In the Beginning
In the summer of 1955, at the height of the fame of the two giant media icons of the new found teenage consciousness, the ‘Rebel Without a Cause,’ James Dean (also the year of his death) and ‘Love Me Tender,’ Elvis Presley, young 15 year old Mary went to a party with her older boyfriend Joseph. They had too much to drink and Mary fell pregnant – no immaculate conception here but ‘an under aged girl, plied with drink and ‘statutorily raped’, according to the authorities. In the mid-50’s London’s back street abortion clinics were doing a roaring trade and their boom started towards the end of the Second World War with the stationing of US Airmen at British bases who quickly wooed the local girls with plentiful supplies of rationed items, particularly unbefore heard of silky nylon stockings as well of a plentiful supply of gum and smooth talk – http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/policy/abortion/ab-unitedkingdom.html.
Having an illegitimate child really was something that would bring shame upon a family in 1950’s England and would eradicate any social standing they might have had in English society where things were best ‘seen and not heard’ and everyone deeply cared about ‘what the neighbours might think’.
At the tender age of 15, Mary was taken away from her parents by the guardians of the newly established ‘Welfare State’ and placed in a care home that was miles from her home and family and Mary was alone on the other side of London in Lewisham SE13, then one of the most run down and poorest of London’s borough’s. There they tried to make Mary reveal to them, so that they could inform the police, the identity of the father of the baby Mary was carrying. Mary steadfastly refused to reveal this information to them even when Mary was placed before the Social Services Court and was told by the Magistrate that she must reveal the father’s identity to the court, Mary refused and she was then told that she would have to abort the baby as she was too young to look after it. Mary insisted that she was determined to give birth to her baby and so the authorities then informed Mary that the baby would be taken away from her and given to a foster family as soon as the baby was born. Mary was alone and in a frightening and cold environment but she knew that she was determined to have the baby and keep it no matter what.
The baby was born on 2 February 1956 and Mary was allowed to keep the baby and take it home with promises and guarantees given by Mary’s mother (Nana) that she would help raise and care for the baby, but they were constantly subjected to ‘spot visits‘ to check that the baby was being properly looked after.
The Church’s attitude to unmarried mothers with illegitimate babies is plain to see in this article where the inference is that the illegitimate babies were killed – http://www.irishcentral.com/opinion/cahirodoherty/Mass-grave-of-up-to-800-dead-babies-exposed-in-County-Galway-.html.
If you think that those were draconian days then look no further than to this recent shocking news item dated 5/12/2013 (http://news.sky.com/story/1176124/womans-baby-taken-from-womb-by-court-order) concerning a baby that was literally torn from its mother’s womb on behalf of the UK’s Social Services, the so called ‘servants of the state’:-
‘A pregnant woman was sedated against her will and her baby removed by cesarean section and taken into care after instructions from social services, it has been claimed.
Social workers went to the High Court to get a court order which allowed them to take the child from the mother’s womb, according to reports. The Italian woman, who already has two children, was visiting Britain to attend a Ryanair hostess training course at Stansted Airport in Essex when she suffered a panic attack. The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, suffered from a bipolar condition but had failed to take her medication. Despite speaking to the woman’s mother in Italy on the telephone, who explained the mental health problems, police took her to a psychiatric hospital. She was sectioned under the Mental Health Act and five weeks later she was sedated – despite her protests – and her child removed and taken in to care, The Sunday Telegraph has disclosed. The woman was then sent back to Italy without her daughter, who is now 15 months old and the center of an international legal wrangle.
In February the woman, who is back on her medication, returned to Britain seeking the return of her daughter but was told by a judge at Chelmsford Crown Court that her child would instead be put up for adoption, the paper says. Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming has taken up her case and told Sky News he plans to raise the matter in Parliament. Mr Hemming, who is the chairman of the Public Family Law Reform Coordinating Campaign, said: “She wanted to go back to Italy to have her child naturally. “If somebody is a bit ill and then they are sectioned then that does not make them better. There was a situation where obviously the thing to have done was to get this woman back to Italy and stabilize her. “I cannot see why it would have been that difficult to get her back to her family and her two children.” The High Court in Rome has questioned why British law has been applied to an Italian citizen.
The woman, who is amicably divorced from her husband, is continuing her battle to get her daughter returned either to her or into the care of her friends or relatives. Her lawyer in Britain, Brendan Flemming, told The Sunday Telegraph, which has seen court documents ordering the cesarean section: “I have never heard of anything like this in all my 40 years in the job. “I can understand if someone is very ill that they may not be able to consent to a medical procedure but a forced cesarean is unprecedented.”
Questions are being raised as to why the woman’s relatives in Italy, who were caring for her other two children while she was detained, were not consulted about the matter. The courts have argued that they have jurisdiction over the case because the woman did not protest at the time. In addition the judge ruled her child should not be returned to her in case she fails to take her medication again. Essex County Council told Sky News in a statement: “Essex County Council does not comment on the circumstances of on-going individual cases involving vulnerable people and children.”
As the lone child of a single-parent Mother who had to work long hours to support me, I was in effect raised by my grandmother who we all referred to as ‘Nana’ who was Welsh, as was my Mum and Nana was in effect the ‘father figure’ of the household.
Even though we officially lived in the ‘posh’ North West London borough of Hampstead, five yards north across the road was the neighborhood of Chalk Farm in the more ‘working class’ London borough of Camden. We were very poor and when I was a child there were no computers or Gameboys to play with and I remember I had a favourite rubber duck and a teddy to play with but no other real toys that I can remember.
I recall that Sunday’s were the big day as Sunday’s were bath days. We would have a bath once a week and the bath was in the kitchen on the top floor of the massive old Victorian house, the top and middle floors of which we rented, Eton College were the landlords and they owned lots of other properties and land in the area. The bath had a wooden board over it which would act as the kitchen work surface and above that was the washing line to dry our clothes. In the kitchen in the cupboard under the sink by the window was Nana’s ‘bucket’ which was her toilet as she was too aged to go up and down the numerous stairs to reach the toilet which was an extension built on to the ground floor as we had no toilet in our flat. We had a big black and white cat called Susie and I’ve always had either a dog or a cat ever since and my love of all animals has not waned.
I grew up in a time of steam trains, black and white TV’s and music, I remember the music for I had been given a tiny blue plastic transistor radio that I used to crawl under my bedclothes at night and listen to the fantastic music that was pumped out by Radio Caroline and Radio Luxembourg which I could only pick up without interference in the still of the night. My uncle had given me some old ’45’ vinyl single records of his which I played on the old Dansette portable record player my Aunt owned and those songs were something special, Buddy Holly’s ‘Raining in my Heart’, ‘Everyday’, ‘Peggy Sue’ and ‘Otis Reding’s ‘’Respect’ and ‘These Arms of Mine’ as well as C90 cassettes of Frank Sinatra’s Greatest Hits ‘Strangers in the Night’ and also C90’s of Louis Armstrong and Count Basie’, I would discover The Beatles and Dylan much later.
The streets were my playground although friends were few and far between. I had two or three mates from school who I used to get into adventures with like exploring the local railroad yard and building our camp in the railway yard salt storage room there or playing down by the canal, or building a go cart from old pram wheels and planks of wood with string tied to the front wheels as a steering device and that kind of thing, but also in those days there were no violent gangs roaming the street nor were there everyday muggings, although you had to watch out for the bigger boys, you never felt danger walking or playing in the streets though I remember one day Duggie and I popped into Chalk Farm Underground Station for a pee in the Gents and one of the cubicle doors suddenly opened and there stood a guy in his 40’s with his todger in his hand asking if we wanted anything? Well Duggie and I ran like the wind all the way up Haverstock Hill past Belsize Park Tube Station without stopping, fearful that the pervert was chasing us, which he wasn’t of course.
I was informed that I was a Christian and that I belonged to the Church of England and I was also puzzlingly baptized as a baby (double indemnity maybe)? I remember attending pre-school nursery at a Convent run nunnery in Parkway, Camden Town and my only recollections of that place is having dried toast as a mid-morning snack, sleeping on green canvas camp beds as a siesta in the afternoon and also running away from there one afternoon and somehow arriving at home unscathed after having caught a 31 bus from Camden High Street as a 6 year old with no money in his pockets and then waiting on the outside door step of our home till early evening when someone came home and opened the front door for me.
I attended Primrose Hill Primary School which was a state run school for 6-11 year olds and there I learnt many of the values that I still hold today like truthfulness, not stealing, showing respect to one’s elders and dealing with others as you wanted to be treated yourself. I also remember some of the Biblical New Testament parables that were told to us by our religious education teacher Mr. Jay. Primary school was a nice warm period in my life.
Class of 1963 (I’m 2nd left, 2nd row)
My first experience of finding out what death was happened when a bigger boy, Brandon Mitchel, who was in a higher class than me was killed on the railway. The nearby British Rail train station was Primrose Hill Station, which was around the corner from my home in Adelaide Road and many children used the British Rail trains in order to travel to and from school. Apparently he and others boys had been playing with the carriage doors whilst the train was in the long tunnel leading from South Hampstead Station to Primrose Hill Station and the door opened and he fell out into the tunnel and was killed. We all watched his funeral procession drive slowly past the school in Princess Road below from the big Victorian school hall windows, although we didn’t really fully understand the real concept of death but of course we realized that we’d never see Brandon again.
Primrose Hill Primary School
The other tragedies I remembered from those early days were the Aberfan disaster when a mud slide engulfed a school in Aberfan, South Wales killing many children and also the J.F. Kennedy assassination, and I recall watching the funeral of J.F.K. on our black and white Baird TV and I remember seeing his small son salute his casket, an image which has stayed in my memory.
We lived on the top 2 floors of a big Victorian house in Adelaide Road and another family occupied the ground and basement floors.
When I was about 10, one day the downstairs bigger boy asked if I wanted to ‘play a game’ with him and with his friend who was our next door neighbour and was the same age as him. Of course I said ‘yes’, even though I didn’t really have much to do with them as they were about 15 or 16 and they had in the past taunted me about my lack of a father as when people had asked me where my father was I would innocently say that he’d been ‘killed in the war’ and to a 10 year old child that seemed to make sense but to older boys who knew a bit of mathematics, they quickly worked out that since I was born 11 years after the war had ended then my claim was impossible. My next answer to questions about my father was a story that my aunt had told me that my father had been killed in a car accident. Anyway, the games these boys were playing were I guess what you’d call ‘sexual exploration’ or trying to find their sexual identity but of course I had no idea about sex and luckily I was not touched or molested and to me at the time it really just seemed like a game and a few more of these ‘games’ took place and of course I was made to swear that I wouldn’t tell anyone about them but shortly thereafter it suddenly woke me up to the existence of sex and sexual pleasure and I think that up to then I had really been a slim handsome totally innocent child and that from then on into my teens I became fat and lacked self-esteem. I think I subconsciously tried to make myself as unattractive as possible to other males and I became totally withdrawn and did not go out unless absolutely necessary, I did not mix well with others and felt uncomfortable in a crowd and this condition would continue into my early 20’s.
Outside the site of my old home (since demolished and replaced by a newer house) at 21, Adelaide Road
From the age of eleven I attended Quintin-Kynaston Secondary Modern School in St. Johns Wood (not far from ‘The Beatles’ Abbey Road recording studios). In fact when I joined it was just Kynaston School a comprehensive school next to the adjoining Quintin Grammar School but shortly after I joined the two schools were amalgamated into one.
Quintin-Kynaston School gave me a strange cold feeling and was in some respects a violent shock to my system as no-one seemed to be friendly there as everyone had seemed to be at Primrose Hill Primary School and it was hard to feel at home or wanted there. Teachers would slap you around the head, as our Chinese Math’s teacher, Mr. Lu often would if you got things wrong and he would say, as he was slapping you around the head in a heavy Chinese accent, ‘You are a vely sirry boy’! I think my adolescent depression was triggered by both the result of the sexual games I was enticed to play with others and also this cold experience of school and really that’s what it was, it was like leaving the warmth and protectiveness of your childhood and being thrown into this cold and seemingly unloving new world, a world without love, of hate, of violence, of murder – the real world as unfortunately we know it today.
By the age of 13 I had started delivering newspapers in the early mornings and in all weathers for pocket money, whether in rain or thick snow, locally. The newsagent’s was around the corner from our home in Bridge Approach and was opposite to Primrose Hill Station on the bridge and I also used to earn extra pocket money by typing envelope addresses on ‘brown plain envelopes’ for Rod. Rod, who really did resemble a short bearded gnome, had a thriving porno mail order business going on in the back of his newspaper and tobacconist shop, actually they were more what you would call ‘saucy books’ that he ordered from Denmark than ‘porn’ and the books had no pictures in them and were really very tame compared to what is available today!
