Tag Archives: police

Mad inventor John Ward, a very stupid copper and the search for hidden guns

A week ago, I posted a blog was about mad inventor and Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards designer John Ward’s interest in guns. 

(John Ward would like it pointed out he is not actually mad, but I cling to it as an attractive clickbait adjective.)

In last week’s blog, John W mentioned he used to keep guns and ammunition in his home. He had an FAC (a Fire Arms Certificate) and occasionally a policeman would come round to check the guns were being securely locked-up. 

But there is more to this story, as John Ward explains here:


As part of the renewal process for an FAC, you had a visit from a member of the local police force, our own local ‘beat constable’, who checked the security boxes – one for the weapons and one for the ammunition.

In over twenty plus years in my case, the system worked well and each time I passed the requirements with ‘flying colours’ and no untoward comments.

Then it was decided that the local Crime Prevention Officer (CPO) should undertake this task.

However our CPO left a lot to be desired.

A police inspector friend whispered in my ear that, if you were a clueless copper and capable of just about screwing anything up, you were ‘promoted’ to the rank of CPO to keep you out the way – You just did basic stuff like going round and telling shopkeepers how to lock their front doors etc.

It seems our CPO was a bumbling idiot but not far off his pension so, out of kindness, he had been ‘promoted’ to end his days in this most prestigious position for, as my inspector chum pointed out, “There is no way he would ever get up to the rank sergeant – no way….no way…”

Anyway, PC Bumbling rang our doorbell one teatime. I answered it to find him on the doorstep, with his clipboard.

I asked him if he had got a bus ticket inspector’s job – like Blakey, the character in ITV’s sitcom On The Buses.

I could tell he was not amused.

He told me he had come to check my security as my FAC was soon coming up for renewal.

I pointed out that the normal, recognised procedure was a phone call first to arrange an appointment to visit.

I also pointed out that I was just going to sit down to have my din-dins that the lady of the house had cooked, so he could lick the end of his pencil and put a date down agreeable to us both to come back to do his visit.

He hummed. He aahed. And then the call came: “Dinner on the table!”

So I shut the door on him.

He did come back on a designated, agreed date and, being the complete prat he was, then asked me for my name and address and asked had it changed since my last FAC was issued.

Bearing in mind he knew my name and that he was standing in the very address as printed on the said FAC, I asked him: “What do you think?”

Next was: “Where do you keep these listed firearms? They must be in a prescribed steel box… blah..blah” and so on.

I replied that they were in a box but well hidden.

He asked where and I opened the door to our under stairs.

I told him: “In there, in the steel box.”

He looked inside, shone a torch and said he could not see anything that looked like a steel box.

I said: “Just think… If you were a burglar and looked in and thought the same, you would look elsewhere… Yes?”

I pointed out that the steel box was hidden behind a large box of Lego toy bricks that the kids played with.

I said there had been no reported cases, as far as I was aware, of anybody locally housebreaking and stealing boxes of kids’ Lego bricks but he could correct me on that.

He didn’t… I pulled the ‘decoy’ box away.

He asked me to unlock the steel box so he could see my weapons, to check their serial numbers.

He then asked what the thickness of the steel box was as he – looking at his crib sheet – said it must be 10-gauge (a metal thickness measurement) to which I said it was 6-gauge.

His eyes lit up and he said: “This is illegal!!!!! – It’s got to be 10-gauge!’

I then explained to him that the gauging of metal is on a sliding scale; the higher the number, the thinner the metal. So my 6-gauge was thicker – much like a CPO – than actually required by law… Plus others before him were more than happy about it.

I pointed out that, by having the 6-gauge, it would take a ne’er-do-well longer to break into… plus it was screwed to the floor AND bolted to the wall as well.

“Where is the ammunition?”

“Upstairs in the attic, away away from the weapons.”

He followed me upstairs and the first thing he said was: “Aha! – There’s no lock on the attic door!”

To which I explained as best I could that, until I told him there was ammunition up there, in a steel box, safely hidden from view… putting a lock on the said attic door would infer that there was something in there of value.

The previous three inspections, with different personnel doing them, had all thought it a brilliant idea.

He then went for Gold: “Some burglars would straight away go to look in the attic (!?)”

I explained that the only way I could get up there myself was by using a ladder that I kept in the shed outside the house… Maybe there were ten foot tall housebreakers I was not aware of. But, unless he had a list of approved burglars that carried their own ladder with them on their ‘jobs’, I was less than convinced.

I said, short of having a flashing neon sign over the front door saying GUNS AND AMMO KEPT HERE to take the guesswork out of the situation, did he have any bright ideas – excluding the flashing sign that is – to add to the ‘security’ I already had?

Answer there came not.

He cleared off.

I got my FAC renewed.

I brought the matter up a while later with my inspector chum. He replied with a sigh: “He is a twat. It’s a safe bet there are trees in forests still standing that are not as thick as him.”

I agreed with him… not wishing to cause trouble you understand…


NOTE TO BURGLARS AND POLICEMEN: John Ward no longer keeps guns or ammunition in his house, loft or shed.

