A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that


Saturday, 3 June 2017

Hooptedoodle #264 - The Pilgrimage

Here's a cautionary tale about the recent adventures of an old acquaintance of mine.


Colwyn (pronounced "Colin", in case it matters) has now been retired for some years and, one sunny Saturday morning, when his wife was away on a shopping trip, he suddenly took a fancy to make a sort of personal pilgrimage to the village where he had lived as a young child.

Colwyn's parents have been dead for many years, and his surviving brother is in Australia, so his only association with the place comes from old family photos. Quite excited by this unexpected project, he realised that he'd wanted to do this for years, so he collected his camera and his travel pass, bought himself a pack of fruit pastilles and set off the 70 miles on the bus into darkest Northamptonshire to his birthplace.

He was delighted to revisit the village as an anonymous  tourist. It was a beautiful morning, and the obvious first stop was the house where he had lived. He found it easily - walked straight to it - on a corner in a small council housing scheme. He was pleased that the place was nicely painted, and things were pretty much as he remembered, though there were more cars parked in front gardens, and a lot of satellite dishes.

As he stared at the place where he began what has been a long saga, involving a lot of travel and a very full working and family life, he became aware that a little girl in the garden was watching him.

"Hello," said Colwyn, full of sunshine and goodwill, "I used to live here, once upon a time - when I was your age, this was my garden."

The little girl just stared at him, so he smiled and waved cheerio, and took a few photos of the surroundings before he continued his tour. Next stop was the little park where he had first played football (and later, let it be said, he was a very fair amateur player) and where he and his little mates had played complicated games of tag in the long evenings during those forgotten summer holidays from another century. Great. There was now a rather run-down playground encroaching on one end of the traditional football pitch - round about where they used to put sweaters down for the goalposts. More photos. Of course, there was no football now - in fact there was a sign prohibiting ball games of any sort.


Next pilgrim site was his old primary school. This had been modernised extensively, and there was cricket coaching or something going on, so he didn't hang around for long. This time he didn't bother with photographs, since there was very little he recognised. He set off towards the high street, to see if he could get some lunch, and maybe a beer. On the way he was intercepted by a very large, very young police constable, who asked him could he speak to him for a moment.

Colwyn wondered if the young cop was lost, and wanted directions somewhere, so he put his camera away in his shoulder bag. The policeman grabbed the camera from him, and when Colwyn attempted to hang onto it a second policeman appeared from somewhere, and they bundled him into a patrol car. He was more than a little confused, but he was informed that he was being apprehended in terms of some byelaw or other, and would be taken to the police station (in a neighbouring town) to answer some questions.

Of course you have seen this twist coming for a while, but the little girl's mother had telephoned to report a strange old man approaching her daughter, and the police had turned up and quietly followed this obvious pervert around the sort of haunts you would expect - the park, the primary school - there was even a strange tale that he had attempted to climb into the garden of another house.

Since no-one in the area knew him, Colwyn's wife was brought - very distressed, in a police car - to identify him and give some kind of character reference. Then he was taken home, late in the evening, after being given a stern warning that there must be no repeats of this episode. Apology? - no - of course not. Colwyn says that it took some weeks for his wife to forgive him, though for what he is still unsure.


I think there is a lesson here for all of us. If you ever get an urge to go and find your roots, just give yourself a slap, will you? Don't be so bloody stupid - just switch on the TV like a good fellow, and stay at home - save the police time and inconvenience, and don't frighten all those poor mothers, who have enough to worry about. You can still have the fruit pastilles, but don't offer one to anyone else. 

We'll be watching. 


23 comments:

  1. A sad indictment of the times we live in , Tony

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    1. Colwyn actually thinks the story is rather funny now, but you are right - we have created a self-populating world full of things to be afraid of. Nowadays, presumably, since you can't play football there, parks are reserved for the use of perverts. It keeps things tidy.

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  2. I served for 35 years during that time discretion was the key, and commonsense was always demanded by my bosses. Im afraid those days are long gone. I can make no apology for stupidity, and the risk averse culture that rules the modern police service.But dont forget they will all have a degree by 2020, so that should solve everything. Not.

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    1. Maybe the policemen could have handled the situation with rather greater diplomacy (or something), but they are not the bad guys here - just more victims in the story - they are the servants of an increasingly paranoid society, which is spoon-fed on the post-Bush press tales of horror and security risks (which earn a fortune for security firms, CCTV manufacturers, and so on). In a world where they have to cover themselves, in case they get blamed for missing something, I have nothing but sympathy for the police (most of the time, anyway!), as they have no scope left for discretion, or the good old, informal cuff round the ear.

      Colwyn makes the point that the cops were just doing their job, but he now has no chance of getting a job as a lollipop man (pedestrian crossing attendant, for non-Brit readers!) in Kettering area any time soon.

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    2. As with Robbie, in my time in the force (I LOATHE the term 'Police Service') you used common sense and courtesy in the first instance. Most of the time that was all that was needed. That policeman wants his arse kicked.