I also used to work for Rod selling newspapers on Sunday’s on a pitch just inside Chalk Farm Underground Station and it was an easy 4 or 5 hours work usually, that is until I got mugged one Sunday morning by an elder boy and his sister who had a large Alsatian dog on the lead and he threatened to stab me and set his dog on me if I didn’t give them all the money, which I did. As I was handing the money over I noticed a bearded gentleman standing by the nearby public underground phone booth which he then proceeded to use and I found out later that he was a newspaper reporter who had just happened to be there and after witnessing what had happened he had phoned his newspaper to report what he had witnessed and only after that did he then phone the police to report the crime and worse of all, he did nothing to help except after the muggers had run away, try to get information from me to use in his story. This went against all I had learnt about helping those in need and it taught me perhaps the true nature of newspaper reporters and the ilk.
My first impressionable and not particularly pleasant encounter with the police was to follow. They arrived in their marked police car, in fact I recognized one of the police officers as living in the police flats opposite Chalk Farm Station and next to my home and he and his fellow officer then drove me to nearly Camden Lock where one of them took me down to the canal bank and started to question me. I told him what had happened and I always tried to tell the truth but he had a big smirk on his face and basically called me a liar and told me that I was working with the robbers and that I should tell him the truth before I got into more trouble than I already was in. I think I must have turned white with shock and I didn’t understand what was happening or why a police officer, who I was taught to respect was treating me like I was a liar and a thief and I just kept repeating to him the truth about what had happened and he then seemed to give up and accept that what I was telling him was the truth and we then walked back to the police car and they drove me home.
My ‘15 Seconds’ with Andy Warhol
I also worked for Rod in my early teens selling hamburgers and hot dogs for pocket money by the steps to The Roundhouse Theatre in Chalk Farm, just around the corner from my home and a mile up the road from Camden Town. The Roundhouse was and still is a mega artistic cultural center putting on music concerts and shows and plays. I first saw Ian Hunter perform there, standing a few yards from him as he sang a new song about God and I first heard Hawkwind’s amazing synthesizer led ‘Silver Machine’ come blasting out of the doors into the street where I was selling hot dogs and I would sneak in to watch many other bands perform there and no doubt sold a few burgers to a star or two as well. On one particular night it was to be the grand opening of Andy Warhol’s controversial new play called ‘Pork’ and no-one knew if he would fly in from New York or not for the London grand opening of his show. My grandmother and her sister, who was up visiting from Wales, decided to protest against the reported sexual content and nudity in the play and were amongst a small crowd waiting outside. Lo and behold but who should come skipping along the street but Andy Warhol himself with a pretty young boy on his arm. My grandmother and her sister went up to him and shouted at the top of their heavily accented Welsh voices ‘PIG, PIG”! To which Warhol, almost without blinking an eyelid, stopped, looked at them, put his hands on his hips and said ‘Oh no my dear, I think that you’ll find that it’s called ‘PORK’ as he minced away with a big smirk on his face. He then came towards me and I immediately spoke and apologized to him for my Grandmothers disrespect and rudeness to which he looked into my eyes, smiled and said, ‘Oh, I quite enjoyed it actually’ and he gave a little laugh and a wiggle of his hips and then climbed up the stairs to The Roundhouse. Anyway, that was my little encounter with Andy Warhol.
Outside The Roundhouse
Aye, Aye, Captain!
I belonged to the Regents Park Boating Club (re-named ‘The Pirate Club’ ) which was a old large steel barge moored along the Regents Canal up from Camden Lock and we used to be able to take rowing boats and canoes out for rides along the canal for a small weekly sub and I even managed, with the pocket money I had saved up from working for Rod, to buy my own little wooden rowing boat called ‘Amanda’ that I moored at the boating club. The ‘Captain’ of the boating club who we called ‘Peg-Leg’, as he had a pronounced limp (and I presume a real peg-leg), would dish out a form of punishment that definitely would be banned today and would most probably lead to police investigations, that of spanking the children, usually with them just in their pants whilst bent over his knee with a paddle, slipper or bare hand (see http://www.corpun.com/ukil6911.htm below or see Note 1) but anyway, what did we innocent children understand?
Regents Boating Club
|(This is from the website of www.corpun.com Illicit CP – November 1969, The people, London, 9 November 1969)Throw away that bat, m’lord By Graham JayIn these enlightened times the painful practice of giving naughty boys a good old-fashioned whacking is just about dead. Apart from a few die-hard sticklers for discipline, nobody much approves of it anyway.But on a converted barge, which members of a youth club use as their headquarters, they still know what it’s like to have their bottoms stung.For spanking is one of the club’s punishments — administered monthly by the group’s founder, the 2nd Viscount St. Davids, no less.He doesn’t call it whacking or spanking. His novel term for it is “paddling”. For the instrument used to send the dust flying from an offender’s trousers is a chunk of wood which looks like a small bat and is called the “paddle”.In the old days wily youngsters would have stuffed a thick copy of Elementary Mathematics into their pants.|
Today, they take a stronger line. Members of the Regent’s Boat Club, which includes girls, too, have signed a petition calling for an end to “paddling.” “If I’m present, I invariably do the spanking myself,” said Lord St. Davids — full name Jestyn Austen Plantagenet Phillipps. “I don’t like leaving it to anyone else. It’s a nasty task, like cleaning out the lavatories. “If they are young members — say seven or eight — I spank them very gently and I never use the paddle on them. Only on older children. Boys have also been caned. I once had to cane a girl, too.”
Parents of youngsters who join the club, on the Regent’s Canal at Camden Town, London, are asked to sign a copy of the rules. These say that any youngsters breaking them can choose one of three penalties:
1. Being expelled from the club.
2. Being taken off the promotion and privileges list, which involves restrictions on using the club’s 40 boats.
3. Spanking (or “in bad cases” caning) on the “seat”.
A senior skipper at the club, 14-year-old David Sprigg, said: “I know we’re supposed to have a choice, but no one wants to leave the club and the other punishment is too long. So we choose the spanking.”
Another practice which members are campaigning to do away with is “The Promise.” This is a written undertaking which offenders have been called upon to make. It says: “I promise to behave myself, and if I break my promise my seat is to be caned hard.” But Lord St. Davids, a 52-year-old Old Etonian, says that he is content now to have verbal promises.
He went on: “It was the members themselves who suggested the cane. I suggested the ‘bad list’ and it follows logically that they should be offered the choice of no longer attending.” His lordship says that now he no longer uses the cane. He would only give offenders a “good spanking” with the “paddle”. “Within a minute or two of being paddled, they’re out boating happily again,” said Lord St. Davids. “We don’t have any long sulks and that’s the whole point of it — get it over quickly.” “I had to spank three or four girls in the spring who were rather badly behaved and annoyed our neighbours,” he said. His lordship added: “I admit our methods are unusual. I’m a revolutionary in many ways, and no doubt revolting to many people. “But I don’t believe I’m an ogre. I don’t even think I’m misguided. Am I?”
The anti-whacking petition was handed to a member of the committee, Mr. Paddy Walker, who runs a pleasure barge business and antique shop. He said: “I’m a founder committee man and personally I disagree with the spanking business and always have. But I’ve been in the minority in the past and you must remember the rules were agreed by members when it was started. “You must also appreciate the warden’s position. He’s in a very tough area, and whackings are something he’s always accepted. Remember, he is a product of the English public school system.”
Mrs. Polly Rogers, a 48-year-old architect and former treasurer of the club, said of the spankings “I think it’s a jolly good rule, especially the way Lord St. Davids applies it. “He really loves the club and the children and gives an awful lot of time to it.”
A spokesman for the Inner London Education Authority, which subsidises the club, said: “Because of the risk of accidents, the club has strict safety rules which we’re told are rigorously enforced. “Nevertheless, our local youth officer has told the management committee of the club that he doesn’t like the corporal punishment rules and has asked them to reconsider them.”
The club, undoubtedly, is an admirable innovation which is being copied all over the country. It has a flawless safety record. Indeed, two members have received awards for saving lives. Strict rules are, obviously, necessary for safety and smooth running. But whacking? Is that really necessary?
In fairness, I fancy that Lord St. Davids, a respected sailor and active member of the House of Lords, is having doubts about it himself. As he told me: “I’m trying to let the children do what they want … I try to keep on learning.”
Right then. It seems a good opportunity to have all hands on deck … to see the “paddle” chucked overboard.
[NOTE BY C.F.: The first paragraph of this item seems astonishing in retrospect — whacking “just about dead” in 1969!! Of course, as is now well documented, here on this website and elsewhere, nothing could be further from the truth. But in the middle and late 1960s many adults, possibly misled by the propaganda of the teaching profession (which has always and consistently understated the extent of c.p. at any given time), really did believe that corporal punishment had largely disappeared after they had left school. I remember being carried along with this belief myself at the time, even though I had only left school myself four years earlier, and knew well that c.p. had been very much alive at that time, at least at the kind of school I attended.]
By the Regents Canal and the bridge that Dylan walks over in the video for ‘Blood in my Eyes’
I had already endured the dreaded ‘cane’ on at least 2 occasions as a form of legal punishment at Primrose Hill Primary School from the headmaster for misdemeanors, so this was just another form of punishment I thought, of course being totally innocent as to any sexual overtones that could be deduced from the ‘Captain’s ‘need to put small children over his knee to punish them in this manner.
It’s Raining Men
Nana used to rent out the top floor bedroom in our house to a single Christian church going lady called Jane. She was in her late 40’s or early 50’s and we never used to hear a peep out of her, that is until one evening when we heard a crashing sound and a gut wrenching scream coming from Jane’s room! We all rushed up and banged her door which she opened terrified and crying pointing to the wardrobe. Nana and I entered her room and noticed that the wardrobe door was being held closed from the inside and more than that, there was a big gaping hole in the ceiling above Jane’s bed which was now covered in white dust! Jane said terrifyingly as she shook with fear, ‘He’s in there, he’s in there’! Nana, who had a large wooden rolling pin in her hand ready to strike if needed, said in a deep menacing voice, ‘Come out now’! The wardrobe door slowly opened and a short slightly built dark skinned Bangladeshi man in his 30’s wearing just a white vest, boxer shorts and covered in white dust from head to toe emerged saying in a shaking heavy accent, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry’. Apparently he had been having an affair with the next door neighbour, a large red headed buxom Irish lady called Bridget, when her lorry driver Irish husband, who was a large aggressive Irishman came home unexpectedly and so Bridget pushed her Bangladeshi lover up through a trap door in the ceiling cavity and he then tried to make his way to freedom by walking on the ceiling’s wooden rafters in the pitch dark and though and behold he lost his footing and crashed through the ceiling right onto the bottom of sleeping Jane’s bed! Well, we gave this poor shaking man a blanket and a cup of tea and he would return a few times to us after that to plaster and repair the ceiling hole he had made and we never told Brigit or hers husband what had happened!
I Lost It
Because I never really had any one in my life to motivate me or who I could follow as a role model, like a brother or sister, I just drifted through secondary school trying to get to grips with what I was being taught and I eventually left school at 18, I could have left at 16 but what would I then do and I certainly had no aspirations of going on to university as that wasn’t for me and was perceived then as being for ‘rich kids’ and so I left school with passes in the only subjects I really liked, I gained an ‘O’ Level pass in English Language and a Grade One (‘O’ Level pass) in Social Studies (Sociology).
I lost my virginity when at 16 after I had gotten extremely drunk on rum & cokes with a couple of school mates at a weekly disco at a pub we used to go to called ‘The Birds Nest’ in Hampstead Lane in West Hampstead in London. I remember dancing on the small elevated dance floor to ‘Nut Bush City Limits’ by Tina Turner as we had a choreographed stupid dance we used to do to it and next thing I recall was that I was down in the bar area snogging with this red headed 20 year old Canadian girl who had picked me up and next thing was leading me to her nearby home to ‘have her way with me’, not that I was in a fit state to do much but I did what I was instructed to do and then I remember being out in the street in a drunken haze trying to find my way back to the disco never to come across this girl again (if you’d pardon the pun).
I left school not knowing what I was going to do but I felt that I had to find work in order to help with things at home. In English society usually everyone who is working contributes by paying rent to the household.
