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I could die for fish and chips

by Carlton Relf 

Posted: 03 March 2010
Word Count: 1727
Summary: This is a chapter from my memoirs, although I am not sure where it will sit in the book as yet. Would be grateful for any feedback or advice.

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Content Warning
This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.

I have never been to a brothel, but the room smelt as how I imagined a brothel would smell. Deep, potent aftershave combined with the sweeter aroma of perfume. The parade room was busy, but not as full as it should have been; two officers were off sick, and one was late. I was never late; there would have been no excuse. I only had to descend two flights of stairs from the living quarters and I was at work – If I was late someone would have been knocking on my door! It was 2pm on Saturday 16th October 1993, and I was just starting my late shift, 2pm until 10pm (if we were lucky).

I did not realise as I sat, notebook open, listening to the briefing from Sergeant Hoggard that the shift to come would alter my life forever - in many more ways than one. Hoggard was a slim man, well spoken, pompous in his manner. His neat blonde hair flicked back over his head, not a hair out of place. He spoke whilst raising his chin slightly upwards to convey his arrogance. I did not like him from the first moment we met. You have to assess people’s character quickly within the police – boy didn’t I get him right. At the time I just did not realise the effect he would have on my life as it has become now.

There were eight of us on duty on this day, all single crewed. That may seem a lot but when you have to cover every incident in South Telford, it was not many at all. Members of the public always thought there was about forty officers on duty – Oh how that use to make us chuckle.

With the briefing complete; notebook brimming with descriptions of suspects, registration numbers for vehicles of interest and a neat doodle of an array of cubes, skilfully drawn parallel to each other, it was time to test the radio, grab the keys and get out and about. My paperwork was all complete so I had a shift free to roam about and hopefully apprehend an offender or two.
“Foxtrot alpha from foxtrot alpha two five, test call, over,”
You would not believe how many weeks it took to master this sentence, let alone learn the radio procedure!
“Good afternoon Carlton, Foxtrot alpha two five, you are loud and clear,” echoed the reply.
This particular radio test was probably the most important act I have ever carried out in life.

I took a set of car keys from the hook and wrote my name beside the registration number marked on the board. I then checked that I had my handcuffs. I did not need to check that I was in possession of my truncheon as I could feel it in my trouser pocket. The pocket was long and use to sit at the side of your leg but it would twist and dig in to the rear of your knee. I had devised a simple solution to this and that was to loop the leather handle around my handcuff pouch on my belt – that pulled it up away from the knee – How clever was I?

“Thank god I’m not working with you today,” laughed Billy.
His ginger hair fiercely occupied his scalp, unkempt looking but in a styled kind of way. Billy had been in the police service for about two years; he loved stopping cars for no reason. I always wondered if he was bullied as a child – was just a thought!
“I will be trying to catch criminals, so know you wouldn’t like working with me,” I replied.
“Piss off, I keep the roads safe”.
“By harassing granny drivers?”
“Billy would do his own granny, wouldn’t you Bill?” piped up Jenny.
“She died last week” he replied sullenly.
Jenny was only short, plump looking with breasts that any woman would be proud of. Her face was slightly chubby, but pretty with it. Her dark brown hair was short, cropped and on first appearance boyish looking. Her brown eyes displayed her mood; this day she had been in a teasing mood; now she her face was glowing with embarrassment.
“Oh my god, I’m sorry Billy, me and my mouth,”
Billy turned away from her, glanced at me, smiling broadly; winking as he did. As he walked out of the room he shouted and laughed out loud;
“Bastard”, Jenny replied sharply.

Thirteen months of my service had passed and it had only been four weeks since I had been allowed to patrol by myself. I loved the independence and had found that the learning curve had steepened. There was one by my side to correct my mistakes or support my decisions. It had not mattered though. Since my solo patrol, I had arrested four suspects for burglary, two for theft; I had felt invincible.

The shift had been quiet. Ushering horses off of the road, back to their pasture was the highlight of the day so far. It was five o clock and my stomach told me by a combination of rumblings that I need to eat. This decision was not hard – The girl in the chip shop liked me - I liked her so that was the obvious place for me to pick up some food; even though I had not fancied fish and chips. We had been told to mix with community and utilise their services, keeping our integrity intact; of course.

I had passed the Police station, and was about half a mile from both the station and the chip shop. Adhering to the 30 mph speed limit was a struggle, it seemed so slow, but setting an example was important.

My attention was distracted from my stomach when I notice that the car I was following suddenly slowed down to about 15 mph. The Ford Cortina was about twenty years old, but appeared in good condition. I could see from my driving position that the tread in the rear tyres indicated that they were new. My first thoughts were that the driver may have needed medical assistance. This thought was compounded when the Cortina suddenly crossed the opposite carriageway and mounted the grass verge opposite. My pending hunger had dismissed itself from my mind, and I now found myself driving erratically across the road, mounting the kerb with a thud. I parked directly behind the subject vehicle, hoping that my first aid skills were going to be enough to assist the driver; the only occupant of the car.

