111. 1471


Photo by Marco Chilese on Unsplash

By the time the police arrived, Mrs Jones was sat on a low garden wall, next to what was left of her car. A couple of kids on bmx bikes were watching from a short distance away. The man who saw it all happen was sat in his car still talking into the handset. 

That beautiful red union jack mini was a write-off. Crumpled against a concrete lamp post, a perfect arc of skid marks visible in the road. People drove slowly past, phones ready, craning their necks to see if there was any blood.

As she was being breathalysed, a teenage girl briskly walked up, held out her phone at arms length, took a photo, then ran off. Her friend followed, shouting, “Was that Mrs Jones? Was it? Wait for me!” 

Still gently sobbing, Mrs Jones was grateful for the quiet routine of the police station. She listened patiently whilst the Police Constable spoke to the Custody Sergeant. Fortunately, he was one of those rare officers still working in a public-facing role in his fifties. Mrs Jones was relying on his age and experience for his empathy of her situation.

“Arrested for dangerous driving. She said she saw a mouse in the car and panicked. Drove through a red light and into a lamp post. Breathalyzer negative. No injuries. Car towed. Scene clear. CCTV requested,” said the PC, closing her pocket notebook.

The PC then lightly touched Mrs Jones on the arm and said, “My Sarge will look after you now. Don’t worry. It’ll get sorted out.”

“The Duty Solicitor has just gone into an interview, so it will be about an hour. I’m going to have to put you into a cell for a bit,” said the Custody Sergeant.

“Um. Ok. Oh, I need some things from my bag though,” she said.

“What sort of things?” asked the Custody Sergeant. He’d heard it all before.

“Um.” This was no time to be coy.  “I’m going through the change and I’m flooding, so I need a few sanitary towels. I need to take my pills in an hour and I have to eat a biscuit soon because stress makes me hypoglycemic and I can’t take tablets on an empty stomach or I’ll vomit.”

The Custody Sergeant studied her face for a moment. He remembered how it was for his missus a few years back. How the bleeding got so heavy that she couldn’t leave the house some days. When she sneezed, it looked like a crime scene.

“What pills do you need?” he asked.

“I’m due to take two ibuprofen, two paracetamol and codeine and two tranexamic acid in an hour,” she replied.

“I just need to make a quick call to the Doctor.” he said.

A few minutes later, he handed her a clear plastic evidence bag containing four sanitary towels, six tablets, plus the remains of a packet of hobnobs from her handbag.

After an hour in the cell, a different police officer brought her a cup of tea. “Your solicitor won’t be long now,” he said.

“Oh it’s ok. I don’t want to be a nuisance. I know you’re busy,” she replied.

The police officer turned to leave, then paused, “You don’t remember me do you? I was in your class at Hill High School and in the army cadets with your Davey. How is he these days?”

“Oh, I’m sorry love, my Davey passed away two years ago. He had a few problems with heroin and ended up homeless,” she said. Mrs Jones was used to this, having to offer comfort to those who only just found out.

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. I really am. We were good friends for a bit, me and Davey. We got up to all sorts, like teenagers do. I joined the army straight from school and we lost touch. I remember he was well into his music and motorbikes. I did 12 years and then joined the police,” he replied.

Mrs Jones already knew this.  

A couple of hours later, she had been interviewed, charged, bailed, and was home in time for Emmerdale. She surprised herself at how little shame she felt.

The next day, Mrs Jones was walking through town and saw Fred, one of the homeless guys she often chatted to, sat on a bench near the fountain in Town Hall Square. His worldly possessions were neatly packed into a rucksack on the ground. He was watching the pigeons scratting around for bits of discarded food, as he absentmindedly picked at the edges of a paper coffee cup.

“Hi Fred.” She said, cheerfully.  No matter how many problems she had, they paled into insignificance with what was going on in his life. “You’ll never guess what happened to me yesterday?” she said.

“No, what?” said Fred.

“I got arrested for dangerous driving.”

He sat up straighter. “Are you ok? Was anyone hurt?” he said quickly.

“No, I’m getting a bit of a bruise and my neck’s a bit stiff though.” She drew a diagonal line from neck to waist to show where the bruise was.

She stuffed her hands into her pockets, then said hesitantly, “I saw him though. I talked to him. He remembers Davey from before….” Her voice trailed off, then almost immediately she composed herself.

“He’s on afternoons all week. You still want to do it?” She asked.

“Yep. I’ve made up my mind. I can’t spend another winter outside. He’s as good as anyone, and he deserves it. Those who think they haven’t done anything wrong when they have, deserve it more,” said Fred.

They held each other’s gaze for a second longer than they usually did.

“His collar number is 1471” she said. “They never even searched me, probably cos I’m a doddery old woman. They even put it in a bag for me. It’s in the mattress, in the seam at the top. Cell number two.”

“Well, then,” said Fred. “Consider it done. For Davey.”

“Well then, yourself. Take care,” said Mrs Jones. “Oh, I got you these.” She pulled out a new packet of cigarettes and a lighter from her coat pocket and offered them to him.

“Thank you. That’s really kind. God bless. See you, Mrs Jones,” he said, as she turned away, her hand raised in an it’s nothing/don’t worry about it/goodbye gesture.

Two months later, Mrs Jones and Fred are sat at a table in the visitor’s room at the local prison. “This is nice, isn’t it?” said Mrs Jones, “to be out of the cold.”

Fred’s cheeks have plumped out and his limp is less pronounced than before. Even though he’s just about to officially start a life sentence, his spirits have lifted. 