A John Ward designed toilet accessory with gun, silencer and loo roll

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Filed under Eccentrics, guns, Humor, Humour, Police

After the publication of yesterday’s blog, a sudden visit from a policeman…

John Ward got bothered, bewildered and gob-smacked by the response to his judicious thoughts…

Yesterday’s blog was largely inventor John Ward’s column for last week’s Spalding Guardian newspaper.

It was about his absurdly comic experience of jury service and the chaotic randomness of the alleged English ‘justice’ system.

Yesterday evening, I got this email from John Ward


A policeman appeared here in his nice shiny police car late this afternoon to ask if I would autograph the page with my column – in his wife’s copy of the Spalding Guardian. 

He told me she reads it every week but she is going to raffle this particular one off at a summer fayre in June (“all being well, virus permitting”) and “it will be worth more autographed”. 

I like her confidence!

The irony being – considering this week’s topic – that she sent her hubby who is a PC.

He was a nice chap.

He told me they will let me know when it’s happening nearer the time – and he added that his wife does a nice range of home baked cakes….

Could this be seen as bribery?  

The things I would do for a walnut cake…

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Three of the reasons why I don’t trust the police in London (or elsewhere)…

I once had a long chat with the head of a prestige City of London solicitors who acted as the private solicitors for the then British Prime Minister. This guy told me he would never put a serving Metropolitan Police officer on the stand to give evidence in court without someone else who could give corroborating evidence – because he could not be certain the police officer would be telling truth.

I also once knew and chatted with a guy who ran a very high profile UK private detective agency based in London. He employed people from various sources including ex-SAS men but he told me he did not and would not employ ex-policemen because they were not necessarily honest or trustworthy.

A successful South London criminal once told me that dealing with the police is like going to a restaurant – you always have to pay The Bill.

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What it takes to bribe a police officer

British hospitality (Photo by Morgan Sessions via UnSplash)

A police officer came round to my home for a chat yesterday. These things happen.

A very nice young man, bright-eyed and amiable.

At a random point, I asked him if he wanted a cup of tea, but then I suddenly thought and said: 

“Oh! I suppose maybe you can’t. That would count as attempting to bribe a police officer…”

He said no, he didn’t want a cup of tea but… “No, offering a cup of tea would not really be bribery…

There was a slight pause.

“…but offering me a bar of chocolate might be.”

“Really?” I replied, surprised. “Why?”

Potential police bribery (Photo by Marqquin via UnSplash)

“Well,” the nice young police officer said, “I think that would count as a gift, but a cup of tea would be just…” 

He paused, not quite sure what the next words should be.

“…being British?” I suggested.

He smiled and shrugged.

Thinking about it afterwards, maybe I should have suggested: “…taking a drink.”

Rather than smiling, he might have laughed.

As I said in yesterday’s blog, English can sometimes – sometimes – be a subtle language.

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Someone in the police is telling lies in the shocking PC Oliver Banfield case

PC Oliver Banfield leaves court (Photo by Sally Homer)

I have posted a couple of blogs (HERE and HERE) about police officer Oliver Banfield’s unprovoked night time attack and violent assault on a woman and how he escaped a prison sentence. Instead of prison, he was given a 14-week night curfew – in effect, less than a slap on the wrist in the current national COVID lockdown.

Yesterday morning, I was talking to my eternally un-named friend.

“He was lucky,” she said, “that he could wear a mask leaving court”. She was shocked that he got away with it. “Crazy lack of action,” she said. “Surely he will be sacked?”

“He will,” I suggested, “presumably resign before being sacked. And I guess keep any pension contributions etc etc. Normally they resign before they get investigated for misconduct then they don’t get prosecuted so have an unblemished record while they were serving, before they resigned. They were not sacked. He was unlucky the police were pressurised into taking him to court first – although they tried their very best not to prosecute him.”

Frames from CCTV video of attack by PC Oliver Banfield (6ft 2in tall) on the woman (5ft 2in tall)

After the court sentencing, a police spokesman said PC Oliver Banfield would still face “a misconduct hearing in due course”.

Last night, uber-Fringegoer Sandra Smith told me she had sent my first (not my second) blog to the Chief Constable of the West Midlands police force ‘Dave’ Thompson (for whom PC Oliver Banfield worked) to see the reaction. She got this reply:

“I have read the piece thank you… There are a number of tweets that I have been copied in concerning this. For reason relating to police conduct procedures I cannot comment.”

Deputy Chief Constable Vanessa Jardine: “had to wait”

In an article this morning, the Daily Mirror quotes Deputy Chief Constable Vanessa Jardine of West Midlands Police, as saying:

“The misconduct process had had to wait until after criminal and court processes concluded, because of police regulations.”

The police are telling direct porky pies.

Chief Constable Dave Thompson: “I cannot comment”

As I mentioned in my second blog – the one Chief Constable ‘Dave’ Thompson did not read… on 17th February, in a phone call and follow-up email to Sally Homer, the victim’s aunt, the police’s Professional Standards Dept confirmed that, because PC Banfield had (eventually) admitted that he was guilty, they did not have to wait until sentencing and their conduct review could begin immediately.

“…this matter is no longer Sub Judice as the officer pleaded guilty to assault… That now means we can continue with our conduct investigation which will include the review of the criminal case too”

That was on 17th February.

PC Oliver Banfield (Photo from C4 report)

One of these statements has to be a lie.

