Tuesday 13th March. Mid-March in Cumbria.
Freezing outside but a sweatbox in the glass-fronted “Community Room” at Penrith Fire Station, high above Kemplay Bank roundabout.
Welcome to a PFI-funded greenhouse complete with a wobbly Press Table. Tepid coffee but distant views of the far-off Keswick peaks capped in snow.
Cumbria’s police & crime commissioner is not long back from the Swiss slopes himself.
Busted his knee doing a 97mph “loop-the-loop” on a kamikaze black run.
Luckily, his Union Jack parachute opened just in time and as “Quick Draw” went over the edge, he drifted down to earth like the start of The Spy Who Loved Me.
I imagine Peter spent a week laid up in the resort cocktail bar. Resting a swollen, purple knee on a massive oak table.
The panoramic picture window. Strumming a Flamenco guitar. Knocking back Hennessey brandy mixed with ’72 Krug Champagne.
HARE WITH A SORE BED
Peter’s back home in Cumbria now where the Daffs are starting to burst, but he is unable to do his daily 10-mile run, and it has left him like a “bear with a sore head.”
Otherwise, he’s fighting fit in a pair of funky new glasses.
Those thick, black framed, “preppy” style specs that are all the rage at the mo, but in certain institutions in the 1970s, would have guaranteed a head down the bogs.
(At my skool anyway.)
Quick Draw carries off his new specs with customary coolness but has stuffed up any last shred of ‘Army Colonel’ image.
He now resembles a mature student studying for a City & Guilds in Humanities.
And for some reason, I can’t get Penfold from Dangermouse out of my head.
WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE
Quick Draw tells the cross-party police and crime panel that one of his biggest worries is “Mate Crime”.
This is not your friends over-greasing your skis or shaving off your eyebrows, but relatives, friends and carers DOING frail elderly people out of money.
“Should we go to the cash till again Nana?”
My first act as Crime Commissioner would be to re-open Queen Mary’s Tower at Carlisle Castle as a new institution, re-commission the public stocks at Orton and disable all Internet cabinets in the county.
Humiliate the bar stewards in full view of Market Square. It’s the only lingo some of these scroats understand.
IF I WERE A RICH
MAN WOMAN PERSON
Panel member Linda Vance has concerns about elder abuse: “Fish sellers selling fish on the doorstep…fiddlers on the roof.”
Panel chairman Steve Bowditch (Lab, Carlisle) asks what fiddlers on the roof means.
“When someone says I’ll mend your roof and charges you £3,000 for one slate,” Linda explains.
ROOM 101, PART 84
The unfairly maligned non-emergency 101 telephone service (a hotline to the desk Rozzers) has previously been “awful,” admits Peter, but is now “moderately okay”.
The average waiting time? A hellish four to six minutes.
(Jesus wept, what happened to the old British ability to queue?)
The 101 is about to get even more super-dooper: thanks to an £8 million splurge (over 10 years) on some highly-sophisticated new kit from Saab.
The company will install a spanking new “command and control” centre, which my imagination tells me will resemble the never-ending cockpit on Airplane.
Quick Draw confesses that the only time he has ever contacted 101 is when he put petrol into the diesel car and needed recovery.
Cumbria Police: the AA for crime commissioners…shocker
Carlisle Tory John Mallinson – a rhino in braces – tells the meeting that the problem these days is that if we’re waiting four minutes on the phone we huff and puff like we’ve been waiting half an hour.
Which I can identify with. Because this meeting has lasted two hours but feels five times longer.
With a supportive arch of his moustache, Penrith Tory John Lynch concurs.
John Lynch’s tash is up there with the best in local politics.
Like balancing a grey squirrel’s tail on his top lip.
Second only to Eden Lib Demmer, Mark Rudhall, who has cultivated a “Wyatt Earp” epic.
Says John: “Technology has made us all very impatient…even if we have to wait one minute. We’re used to instant gratification.”
He rapidly taps the committee table to symbolise clicking a mouse.
Vivian Stafford, the chief executive of the crime commissioner’s office, talks about some work being done to combat “abusive adolescents in the home”.
Wowee. It’s a good job they didn’t have this kind of legislation around in the early 80s.
My sister would still be doing 20 to 10 in the Pen.
Vivian informs the room that domestic abuse is not just about men and women, but male on male, female on female.
“We don’t know what we don’t know,” she says.
IT’S GRIM DOWN SOUTH
Pete McSweeney, the hang-dog faced, Carnforth-based Lib Demmer, always manages to look terminally bored at meetings of the police and crime panel.
He sits with his elbow on the table and a fist stuck in his cheek. Rarely smiles.
At a stab, I’d guess Peter originally hails from the Manchester way by the cut of his vowels.
“I represent residents down in the south of the county and we feel as though we perhaps don’t get the attention that the northern end of the county does,” says Peter.
He has a grumble about inviting Quick Draw to speak at parish councils.
“A meeting were set up for the 30th March but were cancelled three days beforehand. Mr McCall had a more important engagement in London.”
“I asked the office to give me some alternative dates and I’m still waiting,” he says. “It’s as though at the south end of the county, we’re out of sight, out of mind.”
Peter reassures him: “Please do not think there’s any kind of sleight on the South Lakes.”
They plan to arrange some meetings.
FIVE IS THE MAGIC NUMBER
Barrow sends Kevin Hamilton (Lab, Risedale) to these meetings. I like Kevin. He is Unashamedly Barrovian. Old jumper. Big glasses. Kinda like a Frank Cassidy stunt double.
Kevin talks unguardedly of “Owsing Arsesociations” and Barrovians being “Infidels or whatever”.
It’s a twisted ramble that I didn’t quite hear properly so my notes are not entirely reliable.
He also tells the panel: “I was absolutely astounded to hear the legal age for drinking,” and then encourages them to have a guess.
“18,” says someone. “15?” says another.
“Five!” Kev reveals with astonishment written across his face.
“Five years old. As long as it’s in the ‘ouse,” he says.
John Lynch (he of the handlebar mouey) says: “The Licensing Act says that someone between 16 and 18 could have beer, lager, or cider, with a meal in a restaurant.
“To drink alcohol in a bar you used to have be 18.”
Someone in the room consults Google.
Apparently, it is NOT illegal to give alcohol to a child over the age of five at home or on other private premises.