Not a food related rambling today but a celebratory one. I have retired – whoop! But at age 49 I’m not old enough for a bus pass you understand, but have completed 30 years as a Police Officer with South Wales Police and am one of the lucky ones who can retire whilst I am still in my prime!! Due to major changes with the Police pensions – we will be seeing Police Officers hobbling along on their zimmer frames very soon! But I digress.
In July 1987 when I was a 19 year old, Catholic, naive slip of a girl who had been shielded from the colours of life I was taken to the Police Training Centre in Cwmbran by my Dad who was as nervous as I was. We were met by the Drill Sergeant who was barking orders at us within the first 5 seconds of arriving in reception. My Dad beat a hasty retreat leaving me there. I recall a few days later queuing with a pocketful of change to telephone my parents from the phone box, crying down the phone whilst telling them that I was homesick and the Drill Sergeant had sworn at me as I hadn’t marched correctly (‘LLoyd you are a fucking lady and the Police Force does not need a fucking Lady’). My poor Dad wanted to come and get me but I knew that this was my one chance to become a Police Officer which had been my dream since I was eleven years old (Also we were only there Sunday night to Friday afternoon!)
I did make it through the basic training and soon I was posted to Central Police Station in Swansea. It was back in the day when you reported for duty and there were at least 15 Officer’s on the shift. Police Women were still a fairly rare breed, so there was usually one per shift but I became the third female on my shift – very unusual. Police women were still called PLONKs (Person with Little Or No Knowledge) although most of my shift called me drawers (as in knickers) to save remembering my name. I remember turning up to fights in the local hostelry and being told to mind the panda car whilst all the Policemen went into the fight. I let this go for a while until one day I built up enough confidence to haughtily say ‘actually I think the panda can look after itself!’ This stopped the chaps in their tracks and they ushered me into the fight before them, saw I could look after myself, so after much back slapping and hair ruffling – I was accepted. I owe my pig-headedness and knowledge of Policing to these men, they were probably the best years of my career, most of the hilarious stories I remember come from this time. I was so lucky to have worked with such brave, funny, mad men at this time it was an excellent foundation for the years to come.
Crime was always my love, I was absolutely useless at anything involving traffic matters, so I was soon on a CID aide (this is where you spend a few months with the CID). I was presented to the only female CID Officer in Swansea Central – (a Token Female). She had been a member of the Police Women’s Department back in the day. She was maternal, fearsome, hilarious and fearless all rolled into one. I learned so much from this Woman and will be eternally grateful for this huge, steep learning curve. This whet my appetite even more for plain clothes work and soon found myself on the Drug Squad.
I was still living at home with my parents and one day whilst I was washing my yellow Mini Clubman on the drive when the Detective Inspector from the Drug Squad pulled up. He asked me what I knew about the Dug Squad – that was easy – nothing. I had seen them a few times having breakfast in the Police Canteen after an early morning raid. I had been used to search the females that they had nicked, however other than realising their penchant for a fry up, I had no idea what they did. That was obviously the right answer as two weeks later the job was mine and I was ‘The Token Female’ on the Drug Squad.
I spent four years on the Drug Squad – In those four years I never once got anyone to sell me drugs. It didn’t matter how much tie dyed clothing I wore – I looked like a Copper. Honestly – does what it says on the tin – my build, speech, gait all shout Copper! I was never made for undercover work.
I had to throw in the towel and moved back into uniform at my home town Port Talbot, I loved it, over the next few years I worked the Afan Valley, Baglan, Port Talbot Town and Aberavon. Each day was filled with laughter and a pride to wear the uniform and do exactly what I joined the Police Service for. I tutored new recruits, some of whom have shot up the greasy pole and I couldn’t be prouder of them, only one let me down and became a Traffic Officer I have no idea where I went wrong with him, he was such a nice lad! Of course the problem with policing an area where you live, people would turn up on my doorstep to ask advice and on more than one occasion, people turned up at my parent’s house looking for me. My Mam would invite them into the parlour and give them a cup of tea whilst she telephoned me to come and sort it out – I blame Heartbeat!
At 12 years service, I had morphed into a confident, sassy, gobby Woman. I had come out (nobody battered an eyelid – it was only me that was bothered) and ended up working on the Youth Offending Team which was a multi agency approach to dealing with young people and offending. This was so much fun, the Young People were entertaining and the Staff were great. It was enlightening to work with people from different agencies such as Social Services, Probation, Health and Education. Three years in and I realised I (and my liver) needed to go back to proper Policing so I managed to get myself onto the Child Protection Unit.
At the Child Protection Unit, I made lifetime friends (none from the Police) and also met my darling Other Half (a Social Worker) and ten years later I am Civil Partnered to her and have two wonderful children and my circle of close friends are from this time. Seriously life changing years which were pivotal for me. I won’t lie, I burned out after four years on this Unit. I wanted to wipe out child abuse singlehandedly, thought I could take on the world and soon fell from the pedestal to a strange and confusing place.
After a short break on the Minority Support Unit, I managed to get it back together and achieve my life time ambition and became a Detective on the CID. That was it – my life was complete. I love, love, loved it. What a privilege – victims of horrendous crimes would trust me with their worst fears and experiences. I carried their experiences and arrested offenders and worked so hard for justice. I was part of an extremely small team who I considered as brothers, they supported me and the Other Half when our first born had medical issues at birth and we were a close knit team who worked all the hours under the sun to ensure we gave our best. This really was the pinnacle of my career.
Of course I never considered that when the Other Half had our first born that my priorities would change. They changed drastically. All of a sudden I didn’t want to be in work for days on end, I wanted to be at home with Small Boy and the Other Half. I remember coming home one day after being in work for hours on end and the Small Boy in the kitchen in front of the Rayburn sitting in his high chair (I hadn’t seen him awake for around two weeks). He looked at me and half smiled and then looked confused as if to say ‘I know I am supposed to know you but I cant quite remember why.’ On my next shift I applied for a day job.
Luckily, I got a day job, working at the Post Charge Unit which is where I retire from today. Like all departments, I work with a close knit team that I adore. We prepare files for Court and have a close liaison with the CPS (sometimes a challenge but again a learning curve). It’s not how I hoped to end my career but at least I have been able to be there for my Small People and still do the job that I love.
So as I hang up my cuffs and staff after 30 years service, I look back on how that young Catholic, naive, slip of a girl has matured into a Atheist, cynical, peri menopausal, fine figure of a Woman in the blink of an eye. Its been such fun and I have been honoured to serve.
I look forward to the next 30 years of being a full time Mama and whatever else life has to bring.
To be continued …………………………