Either Deputy Chief Constable Vanessa Jardine is a liar and the misconduct hearing could have started on or before 17th February – over a month ago.

Or the police Professional Standards Department lied in a conversation and in writing in an email on 17th February.

Both cannot be true.

The Channel 4 report on PC Oliver Banfield’s attack (caught on CCTV) is online HERE.

PARTIALLY FOLLOWED UP IN MY NEXT BLOG HERE.

 

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Filed under Crime, Police, Sex, sexism

“If you are a woman who has been assaulted by a serving police officer…”

Sarah Everard (Photograph via Wikipedia)

Last week, the UK news was full of the shocking case of Sarah Everard’s killing. A serving Metropolitan Police officer has been arrested and charged with her abduction and murder. The abduction is thought to have happened on Clapham Common in London.

Below is a piece written by Sally Homer about a separate case and posted on her Facebook page.


This week, a police officer will be sentenced for an ‘assault by beating’. 

The assault happened in July 2020 as my niece (let’s call her Gemma) walked home in the dark at 1am. The officer (let’s call him PC Danfell) pleaded guilty at Leamington Magistrates Court in January 2021 and his sentencing hearing will take place in Leicester Magistrates’ Court this week.

So that is the news.  

Except it probably won’t be the news because – for PC Danfell’s convenience – the hearing will take place in the East Midlands, outside local media scrutiny of where he lives and was charged (Warwickshire) and where he works (West Midlands).

Since the assault – an unprovoked, verbal, and brutal physical attack by a stranger (who turned out to be an off duty-policeman) – Gemma has experienced many instances where the criminal justice system is stacked in favour of the police rather than the victim.

The details of the assault and the subsequent effect on her life are not mine to share. That is Gemma’s story. But I can share the circumstances that have taught me this: if you are a woman who has been assaulted by a serving police officer, then be prepared to battle extremely hard to get justice.

I am a theatre/comedy publicist, so I have had plenty of time due to the pandemic to navigate complicated complaint procedures, to liaise with two police forces and the Crown Prosecution Service. I spent hours researching divergent police procedures when a suspect is a serving police officer. I have been a passionate advocate for Gemma. By focusing on the admin, I was able to better handle the sense of shock at the injustice of it all.   

I used a brilliant service provided by the Rights of Women organisation whereby I was able to talk to a criminal barrister for free for an hour.  

Such an odd situation: the victim requiring sophisticated legal advice.  

But, without their guidance, I don’t believe we would have secured a conviction.

The attack happened at 1am and Gemma reported it 7 hours later, at 8am. 

Without ever explicitly referring to this as her ‘mistake’ the investigating police force have implied that their poor response was in part because Gemma did not report the attack immediately.

Under covid restrictions, minimal face-to-face contact was the narrative from the police… Still, it took over 30 hours for an officer to take Gemma’s statement over the phone; it took a week until she was given a name of an officer who would be in charge of the investigation; and it took nine days for an officer to come and see her to sign her statement – despite several attempts by Gemma, myself, and her brother to get a proportionate response to the report of a serious crime.

Gemma supplied the police with two witnesses and, within a week of the assault, with the name, address and photograph of her assailant. 

The police had been independently sent 90 seconds of CCTV from a witness who reported the assault without any knowledge that the victim and the assailant were her near neighbours.

Police reassured Gemma that, because the suspect was a serving police officer employed by another force, the investigation would be carried out with extra care and vigilance. 

In practice, the opposite was true. 

They failed to secure crucial evidence and, even though the assault happened 10 metres from her front door and her assailant lives less than 30 metres away, it took a further 8 weeks for officers to conduct thorough house-to-house enquiries and interview PC Danfell.

When interviewed and allowed to watch the CCTV evidence, PC Danfell (6ft 2in) did not dispute the incident took place but created a back-story about how he was defending himself, as Gemma (5ft 2in and 8 stone) had, he said, assaulted him just before the CCTV caught the incident.   

A sergeant came to see us and explained that, since it was Gemma’s word against his, then PC Danfell would be ‘served with a caution’.   

We were incredulous. There was no scrutiny of his story and anyway, the CCTV clearly showed excessive force.

Emboldened by reading the Centre for Women’s Justice ‘super complaint’ about how police officers are allowed to abuse women with impunity, we insisted that they take the case to the Crown Prosecution Service and offered-up Gemma’s medical records as evidence. Gemma had sustained no cuts or broken bones but the effect on her mental well-being was severe.

The CPS’s response was not to charge due to lack of evidence. We got savvier. And appealed.

The CPS were finally committed to do some investigative work. 

Danfell’s narrative fell apart and he was finally charged at the end of last year, JUST within the 6-month statue for this offence.

We have faced barriers that are common to thousands of cases throughout the UK, most commonly associated with domestic abuse by police officers against their partners. 

Namely: difficulties in initial reporting, failures in investigation, improper responses to complaints/concerns, manipulation of police processes, accused using their police knowledge, status and powers and improper decisions on criminal charges.

If you are a victim, you are fighting on two fronts – the actual IN YA FACE violent misogyny of the assault itself and the systemic, drudging, hidden misogyny of the police and the criminal justice system.

