You must just do it
This week: Police history; The stolen motorcycle; The end of a museum; Restocking the supplies cupboards; Then come the leisure items!;
Some times you just have to do things.
This week I have been on a road trip across Europe. It has been necessary, but fun too, tinged with some sadness because of the causes.
However more about this later.
On Saturday I was in Split. This is the reason the blog is a day late.
Where ever I am with my work on a Saturday lunch time, unless it is a critical task, I stop working around 12:30, organise lunch for me and the felines, then write up the blog.
Selecting the right illustrations to go with the text takes the most time. This is because I have often written a draft of a section or two during the week.
Editing blocks of text is not as time consuming as writing from scratch.
Knowing I would not be home until after 17:00, I decided to just delay the blog by a day. This does of course mean that next week’s edition may be shorter than normal.
Split was jam packed with tourists.
There were large groups from a cruise liner, each with their ‘pendant holding’ guide.
On the Riva, the municipality have erected small kiosks to sell souvenirs to tourists and they certainly had a lot of people who were looking.
I bought an ice cream from one of the many shops selling “home made” ices with local flavours. I like Lemon and Lavender.
Then I went to the green market and bought some salad plants.
After the disaster with one of the felines sleeping on the trays of newly germinated seeds (OK, it was Pongo), I have had to start again, so I needed a few plants to tide me over.
The market was packed too, with large numbers of visitors and some locals. The prices were for visitors though!
Finally I was down to the quay to wait for the ferry home.
We seem to have moved straight into mid-summer temperatures in a single week.
Once again it is climate change in action.
Regular readers will know of my interest in history in general and police history in particular and this week I have been recovering some very interesting items of history.
Sadly a retired colleague from North Wales Police passed away from untreatable cancer in February. Bill Hollis has been a stalwart of the police motorcycle restoration scene for many years.
He has owned and restored a number of motorcycles from LE Velocettes, through BSA C15’s to Honda and Suzuki machines.
But he also collected a vast number of original police items relating to bikes, from radios to blue lights, crash helmets to Belstaff jackets and everything in between.
His widow Wendy, is selling their home and wanted to clear the items Bill still had in his workshop at his untimely death.
Amongst them were some really Interesting radios, including an ultra rare PYE Cambridge set, the forerunner of the PYE Westminster.
So I picked up the various radios, signs, books and lights, which Bill had been keeping for me.
There was also a portable 50 year old PYE VHF radio, complete with its folding antenna.
Mounted inside a custom built hardwood carrying case, this set is something which dates from the days when there were few radios available.
Being portable it would have been used on the Police Mobile Column vehicles, like the Thames Traders and later Bedford RL’s.
The police mobile columns of the Cold War years, were developed as part of Civil Defence planning, to provide a self contained mobile resource.
As an aside, the only time a police mobile column was ever deployed operationally, was the the Aberfan School Disaster on the 21st October 1966.
That didn’t stop them from being used for training purposes and to train staff though.
Other sets include PYE PF1 and later Burndept personal radios, the first two truly “personal” radios issued to police.
Later sets include Cleartone and Simoco hand held sets.
What am I going to do with them?
Good question… I’ll have to think about that before I answer.
The stolen motorcycle
I have a couple of retired police bikes and would have more had some not been stolen from storage in the UK when I was working in Abu Dhabi.
Over several years I have been successful in tracing and recovering some of the motorcycles. However one in particular has eluded me.
That is until I saw part of it up for auction, still with the registration number on the fairing. Just an ever-so-slight give-away!
Criminals usually become over confident and then make mistakes. The fairing was seized by the police as subject of crime.
In UK law, stolen property, even if purchased legitimately, always remains the property of the original owner
The police enquires to trace other parts of the motorcycle hit a dead end, so I needed to collect the fairing.
The bike in question is a Rickman Métisse. It was one of just a handful of the MKI motorcycles built for some police forces by the world champion motorcycle racing brothers Derek and Don Rickman.
This was a very, very long time ago in the early 1970’s
The frame is the valuable part and and I am still searching for and hopeful of finding the rolling chassis.
In the meantime, I have recovered enough of the police equipment to restore the bike if I can just find the rest of it…
The end of a museum
In the UK at the moment, because of the multiple crisis which have enveloped the country with BREXIT, the Pandemic and now rampant inflation, many museums are closing.
