As a youth, I had no plans to become a copywriter. I doubt if I would have known what copywriting was! Having abandoned the idea of military aviation as a career, I tried following in my father’s footsteps as a psychiatric nurse but my heart wasn’t in it. I did meet the girl who was soon to become my wife whilst working at a hospital though. At 19 I joined the Derbyshire Constabulary. After training at a place called Pannal Ash in the West Riding of Yorkshire, I found myself posted to the industrial and market town of Chesterfield, best known for its parish church with the twisted spire. Legend had it that the spire became twisted by the Devil wrapping his tail around it centuries ago. Some say that it will become straight again when a virgin gets married there. A scurrilous story and patently untrue of course! The true cause, apparently, was rather more mundane, involving the use of unseasoned timber in the construction of the spire. Many people prefer the legend, which they feel makes a much better story!
There and later at what were then the mining communities of Creswell and Whitwell, I learned the local language. I learned, among other things, that, “Surrey,” was not a reference to the southern county but a form of address and that a “tuffee,” was not necessarily a toffee but any kind of sweet.
At that time the Derbyshire Constabulary held the quaint old fashioned notion that its officers should spend all their duty time on patrol and type up all reports etc. in their own time on their own typewriters. Thank goodness my wife was a trained typist! Having a sergeant who loved to send reports back with the smallest errors marked in red ink to be re-typed helped hone my writing skills no end!
As village bobbies we had to cope with everything that happened on the patch including sudden death in its various guises. The head in the gas oven suicides, it was coal gas then, North Sea gas had yet to be introduced, horrific road accident deaths and even an underground fatality in the Whitwell Colliery. There were no specialist coroner’s officers in the rural areas.
Our first child was born and thinking ahead to his education, my wife rather went off the idea of being moved across the county every few years as the norm in county police forces. In addition, I had become aware of the more enlightened working conditions in the city and borough forces that existed in those days. The upshot was we decided to move to a city or borough. The Bournemouth Borough Police was chosen to be honoured by my application and soon another chapter began.