I began writing this blog before Sarah Everard’s murder. I was going to wind it up with a neat quip about looking forward to the new series of the BBC TV series Line of Duty

But last night I watched the news hoping it wasn’t real, that Kate Fleming from Line of Duty would walk into shot on Clapham Common and we’d know justice would be done.  

Sadly, it isn’t like it is on television …


THERE IS A FOLLOW-UP BLOG HERE.

AND A CHANNEL 4 TELEVISION REPORT HERE.

Sally Homer adds: I am not connected with the Rights of Women organisation professionally or privately at all – But they provided a great service, so give them money if you have any to spare!

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Becky Fury on scam romance, a possible murder attempt and Moroccan police

JOHN: You told me you had recently come back from Morocco after an anti-holiday. What’s that?

BECKY: It’s based on an urban myth. There was a taxi driver from Notting Hill who was unhappy with his life driving a taxi, so he went on an anti-holiday. He went to Doncaster to work in a pig factory, wanking-off pigs for two weeks. And, when he came back, he absolutely loved working as a taxi driver. That’s the concept.

JOHN: You went to Morocco to wank-off pigs?

BECKY: No. I went on holiday with my friend…

JOHN: Female?

BECKY: Yes. I went to eat some nice Moroccan street food and pet some cats, because there are a lot of cats in Rabat. 

Becky Fury found cats backpacking in Rabat

JOHN: Is that a song? A Lot of Cats of Rabat?

BECKY: No, but the street cats of Rabat are plentiful because they killed all the dogs off.

JOHN: The cats did?

BECKY: No, the locals. They had a cull because they were trying to posh the place up; they couldn’t have crapping, rabid dogs running around the streets. And, now they’ve killed the dogs, it’s full of cats. Even if you go into a cafe, you have to clear the cats off your seats.

JOHN: So you had a stroke in Rabat.

BECKY: Several. But about a year ago I went to meet my friend’s new boyfriend. She wanted me to tell her he was absolutely amazing and that he was not involved in a romance scam. He was a Moroccan man she met on the internet and I thought: She’s attractive; she’s young; she’s got loads of money; surely this can’t be a romance scam? But that’s exactly what it was. Though I suppose all those things are a traditional element of real relationships anyway.

JOHN: Not in Doncaster…

BECKY: I’m sure they are in Doncaster…

JOHN: Anyway… About a year ago, you went out to Rabat with her and met her boyfriend.

BECKY: Yes. The guy was nice enough, but I spotted from the beginning that this wasn’t a traditional romance. What she’d got me there for was to tell her that, actually, it was great. But I was observing that maybe the relationship wasn’t quite as she had explained it to me.

When you’re closely involved with another person in a relationship, often it’s just that external eye that begins to show up the cracks and imperfections in the relationship.

JOHN: So you were dubious and told her…

BECKY: But she was obviously in love and didn’t want to hear that. So we went surfing.

JOHN: Because?

BECKY: He was a ‘surfing instructor’. I’m not that strong a swimmer and I had never surfed before in my life. I was on the surfboard and he said: “We’re just gonna go for a little ride,” so he jumped on the back and then suddenly I was in a riptide, which is a tide surfers use to pull themselves out to sea so they know where they are…

So I was in this riptide I had been told to avoid by my friend and I was being dragged out to sea and now the ‘surf instructor’ was nowhere to be seen.

So I had to manage to get myself out of the riptide and paddle back…

Basically, I managed to save my own life, got back to the beach and then my friend had a go at me. She said I had put her boyfriend in danger by going into the riptide.

About two days later, I woke up and realised it wasn’t me that had put myself into the riptide: it was the surf instructor who had been on the back of he surfboard. He had put me into the riptide…

Now, I don’t know if that was just to ‘teach me a lesson’ for my meddling or just to try and get rid of me cos I was interfering with his nefarious scheme… I have no idea.

Anyway, I spoke to my friend about it when we got back to Britain but she – obviously in love with him – didn’t want to hear it at all. So I didn’t hear from her for about six months after that: not after telling her that her boyfriend had maybe tried to murder me.

In those six months, she went back to Morocco three or four times, married him and he stole her money.

JOHN: How did he manage that?

BECKY: He was very charming and she was in love with him. She put it into his bank account so he could get a visa to leave the country and come with her on her globe-trotting adventures.

The only reason she married him was she wanted him to come surfing with her in Portugal and that was the only way she could get him out of Morocco.

JOHN: He could have surfed out…?

BECKY: No. People have tried that to get from Calais to the UK. It doesn’t work.

JOHN: So he took her money and did a runner. What did she do at this point?

BECKY: She and I made friends again and she asked me if I wanted to go back to Morocco with her.

JOHN: For why?

“So he took her money and did a runner. What did she do?”

BECKY: She wanted to go to the police station. I said I would go along with her because I wanted to see the conclusion of the story.

JOHN: Difficult to prove if she put the money into his bank account of her own volition…

BECKY: Yeah, but she had ‘lent’ it to him and this was all detailed in the text messages she had kept.

He had told my friend, who is an acupuncturist…

JOHN: Then maybe she should have been wiser about little pricks…

BECKY: She’s an expert now… He had basically told her: “Don’t come to Morocco because you are an acupuncturist and Moroccans are very religious and, if you go to the police, they will arrest you for witchcraft and cut off your hands.”