I jumped out of the patrol car at the same time as the driver of the Ford Cortina did his. The man looked about fifty years old, but in all probability was only in his forties. He was overweight, but not excessively; the loose skin on his face gave the expression of being bigger than he was. This man was bald, except for two bush eyebrows that appeared to have been misplaced, bordering the top of his head.
“I’m so sorry,” he said as he walked towards me.
“Are you ok?” I enquired as I moved towards him.
All of a sudden, this man moved his left hand down quickly to his belt and lunged towards me as if a professional fencer – the sport, not the gardener. In reaction to this I jumped back about one metre but could not stop the knife entering my chest. I felt no pain. It was one, quick sharp lunge and withdrawal – I was 22 years old and fit and reacted quickly. If I had been the age of some of my colleagues I may have died instantly.

I dropped to my knees as I watched the blood jet from my chest in front of me, simultaneously grabbing my radio, transmitted, and shouted:
“I’ve been stabbed, Oak drive.....”
I had no time to say anymore. I looked up to see this man holding a kitchen knife, the blade about six inches long, blood stained from me – This time he held the handle, at shoulder level with the blade pointing downwards. He shouted;
“I’m gonna fucking kill you,”
I hurriedly felt for my truncheon but could not release the loop which was wrapped around my handcuffs. I could feel the sweat coming off of my brow, the blood pouring from my chest. I had no energy and believed I would die.

The man stood over me, towering the knife over my head. I waited for the plunge into my skull but instead to my surprise watched as he turned and started to run. I looked up and saw a Police van approaching at speed. What I did not realise was that they were just approaching me as I had called for help; they had just been passing.

Officers now arrived by the dozens, many had run from the police station and included office staff, off duty officers and civilians whom were curious.

I was placed on my back, shirt was ripped off and a cold hand placed over my wounded chest.
“We’ve got him.....You better not have any disease Sven” barked Gavin.
“Trust you Sven, trust you” he continued.
Sven was my nickname – well Sven the Swedish love god – and to this day I am unsure as to why but I liked it.
Gavin had taught me much about police work. He was a good man, but one whom had so many domestic problems, mainly brought about by his own infidelity. As I looked up at him, I could see that he was crying as he carried out his first aid.
“Where is the fucking ambulance” Gavin kept shouting.
I remember being so scared, annoyed with me, and above all upset that I was going to die without saying goodbye to my mum and dad.

I lay in the back of the ambulance drifting in an out of consciousness. The paramedic was apologising whilst adjusting the drip feed into my body;
“Sorry my tits are in your face,”
I could not reply, but smiled to myself inside.
“Well done” a deeper voice said.
I recognised the voice as that of Sergeant Hoggard. His words did not merit a response, not even in thought.

These events which nearly caused my death saved my life many, many years later.

©arlton Relf2010

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Comments by other Members

BobCurby at 01:02 on 06 March 2010  Report this post
This has the makings of a good story - with a bot of work an polish.


OK 1st one:

The opening sentence:
I have never been to a brothel, but the room smelt as how I imagined a brothel would smell.

I think you meant "I HAD never been to a brothel" yeah? because if you still never have, how do you know what the room smelt like?

2nd - that first paragraph lead me to react 'what the f - is he on' - one second I'm with you in the brothel, the next the parade room and suddenly in the bedroom? You lived in the Police Station?
It's very confusing - you need to think that maybe your reader hasn't the knowledge you have of the subject matter - SHOW them, give them a camera shot of where you are etc... make sense?

3rd some typos and grammar:
There were eight of us on duty on this day
should be THAT day - 'were' is past, 'this' is present - mixed tenses don't work with most readers.
public always thought there was about forty officers on duty
should be WERE, 'was' is singular and a common mistake made by people in everyday speech.
It was five o clock and my stomach told me by a combination of rumblings that I need to eat.
should be five o'clock, also the expression 'a combination of runmblings' is abit top heavy - try 'my rumbling stomach reminded me that...' or something similar.
I had passed the Police station, and was about half a mile from both the station and the chip shop
my reaction was to read this 3 times - then I realised that the second station was a railway station - yeah? Or are you saying you were mid-way between the Police Station and the Fish & Chip shop? You see - it's confusing....
I remember being so scared, annoyed with me,
who was 'annoyed with me' 'I'? If you it should read "I remember being scared, annoyed with myself"

There are one or two others -

Suggestion - read it out loud, read it to someone else and ask them what it sounds like to them - then tweak it a bit and do it again...

This is a good storyline but ends too abruptly with no hook for the next chapter.

sorry - I hope that was slightly less painful than that knife - but I was kinder than an editor or agent will be...