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    3. Disagree - Foy is correct - young PC has NO latitude for exercising common sense at all - zero, nada, nuffink... it will have been drummed into him from the moment he went into uniform that he has to cover his ar*e at all times or be publicly crucified for any error that arises as a result of him not following procedure.. like Foy I feel sorry for the guys... I also blame all of this on 24/7 news media - gets to the point where they have nothing to report so like some weird hypno tape under your pillow they keep repeating stories about perverts and the like over and over until everyone thinks they're the only non-pervert in the country.... :o)

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    4. Just a minute - I WAS starting to think I was the only non-pervert in the country - are you the only non-pervert too?... That's confused me now.

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    5. No need for confusion - you are the only non-pervert in the country.. :o)

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  3. I think that's the saddest thing you have posted.

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  4. I'm not sure I should be reading this on a public network, I mean what might might "they" think if they notice me reading a bit about old perverts approaching young children with candy and wild seductive stories about non-approved, unsupervised play?

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  5. Meanwhile mother most likely allows unsupervised access to the various internet social media in the safety of her own room. After all she can't meet anyone bad there...

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  6. So,so sad example of the zeitgeist 🙁

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  7. Gentlemen - I had no wish to piss everyone off with my story - apologies. As did Colwyn, I thought the story was rather funny, albeit in a sad sort of way. The human race has been working for thousands of years to perfect society like this, so anyone who finds something amiss is obviously in need of re-education. Actually, the thousands of years of steady progress seems to have speeded up greatly in the last 20 or so in the more obviously loony directions of blame avoidance, political correctness, ambulance-chasing and compensation-seeking - I do take some spiritual comfort from the fact that I am not the only one who thinks it's all gone a bit wacky.

    Thank goodness Colwyn didn't pat the little girl on the head, or I'd be in prison for mentioning it.

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  8. Innocence lost. How do you suppose today's society would have reacted to The Kink's "Art Lover" if it was released today?

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    1. Yeah! - that's a very heavy question, my friend. I remember very clearly that when my older sons were little, we used to wrestle and roll around in the garden - I'm not sure if that would be considered acceptable now. I find that very scary.

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    2. Scary indeed. Seems only ONE, APPROVED way of thought or conduct is possible in today's environment unless strong enough to withstand bullying.

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  9. Funny and sad both, I fear. I did something similar some years ago, revisiting a town I was a boy in, and it weren't half depressing, but at least I didn't get arrested.

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    1. I'm kind of disappointed we didn't get to hear more about your visit, but no matter - some things are private.

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  10. We (encouraged by the increasingly shrill media, and I include you John Humphries of the Today Programme, not just the Kelvin MacKenzies of the world) are always looking to blame public and private institutions for not protecting us. There's an industry that has grown up to exploit this. It's not just the 'Nanny State'. It's the finger-pointing and profiteering (it sells newspapers and makes lawyers money).Institutions and their leaders are hauled over the coals 'when something goes wrong' and 'something must be done about it'. No wonder they all revert to risk averse strategies.

    When I was a kid, we were warned about strangers ('don't accept sweets/lifts'). If anything had happened to a kid it would have been the fault of the perpetrator. We seem to have forgotten where true responsibility lays.

    Looking back, it also seems like we didn't automatically view strangers as threats. What happened to change that? An old man talking to you was a 'kindly old gent' (unless he was an obvious weirdo ; ) ).

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    1. Well said - I'll buy that.

      The old man has now become an enemy - someone (and I don't think it's Humphries) has produced a sort of official checklist of enemies - you can develop your own, but in the UK it has developed into
      * foreigners - anyone who is a different colour or speaks different from me - a threat - a job pincher - a benefit scrounger - a terrorist
      * the elderly - mostly demented - a drain on society - unproductive
      * perverts/paedophiles - I know all about them - I read the Daily Mail (or whatever)
      * etc...

      I stopped before I got to the Scots, the Socialists, the Remainers, the Scousers or any of the other groups Katie Hopkins might be banging on about this week...

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  11. I think this story has become rather more dramatic and meaningful than I intended - sorry about that - I'll be more careful in future! One additional point that I should maybe have made is that Colwyn's wife, who is in her late 60s and has a mild heart condition, was collected by the police and told she would have to come with them to another town - and that it was in connection with her husband, who had been arrested. No further details. They confiscated her mobile phone, so that she could not contact anyone, and, when she asked if her husband was all right they refused to give any information. The female constable who sat in the back of the police car with her made no attempt to help her or reassure her - if anything, she appeared to enjoy the upset. Cuts are one thing, enforced defensive policy-making is another, but no-one can legislate for sadism. No need for that. Now that things have calmed down, this what Colwyn is still upset about. He took legal advice, even spoke to his MP, but was encouraged to just drop the matter, and "avoid getting into the same situation again".

    Right. That is sad.

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    1. That really is sad. It's a good as saying 'it's your own fault'.

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    2. Colwyn himself is quite clear that it actually was his own fault - he was guilty of being a rather uninteresting old person in the wrong place - he caused the police a lot of unwanted trouble. When money is tight, that's not what they want to be doing - even his MP seemed to think along these lines. If he'd been a member of the House of Lords, of course, it would all have been different, though it is possible that he'd have got even less benefit of the doubt from the cops.

      On a brighter note, we should note that Cristiano Ronaldo's selfie of his new haircut on Instagram yesterday got 4.7m likes - now you're talking. I feel better now.

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