JOHN: So you went to Morocco anyway and went into the police station and…

BECKY: They were lovely. They did get out a knife… and we thought Are they going to cut off our hands?… But it was just to cut some fruit to give us while we were sitting there gossiping about this man.

They were absolutely the nicest police I have ever dealt with. In the UK, the police are quite judgmental and conservative. In Morocco, it’s the complete opposite. People who are rebels join the police because they’re secular. They are not religious.

If you are a sort-of rebellious character who doesn’t like the over-arcing hierarchy of Morocco, you join the police – because then you get to have some autonomy as citizens.

The police lady was absolutely lovely. She wasn’t wearing a hijab. Her hair was dyed, she had flowing locks and she loved us cos we were Western and she was very excited to talk to us. She shared stories with us about her awful Moroccan boyfriends and showed us pictures of them on her phone. 

The police station is not a normal tourist destination but it is absolutely one I would recommend if you want to find out what Morocco is really like.

JOHN: Did they go out and find the surfing boyfriend?

BECKY: No. But it became very exciting at that point. My friend arranged a double-cross. She messaged him and said she was in Morocco and they arranged to meet the next day.

She told the police and we flew out the night before and he was met by a policeman at the rendezvous.

JOHN: And the outcome was…

A prime example of lying seductively in the Saharan sand…

BECKY: It’s going to go to court. But my friend is not very interested in dealing with the court, because she’s unlikely to get her money back. I don’t think he has the money any more; I have seen pictures of him on his Facebook page, driving round the Sahara in a jeep and lying in the sand seductively.

JOHN: So what is she going to do?

BECKY: She has made a website to warn other women. It has pictures of him and his name.

JOHN: She will divorce him?

BECKY: I don’t think she will. That way, he can’t marry anyone else.

JOHN: Isn’t polygamy legal in Morocco?

BECKY: It is, but I think it’s very uncommon. very uncommon. There are financial restrictions and a husband must have written permission from his current wife before marrying a second wife.

JOHN: Is he still a surf instructor?

BECKY: Allegedly, but that’s actually how a lot of con artists pick up Western women.

JOHN: So, do you think if I go down to Bournemouth seafront and say I’m a surf instructor, I could pull a few aged widows?

BECKY: Yeah. Go on. What have you got to lose?

JOHN: My dignity.

BECKY: You have none.

JOHN: I am becoming strangely attracted to Doncaster as a holiday destination…

(Photograph by Ben Salter, via Wikipedia)

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Filed under Crime, Morocco, romance

Lynn Ruth Miller on why “Everyone hates the San Francisco police…”

Lynn Ruth – Hubba Hubba – I’ve Got Balls

Stand-up comedian and late-flowering burlesque performer Lynn Ruth Miller concludes her series of blogs about her return to play three weeks of gigs in the San Francisco area after four years based in the UK…


Last Friday, I performed at the Hubba Hubba Revue’s anniversary event. I sang I’ve Got Balls and Music, Music, Music and was carried off the stage by a gorilla. AND I got my fourth standing ovation.  All this praise and adulation just might go to my head.

After the show, I went out to dinner with Kari Jones who is an accomplished hula hoop-er and now she dances on roller skates while she hula-hoops. I can barely clap my hands without falling over; she is a physically coordinated genius.  

But I am beginning to realize that my very existence and persistence is the key to all this admiration I have been getting from audiences. The one thing I want to remind myself over and over is that I am a hustler and I work for every gig I get, but I am not an exceptional talent.  

I do not want to suddenly think I am hot stuff when I am only an old lady having more fun with life than I ever dreamed possible after my anxiety-fraught, miserably unhappy, first half of life.

On Saturday afternoon I had another date with Alan Kahn which was really lovely because he has been very kind and attentive to me since I have been here.  

He drove me into San Francisco where I hunted around for a Starbucks or Peets to sit in until it was time for my gig at The Setup comedy club in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco.  

Alan dropped me off at a Starbucks that had no place to sit so I asked a policeman if he knew of a café nearby.

“In the next block,” he said smiling happily at his partner and nodding to me.  

So off I went trudging down Market Street looking for a Peets that was not there.

So much for believing the San Francisco police.  

Finally, a young man in a cell phone shop drew me a diagram and sent me four blocks away to a lovely Peets where I could sit and ruminate about my set and take a bit of time to write some new material.

On the way there, I saw four police people on bicycles and I stopped to ask a young Asian police girl on a bike if this was a new thing since I could not recall seeing the police on bikes when I was here four years ago.  

She was a delightful young lady and assured me that, yes, they do ride their bikes mostly because it is easier for them to get into a troubled area and get out and not seem as threatening or intrusive as when they are in a vehicle with sirens blaring, double parked and blocking traffic.  

This young lady said she prefers a bicycle to being on her feet because, she explained: “They all hate us… You have to learn not to take it seriously… You should come to our station. We all just sit around laughing at the funny and abusive things people say to us. You have to have a sense of humor in this job.”

Well I certainly agree with her.

Everyone hates the San Francisco police because they shoot before they ask questions; they give citations when they are in the mood whether deserved or not; they are belligerent and angry even when you have not done anything wrong; and (like that first guy I met) they enjoy giving a pedestrian wrong information as a private joke.

