Now, that may seem like the most vainglorious and egotistical statement you'll read this Easter weekend ... but before you start tutting and frowning, let me explain.
Although technically it will be an autobiography, it isn't really about me. I will be the narrative device that allows the story to be told of a young, naive Cornish lad joining the police in London at the age of 18 and finding himself plunged into the chaos and madness that was the early 1980s.
WARNING! NAMES DROPPING!
This all started with John Lloyd. We were chatting after the filming of an episode of QI last year and, as often happens, the topic of discussion came round to the fact that I have been a police officer for nearly 30 years. As some of the funnier and more extraordinary stories came out, I found that I'd gathered a small crowd all eager to hear more. 'You really should write this stuff down', said John, 'Even if all you do is donate it to the British Library or pass it on to your kids'. The more I thought about this, the more I liked the idea. There's nothing at all special about me but, like any person who's lived for a few decades, I have many, many stories to tell. Any one of you reading this could fill a book with your life story and much of it would be fascinating to readers. Anyway, I thought I'd give it a go. And, handily, I used to be a diary keeper so I had a lot of material to work with.
Then, last week I met Kate Adie - the undisputed queen of UK journalism. Now, the last time I met Kate was in 1981 when I was a callow spotty youth in uniform. I was one of the first officers on scene at the IRA bombing of RAF Uxbridge and, while no one was seriously injured, the scene was one of confusion and mild panic as we searched the buildings for more devices and attempted to clear the area. Kate and her film crew soon arrived and set up in a suitably photogenic location in front of the gates (RAF Uxbridge was one of the bases of operation for the Battle of Britain and a trophy Spitfire is mounted by the gate as a memorial). I, meanwhile, was engaging in crowd control and was darting around in front of her camera. I imagine that Kate asked me to get out of shot several times but the first I heard was an exaperated 'Get out of the way big ears!'
I recounted this story to her on Tuesday. 'You shouted at me', I explained. 'Only shouted?' she said with a wry smile. After all, this is the lady who has ducked flying bullets in Sarajevo, who witnessed the atrocities in Tiananman Square and who once kneed an armed soldier in the cods in order to escape being arrested. Anyhow, we got to discussing the 1980s and she said (and I'm paraphrasing here), 'It's extraordinary how the passing of time affects people's memories. We hear all the time that we're living with the constant threat of terror these days ... but compared to the 1970s and 80s, things really aren't that bad. Back then we had bombs going off every few months, we had riots, we had a war raging in the South Atlantic and we had bloody and brutal industrial disputes. It was scary for us reporters but it must have been a nightmare for the police.' She too suggested that I should commit my memories to paper.
The final nudge came from comedian Sean Lock. He was telling me about a friend who spent a little time in prison but who is now completely reformed. 'Thing is, he's a really clever bloke', he explained, 'He talks really eloquently about his experiences and I wish I could persuade him to write it all down. You should do the same. I'd read it. I'd really like to read a smart, clever well-written book about what being a copper is like, not just some 'we kicked the door in and nicked the bastards' Sweeney clone.'
The very next day, I dug out my first embryonic attempts at an autobiography and I found myself laughing as I read. John, Kate and Sean were right. This stuff was worth passing on to others. Not because it involved me, but because the situations and characters I describe - all real - are just so damned extraordinary. So, loyal followers (that sounds so patronising doesn't it? Blame Blogger), I thought I'd give you a tiny sample of the work in progress. It may never be published I know, but I will write it as if it were going to be a book and then see what my agent can do with it. All I need now is a great title, something that encapsulates the main theme: a young, naive country boy thrown into what seemed at the time to be a warzone. Pig in the city? Oh, that's been done. Suggestions anyone? If I use one of them and I get it published, I'll credit you with the title.
Enjoy the extract!
“Happy New Year Ossiffer!”
“Oy! Tanesha! I found one we ain’t done yet!”