South Wales November 4th 1962Advertisement
After a while I thought it was the wrong night, but my snitch had never let me down before so I stayed hidden in the dark. The other men were well trained and eager to catch the robbers as soon as they showed up and we’d all been on a special diet which contained lots of carrots so unlike the villains, we could see quite well in the shadowy factory.
Suddenly I heard the sound of the door being jemmied from the outside and the lock fell to the ground with a thump. “This is it men.” I whispered. “Don’t anyone go until you hear 3 blasts on my whistle.” As the door began to slowly swing open I could see the shape of a burly man squeezing through the ever widening gap. The constable next to me began to shuffle a little and I realized he was getting a little excited so I placed my hand on his shoulder to let him know I had everything in control. “Me and the lads would follow you anywhere Inspector.” He whispered.
“Don’t you think I already I know that Constable?” I quietly replied and gave him a second reassuring pat on his helmet. When the door was fully open, they cautiously came through and one of them turned on a very powerful torch which he slowly shone over every inch of the building but because of our special training we were hidden much too good for them to find us. A second man turned his torch on, then a third each followed by another until all ten of them were shining up and down, side to side. A bit like search lights during the war. You know, when they were looking for enemy bombers?
Anyway! There were only six of us but six of Her Majesty’s Police Men are more than a match for ten robbers who probably don’t get to eat good meals, like the ones we get at the station. Healthy ones like black pudding, fried eggs, bacon, sausage and two rounds of toast with heaps of dripping on the top.
I watched the torches get fully inside the building and gave three long blast on my whistle. “Let’s get em lads!” I shouted as I switched on the lights. When the villains saw us, two of them made a break for it and was quickly captured by one constable. The others, realizing the game was up, put their up hands high into the air so we knew they didn’t want to be any more trouble. However, one man; a giant of a man, made a run for it and catching one of my men off balance for a second, pushed this gallant officer to the floor. I gave chase without hesitation, but in my haste I didn’t notice the bulge in his jacket pocket. It was a gun! Running at full speed, we ran down the road but the poor quality of his shoes let him down and I made good use of my standard issue Police Boots and began to close in on him. Being unfit, I could hear him gasping for air and he stumbled against a lamp post to catch his breath. All to my horror, in the lamp’s light I could see he was reaching for his pistol so I ducked behind a hedge and waited for the shots. One, two, three shots rang out.
“Where are you, you dirty copper?” He shouted.
I quickly remembered my training as to what to do in such circumstances so I popped up and waived my arms before leaping to my left. “Over here!” I shouted. Three more shots rang out and I realized his six shot Smith and Wesson had run out of bullets. I jumped up, rushed towards him and using a special rugby tackle I had once used to bring down Naggerson Major during the inter-college rugger finals, I toppled this giant without a problem. As he hit the floor, I could feel the ground shake. Quickly I snapped the hand cuffs on and picked him up. “It’s porridge for you matey.” I told him.
“Fair cop!” He said. “I should have known, crime never pays.”
“Gosh, Uncle Rhodri. Is it always like that in the Police Force?”
“I should say so my little captain.” Rhodri tucked the blankets firmly around his favorite nephew and gave him a loving smile. “Now you get some sleep now or you won’t grow up to be big and strong and get the chance to capture crooks and robbers.”
“Night night Rodders.” Young James always grinned when he called him Rhodders, only Rhodri’s work colleagues called him that and this made him feel a little closer to becoming a real Police Man, an obsession the 6 year old had carried for two years due to many a fractured tale of daring doo by his Uncle.