Many of them are on drugs and alcohol and get off without sentencing because they are one of the boys.  

It is good know they laugh among themselves. I have never seen one smile.

I told this young lady who looked as innocent and sweet as a teenager that the London police do not carry guns and she looked shocked. She could not imagine patrolling a street unarmed.  

“They have Billy clubs in London,” I said to reassure her and off she pedaled to have a laugh-in at the local police station.

That was on Saturday.

On Sunday, it was my big art show.

After I left my home four years ago to fly cross the Atlantic Ocean and start a new life in the UK, Thad Gann salvaged 51 of my paintings. At that time, he said he was going to sell these paintings for me and make us both astronomical fortunes. But promises are only promises and dreams often have no substance at all.  

He had the best of intentions but did not even bother to price the paintings or display them. He did, however, make a lovely Facebook page called The Art of Lynn Ruth Miller.

Part of the reason he did nothing to sell the art was that he was involved in  moving from the East Bay to San Jose. This is a city that lacks the glamour of the Bay area. It is at the south end of Silicon Valley and the homes are small and crowded together in contrast to the sprawling ranch homes further north and in Los Angeles. The city is hot in the summer and cold in the winter without the fog or ocean breezes to keep the temperatures stable.

We planned to have a huge art sale there on Sunday to get rid of these 51 pieces of questionable art but, because the city itself is so far away from the central areas and because no-one there really knows me the way they do further north, I had very few hopes of selling anything at all.

And, indeed, all of two people show up – although each bought a painting.  

The rest of my 51 pictures will be donated to a rest home or children’s hospital to give the rooms a bit of color and to make me feel I have not painted in vain.

I do not paint for money. I paint to paint.

And now – back to London.

Painting by Lynn Ruth Miller … Photographed by Thad Gann

 

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UK comedy performer Matt Roper aka ‘Wilfredo’ in criminal court in New York

Matt Roper with his Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award

Matt Roper with his Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award

Yesterday, Malcolm Hardee Award winning performer Matt Roper (aka character act Wilfredo) was in court in New York City.

“Run me through how it happened,” I told him today. “It started about a month ago, didn’t it?”

“I was performing at The Slipper Room,” he said.

“You have a regular slot there?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he told me. “A couple of times a week; I host on a weekend. It’s a variety theatre – a burlesque joint as well. Often I don’t get offstage until 2.00am and then, to get up to 137th Street in Harlem where I’m living, it’s bit of a schlep at night: I have to catch two subway trains.

“I had been up since 7.00am the previous day and it was now 3.30am. I knew my train terminated at 96th Street and the carriage was more-or-less empty, so I thought I would just swing my legs across the seats, put my head against the window and get a little bit of shut-eye. so that’s what I did. When I woke up, two police officers were looking over me, saying: Get off the train please, sir!

“So I got off the train onto the platform. ID, they said. So I gave them my passport. Do you know it’s a crime what you’re doing? It’s outstretching. It’s a crime.

“I said: I’m so sorry. I didn’t know.

Matt did not know it was a crime

Matt did not know it was a crime amid the pools of whatever

“That was the annoying thing: I didn’t know. There are no signs saying it’s a crime. Feet on the seats we know is not cool, but these were just plastic seats, the carriage was empty and it was filthy because it was 3.30am in the morning – There were beer cans and pools of whatever. What was it Kenneth Williams said? I’m sick and tired of offending everybody. My crimes are nothing compared to Mussolini.

“I would have thought,” I said, “you would get off for being a foreigner and, by definition, ignorant.”

“They either wanted to make a bit of an example of me,” said Matt, “or there was some sort of incentive: I really don’t know. But they said: You’re going to have to come back to the station with us while we take your details and, as they said it, one of the officers was putting my hands behind my back and putting handcuffs on me. I just couldn’t believe it. I asked: Are you serious? – I was told: Yes, sir. They were quite sweet; they were charming. They took me back to the police station. I was fingerprinted and they photographed me, then put me in a cell for three or four hours. They locked me up and then released me. It was an interesting experience because I had never been arrested before – I’ve been all the way around the world without being arrested – so part of me was quite enjoying the experience but then, after the first hour passes and you’re still in a cell, locked up, the novelty wears off.”

“And, unusually,” I said, “you were not in a cell with prostitutes and gangsters?”

“No. which says a lot about Harlem these days. It was an empty cell and, if my crime was as bad as it gets at 4.00am in West Harlem, then I think its reputation is a little unjust.”

“Why,” I asked, “did they lock you up for three or four hours? What were they waiting for?”

Matt Roper last week, as Wilfredo (Photograph by Garry Platt)

Wilfredo did not know outstretching was illegal (Photograph by Garry Platt)

“I really don’t know,” said Matt. “When I researched it later that day… I spoke to you that day, I came back, had a sleep and then got up and Googled this ‘outstretching’ charge and it seems some people are just given a fine; one African guy was deported.”

“He was?” I asked. “Just for putting his feet on the seats in the subway?”

“I don’t know if he was an illegal or not,” said Matt.

“So,” I said, “there are police photos of you?”