For years small museums have been run on shoestring budgets, and now these small but critically important collections are collapsing.
The Ministry of Defense has withdrawn all funding and support for regimental military museums and several are facing closure. It is unsurprising that in this febrile financial atmosphere police museums are also being closed.
A nice lady from Essex who ran a police museum themed pub in Gosfield, has been selling off all of the historic items she and her husband had collected over many years. This is after they have moved out of the hospitality business and retired.
The Guardian newspaper has reported research stating that more than 32 pubs closed every week in 2022. This trend of permanent closures has continued into 2023.
Several of her unique items went to auction. But most failed to reach the reserve price. So I agreed to take on a City of London Police 1880 senior officers uniform, to make sure that such a unique item was not lost for ever.
So after collecting radios, books, motorcycle parts and helmets, I went with a retired colleague to see the lady in Essex and came away with a mannequin and uniform.
I had to disassemble the mannequin to get it into the car. I briefly considered sitting him next to me for the journey home, but decided against the idea.
After undressing, I found that inside the clothing there are two names, one crossed out, written inside.
This means that I now need to do research on how to enhance the struck out writing. Because there is the potential to actually find the name of the officers who wore the uniform and maybe even a photo of the individuals?
It is so sad that a force in one of the richest areas of the UK can no longer justify keeping and maintaining a museum.
I came away with a number of other unique historical items from the lady in Essex too.
Restocking the supplies cupboards
There are some hardware and DiY items which I just cannot get here in Croatia. Then there are the things you can get, but which are of poor quality and don’t last.
Following Brexit, few companies will now supply to Europe because of the costs, and because the purchasers are charged tax and VAT on what you buy.
Working as I do on construction projects, I use the correct protected footwear.
In the winter it is boots with toe cap and insole protection and on hot summer days, I wear work trainers. These also have foot protection too.
Before Brexit, the Screwfix company many would sent to Croatia, carriage free for orders over €50. For me that threshold was easy to breech!
Following Brexit, they closed the European distribution network which had been supplied from the UK.
So last year I bought some work trainers when I was in Split. They have lasted just under five months before the stitching on the side gave way.
It is nothing that a competent cobbler couldn’t repair, however we don’t have one on the island! My last pair of Screwfix trainers, although looking a little tatty and battle weary, are now close to five years old.
So while I was in the UK I picked up an order which included building fixings, plumbing items like Fernox fluid to keep the central heating system corrosion and sediment free. My order also also included a couple of pairs of new work trainers too.
Now I am going to have to run them in ….
Then comes the leisure items!
Work around my home seems never ending, which is a shame when I live on a beautiful island like Hvar.
I learned to Kiteboard when I was in Abu Dhabi. Although I brought my kite, rigging and surfboard with me. I have never been able to get it out here on the island.
The simple reason is one of a lack of space. The lines that connect me to the kite are 30 meters long and I need a wide long open beach, preferably soft and sandy to launch from.
We don’t have any on the island.
The nearest kitboarding site is on the neighbouring island of Brać. However you have probably guessed that there is no easy way to get from Hvar to Brać!
So my kitesboarding kit has stayed packed up.
At the start of the pandemic a new water sport began to take hold, called foil boarding.
This water sport takes elements of kite surfing, the board and the kite, but then adds a carbon fibre and aircraft aluminium hydrofoil underneath the board.
The lines are dispensed with and instead a smaller kite is hand held.
The idea is to use your body weight to balance and transfer wind power to the board, which once moving lifts out of the water, because there is almost no drag on the carbon \ metal under water.
I have thought for a while about buying some second hand gear to try.
However this sport is so new that it hasn’t arrived on the island yet, and trying to find any kit in southern Croatia was just not possible.
On my way to the North West I called in at Boardwise where I had seen that they had second hand foiling equipment available.
I had thought about buying a kite, and possibly a foil. However being in a car without a roof rack I hadn’t considered buying a board.
That is until I was at the shop and was talking to the owner Derek.
We talked and looked at various pieces of equipment, then he showed me an inflatable board.
The result was that after making me a proposal I couldn’t refuse, I came away with everything I need to start learning.
After being a windsurfer for almost 40 years, and learning kite boarding Derek says I will not have a problem teaching myself.
So all I am waiting for now is for the temperature of the Adriatic sea around Hvar to reach 26°C. Then I will be taking some time out to learn a new skill, foiling… NCG