A lot of people who have Parkinson’s have written about either themselves or another person who they know with PD and how the individual has overcome the adversity by doing this or that for the cause of finding a cure for this disease. Now please don’t get me wrong here, these people who are definitely an inspiration to most of us for what they have done and continue to do on a daily basis. A certain wobbly person springs to mind as one of these people, who have an inner passion to fight the cause for the ultimate goal of a cure.
I for one have never done one event to raise money for any Parkinson’s charity, I don’t tend to mix with others who have the same disease with me, although the two that I do are – funnily enough a female police sergeant and a former RAF Tornado and Red Arrow pilot. We seem to come out of the the same mould in what you might call ‘black humour’ – yes I know they are not the words or phrase to use in todays Britain but……….never mind life is really too short to worry about if something is a black spot or a hot spot etc.
Now for the person who I have in mind, who overcame adversity and continued to each day of his life until his death in 2004. His name will be slightly changed, well his surname by one letter (for those old enough he was not a ‘cockney rebel……..!!) I refer to an old Metropolitan Police colleague called Charlie (F)arley.
I have warned people who have read my previous blogs that sooner rather than later I would come back to the subject of the police and so far I have resisted but no more !!!
When I joined my first team or ‘Relief’ as they were called in the Met there was a sense of panic and fear before my first shift at Camberwell. You see back in those days the Met was not the nicest of organisations to join as a newby. After completing 18 weeks at Hendon and then a further 10 weeks of ‘Street Duties’ on your new ‘Division’ you were then posted to your team. Most teams had officers who had between ten and twenty-odd years in the job and the odd probationer, who had under two years service and to all the others on the team “not got a full time job” until they passed the final exam after two years !!
As a probationer you were never spoken to, acknowleged or accredited for anything but were expected to volunteer for every bad job, inside posting and had to come in half an hour early to make tea or coffee for your team and make sure every one of them had the right amount of sugar and milk in each ! So my first shift came around, an early turn (06:00 hrs to 14:00 hrs) ; not that a probationer ever got away for 14:00 hrs as you were always dealing with the shoplifter that no one else wanted at ten minutes before you were all due off…….how I miss those days !!!
Anyway, onto Charlie. I walked into the parade room at Camberwell and said “morning” to everyone but absolutley no responce back, just silence as it was 05:45 hrs and no one was that awake. To give him his due my Inspector came on parade to give me a bit of moral support that day. A 6′ 4″ Yorkshireman who took more prisoners that any Pc on his team was not a man to mess with but only had ten years in the job, so to the ‘old sweats’ was not worthy of them but out of respect to the rank they made an effort to speak to him. My Inspector then paraded us, checking our uniform, appointments (truncheon & handcuffs) and told us to sit back down.
He then said tthe words I can still remember to this day – “Now people, I know you detest them but we have got a new probationer. His name is Chris Fuller, a good lad by all accounts so be nice to him” A voice from the back of he room – Charlie – then replied “Why” !! My Inspector then said “Well, erm, er, I don’t bloody know, just be a little bit nice then”………..silence. The postings were read out by our sergeant – Barry Heart “365 (me) and 293 (Charlie) Mike Charley (MC phonetically) two beat. This meant that me and the person who said why should he be nice to me had to go out on the beat, walking for eight hours around Camberwell Green and surrounding roads trying to be busy.
His first words were “I’m too old to walk the fu%*ing beat with a sprog, anyway you got ya hat, lets go, bus lanes I think. If we cant get some tickets we’re wind some fuc$er up and nick em”. As we left the nick I thought “how am I going to tell this senior PC that contravening a bus lane didn’t start to 07:00 hrs”. Not wanting or having the bottle to tell him I decided to pretend to give out a ticket to anyone we stopped. As it turned out there were not any offending drivers that day so problem avoided.
Anyway to get to the point of this blog as we walked around Camberwell that day Charlie, to my astonishment was really nice and extremely chatty. He did tell me though about two hours into the shift that “I’ve got to pop back to Camberwell to change my bag” Not knowing how to respond Charlie said “I’ve had bowel cancer and had me bum sewn up so I have to sh^t and pi*s into a bag” He then proceeded to lift up his tunic and shirt and show me his colostomy bag, by now full !!
I came back into the nick at the end of my first day having immense respect for a guy who could easily have been medically retired on a full pension – and back in those days just before retiring he would have been made up to a temporary sergeant – so as a get a full sergeants pension, but chose to work full time as a front line police officer.
Over the next ten years or so Charlie never ceased to amaze me with his style of policing and humour and outlook on life. In that time I never knew him to take a day off sick and if he did happen to feel unwell he was put in the Control Room at Carter Street give out the calls and upset the public when they phoned in to report a matter. “Hello Peckham fire station” and “You’ve got the wrong number, this is still Peckham fire station” usually put off that member of the public from phoning for a third time !!!!
He clearly struggled each day he was at work, shattered at the end of each shift and in obvious discomfort from the effects of having a colostomy bag. Charlie, I think was the sole reason why most of our team never had days off sick as we felt guilty of being at home whilst Charlie was no doubt at work for his six late turn on the trot or seventh straight night duty etc.
Charlie, never joined any support group, never mixed with people with or over bowel cancer and never did any charity work for Cancer UK etc but what he did do was serve the public and made a difference each day he came to work and was an inspiration to a large group of police officers who worked at Leigh Green, Camberwell, Carter Street ad Southwark police stations. His Force Funeral was a testament to how well he was regarded, with friends, colleagues and members of the public who he assisted as victims of crime attending his service and most not being able to get into the service itself due to the number of attendees.
In my next blog I will write ‘part two’ of the story and go into some of the funny stories that involved Charlie.
Until the next time, stay upright