Almost as soon as I left school at 18 I started working as a sweet shop/tobacconist shop manager. The shop was opposite our home and would become owned by a somewhat cartoon character who was almost indirectly responsible for my going to Israel. He was an archetypal Jew and I say that with no anti-Semitic overtones but he did have a massive hooked nose and he was a miser and in all honesty I just could not see how, if Israel was full of people like him, the country could have survived for as long as it had and so I decided to check it out for myself for although I really hardly knew anything at all about Israel I was aware of the Six Day War and of the Yom Kippur War as well as the Entebe Raid and I had an empathy with that country’s struggle. In fact whilst at Quintin-Kynaston School I had written an essay about hunting down and executing a Nazi responsible for killing Jews.
Of course working in the shop meant that I came into contact with all different kinds of people which helped build my confidence and self-esteem somewhat and I met people on a daily basis, like plain clothes police officers from the offices above the shop of Scotland Yard’s C10 Stolen Car Squad as well as an American lad I became friends with, or more to the point, he became friends me as I then owned my first car, a small green Hillman Imp which of course was an asset, particularly if you needed to go to different locations across London in order to ‘score’ drugs. His father was a professor and they lived near to the shop and opposite my house in an exclusive block of flats owned by Eton College, in fact most of the property in the area, including the house I lived in, was owned by Eton College. This American lad, who was a bit younger than me, introduced me to smoking Hash for as weird as it seems and it was, I would enter his apartment to find all of his family, his professor father, his stepmother, his older and younger sisters and him sitting in a circle on the floor all smoking from a Hash pipe that they would then pass to one another and of course I would be invited to join them. Smoking Hash or Marijuana was never a pleasurable experience for me as not only did I not get high, it just made me feel more down than I was and made me feel self-conscious and somewhat paranoid. I say they were weird, not only for their ‘communal family smoking’ which maybe was normal in the USA but often after they’d finished smoking the father would take his wife by the hand into their bedroom where they would make loud noisy love while we were all sitting in the next room high, or not, as kites, again, maybe normal in the USA? Also, there was a noticeable atmosphere where his stepmother was always telling him what to do, which he resented and his sister would often refer to his butt as being flat as a pancake, so what exactly was going on among themselves is anyone’s guess?
A Jewish girl from Golders Green had somehow befriended me when I was working in the shop, I think as her Mother pushed her to ask me out, but we didn’t have much in common and I didn’t find her particularly attractive, well in truth she was rotund and somewhat unattractive with very little personality, but anyway, things came to pass that the American lad was looking for an easy lay and so it was arranged that he would ‘deflower’ her at a fellow American friend’s rented house next to Primrose Hill and that he she would bring her friend along for me. They went downstairs to ‘do the business’ and I was left sitting on the sofa with a girl I did not find the least attractive and who failed to ignite any fire in my loins and so when they came back downstairs our American friend was disappointed that ‘I hadn’t taken care of her’. After that he didn’t see this Jewish girl again and just continually put her down. I continued being his driver and at least once became so high (or not) that I’m sure I must have been zig-zagging all over the road on the way back from him scoring some Hash that of course you have to sample with the dealer but by the grace of God I wasn’t stopped or arrested by the police.
I Gotta Get Outta This Place!
I was so fed up with the monotonous daily routine of breakfast, work, dinner, TV, sleep coupled together with an adolescent depression that had carried on into my late teens and maybe beyond and not helped by my occasional use of ‘recreational drugs’ that made me more depressed, that I decided to break free and experience a different kind of life, life on an Israeli kibbutz. At the age of 21 leaving England was the best move I ever made as it opened my eyes, my mind and my soul, as did discovering Bob Dylan’s music and it allowed me to see and experience a life I could never have hoped to experience & I liken it to a man being released from prison & tasting that sweet smell of freedom! On Kibbutz Hagoshrim in the north of Israel and not far from the border with Lebanon, I worked in the orchards picking grapefruits 4 hours a day then lazing by the swimming pool for the remainder & led an idyllic life in what appeared to me to be Paradise. I returned to London after a year, not because I wanted to but because my air ticket was valid for only a year – initially I signed up for a 10 week stay with ‘Project 67’, and after getting enough money together to return to Israel by signing on the dole for a few months I returned to Kibbutz Hagoshrim, where to my surprise we were now being ‘protected’ by a Israeli army group of big tough (ha!) boy and girl soldiers.
By then I had progressed to working in the kibbutz communal dining room so I got to see everyone on the kibbutz during the course of the day at mealtimes. At one lunch time a cute Israeli female soldier named Dina approached me by the cold soda machine in the communal dining room and starting talking with me and she asked me if I wanted to go with her that evening to see a big Israeli pop star called Ariel Zilbur at an adjacent kibbutz? Not having a clue who Ariel Zilbur was but finding Dina somewhat attractive and special, maybe the uniform had something to do with it or maybe it was her cute smile and cheekiness, I accepted her invitation and from then on the rest is history, ok ok, so there’s more…. Yes the kibbutz life was known as a place for ‘free love’ & all that though it wasn’t exactly like that. I remember upon my arrival for the first time at Kibbutz Hagoshrim being shown my sleeping accommodation which was a large green painted somewhat dilapidated wooden hut surrounded by similar green painted dilapidated wooden huts and
finding a small group of established New Zealand and Australian girl volunteers all sitting in a circle on the grass outside awaiting our groups arrival.
My first kibbutz home
I was allocated the hut where they slept (my room mates were to be two constantly drunk English volunteers as well as a third maniac depressive northern Englishman), and Liz, the somewhat ‘large’ Aussie from Wagga Wagga barking ‘Oooh yeah, he’s mine’ as she grabbed my arm & rested her curly head on it, which somewhat shocked me what with me being a well mannered introverted London boy who had learned there was a time & a place for everything & tended to shy away from those ‘rough’ and loud people & here I was thrown in at the deep end amongst them, but I tell you, the kibbutz was the best learning ground!
I remember Liz who I’d guess was about 25 and was a physical instruction teacher from some place called Wagga Wagga in central Australia and who had been on the kibbutz about 6 months working in the dining room kitchen, there was also Ann who was a very posh New Zealand girl whose parents owned a sheep farm there & also an Aborigine girl Marie, who lived in our hut with her Aussie surfing mad husband, Wes, then there was Mike. Now Mike was a bearded South African, I’d say he was at least 40 and he appeared to me to be one of those world wise travelers who’d seen & done it all, I thought of him as a bit of a know-it-all & I tried to avoid him as best I could, but for the some reason the girls just could not resist him. The two constantly drunk English guys whom I had the misfortune to have accompany me from London and who I shared our room with, didn’t have long to stay on the kibbutz, after all, all the kibbutz asked was that you work a mere 4 hours a day, don’t cause trouble and that you get up for work on time every day. I was lumbered with them in the orchards picking grapefruits & if there was the odd day that they actually turned up for work, bearing in mind that at the height of summer we started working at 4 am & finished by 8 am in time for breakfast and then bed as it became unbearably hot, specially for an Englishman used to the clouds & rain, they invariably would disappear & would be found fast asleep in a drunken stupor under a grapefruit tree.
Among the grapefruit trees of the kibbutz
Inevitably they were asked to leave the kibbutz & I remember them being very put out about it & couldn’t understand why? I recall that my first girl friend on the kibbutz was an extremely white & thin German girl called Silvia, who really didn’t possess a sense of humour or much character at all.
My next ‘girlfriend’ was a blonde Danish nymphomaniac called Susan, I mean I didn’t realize she was a nymphomaniac till after a while & actually I guess she was my first real love BUT she had a thing for guys, all guys, especially Latin guys and what with there being a group of Mexican Jewish volunteers staying on the kibbutz, it became more than obvious that she was perhaps being more friendly then she should have been towards them, but anyway to cut a long story short she taught me a lot that I needed to carnally know & I think eventually she moved in with a kibbutz member after & stayed a while longer on the kibbutz.
My fellow kibbutz hut mates (Liz, Ann and Susan) in the dining room
Whenever it was known that a group of volunteers was arriving from abroad, especially if they were from Scandinavia, all the single kibbutz guys would be sniffing around hoping to find one to shack up with & for the new volunteer this arrangement had it’s advantages as it meant that she didn’t have to live in a wooden shack with the rest of her group, she also had her own privacy & that she was well looked after & she would usually stay on after her group had returned to their country of origin. After that I was friendly with a rich English girl, Annabel & another rich girl from South Africa, Michelle before encountering my first Israeli girl, Alice, who in hindsight was a bit ‘doo-laly’ but was ok. So, by the time of my second arrival at Kibbutz Hagoshrim I was a seasoned volunteer & was duly placed working in the lofty position of being in charge of weed spraying in the cotton fields. Kibbutz Hagoshrim’s cotton was the finest quality in Israel, mostly because the kibbutz was afforded almost unlimited supplies of almost free water to irrigate its fields with and once the weed problem was taken care of, it allowed the cotton buds to fully develop.
Me in the cotton fields
So I was in charge of various volunteers who I would supervise in aiming & shooting the weeds with their spray guns whilst balancing on plastic seats tied to the front of the tractor I was driving. I must admit that my favourite times at work were with a group of about 10 German girl volunteers who always insisted at the end of work that I drive them on the tractor to the river that ran through the cotton fields so they could strip & cool off after a hard days spraying by swimming in the ice cold river water! Perhaps I kick myself for lost opportunities but then again I console myself with the notion that I was in a position of authority & it would have been wrong to have abused my position (yeah, right!) even if they were so free and willing!
The crop spraying tractor in the cotton fields
So by the time I’d started to go out with Dina (well, I use that expression as there wasn’t actually anywhere to go as the kibbutz was miles from the nearest town & was surrounded by a high & barbed wired covered security fence) another girl appeared on the scene. Her name was Caroline, affectionately known by us as ‘mitzvadots’ which is Hebrew for ‘suitcases’ as she had the most massive posterior I have yet to see! So it must have been well known on the kibbutz that me & Dina were boyfriend & girlfriend as it’s a small community where everyone seems to know everything and so it was kind of amazing to both of us when, whilst watching a film in the old dining room (when the Monday night film wasn’t cancelled – Monday night was film night and it invariably happened that the film would be cancelled as a kibbutz member had died & the film was cancelled as a mark of respect), Dina on my left with my left arm around her hugging her & exchanging an occasional kiss, Caroline would come & sit on my right & would take my bare arm & would start to tickle it – Caroline was from a rich South African family, used to servants, I doubt very much if she’d ever had a boyfriend let alone kissed a boy & I suppose she was very innocent & for some reason unbeknown to me had fallen for me. I can’t remember how we managed to get the message across to her that Dina and I were an item but I’m sure it was done as tactfully as possible, anyway, a song I wrote, ‘Miss Goodie Two Shoes’, is more or less about her & about the South African experience and the last lines of ‘Miss Goodie Two Shoes’ are a double entendre reference to Caroline – “And if you don’t start to bend, you’ll soon reach your big end’ (coz of her huge posterior!)!
So it came to pass that Dina’s army group was due to be posted back to their home kibbutz, which was Kibbutz Afek near Haifa. We had lived together with 3 other army girls and we slept on a tiny narrow iron framed metal army bed for months in the same room in the army groups’ accommodation block by the swimming pool at Kibbutz Hagoshrim and we were very much in love and so when her army group returned to Kibbutz Afek I joined them a few weeks later, leaving Hagoshrim for Kibbutz Afek where I started to work also in the cotton fields. Kibbutz Afek was a million miles from Hagoshrim in that it was a poor kibbutz with mostly old members originally from Poland as most of the young people had left to work in the cities and those that were left were either lazy layabouts and at least one was known as a drug addict. Hagoshrim was a young kibbutz founded by Turkish immigrants and had become rich from the top grade cotton it produced and also from the hair removal machine it produced called “Epilady’ which was later to be the cause of its downfall, as a famous major American company copied their idea & then proceeded to tie the kibbutz up in legal knots in the US courts, requesting delay after delay to the copyright infringement proceedings, each time costing the kibbutz a fortune in legal fees until eventually the kibbutz ran out of money & had to concede defeat. At Afek we were given and were honoured to receive our own stone house to live in as the kibbutz tried to attract young people the best it could & so having a group of 20 or so Israeli soldier boys & girls arrive really did inject new young blood into the life of the kibbutz. We decided that Dina and I wanted to ‘be together forever’ and decided to get married, but things weren’t that simple. Dina’s father, Shmuel Itzkovits had been sent to Auschwitz Concentration Camp when he was a 12 year old where all of his family were killed, except for a cousin & he had a natural distrust and fear of Christians, and to him I was a Christian.