“Three meals a day, a room to myself with a telly, no-one kicking or pissing on me while I’m trying to sleep, hot showers, proper toilets, books, people to talk to. I might even get some qualifications. This is luxury. If I’d have known what getting lifed off was going to be like, I’d have done it years ago.”

She smiled. They both got what they wanted.

The one who gave her son his first cigarette. His first can of beer. His first joint. His first ecstasy tablet. His first wrap of speed. His first shoplifting spree. His first joyride. His first fist fight. The one who started it all. He was gone now. 

Killing a police officer meant that Fred was given a longer sentence, but the tariff didn’t matter. It would be a life sentence. Years of living on the streets had taken its toll on his body. Fred would die in here, but it would be in the warm with a full belly surrounded by people who were paid to care. He wouldn’t be alone.

“They put me in cell number one at first, so I puked on the floor, and they moved me. I think after the sentence next week, I’m getting transferred to a prison up north,” said Fred. “Will you still come and visit me?”

“Course I will, love,” she said, having absolutely no intention of ever seeing him again.


Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

25. Bus Stop Story

pexels-photo-303327.jpegMan wearing a strange outfit of combat trousers, cheap steel toecapped boots, not-in-fashion t shirt, carrying a black bin bag, at my town bus stop “Do you know if there’s a bus due to xxxxx aka some suburb of some town in the north of England? I’ve been waiting here ages.” He looked a bit like when wizards wear muggle clothes and get it a bit wrong.

Me “It’s due in about two minutes.”

Man. “Everything’s changed round here. I’ve just come out of the big house. They don’t even sell baccy in twelve-and-a-half-gramme packs any more.”

Me. “I know. I sometimes used to buy some for that homeless guy outside Tescos. You didn’t have any fivers and tenners stashed away did you before you went in? And pound coins? They’ve all changed.”

He chuckles.

“Did you do much reading in there then?” I enquire.

Man. “I did actually. And cos I don’t smoke weed my tests came back negative so I could get on a cooking course. I’ve got an NVQ.”

Me. “That’s good. Got any work lined up?”

Man. “Nah. I’m kind of unemployable. I’m just gonna spend time with my kids.”

Someone sticks their hand out for the bus.

“Well. Good luck to you mate.” I say.

“Thanks.” He replies and I put my earbuds back in and sit next to an old lady on the bus.

19. A Letter to My Younger Self

I watched Amanda de Cadenet’s internet TV show series, ‘The Conversation’ a few years ago, and her advice to her 14-year-old self was to “keep her knickers on a bit longer.”

Like the song, mine will be too few to mention.

I will love. I will be loved. I will be in love with someone at the same time that they are in love with me. This will happen more than once. I will love someone who does not love me back and that will be agony. I will have my heart smashed a few times. Twice by the same person and I will still consider going back to them again.

I will definitely hurt people with things I’ve said. I will wish I could go back and do things differently. Sometimes, those words were bad timing and said out of jealousy, fear, anger, sleep deprivation, hunger, pain, lack of caffeine or nicotine withdrawal. Like me, those people might still be haunted by how those words made them feel, but not recall a single thing about the person who said them.

I will not report my assault to the police. I will choose not to go to the sentencing of my burglar. I will want to be able to potentially walk past him in the street, not recognise him, so not be reminded of what he did to me, and all those nights of sleep I never had.

I will be brave to leave, but cowardly not to give a proper explanation of why.

I sincerely hope that I will not be “the one who got away.” If I was, I will not want them to tell me.

I will win easily. I will lose badly. I will not try. I will wish I tried harder.

I will cry and laugh. A lot.

People will tell me that the best sex is with someone you love and who loves you, or that there’s no place like home, but sometimes I will want have to find out for myself. See the world with my own eyes. Listen more. Be curious and open.

Dita Von Teese:
“You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s
still going to be somebody who hates peaches.”

My weight and what I look like will always be irrelevant.  There! I have saved myself a few years of worry.  The world’s perception of me is will not be how I see myself. Comparing my day to day life with other people’s edited hightlight reel on social media will not be healthy. It will always be conflicted in my own head.

Enjoying my own company will be my favourite thing to do. I will be told by many people that I am a brilliant friend, annoying, generous, kind, fun, honest, open, compassionate, perceptive, with incredible insight and perspective but be weird enough for people to be cautious and intimidated the crazy bitch. Not everyone will like me and that’s ok.

No-one will ever know what other people are going through. It will take me a long time to realise, identify, accept, and work through my personal mental health and issues of anxiety and depression. When that cloud melts, and my thoughts become free, I will be more creative and find myself with an abundance of time to think about other things. The flip-side is that more of my life will now be behind me than in front.

“When my head clears, I will have more time.”

I will never blame my parents: they were young and did the best they could at the time with what they had. Peri-menopause hormones will give me the experience of being  a 14-year-old girl all over again, yet that time round, I will be able to see around the corners of decisions I might make. I can change the ending if I know the consequences in advance.

If I could name three things that I would do differently, they would be these.

  1. Not to take up smoking. Not because it is bad for me, but because it is expensive, smelly, really hard to give up, and my circle of friends will become mostly those who smoke.
  2. To get a job and save money for a long-term plan. (travelling, car, house deposit for security) commonly known by women as a ‘Fuck-off Fund” or “Running Away Money.” Spending money as I get it, or that I don’t have, will give me fewer life choices. Debt will cripple me with worries and stop me doing things.
  3. To cultivate a transferable skill that I am good at, to open up my opportunities, so I can possibly live abroad. Get fluent in a language, learn an instrument, how to cut hair, to drive or play sport.

Sometimes I will want to dip my toe in and sometimes I will jump right in. It’s my life. I cannot tell my younger self how my life turns out, because if I had the chance to live it again, circumstances would be very different.