Rhodri smiled to himself as he turned off the light and slowly closed the bedroom door. James’ room was the smaller one in the two bed roomed cottage, the bigger being capable of taking a double bed, a wardrobe and a dresser. James’ room had little by way of comforts except for a metal framed single bed covered with a flock mattress that housed hundreds of bed bugs. Once they bit him so much, he earned a week off school because the Doctor mistook the wounds for Measles. Then, as soon as the culprits had been discovered, the whole mattress was liberally dusted with DDT and James spent the following three weeks looking like a skinny snowman. The cottage was in the mining village of Trehafod, firmly in the Rhonda Valley. Coal was its life force. It was its blood, heart, brain, food and water and the air hung thick with its dust. The discharge from the pit workings added to the smoke from the factories and houses and blended into a lethal cocktail for men, women and children alike, but this was South Wales and the locals accepted it for what it was, put up with it for its bounty and let off steam in the institute every evening. Not the women though, they battled with it on a Monday which was washing day, Sunday when chapel whites were on display, Tuesday when the outside paintwork had to be cleaned and the doorstep donkey stoned, Wednesday when the flour for the bread had to be sieved, Thursday when hubby’s whites had to be ironed, Friday when the tin bath had to be filled ready for the weekend and Saturday when the curtains had to come down ready for when the rest of the Chapel going workers walked past their cottage on Sunday.
This was what Rhodri Williams remembered from his birthplace in Wattstown some ten miles or so up the valley. He was fifteen years of age when they moved to their second house in Trehafod and he was over six foot tall when he left school and refused to follow the family tradition of coal mining. Rhodri’s ambitions had laid in the Police Force which he joined as a regular Constable and now, twenty years later he’s an Inspector at Scotland Yard. His grandfather; Carl Lungern, was Swedish and came to Wales, subsequently changed his name to Williams and settled there. Most of the family had a distinct welsh appearance except for Rhodri had inherited a distinct Nordic Stature. Tall, blonde with piecing blue eyes, Rhodri could have been the front page photograph on the cover of Hitler’s propaganda machine.
After putting his nephew James to bed, his Sister’s cottage almost began to rebel at the thought of having a Viking as a guest. Poor Rhodri found it hard to turn on the tiny landing and make his way down the narrow stairs, the overhead beams were low, the steps small and the walls too close. He crouched low under the bottom door, then as he went into the sitting room he stretched up and gave a sigh of relief. At this point in the lounge his nose picked up the fragrance of fresh baking which was coming from the kitchen to his left and he followed his senses to where his Sister Gwen, was busying herself getting things ready for the Bonfire Party the following evening. As he rounded the door he also caught the fragrance of toffee, the sweet smell of blended treacle and sugar hit him, like something out of a dream.
“I expect you’ve been filling his mind with silly stories about the Police Force again, Rhodri Williams.” When ever she was either happy or unhappy with him she called him Rhodri Williams. Never any other time and this was one when she wasn’t pleased. “I swear if his mind isn’t’t already full of rubbish that’s been put in there by you.” She was cutting a slab of warm toffee into inch squares and just behind her on the cooling shelf was a ginger parkin, fresh and so beautiful it caught the attentions of |Rhodri. “When he leaves school he’ll go into mining and don’t you try to change that Rhodri Williams. A job in mining is a job for life.” She turned briefly and like an orchestra conductor with a baton, pointed the knife in his direction. “The country will always need coal but you with your silly stories will do the boy no good, you see if it doesn’t.”
Gwen could be quite fashionable when she had the chance but she married Ewan when she was eighteen, had James two years later and now in her mid twenties she has the desires of a teenager with the responsibilities of a woman. She wore her hair back into a pony tail and donned a skirt cut off just below the knees, with little ankle socks and heeled sandals she looked as modern as was proper for a married Mother.
Rhodri began to tip toe towards the parkin. “Don’t you even think about it Rhodri Williams.” That is for the party tomorrow and I don’t want to have to make another because you’ve taken a whackin great slice and beggered off back to that London so I don‘t.” Rhodri gave up his mission and decided to have a slice of bread with a treacle topping . Cutting the loaf thick, he noticed on the mantle a theatre program.