Although I was told I was a Christian & was in fact was also baptized as a baby, my family were not religious & I’d perhaps been to church 4 or 5 times up to then, either for weddings or at Christmas time for the colorful midnight mass with its ceremony, gaudy decorations and lashings of incense!
Try as hard as I might I could not and do not believe that Jesus was the Messiah, although I do believe him to have been a major prophet and so being told I was a ‘Christian’ didn’t mean that much to me. At that time I felt that in coming to Israel I had found my home and felt I belonged here and always would. I always had believed in God but I shied away from any religion involved in all that ceremony as a way to communicate with Him and so Judaism seemed to mirror my beliefs insomuch as it seemed to involve less ceremony than most other religions and had a belief in one God with no inter-mediator’s in the way who you had to go through to reach Him and so I decided that I wanted to convert to Judaism and luckily at that time the conversion process was made easier for those living on a kibbutz, city dwellers usually had to suffer 1-2 years of study in the city in order to convert but Kibbutz Afek arranged for me to attend a 3 month residential conversion course on a religious kibbutz near Ben-Gurion Airport called Kibbutz Beerot Yitzchak. I had a great time there, working for a few hours a day as the assistant to the ‘installator’ (Plumber) and then supposedly studying the Torah the rest of the day. When I say ‘religious kibbutz’ it was far from being populated by black coated & hatted bearded Chassidic ‘cowboys’ but was full of young American student types with knitted kippa’s or yarmulkes. Every weekend & some nights I would slip Dina in by meeting her at the nearby main road & sneaking across the fields with her & into my room where we would spend most of the night with the other conversion course member’s playing cards! The final Torah (Bible) test was very easy for me & I think that I impressed the panel of 3 Torah expert judges with my knowledge of Torah & I passed the exam & the course, which incidentally they extended by a further month in order to test our resolve. After the course finished I had to attend hospital in order to have my religious circumcision carried out. It was a matter of being in hospital for a few hours & I went to Asouta Hospital in Tel Aviv. Since it was at the time of the large Russian Immigration to Israel in the late 70’s, I was put on a trolley in the corridor outside the operating theater with dozens of others waiting in line who were also about to lose some of their skin. The scene was like a factory conveyor belt & in fact the surgeon who must have seen no end in sight to his work examined my bits in the corridor saying ‘Um you don’t need the operation as your skin’s short’ to which I argued that I did need it and that I wanted the Brit (religious circumcision) but in hindsight maybe I should have left things as nature had intended for I’m sure he remembered me as I lay in his operating theater for his work wasn’t exactly artistic! It took ages for the anesthetist to put me to sleep for the operation and when I eventually went under and awoke in a hospital room Dina was by my bedside with her parents and in walked, or rather staggered in a rather red faced and apparently inebriated Rabbi. He was somewhat intoxicated as he had to toast with wine and bless each circumcision performed as it was a religious obligation and ‘Mitzvah’ to do so and since he had a lot to bless that day he became the worse for wear but we were all somewhat shocked when suddenly announced to Dina with her parents present, ‘Don’t let him scratch his bollocks until it’s all healed up’! Anyway, I had to put yellow powder on the wound for a couple of weeks and it wasn’t too bad and then after it had all healed up I had to undergo a ritual immersion in a large bath containing moving water known as a Mikva, much akin to being Baptized I suppose and I was pushed underwater 3 times by a man prodding me with a broom handle muttering religious words, as far as I remember!
So, I had passed the conversion course, undergone ritual circumcision, been immersed in a bath full of flowing water and so we had booked the wedding and invited guests for 18th October 1979 at the Bnei-Brit wedding hall in Tel Aviv and all we needed now was the official conversion confirmation certificate signed by the Orthodox Chief Rabbi of Israel, under whose authority my religious conversion had been conducted, and then we’d be free to be married. We had met the late Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren 2 or 3 times in his Tel-Aviv office. Rabbi Shlomo Goren was famous as the first Rabbi to reach the Western Wall after the Six-Day War and is pictured blowing the religious shofar (Ram’s horn) by the Wall.
Rabbi Shlomo Goren at The Western Wall
It was his job to try and initially discourage me from wanting to convert to Judaism as unlike Christianity and other religions which actively encourages conversion to their particular religion(s), Judaism does not but he obviously saw how determined I was to convert and he agreed and approved my conversion from Christianity to Judaism and so we were shocked when, a few days before our scheduled wedding ceremony, we were informed that he would not sign my conversion certificate as he wanted to be sure that we would keep a Kosher home and so he wanted to personally interview Dina’s father, Shmuel himself in his office. Before my conversion course we had a visit by two Rabbi’s at Kibbutz Afek who had suddenly appeared without warning to check that we kept a Kosher home. The problem was that like most other kibbutz’s, Afek does not have a Kosher dining room and luckily as they walked up the stairs to the dining room someone noticed them coming and took the jug of milk off the table, and so they just saw a meat only lunch being eaten by the kibbutz members and were satisfied that it was kosher dining room! When they inspected our room which they thought only I lived in, they could only peer through the locked glass door and all appeared to be in order to them as they presumed that Dina lived in her army groups accommodation and they didn’t notice the unmade double bed with her negligee strewn across it!
So Dina’s father duly appeared before the Chief Rabbi in order to be questioned by him and we presumed that it would be no more than just a formality for after all Shmuel had been sent to Auschwitz Concentration Camp by the Nazi’s for being a Jew where his entire family had been sent to the gas chambers because they were Jews and only because they were Jews, so what could Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren want from him? What he wanted was a certificate from Shmuel’s neighborhood Rabbi confirming that Shmuel attended Synagogue every single day there to pray and that he kept a Kosher home and without this letter he would not sign my conversion certificate and we would not be able to get married a few days later at the wedding hall that we had booked and to which we had invited many guests! So, Shmuel had to prove that he was a ‘good Jew’ to the Chief Rabbi of Israel after having gone through all that he had suffered at the hands of the Nazi’s because he was a Jew!
Shmuel my father-in-law, lives with Dina’s mother in the apartment above us in the same block of flats. He is now in his 80’s and gets around with a walking stick but is surprisingly active for his age and his size, he’s about 6’5″ tall at least, which is where my son must get his height from as he’s the same height. Shmuel has rarely spoken to me about what he suffered at the hands of the Nazi’s but recently he started to tell me about some of what he went through.
With Dina and Shmuel
Shmuel lost one lung due to his suffering in the concentration camp and he has his Auschwitz camp number tattooed on his left arm. He lives on a cocktail of drugs. Dina’s parents live in what most western countries would term as ‘just above the poverty line’ and Dina’s Mother, Malka cleans and looks after old people in order to pay the bills (she herself is in her late-70’s)!
Shmuel related his war time experiences to me one day. He lived in a village in Hungary called ‘Tcech’ which was near a major river on the Hungary/Czech border and he remembers swimming in the river with friends during the summers. On the other bank of the river was Romania. His father was a hard working farmer who had fields of apple trees the fruits of which he would export to other European countries and they employed many local people to pick the harvest and they were a well respected family in the village.
When the war started it became forbidden for Jews to hold a business license and so Shmuel’s father managed to persuade a neighboring farmer to buy his license from him and Shmuel’s father then used to carry on working his apple trees till one day the Nazi’s arrived in their village and ordered all the Jews into a ghetto that they designated would be in a small section of the village and luckily this included their house so they were able to continue living there with many other families as well but now under Nazi rule and occupation.
The Nazi’s then informed them that they were all going to a ‘work camp’ and not realizing that this could be anything other than what the Nazi’s claimed it was they all climbed into the train wagons with no opposition. Shmuel and his entire family were transported to Auschwitz Concentration Camp and Shmuel, because he was very tall for his 12 years of age was directed to a line of those who would ‘work’ and who would live. His parents and nearly all of his family were directed to the other line and to their ultimate deaths in the gas chambers.
My father-in-law after his release from Auschwitz
The family farm was seized by Hungarian villagers and other remnants of Jewish property was systematically ransacked and destroyed. I didn’t ask Shmuel about his experiences in Auschwitz as he didn’t offer this information but he told me that he and his surviving cousin Harry (who now lives in Canada) and who survived Auschwitz with him, together with Harry’s brother had returned to their village after the war to try to reclaim what was theirs. Upon arriving at their village they were told by the villagers who had previously been their friends and neighbors either to immediately to leave or die. They left but Harry’s brother hired a boat to cross the river to go back to claim what was his and what had been stolen from them by the villagers, he was murdered in the boat by patrolling villagers and his body thrown into the river. Shmuel has not returned to his home village since.
After being freed from Auschwitz, Shmuel made his way to Israel where he arrived in late 1945 and met his wife to be, Malka whom he married soon after.
Shmuel made representations to the Hungarian government through their embassy in Tel-Aviv to try to reclaim their family property in Tech and were told that although records existed via documents that showed that they were indeed the owners of the farm the land was now in the hands of the Russians and the Russians will return nothing.
Ok, so the Chief Rabbi wanted to play games and if that was the game then two could play it too. Luckily Shmuel knew his local Rabbi as they had both been through the German Concentration Camps together and Shmuel ‘blessed’ the Rabbi and lo and behold the letter appeared written by the Rabbi just as the Chief Rabbi wanted it to be written and appeared in Shmuel’s hands! We rushed the letter to the Chief Rabbi’s office and picked up the already signed certificate of conversion that he’d mistakenly post–dated to after the wedding date and we went ahead with our wedding as planned.
It was a smallish wedding by Israeli standards with about 220 guests but it was a very happy event as we’d mostly invited young people, of course including all of Dina’s army group and friends from the kibbutz’s, and it was kept on a small scale
Dina and I with Dina’s army group at our wedding
as a wedding is not a cheap event and no financial help came from my side as I only had my mother and so Dina’s parents footed the bill. I remember the very first time that I met Dina’s parents that my eye was red and swollen like a balloon as I’d been stung by a bee and now on our wedding day Dina’s eye was red and swollen as she’d developed a sty, but it didn’t interfere with her special beauty!
We couldn’t afford a honeymoon but anyway before the wedding we had gone to Europe, it was Dina’s first trip abroad and her first time flying too, something she still hates doing because of ‘the bumps’. We went first to London and then to Paris and then Amsterdam and had a marvelous time.
After the wedding we made plans to try our fortune in England and so we again flew to London and moved in with my mum in her 13th floor apartment in a 20 floor council owned building near Swiss Cottage. Dina found work initially at a travel agents and then as a receptionist at Kibbutz Representatives in Golders Green in an office that sends English volunteers to work on Israeli kibbutz’s and I applied to join the Metropolitan Police.
I had grown up in Chalk Farm, London surrounded by police as my poor family home was next to a block of flats occupied by police families and I played with some of the children there and our home was also diagonally opposite to the C10 Scotland Yard Stolen Car Squad offices and garage, under which was the tobacconists shop of which I had became manager of after leaving school and I thus got to know a few of the C.I.D. officers from their upstairs offices as they used to come in to buy their cigarettes and sweets.
Whilst waiting for my police application to be processed, I was informed that it could take up to a year, I got a job for London transport working as an underground train guard. Actually I had applied to work as a bus driver but I failed the bus driving course, I had problems reversing the huge bus between two poles and was sent on a course to be a train guard. It sounds a simple undemanding kind of job doesn’t it? Actually I had to undergo a highly intensive training course at their training school at the White City in West London. You had to learn about the complete train driving and braking system and in the case of an emergency you had to be able to drive the train to safety by yourself, in fact you got to drive a real underground train with fare paying passengers during the course using the 2 different braking systems, one time at an underground station and the other at an outside train station. You then had to pass a very difficult technical exam, so don’t just think that those guys just open and close buttons shouting ‘Mind the doors’ because they all have all undergone intensive training.
I myself did fail to ‘mind the doors’ one time as when on duty on the Northern Line. Dina and her dad, who had come to visit from Israel, came for a ride on my train and whilst chatting to them and not concentrating on my job I had closed the train doors and signaled for the driver to move off and then closed my guards door whilst my head was still outside the door with the tunnel wall rapidly approaching and with my head about to smash into it! I luckily managed to push the button, open the door and get my head back inside in the nick of time! After the initial shock it was laughs all round as I had a great big thick ring of black dirt all around my neck and uniform shirt from the door being jammed on me!
