I met the new Head of the Security Department of my company for the first time today. We crossed paths whilst we were inspecting an office refurbishment that our mutual Employer is undertaking. The Security team had been sent over to guard a consignment of chairs that had been received from Malaysia and rolls of carpet that had been delivered from Mexico.
The new Head of our Security Team is English and he is an ex-policeman. His name is Melvin and he was once a London Copper.
He was a Plod.
He was the Old Bill.
There are interestingly a number of different names by which policemen are referred. I have already noted a couple but I could also add the Fuzz.
In fact I will add it.
There you go.
Many people believe that the origins of the term ‘copper’ related to the buttons that adorned the English police officers jackets but this belief is unfounded – and the buttons were brass anyway. The term ‘copper’ was derived from the Latin word ‘capere’ – which translates to ‘one who captures’. It arose on the streets of London in the very early part of the eighteenth century and the name stuck.
The term ‘the Plod’ was derived from a wonderful children’s story called ‘Noddy’ that was written by the delightful English author Enid Blyton. One of Enid’s characters in Noddy was the village policeman PC Plod – who was so endearing that the English adopted his name as a term for policeman. ‘PC’ stands for ‘Police Constable’.
The Old Bill is the term I like the most and its origins are the most obscure. There are more than a dozen speculative theories about how it originated but the one I prefer is the story that it relates back to the reign of King William the Fourth – back in the 1830’s. King William – or Bill to his mates – laid claim to establishing the modern British Police force and in his Charter he gave them a “Bill of Authority”.
I like writing the Old Bill and I like saying it too.
The Old Bill.
The term the Fuzz is American and I do not really care for it - nor am I interested in its origins.
“Y’oright Melvin?” I said as I introduced myself to Melvin the new Security.
“Y’oright” he returned.
This is a popular form of greeting amongst the English. I speak this English of the English well for I am immersed amongst them in my day-to-day work life. “Y’Oright” is basically asking “are you alright?” – but rather than answering the question you ask it back.
Answering a question with a question is always annoying and I will not even pretend to understand it, but I accept it as just being one of those things that the English do.
“So I see that the carpet has finally arrived from Mexico” I asked of one of the contractors at the site.
“Underlay” Melvin interjected.
“Nice one mate” I said.
His response was brilliant and I liked him already.
“So where were you in your previous job Melvin?” I enquired.
“I was in Qatar innit?”
Some of the English use – and indeed misuse the term “innit”. I come across it often and I occasionally adopt it myself with the English.
It amuses me.
“Innit?” It is basically asking the question “Isn’t it?”
“Qatar innit?” I enquired of Melvin
“Y’oright” he replied.
“Y’oright” has great flexibility amongst some of the English and it can also be used as an affirmation.
“Qatar y’oright innit?” I threw back at Melvin.
He nodded his head in agreement.
This was excellent.
“And you were in the Old Bill before that?’ I asked.
I knew this because I had been briefed on Melvin and his appointment some weeks ago.
“For twenny free years” Melvin responded.
Some of the English drop the letter ‘t’ from the middle of words and they replace the letter ‘th’ with ‘f’. It is quite easy to understand when you get used to it although the spell check function on my computer does not like it.
It does not like it at all.
“Did you ‘ave to wear one of vose funny ‘ats Melvin?” I asked.
You will note that I was speaking colloquially here and adopting some of the English ways. In this instance it is by replacing the ‘th’ with a ‘v’ and dropping the ‘h’.
I do this simply because I like it. I do not offer nor do I feel compelled to offer up any other explanation.
“Only on special occasions”
The funny hats I am referring to are called ‘custodian helmets’ and they were introduced to the London Metropolitan Police Force in 1863. They are conical in shape and have chin straps and a badge on the front of them.
I told Melvin that I liked the custodian helmets.
“I like ‘em too”
I informed Melvin that I was conversant with British law and was aware that there was jurisdiction that allowed for a pregnant woman to urinate anywhere that they chose to in the city of London – including into the helmet or cap of a policeman. He seemed impressed with my knowledge of this law.
“Not everyone knows that innit” he told me.
“In your years in the Old Bill did any pregnant woman wee into your helmet Melvin?” I asked.
“Innit?” I added.
“Vey did not” he replied.
Some may not believe that this is an actual law but I assure you that it is. Look it up yourself.
I asked Melvin what it was that he did in Qatar and he told me that he was the Head of Security for a company that was involved in the construction of Soccer stadiums for the 2022 World Cup. I asked Melvin why he left.
“It was ‘orrible vere”
It is ‘orrible vere.
I have been to Qatar and the heat and rudeness of the natives is intolerable. Qatar’s treatment of their foreign workers is nothing short of a disgrace. I have no idea why they were awarded the World Cup but the human rights abuses that have and continue to occur there are an abomination.
They really are.
I told Melvin that I was aware that in the past six weeks alone fourty four Nepalese workers had died on World Cup construction projects. I told him that this equated to more than one death per day.
I informed Melvin that the British Newspaper “The Guardian” recently published an expose on this atrocity and they reported allegations of ‘a chain of exploitation’. Melvin told me that he knew this and more and I could tell by the way that he was shaking his head that he felt as disgusted by this as I did.
I told our new Head of Security that I have many Nepalese friends and that I am acutely aware that nearly one quarter of Nepal’s total national income is derived from their people sending back money from overseas work - and that much of this work is conducted in the Middle East.
The Director of an organisation called ‘Anti Slavery International’ was quoted by the Guardian as saying, “these working conditions and the astonishing number of deaths of vulnerable workers go beyond forced labour to the slavery of old where human beings were treated as objects. There is no longer a risk that the World Cup might be built on forced labour. It is already happening."
It is predicted that more than 4000 foreign workers – mostly Nepalese – will lose their lives in the construction program in Qatar.
I told Melvin that I do not for the life of me understand why the governing body of the World Cup Soccer event had done nothing about this. I also asked Melvin if he knew why the Americans had not yet invaded and occupied Qatar. Melvin told me that he thought that it might have something to do with oil and greed and corruption and I told him that I thought that he might be right.
We both paused in whimsical thought for a couple of heartbeats before I suggested to Melvin that America had a long and colourful history of invading and occupying Middle Eastern countries where similar or less atrocities have occurred.
We agreed that Qatar and Americans and the governing body of the World Cup soccer were fuckers.
We concurred that they were motherfuckers in fact.
“Vats why I left innit” Melvin told me.
“I don’t blame you mate innit” I responded.
“It’s bleedin’ ‘orrible over there an’ I couldn’t stan’ it anymore innit” Melvin said.
“They was terrible conditions to work in an’ all” he added.
“Y’oright Melvin innit” I agreed.