Ah, the British Bobby on the beat – a symbol of all that is reassuring about England. Calm, cheerful and approachable – just like the faces the Gnome saw on this poster in London. Look at them – the perfect examples of modern law enforcement as our political leaders would have us see them. The distant echo of ‘Dixon of Dock Green’ lives on in their multicultural faces.
Crossing the road near the Houses of Parliament yesterday, the Gnome witnessed a scene he felt was more in tune with the reality of crime in the modern capital city. An unmarked police car – its temporary blue light strobing upon the roof, the siren’s banshee-like wailing rending the genteel air of the House of Commons lawn – hurtled through the early evening traffic towards him.
Trying to take the turn onto Victoria Embankment, it was forced to screech to a near stop as it came up behind a post office delivery van, serenely making its way towards a rendezvous with a post box.
Inside the car, the undercover detective was the personification of urban grit. Wearing a stained football shirt, chin sprouting a carefully cultivated growth of stubble, he had a wild-eyed look of anger. A look one normally only associates with a journalist whose expenses have been questioned.
Half leaning out of the window, he suggested in no uncertain terms that it might be in everyone’s best interests if Postman Pat pulled over to let him past. When this advice was not acted on with any particular show of haste, it was followed up by an expletive-filled torrent suggesting the recalcitrant driver lacked not only 20/20 vision, driving skills and a full set of intellectual faculties, but was quite possibly of illegitimate birth.
What capped the scene was the lighted cigarette the detective had in hand throughout the exchange. Sporting a long line of ash, precariously balanced and which somehow managed to defy both gravitational and centrifugal forces, it completed an image of undercover coppery the Gnome will not lightly forget.
If by chance you are reading this and recognise yourself as that police driver, then the Gnome salutes you. You are upholding the equally British law enforcement tradition of the snarling copper, racing to a date with destiny against the forces of injustice. DCI Regan would be proud of you… ‘Ave it!