Eventually I received the letter inviting me to an interview with the police and since I had no formal qualifications, apart from English ‘O’ Level and Sociology C.S.E. Grade 1, which is the equivalent of an ‘O’ Level pass, I undertook the police entrance exam, passed it and was sent for a 4 month training course at Hendon Police College in North West London. If I thought that learning about train braking systems was difficult then what I had to study at Hendon was unbelievable! You had to learn most of the relevant laws and legislation word perfect and I mean word perfect and you were tested on a daily basis, so your life was from the time of waking and well into the early hours of the night and sometimes early morning, was study, study, study! I eventually got used to the work load and I enjoyed my time at Hendon and did quite well in the final exam gaining 82%, I remember the final passing-out parade with family and friends present as being a very proud moment.
Hendon Police College June 1984
After Hendon was over, I was posted to Battersea Police Station in South West London which was a good training ground as there were a number of council estates and had a large poor black population.
At Battersea Police Station
I had applied to be allocated police married quarters and we were given a 2 room apartment at 1, St. Barnabas House, St. Barnabas Rd, Mitchim, Surrey and I used to drive to work at Battersea about 20 minutes away by car, I think we had a green Austin Maxi automatic which I taught Dina to drive on, so well in fact that she passed her test first time and this automatic car and she then passed it again on our second geared Triumph car. It was a cold apartment with stone floors and I used to put the electric blanket on an hour or so before we got into bed and I did this one evening turning the plug switch on but unbeknown to me the electric fire was also connected to the triple plug and so I inadvertently turned on the electric fire at the same time as this had been placed under the plastic side table of the bed, and whilst we were in the front room watching the film ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’.
Dina and I
We suddenly smelt strong fumes, I went to investigate and discovered our bedroom was well aflame, I called to Dina and we tried to make our escape via the front door and I just about managed to unlock the door and open it, I could smell and taste the poisonous fumes that had been given off by the burning plastic bed in my throat and we were lucky to have gotten out unscathed. We stood outside in our pyjamas in the freezing cold English winter and unbeknown to us was that Dina was already pregnant at that time with our first child, Golan! We were temporarily accommodated in the opposite empty police flat, all alone with no assistance, no furniture and hardly any heating but we got over it and soon we were house hunting and we found a charming newly decorated little house at nearby 16, Thornton Ave, West Croydon, Surrey, for which we paid the princely sum of 28,500 pounds by monthly mortgage.
Dina’s first birth was a long drawn out affair of at least 16 hours of labour at the Mayday Hospital in Croydon with a not so sympathetic mid-wife called Nurse Black. She was West Indian and had obviously assisted in hundred’s of births but this was our first child! In keeping with all of our children’s births, Dina’s parents arrived the day after Golan was born, Golan was born on 9th August 1982 and 8 days later he had the Brit-Milah performed on him by one of the top ‘Mohel’s’ (usually a Rabbi and qualified surgeon empowered to perform religious circumcisions) in England who was a friend of a rich cousin from Stamford Hill and of cousin Harry from Canada who had been at Auschwitz with Dina’s father.
As a new policeman, working at Battersea was a good learning ground as it was a poorer London district (soon to be fashionable place to live for the up and coming affluent) populated by a number of council estates inhabited by many black families and there was a racial problem there and it’s accurate to say that some of the local police were not exactly sympathetic to the local population so much so that, as with other districts of London at the time of the famous Tottenham riots, we had riots in Battersea and I was equipped with my shield in the front line with fellow policemen charging petrol and rock throwing demonstrators during the riots, exciting times eh? Although I didn’t pay it much attention at the time, you know what with being young as enthusiastic for the job, I was somewhat resented by my fellow police colleges at Battersea as they tended to come to work in order to do as little as possible in their time at work there. Their jobs were secured so they thought why should they exert themselves? I, on the other hand believed and still believe that if I am paid to work then I should work (‘Work frees the soul’, was it Martin Bauber that said that? I can’t remember but it was what the Nazi’s had on a sign as part of their sick sense of humour above the entrance to the Auschwitz Concentration camp as part of the deception that the camp inmates were entering a work camp).
I used to stop many motorists for either minor traffic offences or major ones like driving through red lights and issue many forms for them to produce their driving documents within 5 days at a police station, invariably many instances of no insurance or no test certificates for their vehicle were divulged and my work day was filled with work and the occasional arrest, at that time I was concentrating on driving offences and later would progress to arrests. Being a Jew who obviously had a different religion from the average policeman who would be a white Christian or Catholic and as a policeman who was basically showing the others up to be lazy, their way of getting even with me was to call me racist names usually behind my back and to also not want to work with me patrolling the streets, although the newer policemen waited in line for me to work with them as it gave them the opportunity to learn well and to produce results, something they were expected to do as a new officer and something they couldn’t do if posted with ‘an old sweat’ – the term for an ‘established’ officer who was not obligated to produce any results.
Dina and I came to the realization that life in England wasn’t so warm to say the least and we both had a desire to return to Israel, particularly since the birth of our first child Golan we felt that life in a kibbutz, like we had experienced as a young couple would be ideal for newly weds. We decided to sell our lovely home in West Croydon, we were then at the start of the first property boom but there had been rises but also had been sudden falls in house prices so it still wasn’t a ‘sure thing’ to invest in property but of course in hindsight we should have rented the house out and reaped the rewards as its value grew but no-one knew just how much property values would become inflated and we sold our house for 32,000 pounds, making a small profit and now it would be worth something in the region of 250,000 pounds!
I resigned from the Police and in March 1983 we moved back to Israel and to the kibbutz were we had first met at Kibbutz Hagoshrim and were given as a new family a nice modern stone cottage with a garden. Life was good at first, I went back to work in the cotton fields, how I loved working outside in the sunshine all day and Dina worked in the children’s house but we soon realized that things were different and it wasn’t the same feeling as when we had been a free young couple for now we had commitments, commitments to the kibbutz and it seemed that everyone wanted to know and seemed to know everyone else’s business and we had very little say in the way that our son Golan was brought up as, we were told by a children’s house kibbutz member, ‘Golan firstly belongs to the kibbutz and then to us’! By this time I was fast approaching the age of 30 and if we were to return to England and if I was to re-join the police then it had to be before the age of 30 as that was the age after which you were considered to be ‘too old’ to join. We made our decision and left the kibbutz, a decision we have not regretted albeit that without doubt life can seem to be almost idyllic on the kibbutz, but it also can be boring and monotonous and if you’ve lived the faster city life and been used to buying what you want then kibbutz life isn’t for you.
Dina and I
We returned to live with my mother in her 13th floor London council flat and I applied to re-join the police. We thought that since I had only been out of the police for 10 months, we returned in December 1983, then almost certainly a few days later I’d have my police uniform on and would be patrolling the streets again. After applying I heard nothing, I made repeated telephone calls and wrote letters to the recruiting office all to no avail. I was kept waiting for 7 solid months before I eventually got a letter with a date to re-join the police and I was dumbfounded that so much time had lapsed and had been wasted and it just didn’t make sense as to why? I was sent to Hendon Police College to re-take the police entrance exam which I again passed and I had also to undertake a new part of the entrance exam which was to run a set distance in a set time, I mean I was no spring chicken then and I’m sure that even an 18 or 19 year old wouldn’t have found it so easy and even though I passed the written entrance exam I failed the run around the sports track in the allotted time. I was heartbroken and frustrated at the same time, here was I, an excellent and experienced officer with an exemplary record who had been out of the force for a few months being made to go through the same procedure as a new applicant, it just didn’t make sense to me but it just made me more determined and I was given a chance a few weeks later to re-take the timed run and so in the weeks prior to that I would go out every day and run, run, run! A few weeks later I re-took the timed run test at Hendon Police College and this time I passed and was I soon given a new posting to Chiswick Police Station in West London.
Chiswick Police Station
Chiswick is a lovely part of London within a short traveling distance from Central London and is a fairly affluent district with one or two own council estates here and there but with really very little trouble at all. I found I had time to concentrate on a different aspect of policing, that of catching criminals which I became expert at! Some of my fellow officers weren’t really interested in arresting people as it meant lots of extra work, particularly paperwork, so that suited me and we had an arrangement that they would concentrate their working day on the more routine and mundane aspects of police work, reporting crime, accidents etc and I would therefore be free to roam the streets and also the sports fields were I made many arrests, searching for criminals. We were allocated a Police flat in Syon Lane, Isleworth, which was about 20 minutes drive from work and the block was opposite to Sky T.V.’s H.Q. and studio’s. We lived on the first floor at No. 134 and one day Golan decided he was Superman and tried to fly from the balcony dressed in his Superman cape, luckily the only damage he suffered was a twisted ankle in the fall! Golan would play with some of the children in the block one of whom was a son of a guy on my relief, unfortunately he developed a brain hemorrhage and died which was very sad.
Most of my work came from stopping cars as Chiswick High Road was the main arterial road to Central London and also Dukes Meadows which were sports fields that abutted onto the river Thames and where lovers would go for trysts in their cars but also youngsters would go to smoke and sometimes deal drugs, then there wasn’t such a liberal attitude to drugs as there is now in England although most of my arrests resulted with a caution which meant the offender was given a second chance (not to get caught again) and a warning and didn’t have to go to court and get a criminal record for the drug offence, which was fair enough. I had my fair share of ‘big’ arrests too. There was one guy I remember I passed while I was driving my marked police car in Chiswick High Road and as I drove past him he turned his back to me which was somewhat suspicious, I then circled back and as I approached him again from the opposite direction he turned and started walking away. I drove up to him and started to speak to him and I noticed his right hand was in his jacket pocket and he seemed to be holding something large in that pocket, could either be a weapon or who knows what? Upon questioning him some more he indicated a nearby car which he said was his & though and behold in the open ashtray I saw some smoked reefers. I told him I was going to search him and his car for drugs and got him to take his hand out of his pocket and in his hand he held a large bag of a white powder which he admitted was cocaine, I can’t remember exactly how much cocaine there was but it was a few thousand pounds worth. It turned out he had been paid to deliver it to a customer who was supposed to drive up to him at that junction in Chiswick High Road and I had obviously ruined their plans. I never did find out what happened to that guy, I know the case went to High Court and he just got a large fine and not a prison sentence as I understood that he cooperated with the C.I.D. in their investigations. Another good arrest was when I stopped a car opposite to Chiswick Police Station one night and the guy had a few ‘acid tablets’ on him. The night duty C.I.D. couldn’t be bothered and asked me to deal with it and so I took a couple of other uniformed officers with me and we took him to his home in nearby Ealing, in West London to search his room with his mother present and when we opened his bedroom cupboard a large bag of mixed pills fell out, this guy was obviously a dealer, in fact he dealt at clubs and discotheques in Central London. When I took him back the C.I.D. were much more interested this time!