“Well,” said Matt. “I wanted to get a copy of my photograph. They say it doesn’t exist, but I saw the form with my photograph on it. I said to them: Can I get a copy of this? Because I’d quite like it framed, really. They said: You can get it when you go to court.

“But, when I got to court, they said: No, no, we don’t have copies of that; you have to go up to the sixth floor. So I went up to the sixth floor and they said: No, no. Because we decided not to prosecute you, it doesn’t exist. But I don’t quite believe that.”

“Why did they say they were not going to prosecute you?” I asked.

“I think because they were having a busy day.”

“What was the court like?”

The doors of New York Criminal Court

“I was one of the few white people in there.”

“It was a proper high court. You go in through these huge doors and there’s the flag, there’s the eagle, there’s In God We Trust. all sorts of people making notes beside the judge. All these people on pews and all of them were on desk appearance tickets like me. They’d been speeding or busted with marijuana. They were mainly kids – mainly Latin-Americans and African-Americans. I was one of the few white people in there. I guess it shows the police go for a certain type of person.”

I said to Matt: “You playing comedy in a burlesque club is a bit like… Well, I think your father (comedian George Roper) was too young to do it, but like British comedians playing at The Windmill in London.”

“I think it’s exactly like that,” said Matt. “You know my dad was up in court with six striptease performers… You blogged about it…”

“Did I?” I asked.

“My dad was tried for obscenity in the 1960s…”

“Did I actually blog about this?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

“I really must read my own blogs,” I said.

“It would have been in December 2012,” said Matt. “In the 1940s and 1950s and 1960s, women were allowed to be nude on stage in England but, if they moved, it was considered obscene.”

“Were the girls dressed and your father was naked?”

“No.”

Wilfredo handed out roses to his last fans last night

Wilfredo in his now stolen costume

“Anyway,” I said, trying to change the subject away from this blog I had forgotten. “Your act got stolen in New York.”

“Yes, about three weeks after the arrest,” said Matt, “I was in a bar having a wonderful time, I put my bag down by my feet and it got stolen. I’m rather amused by the thought of whoever took it – hoping for a laptop or an iPhone – unzipping it and finding Wilfredo’s costume inside… The trousers were just… and the wig and the teeth and the shoes. They must be the most disappointed thieves. Though it was a pain in the arse because I had a gig a couple of nights later and Wilfredo is quite difficult to replace.”

“But you had a spare set of teeth?” I asked.

“Yeah. He’s all back to normal, though the hair is a little bit longer.”

“Did you go to a wig shop in New York?”

“Yeah. One of the burlesque dancers said she would cut the wig for me. And now he has been cast in a feature film which we’ll be shooting this winter.”

“Made by?” I asked.

Movies beckon for Matt Roper

Movies beckon for Matt Roper and Wilfredo

James Habacker, who runs The Slipper Room, is now making films. He’s just made his first film called The Cruel Case of The Medicine Man, which won Best Feature at the Coney Island Film Festival.

“But his second film is an out-and-out comedy: The Mel and Fanny Movie – James and his wife are Mel and Fanny Frye – he plays this character from the Borscht Belt. Wilfredo has been cast as Mel and Fanny’s personal chauffeur.”

“That’s something to look forward to,” I said. “Wilfredo’s teeth in the movies.”

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Six days in March: mafiosi in Prague, war in Serbia, Yanks in Amsterdam and a flying saucer in the Thames Valley

I have no time to transcribe the blog I should be writing today so, as always in such cases, you get a copy-and-paste from my e-diary – in this case, starting today 16 years ago in 1999


MONDAY 22nd MARCH 1999 – AMSTERDAM

Amsterdam (Photo by Massimo Catarinella)

Amsterdam (Photo by Massimo Catarinella)

There are precipitous stairs up to my new hotel. This, as with other houses in Amsterdam, is because there are two storeys below the two-storey hotel and people live vertically because, at one time, house tax was based on the width of your house so everything was built narrow.

The hotel is run by two thin gay men, probably in their late-40s or mid-50s, heavily wrinkled like white prunes.

The room has a brown carpet, pink bedsheets and bedspread; high light green walls with horizontal hanging ivy atop one of them. When trams pass, there is a thunderous rattling through the tall, single-glazed window. I think I may move soon.

TUESDAY 23rd MARCH – AMSTERDAM

Dinner with the Englishman who runs the TV station where I am freelancing. We previously worked together at TV stations in Prague in 1994 and 1995. He says Prague has changed since I was there; the various foreign mafias have taken over large sections of society; it started, he says, with the privatisation of taxis. The TV operation we both worked for in Prague was sold (at a loss) by UIH to Time-Warner last week; but, in return, UIH got Time-Warner cable interests in Hungary and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Since the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, Eastern Europe has become the new Wild West.

WEDNESDAY 24th MARCH – AMSTERDAM

Dinner with three workmates. One of them observed that the Dutch give a bad time to Germans – shop assistants are coldly difficult to them in shops etc – because of the Second World War. As we ate, NATO planes and cruise missiles were starting to attack Yugoslavia/Serbia/Montenegro/Kosovo.

THURSDAY 25th MARCH – AMSTERDAM

In McDonalds, the assistant was giving a hard, contemptuous time to a well-dressed family of Russians who spoke very bad English.

