Desk Sergeant had seen the news there was little doubt a charge of breaching the peace would have followed, he certainly came across as a political agitator. Added to that, the reporter definitely implied a degree of professionalism. 'This was obviously a well executed coup, the speech was well constructed and appeared to be pre-written. Entrance to the restricted area should only have been possible after official documents had been checked by a private security company. The local police have interviewed a man in connection with the event and are satisfied that no breach of the peace was intended.'
'That verbal comment is a recent overlay,' observed Jane. 'I think we should turn all the lights off and go to bed. How will I face people tomorrow? It's all so embarrassing.'
'I hope the Desk Sergeant isn't in any trouble. He was very reasonable. Who would imagine this could be an event.'
Alan turned on his side and nestled up behind Jane in supplication, pleading forgiveness.