I was always on the look-out for persons acting suspiciously and with a sound knowledge of your powers and the law there was no reason not to stop and question someone you felt was up to no good, I mean sometimes things happen right in front of your very eyes that you don’t believe are happening, for instance, I came out of the front door to the police station at about 9.30 one Saturday morning after having just finished my breakfast, when I saw two late teens men hanging around the electric showroom opposite. They appeared to be drunk but I carried on watching as they walked into the showroom, picked up a large cardboard box from the window display area, put it on one of their shoulders and walked slowly out of the store, then once outside they started to run. I caught up with them and found the box contained a brand new microwave oven which they’d just stolen and the shop assistants hadn’t even noticed their actions! What is sad is that many of the people who wore police uniforms that I had worked with just weren’t interested or preferred not to see things and they wanted just to complete their 8 hour day at ‘work’ without incident and go home as one less day took them closer to their retirement pension, how sad I thought! What peeved me is when I had good arrests, usually from cars and particularly where the evidence of drug use was so evident and the arrested persons told me that they had been stopped just a few minutes earlier up the road by other police officers who had let them go after asking them a few standard questions and without noticing what was right in front of their noses if they’d care to have looked! I was very good at what I did, which was detecting and arresting offenders every day. I was sharp, alert and most of all hungry and I couldn’t wait to get out on patrol each day. When you consider that police work is invariably taken up by reams and reams of paper work, particularly if you arrest someone, I suppose I shouldn’t blame those who didn’t want to get involved. I kept records of my arrests and also those where I would have arrested them but I had given the arrest to a younger P.C. I was patrolling with and in 1993 I achieved 168 arrests in a year. I got to a turn around of an arrest of about 2 hours on average, which means from the time of arrest and processing the prisoner – booking the prisoner in with the custody Sergeant, interviewing him, fingerprinting/photographing, charging if necessary, and completing the necessary paperwork for the Crown Prosecution Service, then I was free to get back on patrol! I loved my work but there were also the sad and tragic moments as one would expect with such work. I suppose the saddest and most tragic was when one winter we were called to the scene of children who had fallen into the iced covered lake at nearby Gunnersbury Park. When we got there we saw the large lake covered by thick ice and we were told that two children, a brother and sister who lived nearby in Brentford, had been playing with their dog. The dog had run onto the ice chasing a stick they had thrown for him to chase and the dog had fallen through the ice into the freezing water, the boy who was aged about 10 had gone onto the ice to try and save the dog and had himself fallen through the ice into the freezing cold water, his sister had then gone onto the ice to try and save her brother and she too had fallen through the ice. All was quiet on the lake when we arrived and the place where they had all fallen through the ice was covered over by a fresh growth of ice. The children’s mother arrived shortly after and it was late afternoon and the evening was descending but we had to wait for the underwater rescue teams to arrive, although they were called the ‘Rescue’ team we all knew that that it was only two little lifeless bodies they would be finding but I suppose we all hoped against hope that a miracle would happen and somehow they would be alive. I was tasked with taking care of the mother, which meant taking her account of what he knew and the children’s details and of having to reassure her as best one could. Hours passed by as the divers went down time after time and emerged with nothing. The whole area was lit by bright arc lights brought in, a number of ambulances stood by, a small crowd gathered as did some local reporters and many, many police officers, but we were all helpless to do anything but wait. Eventually with the strong arc light illuminating a small circle in the ice that the underwater rescue team had broke in the ice, we saw the divers bubbles break the surface as the diver broke the surface and indicated to his crew a message and then we saw him load something into the waiting wooden boat that they had found by the lakeside and dragged across the ice to where they were working. Then the diver went down and emerged again and the people in the boat helped lift something else he had bought up from the bottom of the lake into the boat. The boat was then dragged to the lakeside and the ambulance crew rushed to them and the two little bodies were put on separate ambulance stretchers and brought to where their mother and I were standing by the two waiting ambulances whose back doors were open and the little girl’s body was placed in one and the little boy in the ambulance nearest us. The mother was asked to identify her little girls body which she did with a tearful ‘yes’ as the medical teams starting work on trying to revive her, I went with the mother into the back of the second ambulance where the 2 man ambulance crew had started to work on the little boy with the kiss of life, heart massage, injections and various tubes inserted into his breathing tract but all to no avail. They worked for a long, long time but in the end had to accept defeat as their bodies had been underwater for 5 or 6 hours there really had been no chance of bringing them back to life. I wrote my report for the Coroner and I wasn’t called to give evidence at the subsequent Coroners Inquest to establish their cause of death as they accepted my written evidence as there was no dispute as to how they died but the images of those 2 lifeless little children remain with me to this day.
But police work also contained its funny and satisfying moments. One such a time was when I received a call of a ‘woman screaming’ late one night outside a doctor’s surgery. I drove round and round the area but couldn’t see or hear anything till I turned off my police car’s engine and got out of the car and I then suddenly heard this rhythmic panting. I shone my torch under the star-well to find a couple making love, ok I thought at least she’s not in danger but when I shone my torch on their faces I found that he was the one in danger, he was obviously drunk and was about 18 years old and he was obviously too drunk to realize who he was making love to, as she looked to be in her mid 70’s if not older with a face (and other bits) as wrinkled as a prune and no wonder she had a huge grin on her face, she for sure couldn’t believe her luck! I took a lot of persuading from him not to arrest him and have him appear in court and appear in the local newspaper on a ‘granny bedding’ charge!
I was sent on a number of Police courses including learning to drive a Police car at high speeds safely through the streets of London and on these driving courses you weren’t subjected to the legal speed limits and I remember driving back towards Hendon Police College with my instructor next to me and with 2 other pupils in the back at 140 mph (nearly 200 kph) in an old unmarked Police Rover down Hendon Way and it’s funny how quiet everyone was in the car, in fact I think they were all holding their breaths and you could hear a pin drop!
In 1987 Dina was pregnant with our 2nd child, Sharon, and after a not too long time in labour she was born at Queen Charlotte’s Hospital in Hammersmith (actually it’s just over the border from Chiswick) and we call
Sharon ‘Princess’ as she was born at Queen Charlotte’s. Galit, who was conceived at our next Police house in Wembley 6 months after Dina had given birth to Sharon, was almost born in the car park of Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow (again, just up the road from our Police house in Wembley) as Dina waited and waited, trying to ignore the labour pains until the last possible moment and as we got out of the car she really was ready to give birth then and there, so it was a very quick birth and Galit just ‘plopped’ out!
Galit (she has now changed her name to Nichole)
I was present at all of our children’s births and they were amazing events to witness and I wouldn’t have missed them for the world and you don’t have to believe in God (but it helps) to realize what a miracle giving birth to a new human being is!
A few weeks after Galit was born our Nana, who had more or less raised me, passed away. From ever since that I remember her she had this constant cough but never seemed to seek medical treatment for it and of course she was a smoker as was my Mum and my Aunt and while we were living in our police flat in Syon Lane I was told that Nana had been taken to a hospice in Hampstead. I had no idea that a hospice was a place where people with no hope of survival went to die and I visited her regularly, the last occasion I brought her flowers and I notice how radiant she seemed to be with smooth clear skin like her wrinkles had disappeared but of course she was in pain and the doctors had attached a small box to her stomach that would pump drugs into her every minute or so. She died of cancer the next day and it was decided to cremate her at Golders Green Crematorium.
This was the first time that a member of my family had died and all our relatives travelled up from Wales and we travelled to the crematorium in big black limousines and I’ll always remember that upon reaching the entrance gates to the crematorium the cars stopped and then the procession was led slowly through the gates by a funeral director resplendent in black tails and bowler hat walking on foot in front of the procession and he then stopped, removed his bowler hat and bowed his head in respect as the hearse carrying Nana’s body passed, I’ll always remember that gesture of respect. Nana’s grave or spot where her ashes were buried was marked with a plaque and rose bush for a year but then no-one paid the crematoriums annual fees and the last time that I went to visit Nana’s burial spot it had been replaced with another’s name plaque and all traces of Nana had disappeared.
Dina at this time was working as a freelance Hebrew/English Translator/Interpreter for the Police and it was a well paid job whenever she was called to Police stations or to court to work and she was involved in a few big cases including a case at the Old Bailey. Her work fitted in well with Dina’s main job of bringing up the kids at home and our kids were raised with lots of love, warmth and affection and I hoped to give them all that I had missed out on whilst growing up.
I enjoyed my work as a police officer immensely and I was good at what I did, but there was a downside to what I did and that being that I was resented by some of my fellow officers as my good work tended to show their lack of work effort. It manifested itself at first in seemingly innocuous nicknames that they would assign to me such as ‘Moses’, which although not being in anyway an anti-Semitic barb, when said with other officers or members of the public being present immediately makes me stand out as obviously being Jewish. ‘Moses’ was the name assigned to me by the Spanish garage hand at Chiswick police station and was adopted by one or two others. A much nastier name was assigned to me, albeit indirectly by a fellow officer who was a stringent supporter of the Arsenal football team. Tottenham Hotspurs were their north London rivals and were known to have a large Jewish following, their famous chairman also being Jewish and so they were disparagingly referred to as the ‘Yiddo’s’. A ‘Yid’ is a virulent anti-Semitic name originating from Germany during the time of the Holocaust and refers to those German Jewish citizens who spoke the Yiddish language and is usually spoken by religious Jews and was the language of Jewish communities in Europe and still is to this day amongst those surviving Jewish communities. So a conversation or greeting with this particular Arsenal supporter would consist of him telling me that ‘The ‘Yids’ did well on Saturday’ or ‘I see the ‘Yids’ lost again’ with his spoken emphasis being on the word ‘Yid’ and it was usually said in a crowded place such as the staff canteen and usually said with a big smirk on his face.
Other ways in which Antisemitism would manifest itself would be in the staff canteen at breakfast time when there was always a ‘Oh come on my boy have some bacon’ said in a Jewish accent and sometimes I would have bacon waved in front of my face, again with a smirk on the face of the person doing it and usually accompanied by much laughter from the rest of those present in the canteen, which usually included police Sergeants and Inspectors, who did nothing to stop it and in fact their acquiescence to these events helped them to continue unabated. It was well known that I had converted from Christianity to Judaism and I didn’t keep it a secret, why should I have, but I was treated like and I felt like I was considered to be a traitor by my fellow Christian officers, not that any of them appeared to be in the slightest bit religious, and what I have learnt from the English and growing up in England, and I suspect this to be true for the rest of Europe too, is that if you are not a white indigenous Christian then you are not truly classed by them as being a true Englishman, you are different to them, you are an outsider, a foreigner even who can’t really be trusted. I was successful at work although I felt I wasn’t receiving any reward for my hard work, just resentment.
We had a new Sergeant come to work on our relief and he was an okay kind of guy who went out of his way to show that he was ‘free thinking’ and was not racially prejudice in any way, although he wasn’t what I would call an active thief taker but was one of the fashionably growing tide of police officers who had joined the police to climb through the ranks as quickly as possible by passing exams and showing he was good with the pen. He was often the Custody Officer on duty when I brought prisoners into the custody suite and as a new Sergeant on the relief he had to learn the duties involved with being a Custody Officer, a task no-one really liked doing for it was mostly a boring repetitive job although it did afford him the chance to study for his Inspectors exam, usually in peace and quite, which, although having only recently been promoted to the rank of Sergeant, he was determined to take and pass as soon as possible. So he somewhat became intrigued by the number of prisoners that I would regularly bring in to his Custody Suite and, seemingly intent on getting himself noticed with the higher ranking officers ‘upstairs’ agreed to write a report recommending me for a commendation for my hard work and high number of arrests that I was effecting on a regular basis. He said he’d write and submit the report and I gave him some background information including my traffic offences and arrest record and I didn’t hear anything more until I received notification that I was going to receive an Assistant Commissioner’s Commendation for Dedication and Professionalism. It was a proud moment for me and my family when we went to the Metropolitan Sports and Social Club at Imber Court to collect my award, a large framed certificate from the Deputy-Assistant Commissioner.
My Police Commendation
I had previously received another award, a letter congratulating me upon a suggestion I had made to improve the police service by installing brooms in all police vehicles so that debris from road traffic accidents could be cleared up before further damage is caused by the debris. I also received a nice letter from the Crown Prosecution Service congratulating me on my high professional level of presentation for completing and submitting the necessary C.P.S. court paperwork following my arrests. My other subsequent Police award was one for ‘Bravery’ in disarming an armed man. This followed a call to a block of flats in Chiswick which had a round plastic walled communal pool in the garden. Some of the young residents were making a lot of noise and one of the elder residents, who it turned out was the former bodyguard of the late King Hussein of Jordan, decided it was disturbing him and he went down and started waving his gun around telling them to be quiet. When I arrived on the scene and went up to the informants flat the suspect emerged in the hallway still holding his gun in his hand. I went up to him and just took the gun off him, nothing too dramatic, and then arrested him and luckily no shots were fired and no-one was injured. Of course these awards did nothing to improve my popularity with my fellow officers who seemed to resent me more as the tirade of anti-Semitic barbs continued unabated so much so that it was beginning to affect my health and I became depressed and lost a lot of weight. It was then that I decided that ‘enough was enough’ and that I would lodge a complaint with the Commission for Racial Equality at their offices in Victoria.
At the meeting with the C.R.E. in 1993 I was advised that because I was thinking of taking on the might of the Metropolitan Police Force then I should and must have concrete evidence that would stand up in court. Being an officer fully conversant with the standard of evidence required in legal proceedings, I decided to use my official Police issued notebook which is used on a daily basis by every Police officer to note evidence, as a daily log of the anti-Semitic abuse suffered by me at the hands of my fellow Police work colleagues. To ensure correct evidence gathering procedures each entry I made would be date stamped and timed by the tamper proof stamping machine kept in the Custody suite at Chiswick Police Station which I got to use most days that I was on duty as the racial abuse that I was subjected to continued unabated and it got to the point that I came to work, booked out the Police panda car and went out of the Police station for a solid 8 hours just to avoid having to come into contact with my abusers and when I did and when they directed their racist comments at me I would record them in my police notebook and in fact this became my undisputed evidence at the subsequent court case as it was evidence that was hard to dispute as I had used the correct legal procedures to record my evidence.
The abuse continued and it affected me more and more to the point where I became so thin that the joke going around the station was that I had Aids and needless to say not one officer enquired as to my health and upon visiting my family doctor he immediately ordered me to stay away from work as I was undoubtedly suffering from stress and depression brought on by all that was happening at work. I’d aliken what was happening to me to maybe being bullied at school that continues unabated but in this case there were no school teachers that you could complain to because all the senior officers at Chiswick Police Station knew what was going on, they witnessed it almost every day but they did nothing to stop in and in fact on a number of occasions even laughed with the others at the words being directed at me and at my religion and so who could I complain to?
