The Third Policeman

So much for New Year resolutions.  I had planned to post on WordPress every week, no great ambition considering I post on Blipfoto every day.  What got in the way – ‘events, dear boy, events’ as Harold MacMillan allegedly once said.  It’s a disappointment, not a capital crime; one for the thought police rather than the boys in blue but, it does feed a guilty conscience.  This, and a fear of authority were instilled from an early age and they persist.

In the early 1950s, the family home was still wired with pre-war round pin plugs – differently rated plugs were different sizes.  A 5 amp plug was physically different to a 15 amp plug, and they required different sockets.  The Electrolux ZA30 vacuum cleaner was fitted with a bakelite 15 amp plug conforming to BS 546. Like many family homes, the house was not converted to square pin, BS 1363, until the early 1960s, even though the British Standard was first published in 1947.

There were a number of safety features associated with BS 1363, not least the shuttered socket which prevents a child pushing a nail into one of the holes and making a live connection.  I remember no inclination to do so.  The round pins were unsafe in other ways, not directly associated with BS 546 – their bakelite construction was prone to break, revealing deadly live wires.

One innocent summer’s morning I was accused – ‘You have broken the vacuum cleaner plug Robin! – half is missing – where is it – you could have electrocuted me!’  Mother was in full exaggerated flow.  ‘Where is it, just tell me! ‘ My denials went unheeded and then, as if by magic, the broken part appeared on the staircase.  More accusations, more threats – just admit it or I am calling the police!  I was young enough to believe this a possibility.  The imagined policeman arriving at the door was not a man in blue but plain clothes CID in a brown mac.  Neither Sergeant Pluck nor Policeman MacCruiskeen, this third policeman was cobbled in my head from TV characters, none of them sympathetic. ‘Just admit it and nothing more will be done’. And so, I did.  A stinging smack, I was sent to bed for the day, no TV and only toast for tea.

This was a valuable lesson.  I learned that the truth will not always save you.  I learned that under duress, anyone can be persuaded to say anything.  I learned that grown-ups were fallible, not always to be trusted.

I was completely innocent – so innocent, I never made the obvious accusation – my sister did it!  Big sister kept quiet throughout and who could blame her given the onslaught I received.  The magical appearance on the staircase was probably an attempt to pacify except it only made things worse.

In the many days pre-school, time eased along with the tortoise whereas now, it runs with the hare. This was the longest day. It was a pattern repeated and repeated down the years.

Hell goes round and round. In shape it is circular, and by nature it is interminable, repetitive, and nearly unbearable.  Flann O’Brien

At sea – back row left to right – Aunt Bet and Mum. Front row – me, big sister and cousin Brian.


  1. socialbridge · November 17, 2020

    Oh dear, I could feel that stinging smack.
    Love the Flann O’Brien quote!

    • northumbrianlight · November 17, 2020

      Me too 🙂 A very strange book but I loved it. Hope you and yours are keeping safe and well.

      • socialbridge · November 18, 2020

        Irish writers have strange genes, no doubt about that.

  2. Graham · November 17, 2020

    Always enjoy your blogs on WordPress, I also remember the infamous round plugs including the two pin larger plugs my Grandparents house had no earth pins anywhere, and do you remember the Adaptors that you plugged into the light fittings to run a 5 amp two pin plug.

    • northumbrianlight · November 17, 2020

      Thanks Graham – now you mention it, yes I do have vague memories of those adaptors. And, then there was the bakelite and brass switches – happy days, mostly 😉

  3. northumbriahealers · November 17, 2020

    This is desperately sad. I want to be that little boy’s mam and give him a cuddle. xSent from my Galaxy

  4. restlessjo · November 17, 2020

    Siblings, hey? Sending hugs, Robin 🙂 🙂

    • northumbrianlight · November 17, 2020

      I never held it against my sister, I would probably have done the same 🙂

      • restlessjo · November 17, 2020

        Yes- that’s siblings, hon 🙂 🙂

  5. Sue · November 17, 2020

    Siblings, indeed…I have a few stories

    • northumbrianlight · November 17, 2020

      Mine was lovely, it’s my dear old Ma I’m having a pop at 🙂 Hope you are keeping well and safe, R

      • Sue · November 17, 2020

        Teehee! Yes, I’m fine, thanks, Robin. And all as well as it can be with you in these COVID times?

    • northumbrianlight · November 18, 2020

      Very good thanks Sue – my solution to keeping sane has been to switch off all news channels. ‘News’ is a misnomer, it is mostly opinion and speculation at best. I have subscribed to The Week for about twenty years so I get all I need about one week late – which is plenty soon enough. Stay well, R

      • Sue · November 18, 2020

        Thank you- you stay well!

  6. sustainabilitea · November 17, 2020

    I can only imagine how awful that was, especially as you were innocent. We found out some things about our older daughter, the one everyone thought never did anything bad or sneaky, that helped us realize siblings can be very sneaky. Luckily we found them out early enough not to traumatize either of them. 🙂

    Nice to hear from you again, Robin. I’m glad WP didn’t send the WP enforcers out after you. 🙂


    • northumbrianlight · November 17, 2020

      It certainly left a lasting, stinging impression 🙂 Hope you are keeping ok, R

      • sustainabilitea · November 17, 2020

        We’re doing well. Thanks for asking. Ready for COVID to be over but all things considered, just fine. 🙂

  7. J.D. Riso · November 17, 2020

    A valuable lesson indeed, and so multi-layered. The loss of trust is almost always irreversible. Love the blue tint on the photo. I’m happy to see you posting here again, Robin.

    • northumbrianlight · November 18, 2020

      Thanks Julie, I should really make more of an effort. I have found a long forgotten golf architect who was responsible for designing 90+ small courses in Scotland. His day job was a chief constable so I wanted a police related story – the memory banks came up with this. Not that I bear grudges 🙂

  8. Aviationtrails · November 18, 2020

    I’m sure there are many of us who can relate to the different aspects of this. The sibling, the threats of a policeman and of the course the smack that taught us not to do it again. Whether it was justified or not, we alleys learnt some lesson from it. What’s more, it never did us any harm!

    • northumbrianlight · November 18, 2020

      Mostly it didn’t 😉 I had an ulterior motive for writing this one – for Golf in the Wild #2. It always useful to get reactions and potentially modify. Thanks for the comments therefore and apologies for the lack of interaction recently.

  9. brownanthony1outlookcom · November 18, 2020

    Brilliant memories, sisters are the best

    • northumbrianlight · November 18, 2020

      Indeed they are – hope you and yours are keeping well in this golf-less world 😦

      • brownanthony1outlookcom · November 18, 2020

        The Masters helped & Tigers demise just battling pc at the moment but i will return to take on Royal Allendale gc

  10. johnnyc1959 · November 19, 2020

    Cracking read…love Flann OBrien ….who needs photos when you write like this…lJ

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