“What’s that?” He asked pointing to a booklet on the mantle piece, then he picked up a treacle tin and was very disappointed when he found it almost empty but years of practice had taught him if he took a spoon and wound it around inside the tin he’d gather as much treacle as could possibly be gathered. With a beaming look of self satisfaction he loaded it onto the slab of bread which was balanced carefully on his left hand.
Gwen turned to look at the mantle piece where upon was sitting a highly colourful brochure. “That’s where I’m going with the girls on December 14th. It’s my Christmas present to me. Ahh, Cliff Richard and the Shadows at the new ABC in Ponty, As well as them there’s Marty Wild, Joe Brown and a fella from Ponty called Tom Jones. Can’t say I’ve ever heard of him but Sheila at the Co-op says he’s quite good and he regularly sings at the institute.” She picked up the program in both hands, held it out to look at it, then clasped it to her chest and spun around the kitchen. “He’s such a dream so he is. There’s no way this lovely man will stay a ‘Batchelor Boy’ for long that I’ll tell you for nothing.” She kissed Cliff’s picture. “Such a heart breaker he’ll be.” Suddenly she glared at her Brother. “Not like you Rhodri Williams. 35 and not even got a girlfriend, it’s not decent there it isn’t.” She replaced the program on the mantle piece and carried on with the toffee. “The tickets were two and sixpence mind but it’ll be worth it to hear the lovely boy sing Summer Holiday.”
Rhodri had just taken the first bite from his butty when a sudden cascade of treacle ran down his wrist, quickly catching it with his mouth, he eagerly licked it up only to feel a second dribble fall onto the palm of his hand. His tongue worked faster than an anteater’s and between bites of bread he awkwardly managed to finish the lot. Licking his fingers clean his sharp blue eyes glinted with delight.
Gwen looked on with horror. “Just look at yourself Rhodri Williams, you’re like a naughty school boy so you are, standing there with your hands all sticky.” He began to shuffle uncomfortably, lowering his hands towards his thighs. “Don’t wipe them on your pants!” She shouted. “No wonder you haven’t got a woman.”
Rhodri was too lost in his sugar experience to care and he rubbed them on the back of his flannel trousers. Gwen’s heart melted. She loved him dearly and loved to watch him enjoying himself so much she couldn’t be angry for long. Ever since she could remember Rodders was there for her. As a child, when the boys in the recreation park teased her, they soon stopped when Rhodri’s huge hand fell upon their shoulders. When she couldn’t sleep because her chicken pox was to itchy he stayed up and read her stories until dawn. He taught her to ride a two wheeled cycle. She thought the World of him.
“Rhodri Williams!” She gasped in desperation as she took a tea towel and began to clean his hands and face rather like a Matronly Aunt at a wedding. “Look at the state of you. I swear you’ll be the death of me that you will.”
Rhodri smiled and gave her a hug. “Got to go now Sis, it’s a long way back to the smoke and I’m on duty the day after tomorrow.” His face looked puzzled as he pretended to look around for something. “I can’t remember where I left my hat?”
“It’s in the living room.” Gwen told him sharply “I’ll get it for you.” As she walked away her voice began to fade and he guessed where she was and consequently as her voice began to strengthen he knew she was returning. “I swear if it wasn’t fastened on, you’d lose your head.” She re-appeared with his brown trilby, gave it a brush and placed it on his head; giving it a little tilt for effect, then took his arm and launched him towards the door. “Now you be off before my Ewan gets home. If he gets another glimpse of that posh car of yours, there’ll no settling him for days. On and on he went on about it when you came last month. On and on about how he’ll have one, one day. I swear he thinks a time will come when the likes of us will have a car. The very thought.”
Rhodri opened the door of his blue and cream Ford Zephyr 6, sat on the tan bench seat and slowly, carefully produced from his jacket pocket a beautiful slice of fresh baked parkin. He looked at it, grinned, then took a large a satisfying bite and used his fingers to push all the escaping crumbs into his mouth. Once again, Rhodri was in heaven.
Part 2 of Chapter 1 coming tomorrow