It was then I decided that I had had enough and that I just didn’t want to take any more of it and I again contacted the Commission for Racial Equality and informed them I was now ready and willing to proceed with taking the Metropolitan Police to court for their illegal racial discrimination. The C.R.E. then duly appointed a firm of solicitors to take on my case. The whole legal process dragged on and on and in fact the case took 3 years to reach its conclusion, for when a court date would be fixed the Police would then ask for an adjournment for whatever reason and this happened a few times. You would prepare yourself mentally for a life changing court case against the might of the Metropolitan Police Force and then you would be informed at the last moment that the court case has been postponed and that we will be informed of a new court date. Of course mine and my family’s life was now totally full of stress and worry as in taking on the Metropolitan Police Force I was in effect taking on the British government as the Police Service is funded and controlled by H.M. Home Office and losing this case would in effect warrant me leaving my job and giving up our Police provided house in Wembley and we would be homeless and I’d have to resign with my tail between my legs for I considered that I would have no future in the Police force after this.
I had no other support from anyone not even the Jewish community supported me and they seemed to just want to bury their heads in the sand and not make waves and they never offered their vocal support or other support to me in any shape or form and I think that after the case there were a few lines in the press from the Jewish Board of Deputies congratulating me on my victory but that’s the only time I heard from them. I later learned that most believed that I had no chance of winning my case and luckily for us the Metropolitan Police must have shared the same opinion for this wasn’t a high profile and media case about a ‘black Police officer claiming racial abuse’, this was about a white Englishman who had converted to Judaism from Christianity making the claim and the police side’s approach to the court case was amateurish to say the least.
I had presumed that the Police would make an out of court offer to me to avoid taking the case to court as they had done in a number of previous racial abuse cases but in my case this didn’t happen.
Three weeks before the trial was due to begin the firm of solicitors who had been handling the case on my behalf suddenly withdrew from my case leaving me without legal representation. The Commission for Racial Equality was subsequently asked by the Industrial Tribunal why they withdrew their legal representation for me and they replied that it was done because they were advised that I had no chance of winning the case. I wonder who advised them and who put pressure on them to take this course of action?
My only recourse was to approach the Police Federation and ask them to provide me with legal representation which was my right as a paid up member of the Police Federation to do so and they duly provided me with a Barrister who took the case on.
On 6 June 1995 (on the anniversary of the Yom Kippur War) my wife and I went to the Industrial Tribunal in Woburn Place, London with a talented Barrister provided by Police Federation funding and facing the best that the Metropolitan Police could muster and to be honest I felt embarrassed for the Police! The witnesses the Police called were all Police officers I had worked with and each time the Barrister for the Police asked them, ‘Did you call PC Thomas a ‘Yid’ or other racially abusive names’? The answer was always ‘Yes’. The case went on like this until 9 June 1995 with the Police bringing witness after witness who turned into witnesses for me, we brought no witnesses ourselves and the Police side really had no defense to the allegations which begs the question why did they allow the case to come to court without settling out of court as they had done in previous cases? The answer can only be that they really underestimated the strength of my evidence and also our commitment to see it through. There were times when it got hard to carry on and their tactics in delaying the case was to try to break me, to break us and there is no doubt that all that I was going through brought me close to the edge and maybe I fell over at some point, I’m not sure but it’s highly probable.
The unanimous decision of the Tribunal was that ‘the Respondent (the Commissioner of Metropolitan Police) unlawfully discriminated against the applicant (me) on racial grounds’ (court case No. 2785/94/LN/B. In winning my court case I also changed the English racial discrimination laws to now include converts to a religion under its scope.
Newspaper announcements of case result
After our victory which was reported in the national press we had to prepare for the next stage of our battle which was the compensation court hearing that was scheduled to take place 2 days later but unbeknown to us it would take another year to come to court for the Police in having lost the case now wanted to minimize the amount of compensation that I would be awarded by doing all that can to besmirch my character. They decided that they wanted me examined and analyzed by 2 of their chosen psychiatrists and that our side would also have ‘our’ psychiatrist analyze me, bearing in mind that ‘our’ psychiatrist’ would be paid for by the Police who I had just defeated, via the Police Federation and Home Office.
I had never dealt with this profession before, with these doctors of the mind and I had no idea what to expect and perhaps I should have been more suspicious and not so forthcoming with information as I was but these people are experts and if they want they can get information from you without you realizing it and they can twist and make something you say to what they want it to mean for their own uses. I stopped going to see one of these experts as I really felt it to be a complete waste of time as I would walk into his darkened surgery and he would just sit there not saying a word not changing his facial expression but every few minutes he would look at his watch and you would think ‘hang on, I’m here for 20 minutes, are we going to sit like this for 2o minutes, what’s the point’? I would then say something like ‘Are you going to say anything? And he would then start writing and say something like ‘Would you like me to say anything’? And it would go on like this and I still to this day have no idea what that was all about! After attending 2 different psychiatrists, if that’s what they were, I actually don’t know what their titles were but one was working for the Police and the other was supposedly on our side although he was paid for by the Police Federation.
They would suggest things to me and I remember that they both seemed to inject the same idea into my head at around the same time which in hindsight should have suggested things were going on here. They started to suggest that there was nothing wrong with me even though I was off sick with my family doctor’s certificate stating that I was suffering from stress and depression the cause of which was the Police’s racially discriminatory practices against me, and that in their opinion I should return to work. Return to work?? How could I return to work in that environment and after I had beaten them in court and proved them to be racialist?? I started to panic and didn’t know what to do and what they subtly suggested was that I should really start to open up to them and that I should reveal to them my true inner thoughts about things as, according to them, being called racist names was child’s play and it shouldn’t have caused the reaction it did. Again in hindsight I realize that they were attempting to minimize the blame that could be placed upon the Police for any pain and suffering that I had endured and in lessening this effect it would attract lesser compensation at the court hearing. But hindsight is a wonderful thing but at the time I was in the hands of what I consider to have been manipulative experts instructed by their paymasters to get results and I was under enormous stress in spite of having won the case to see it through to the end and I felt that being forced back to work among those who had caused me so much pain and hurt would be the end of me, I really did and maybe not physically or/and mentally there would be no reason to believe that on returning to work things could be arranged to show me in a bad light (I avoided the expression ‘I would be ‘fitted up’ but most know what this means), but anyway there was no way that that I could return to work as a Police officer for I believed that my career in the Police force ended with my court case victory over them but I was still in their pay and was still a serving Police officer albeit that I was off sick but if these experts said that I wasn’t ‘sick’ and they ordered me back to work, then what?
They started to lead me into theoretical situations and down avenues I hadn’t really fully explored before and I tried as hard as I could to think on my feet, for I had to think about what I was saying to them but I also had to give them enough to agree that I was in fact sick and was not in a fit state to return to work and all in all they spun me around in circles and it became that I didn’t know if I was coming or going. Of course, growing up in the circumstances that I grew up in and my periods of depression were just the triggers and explanations that these physiatrists needed to show that the Police, although guilty of racially discriminating against me, were not wholly culpable for my reactive depression, in other words, they would press hard during the upcoming compensation hearing that they should pay me reduced compensation for my pain and suffering and for sure they would reveal to the court all that they had found during their experts examinations of me.
So, I had won my court case against the Police but now we would have to face another 2 day court hearing in a battle to gain some financial compensation for what I had suffered at the hands of the Metropolitan Police and to be honest I had very little fight left in me, they had drained it all out of me and waiting a whole year while all of these constant visits to the psychiatrists were going on and not knowing what would be left its toll on us all and we really decided that we had had enough of it all. To further break our resolve, the very night before our compensation court hearing the Barrister provided by Police Federation funding informed us that he wouldn’t be representing us as the Police Federation had withdrawn their funding and that we would have to face the Metropolitan Police on our own in court the next day and this time there really was no time to find a legal replacement for our barrister! We made contact with the Police and agreed to settle the case before the court hearing and accepted compensation from them which would enable us to take the course we had decided was best for us as a family and that was to leave England and return to live in Israel which we did after I had resigned from the Police in July 1996.
The Police were determined to have another go at getting me after the case had finally finished. I had resigned from the Police Force and we were busily making the final arrangements to leave The UK when I suddenly received a summons through the post to attend court to answer a charge of keeping a dangerous dog! At first we tried to laugh it off but then we realized that they were serious, I had just beaten them in court and they were trying to get back at me through my dog, how pathetic! Apparently Major, our lovely German shepherd dog had been in the park when it started fighting with another dog, as dogs sometimes do, and the owner had made a complaint to the police. Well, as a former serving police officer I had never ever been called to court to prosecute a ‘dangerous dog’ case and these are rare events.
Though and behold when I got to court there was a Police Sergeant as well as a constable both chomping at the bit to get me in court and convict me for keeping a dangerous dog – a dog in fact so dangerous that our 2 cats, Pandy and Tiger often used to both jump out of my sons first floor window onto his back while he was in the back garden to scare him and he used to run shaking into his dog kennel! Anyway, I had a quiet word with this sergeant and told him that he should take advice on whether he really wants to proceed with this case as I will have the press and TV down to the court very quickly to show how vindictive and petty minded the Police are in having lost the case trying to get back at me! Well, needless to say, the Sergeant and his constable were never seen again and I received a letter informing me that the case of keeping a dangerous dog had been dropped!
During the 3 years that I was off work and while we waited for the case to come to court, I was home with not much to do and so I started to make concert video’s of my musical hero Bob Dylan which I passed on to fellow fans, in fact I had almost 300 fellow fans that I did this service for, recording and editing concert video’s which is a huge time consuming business but it kept me busy and I took great pride in what I did. Also at this time I made contact through an advert in a Dylan magazine with a German guy who was a musician but sought someone who could write English lyrics. Since I had written poems in my teens and had given folders of my poems to girlfriends I had on the kibbutz, I thought I would give it a go and we slowly started to create songs together. I would send lyrics by e-mail and he would compose the music and perform the songs in a ‘band’ we called ‘The Grils’ and our website still attracts a number of visitors a day. We had some songs that had a lot of radio airplay and a couple that even reached the number 1 spot on an Australian radio station but my proudest achievement with The Grils was in receiving a letter from the grandson of the late great Robert Johnson about one of our songs called ‘Sold My Soul to the Devil’ in which he wrote – “I’m Steven Johnson, vice president of The Robert Johnson Blues Foundation and grandson of the late blues icon Robert Johnson. I also happen to be a preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I’ve never believed my grandfather sold his soul to the devil because he (my grandfather) didn’t own his soul (God owned it). What I do believe is the hard work and much practice allowed my grandfather to learn his skills on the guitar. Just as Eric Clapton, B.B. King, The Rolling Stones, Bonnie Raitt, and many other great artists that attributes my grandfather music as being the springboard of their success had to practice and still practice some more; my granddad worked hard to obtain his skills.”
After we had settled down in Israel I started a music site on My Space which attracted a lot of visitors, over 34,000 friends, and I made many contacts with musicians wanting me to send them lyrics to compose music to and I now have my own website www.paullyrics.com built by my son Golan who recently returned to Israel after having studied for 3 years at a London university returning with a BSC with honours in computer related studies and recently he got married and is working for a travel firm and of course we are awaiting expectantly for the birth of our 1st grandchild!
I have been fortunate enough to have worked with some great composers and singer songwriters throughout the world in creating songs together some of which have been released on albums but this remains a hobby and my main work is working at the Royal Thai Embassy’s Consular Department, my main tasks being issuing visas to tourists wishing to visit Thailand and also legalizing documents for use in Thailand and I starting working there a few months after we arrived in Israel.
Me and Dylan
In former times I was known in the ‘Dylan world’ as ‘Dave Thomas’ from Wembley. I was just about the biggest trader in Dylan videos around in the mid-90’s and I had 200-300 people worldwide on the books. It wasn’t a huge profit making business at all as apart from the materials, the time involved in making these videos was enormous. I custom-made individual video covers with photo’s, index and timings on them too. Sometimes I worked 16-18 hours a day making them as I would put together video’s according to their customized requirements – if they wanted his concert from Woodstock as well as his collection of promo songs and the odd Dylan documentary all on one video for example then you had to physically edit them all together.
