I just made a light-hearted remark about being arrested and then it struck me – most people have never been arrested. So here we go …
You have to remember that with both my parents being Metropolitan Police officers, I was brought up surrounded by bobbies. My best treat ever was a ride in a Panda car, especially if they let me put the “blues and twos” on or say hello to the nice lady on the desk at the station. So I grew up thinking all police were virtually family, especially once my father died and we came under the Police Widows’ and Orphans’ Benevolent Fund who did smashing work for us.
My brush with the law came in France and with the Customs (Douanes). We had arrived on our boat and filled in the papers as best we could with our very limited French. Six months later, two customs officers turned up, jolly lads and announced that we had twelve hours to leave France. I thought they were joking and asked where they’d like me to go. Their answer was -home to the UK. Well that was a bit of a bugger as I had sold my house in the UK to buy the boat and so the boat was my home.
When I explained, like a good French housewife that I had to make my husband’s lunch (he worked and would be home for it) they kindly asked me to present myself at the Customs Office at 2. So I dutifully toddled off with my briefcase and my little dog on a lead and rang the bell.
Having explained that I couldn’t leave the dog on her own or there would be no soft furnishings left, they gave me a seat, made me a coffee and looked at my papers.
Ah! This wasn’t MY fault, this was those stupid bastids at Concarneau tsk tsk. I listened to them give earache over the phone to said illegitimi and made some more coffee. They then asked if I could speak French. Seeing as we had been conversing in it all the time I got a fit of the giggles and said “No, not at all.” They then begged me to admit I understood French or they would have to call out one of the “big boys” from St. Nazaire.
By this time Bodkin had found a comfy spot under the Chief’s desk and I seemed to have acquired a mug of my own so I offered to do the typing as they were hopeless.
We wrote a blistering letter to the Chief of Customs at Concarneau, another to the Harbour Master where we were and then had a few biscuits and chatted about my job. It was all rather pleasant.
My then husband, of course, had gone back to work after lunch knowing his wife had been arrested and poled up out of breath and worried sick at 4.30 to find me telling jokes and showing them how to work the margins on their typewriter.
Those two became firm friends and would always stop by the boat for a cup of coffee and a chat when doing their rounds. All in all – being arrested was one of the more pleasant experiences of my life. I’m not tempted to try it again but …