FRIDAY 26th MARCH – AMSTERDAM

At breakfast in the hotel, there was an American couple: he was wide and tall like some American Football player, she was much smaller and much younger. The TV was tuned to BBC1 News. The American couple had missed the start of the bombing of Serbia, presumably because they were travelling around. Their abbreviated conversation went:

Him: “What’s going on?”

Me: “NATO has started bombing Serbia.”

Her: “What’s NATO?”

Him: “North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. It’s…what is it?…The big six?” (LOOKS AT ME)

Me: (CONFUSED)

Her: “I thought that was just a trade organisation.”

Him: “No, it does some policing, too.”

At Schiphol Airport in the evening, there was a group of very jolly people in their 20s – about a dozen – on the travelator in front of me. It turned out they were going to my Gate. And they were drunk – amiable, jolly and drunk. It came as no surprise they were travelling on Finnair to Helsinki as the only times I had encountered Finns before – in Leningrad in 1985 – they were all amiable, jolly and staggeringly drunk. Something to do with the strict drink laws in Finland: at that time, Finns came across to Leningrad, sold denim jeans and Western goods to Russians and got very charmingly drunk on vodka.

My friend Lynn’s partner Frank had asked me to get him some schnapps at the airport duty free – stuff you can only get in Schiphol. It comes in an opaque brown bottle. I couldn’t see it, so I asked a man who was stacking the drinks shelves: “Do you have any schnapps?”

Inevitably, I was standing right by the schnapps: he pointed to two different brands, both in white bottles.

“I was asked to get some schnapps in a brown bottle,” I said: “Do you have any in a brown bottle?”

He looked at me as if I was mad, almost shrinking backwards, and replied:

“No, we do not have schnapps in a brown bottle.”

The EasyJet plane to Luton took off two hours late because:

a) the incoming plane broke down in Luton and
b) they had to fly a replacement plane into Amsterdam and
c) they said: “Air traffic over Western Europe has been disrupted by NATO”

I suppose squadrons of giant B-52 bombers taking off from Gloucestershire and flying to Serbia would do that.

SATURDAY 27th MARCH – BOREHAMWOOD

John Ward drives home in his Wardmobile

John Ward driving to his home in his self-made Wardmobile

My chum mad inventor John Ward has built a flying saucer. Today, with his son, he was collecting it from a garage in Weybridge then coming round to collect some stuff from me on his way home to Northamptonshire.

On the way to me, he was stopped by a Thames Valley police car with flashing lights and siren. Inside was a Sergeant Whittaker.

“What do you think you are doing?” asked Sergeant Whittaker.

He told John they had looked at their cameras and seen John and his son driving along the road in their car pulling an object brightly painted in fluorescent orange, red, yellow and blue.

“You are a distraction,” Sergeant Whittaker told John.

“Thankyou,” said John.

“Don’t be flippant,” Sergeant Whittaker warned him.

Sergeant Whittaker then appeared to flounder around trying to find something on which to arrest John.

“Have you got a licence for that?” Sergeant Whittaker asked, pointing at the flying saucer.

“It’s a trailer,” John replied.

“It has a seat in it,” observed Sergeant Whittaker.

“Ah,” said John, “But it has no engine in it: so it is legally a trailer.”

John Ward knows about these things.

At this point, an old man on a motorcycle passed by and was so amazed by the flying saucer and the police car with the flashing lights that he lost control of his motorcycle, hit the central barrier and fell off.

“Look!” Sergeant Whittaker told John. “He was distracted by your… your… thing!”

“No,” argued John. “It’s all your flashing red and blue and white lights distracted him.”

Sergeant Whittaker said accusingly: “Why didn’t you tell us you were coming? We could have arranged a police escort.”

“You’re joking,” said John.

“No I’m not…..Where are you going with it?”

“I’m dropping in at a friend’s in Borehamwood to collect some stuff, then taking it home.”

“Oh no you’re not. You’re a distraction. You’re taking it straight home.”

At this point, John phoned me on his mobile.

“Are you phoning the press?” the sergeant asked.

“Not yet,” said John.

“I know you from somewhere,” Sergeant Whittaker said. “Have I seen you on television?”

“No, I’m not him,” said John. “Reg, the bloke with the glasses in Coronation Street. People sometimes confuse me for him. But I’m not him.”

“No, you’re not him,” agreed Sergeant Whittaker, “but I think I’ve seen you somewhere.”

Eventually, Sergeant Whittaker got in John’s car and his policeman mate drove the police car. They set off in convoy, lights flashing and escorted John’s flying saucer to the border of the next police area – where a Buckinghamshire police car took over.

“Is that it?” the Buckinghamshire policeman asked when he saw the flying saucer. He had obviously been expecting something like a vast over-hanging mobile home on a pantechnicon.

When the Buckinghamshire police car reached the borders of Northamptonshire, there was a Northamptonshire police car waiting for them.

“Oh,” the Northamptonshire policeman said on seeing John, “It’s you.”

“Have we met?” John asked him.

“No,” said the Northamptonshire policeman.

When the other car had gone, the Northamptonshire policeman told John: “They’re mad down south. It’s a waste of time. They should be out catching criminals. I’m going back to the station.”

And off he went.

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Filed under Czech Republic, Eccentrics, Holland, Police, Yugoslavia