Anyway, I loved doing it and even supplied a former Dylan band member with videos (the originals of which he still needs to return to me!) and of course I got to see just about everything that there was to see past and present about Dylan. This all stopped when I emigrated from The UK with my family at the end of 1996. I I just opened the cupboard and looked at my Dylan video collection and I still have 110 video cassettes (that’s about 2 solid weeks worth of non-stop viewing) and when I retire, whenever that will be, I will make it my mission to transfer all of these videos onto DVD’s!
I have been privileged to have met many distinguished people through my former and present jobs from The Queen, Presidents, Prime Ministers to Lords and Earls and I don’t go out of my way to meet ‘famous people’ as people are people all worth the same and so called ‘fame’ very means little to me but I guess the one person who I would like to meet would be Bob Dylan aka Robert Allen Zimmerman, not that I would have a clue what to say to him, I mean what would you say?
Growing up through the 60’s I’d say that I was much more aware of The Beatles and other UK bands and artists than I was of Bob Dylan. I remember reading an article in ‘IT’ magazine and being fascinated by the story it told of the reporter travelling up to some place in the back woods with chickens in the yard & meeting Dylan and hearing his soon to be released album to be called ‘Holy Land’, well I was completely taken in (it wasn’t until I met and spoke to the author Clinton Heylin at the 1996 Manchester Dylan Convention that he confirmed to me that the story was a hoax, in fact he seemed rather shocked that I would think it was anything but a spoof)!
I guess the article had sparked an interest in Dylan and shortly after that article I bought my first Dylan record, a double album with a blue cover called ‘Greatest Hits’. This double LP knocked me out! I had never heard anything like it and I found it hard to believe that all of these songs in different styles and with different voices were all the work of one artist, Bob Dylan! I remember the song that really blew me away was ‘Stuck Inside of Mobile with Thee’ (with the Memphis Blues Again).
The first Dylan concert I attended was with my new wife at Earls Court, I think in 1982 and all I remember was firstly how short Dylan was, I’d imagined him to appear so big as was his image and influence in the music world and I also remember smelling a sweet smoke smell in the air when Dylan was on stage, I guessed what it was and I remember being surprised how the uniformed policemen who were in the auditorium ignored it, I mean it was in the early 80’s!
It’s kind of funny to me that Dylan is a Jew who converted to Christianity and then returned (supposedly) to the religion of his forefathers whereas I converted from Christianity to Judaism (in order to marry & out of respect for my father in law who is a survivor of Aushwitz Concentration Camp) & even if I might want to return to ‘lie in the arms of Mary’ again I can’t as apparently you can never leave the fold.
The next time I saw Dylan was in 92 at Hammersmith and my only recollection of the gig was Dylan crouching legs spread over the electric piano on stage and that he also played ‘Wiggle Wiggle’ which was then a hit in my household with the kids!
1993 saw a more memorable gig at Hammersmith during his ‘As Good As I Been To You’ period. I kicked myself as I lived then in Chalk Farm in North West London which is a mile up the road from Camden Town where Dylan had spent all day walking around filming the ‘Blood in My Eyes’ video (captured by Andrew Muir in his book Razor’s Edge book & repeated by Andrew to me on a train up to attend a Manchester Dylan Convention) and I missed him!
I travelled by bus from London to see Dylan’s Cologne 94 gig and that was a great experience. Staying at the Mercurie Hotel I remember and then walking around the city with my Sony Camcorder in hand filming the wonderful cathedral and other sites of Cologne and then walking across the bridge over the Rhine to notice a crowd gathered outside The Hyatt Hotel, walking in, sitting myself down on a lobby chair to find Dylan’s band members John Jackson and Tony Garnier booking out with Winston Watson in the background. While I was seated there some big guy with his blonde/grey hair in a pony tail kept walking past me eyeing me up and I realized this must be Dylan’s tour manager known as ‘Irish something or other’. John Jackson & Tony Garnier came over & willingly spoke to us all there (some kid rambled on to J.J. in some technical language about guitars which I didn’t understand) & they exited & of course Dylan did his usual hotel disappearing trick & the coach & the white transit van with ‘Bakersfield’ license plates was seen making their way to the park. I remember it being a good concert and I must watch the video of it again!
I took my son Golan for the first time to see a Dylan concert at Brixton in 1995 and it was an excellent concert as most in 95 were (my favourite is the opening 95 tour concert at Prague) and I remember Elvis Costello opened with an acoustic set & I never knew just what a powerful voice he had!
Golan and I
The 2 concerts I attended in Liverpool in 1996 rank amongst my favourites as Dylan was very relaxed and gave a good show, even starting to sing the first verse of ‘Yesterday’ in tribute to the home of The Beatles but then stopping with a wry grin on his face. After the show I bumped in Al Kooper who was just leaving and he spoke a bit although was obviously wanted to head back to his hotel (I also never realized how short he was too)!
After I’d emigrated from The UK at the end of 96 I more or less lost track of Dylan’s concerts although I still managed to obtain the more interesting ones on video and in 2002 I returned to The UK and followed the Dylan tour at Brighton (I love these smaller venues and feel they’re more suited to Dylan than the big stadiums where he and everyone else seems lost) then to Bournemouth where after walking along the sea front and returning to my B&B on the cliff I learnt that I’d just missed Dylan as he’d popped out of his hotel to also walk along the sea front! Then up to Birmingham and to Manchester where I stayed where I always stay in Manchester at the Sasha Hotel in Piccadilly as this is where previous Manchester Dylan Conventions have been held which I attended in 1994, 1996, 1998 and 2001.
At the 1994 Dylan Convention I’d met the author Clinton Heylin who had signed my copy of his book ‘Behind The Shades’ with ‘a bunch of basement noise to fill in the silence. Stay forever young’ and my copy his book ‘The Recording Sessions’ in 1996 ‘Keep the faith + stay forever jung’. At the 1998 Manchester Dylan Convention I had met Mickey Jones the drummer on Dylan’s 1966 tour (who recently released his ‘Home Movies’ about the 1966 tour) who was extremely friendly and approachable and I also attended my last Manchester Dylan Convention in 2001.
At one of these Dylan Conventions I had struck up a rapport with Dylan’s ex guitarist Cezar Diaz who had been a guest speaker and it was very sad as he was dying from what I believe was liver failure and he needed a transplant but he kept repeating the same points, that he was Dylan’s guitarist but that how everyone referred to him as ‘Dylan’s guitar technician’ (he was at one time Dylan’s guitar technician but he also played lead guitar at a number of concerts with Dylan from 1990 – 1994), and he also repeated how Dylan had lots of money and why couldn’t he give him the $100,000 he needed for his transplant? Well, how do you answer that? Anyway, it was with sadness that I learnt some years later that Cezar had passed away.
An extract from my Bio on my music site at http://www.paullyrics.com:-
“Paul grew up in the hope filled ‘Love is all there is’ drug induced stupor of the 60’s that promised so much but in the end delivered nothing but pain and broken glass –“The only good to come out of those crazy times was the music”. Paul soaked up the sounds and words of the songs he heard all around him like a sponge. He first discovered the music of Buddy Holly, Frank Sinatra, Otis Reding & Count Basie progressing on to The Beatles and other 60’s UK bands and artists later to find Bob Dylan –“Dylan was like the father I never had, he taught me so much and still is”.
Later, through Dylan’s works Paul would discover the new worlds of the great poets and authors as well as the Bible and old folk and gospel songs which were the cornerstones upon which Rock and Roll was born and flourished”
My lingering heartache remains the abuse my daughter suffered as a 6 year old when she was sexually abused by a neighbour while we were living in Wembley in England.
My daughter only started to recall what she had suffered upon entering her teens and while living in Israel which caused her to twice attempt suicide and led her to suffer from the eating disorder bulimia for which she was locked away in a secure eating disorder unit at a local hospital for one solid year.
Although we had made an official complaint to the London Metropolitan Police we were of course forced and had no choice but to rely upon the police’s investigations in spite of me having proven them to be racist at a London Industrial Tribunal case against them when I was a serving police officer in 1996 and fearing pay back from them.
The police invited my daughter and I to fly to London in January 2008 to try to identify her abuser from police suspect photograph albums, but how could someone who was 6 years old at the time of being abused be expected to pick out a photo of her abuser when the photo wasn’t of him from then in 1994 when the abuse happened and his face was imprinted in my daughter’s mind but was a recent photo taken a few weeks previously in 2008? Their action just didn’t make sense and lo and behold my daughter failed to pick him out and subsequently they didn’t proceed with the case and he got off scot free”!
To say that I thought about ‘taking the law into my own hands’ with this animal that had caused all of this suffering to my daughter would be an under-statement but by the same token I think that what good would it do my family if I did what perhaps should be done and I spent 10 or 15 years in prison as a result and so I hope and pray that he will be paid by the Almighty for what he did!
The police’s inaction against my daughter’s abuser had an even more detrimental effect on her and she relapsed and again attempted suicide and we spent whole nights going from hospital to hospital trying to find somewhere safe and secure where she could stay and be watched over in order to protect herself from herself and the last stop was always the local mental hospital where we have never been sure if the doctor is really a doctor or is a patient dressed up like a doctor, so bad are these places that we have always abandoned our search and tried to watch my daughter as best as we could at home!
My daughter’s eating disorder did not improve even though she had spent a whole year confined inside the secure unit of the hospital’s eating disorder unit as a teenager being treated for Bulimia and after a long wait we were finally informed that a place had become available at the same hospital where my daughter was previously treated but this time in the adult wing of the same unit. She spent a couple of months in this unit being treated for her eating disorder and was released earlier than expected to return home.
Despite all that she has suffered and has been through, our beautiful daughter remains loving and good and she only wants to help others and she worked in a kindergarten with children suffering from Down’s syndrome and she also helps other abused children at a support meeting house she regularly attends. Because of her illness she missed most of her school studies and wasn’t able to study or take her school exams and so she is years behind other children of her age but because the National Institute examined and decided that my daughter is 100% disabled she has received assistance from the Social Services and is now with their help attending college studying for her basic school exams to hopefully give her a start to a career.
People ask me if it’s dangerous to live in Israel as all they know about Israel are invariably the images of fighting and bloodshed in Gaza or past atrocities and my reply is always that it is the safest place I have ever been in. What I mean is, yes, the reality is of course that the country is surrounded by enemies hell bent on destroying her and its people if you look at the world there really is no absolutely safe place to live, London has been rocked with bombs and people are being killed daily in street knife attacks and many other countries have similar daily violence and what I do know is that my children are free to walk the streets here day and night as they often do without any fear of being kidnapped or sexually molested or murdered as is the situation in many other countries, particularly The UK where we fled from and of course here we do not face persecution for our religious beliefs and besides that the weather is wonderful with hot sunny summers with a short winter, there are beautiful sandy beaches everywhere and I remember London where I grew up with it’s almost constant cloudy skies, cold, rain and in fact I remember one year where the sun wasn’t seen for the whole year and that’s enough to make any normal person depressed!
I had grown up in a household where everyone smoked and I had seen cancer take Nana, my Aunt and my Uncle and so after a number of times of trying I finally managed to stop smoking about 10 years ago. I did it just by totally stopping one day, I had previously tried to slowly cut down with the aim of eventually stopping but that never worked so I just stopped, had ‘cold Turkey’ for a few days and then I was clear.
I also became a vegetarian about 5 years. My 2 daughters had been vegetarians for some time and I always felt that life was sacred and that man has no right to take life but I kind of closed my eyes to the suffering that animals endured in order to feed man and so I stopped eating meat and I feel better for it.
So what have I learnt through life? As my wise Rabbi teacher, Rabbi Foreman on my conversion course taught me, the whole essence of the Tanach (or Bible) encapsulated into one sentence is, ‘Treat others as you yourself would want to be treated’ and I try my best to live each day by this principle! Also, at this point in my life at 59 years of age I, as I mentioned am a vegetarian, almost a Vegan and I believe that life, all life is precious, from the biggest whale in the ocean to the smallest ant on dry land. I believe that killing is wrong. Man does not need to grow then kill living creatures to eat as millions of vegetarians and vegans worldwide prove, you do not need to eat meat to survive but man has an appetite for killing, whether be it fellow man or animals killed for ‘sport’, why is this so, well it appears to be an evil part of man, like his sexual appetite for sexual gratification at all costs and the world would be a more peaceful place if women were the dominant sex, of that there is no doubt!
Despite what I have endured during my life, there have been bad, sad and dark times but as many if not more happy times and I look forward to the future with hope and love for love is really what makes the world go around.
The Thomas Family
Paul Robert Thomas 20/2/2012