BobCurby at 01:06 on 06 March 2010  Report this post
I meant to tell you -
I lived in Brookside 1975-79 and worked in a Govt establishment in Shropshire..., my second son was born in Wellington Hospital and I have 3 times climbed the Wrekin, though right now - I just can't imagine why! :D

Carlton Relf at 18:25 on 06 March 2010  Report this post
Hi Steve,

Thank you for taking the time to read and for your comments. I wrote this piece much quicker than other work I have done - and boy doesn't it show. I am embarassed about my grammer!

I have never been to a brothel... I did mean the Police station....I take your point about the knowledge I have, but not passing on the picture to the reader.

I will take your comments on board and have a tinker with this. Hopefully, the revised draft will be better.

You have done better than me... I climbed the Wrekin once and that was enough for me!! I dont't know if you have been back to Telford since then; the fields seem to be disappearing on a weekly basis!

Thanks again.


Richard Brown at 12:20 on 07 March 2010  Report this post

Steve's correct in that there's a substantial editing job to be done but he's also right that it's a good story. The sudden stabbing is very dramatic and it tantalisingly leaves the reader with the question as to why you were attacked.

Again in agreement with Steve I think the 'saved my life many, many years later' as an ending is a long term 'hook' - worth keeping but the episode would be stronger with something more immediate. Of course we know you survived but could there be some questions relating to the attacker's motive and/or maybe a hint of possible long-term damage, loss of your career/ and/or a reference to a loved one...

Please don't let the technicalities of writing put you off - there are plenty of editors about. The story is the thing and it seems you have a good one.


Carlton Relf at 18:25 on 07 March 2010  Report this post
Hi Richard,

Thanks for taking the time to read and give me some feedback.

I will take it all on board - hopefully the next draft will be better.

Kind regards


BobCurby at 22:54 on 07 March 2010  Report this post
I visit Telford rarely, I'd some bad times there and my job was very demanding. We moved with the govt to a similar office in Bucks. I have a friend who lives in Leegomery, but I am delinquent in not visiting him since I was on a residential training course up near the bombing range at Stone - in 1999. When we lived in Brookside, apart from the 'standing on its own' town of Dawley, there was little between us and the Wrekin - but I know that it had a plan to fill all of that area and that Dawley no longer stands out in the countryside! Anyway, enough of Telford - back to your work.

I think you have all the right ideas and certainly the flair to write. I know you popped over to other groups so you will have picked up helpful hints from them too.

Keep this up. I look forward to seeing a polished version.


Felicity F at 21:49 on 10 March 2010  Report this post
Hey... This is a dramatic story. But I think u should open with the stabbing about to take place. Grab the readers attention more, and go from there. I think that there are too many details In the opening paragraphs, that need to unfold more naturally perhaps as the story goes along.


Felicity F at 21:53 on 10 March 2010  Report this post
Ps don't be embarassed about the grammar. That's an editors job. I tend to be of the opinion that the story and characters should be the most important parts, though I am only a lowly reader...

Carlton Relf at 13:37 on 14 March 2010  Report this post
Hi Felicity

Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. I like your idea of starting with the stabbing. ... I am going to have a look at that and see how I can develop it - It will be intersting to have a couple of drafts to see which work best.

Thanks again


Riff Raff at 09:35 on 10 May 2010  Report this post
This is a very dramatic piece of your memoir. It hooked me right away. Okay, there were some technical and grammar issues but as a dyslexic, I can ignore them, especially in a first draft.

You write well. I thought the ending was perfect and would want to read the next chapter.

Some thoughts:

Maybe keep the police talk,
...in possesion of my truncheon
etc. 'I'd got my truncheon' would be simplier. You can keep it in dialogue.

Don't try to explain too much. Trust the reader. We assume the police would be experienced in judging character.

Unless you want to lose half your readers, delete the bits about breasts any woman would be proud of. However having Jenny aplogising for her tits being in his face is totally believable - and funny. And I do love your touches of dry humour. Very true of all the services.

There are a lot of words you could delete, which wouldn't impact on your story and would make it tighter. Read it aloud, this makes it easier.

Exclaimation marks should be using sparingly I feel, otherwise you can sound like you're shouting!

But this is a strong piece of writing, for which I think you have a natural talent, and it is intriguing to read. Please do re post it if you decide to edit it.

Oh, and any of my suggestions are purely subjective. It's your memoir


Carlton Relf at 21:38 on 07 July 2010  Report this post
Thank you Fia for your comments. They are much appreciated. I certainly will be doing another draft. I have been away for a couple of months making some life changes - purely so I can make more time to write. (thats bad grammar - find more time!). I am back now and already writing more.
I have a lot of catching up to do on the site but will certainly return the favour and will read and comment on your work.
Thanks again

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