Harry Roberts

Police killed by Harry RobertsEmotions  running very high this morning. Harry Roberts was convicted of the murder of these three police officers in 1966. I was involved in the search for this man, and his arrest near Bishops Stortford many days later. He was taken to Holloway Police Station after his arrest, and sentenced to life imprisonment, to serve a minimum of thirty years.

He is now about to be released on parole.

I wonder how many of the Parole Board understood the emotions of those involved.

Roberts was a thug, and still is. He has shown no remorse, indeed he has revelled in his notoriety,  recreating the murders in art and pastry decorations, making apple pies and decorating them with pastry cut-outs of policemen being shot. He has also produced precisely drawn and coloured paintings depicting someone shooting a policeman.

Allowed to work in an animal care centre he intimidated an elderly volunteer and tortured the animals.

He was moved back from an open prison having been involved in drug running and smuggling.

He’s always been a lucky man. Before these murders he was convicted of burglary and assaulting an elderly man. The Judge at his trial said he was lucky to escape the rope. His victim died one year and three days after the attack, so Roberts was not tried for murder.

The murders of the three police officers, who were in a plain-clothes police car (Q car) Sergeant Christopher Head, Det Constable David Wombwell and the driver of the Q car PC Geoffrey Fox, came just eight months after the abolition of the death penalty. That added to the alarm we all felt at the time. Criminals no longer had anything to lose, as these murders showed.

Roberts has lived well and upon his release he will enjoy the fruits of his crime. The gutter press and media will be desperate to pay him money for his story. No doubt he will spend the rest of his life in luxury.

Will the families of Roberts victims ever be asked for their opinions? Should they have been asked before his parole?

Many us, colleagues of these murdered police officers, serving at that time will feel very aggrieved. Given a chance we would all like to administer our own justice upon this despicable character. He killed three men doing their job and he also destroyed many other lives.

Thank you Parole Board for supporting those that cared for you, indeed all of us.

Old Men

LonelyI’ve joined a group. It’s not that I shall have much contact with the other members, that’s the whole point of the group. I’m now one of the lonely old men.

It’s nothing to get downhearted about, and believing that other people are in any way responsible, or should even care, about old men being lonely is not acceptable.

Many men have spent their whole lives totally dependent upon their wives. However comfortable that may be it is wrong.

‘My wife always has the dinner on the table at one o-clock. Oh no, I don’t do the ironing, and I just hate shopping, and she looks after all the bills.’

So what does he do? Washes the car and potters about in the garden.

That’s fine while she is still alive but the stress of modern living means that women are just as likely to drop off as men. The four-year difference between the life expectancy of a man and a woman in UK is reducing, it is now at three years, 79.5 for a man, 82.5 for a woman.

That still places the British (of all sexes) in just 27th place in the world rankings. Japan is top, although the nuclear power station disaster has yet to be fully quantified, but a raw fish diet seems to be doing well. After Japan comes Andorra, Singapore, Hong Kong and most Western European countries until the UK is reached. The USA is at 33rd with average age at death decreasing steadily until Sierra Leone, at just 47 years, is reached. No doubt even that poor average is now falling because of Ebola.

These are telling statistics, and I’d probably be willing to lose 1.2 years to be amongst the Costa Ricans, still judged to be the happiest people in the world, and they live to 79.8. Such statistics are nonsensical as the real killer is child mortality, which drags down the average in poor countries which lack good medical care, food and water.

So, here I am: old, male and lonely. Need I say more? Donations will be willingly received. The Royal Voluntary Service (it has dropped ‘Womens’ from its title) is looking for me, and all the other lonely old men. Their research says that children are worried about their fathers. That’s nice, even though 25% of men have not seen their children in the last month, so what are children doing to change that? The RVS solutions don’t sound very attractive: they want volunteers to take old men to sporting events. Not for me, I’m more in touch with my feminine side or do I mean I’d rather have something feminine by my side?

It can be hard for old men. It is just as hard for old women. For both of us the answer is to enjoy every day. Stop worrying about the past or the future. We are alive today. That’s just great. Look for pleasures, delight in small moments, and do make sure you have one good moan (at least) every day.

That is why we are still here.

My Week Part 1

It’s been a busy week, so far. There’s yet more to come.

I’ve been struggling to finish the layout of a poetry book for a friend. Procrastination keeps hampering my progress, it’s all very annoying. Had another crack at the task on Monday until the phone rang. It was a friend inviting me to coffee. I was out of the house in seconds, poetry abandoned, for now.

Tuesday I was on the coach to London. From my home to Victoria the coach is faster than the train, and much cheaper. I enjoy people watching on the way. Once I arrived in central London the traffic became horrendous (it probably was the same before I arrived, I’m not claiming responsibility). I started my journey by bus, but had to abandon it in High Holborn. That allowed me to pop into the Sir John Soanes museum in Lincolns Inn Fields. It’s a fascinating place, preserved by Act of Parliament. Do take a look.

Sir John Soanes Museum

I then took the Tube to Finsbury Park, as with my son, we walked to his home in Crouch End. It’s a part of the world I once knew well, it has now changed, and is apparently set to change even more.

I was disturbed to hear of the actions of local Councils. That’s not to accuse those in London but it brings together a larger malaise, all Councils suffer from the same affliction. Shall I call it stupidity? Let’s do that for the sake of a better word.

The old GLC blocks of flats have a certain appeal, and many generations of Londoners have lived in them. Generally well-built, for they had ‘standards’ in those days what they lacked was a sense of community. The problem was that ‘they’ were responsible. As a tenant you had very few rights or responsibilities. Little has changed.

One block in Islington was rescued by squatters. It is now fully occupied with rents paid to the owners. I’m not sure if that’s the local Council but come what may there is little control exercised by the tenants. The caretaker, who once lived on the premises, now lives in Kent. That’s a madness. How can they care when they live on the other side of London? Tenants look after each other in a rudimentary fashion. Each block has at least one unstable tenant. It may be a drunk, unable to care for themselves, or an elderly person, a drug addict, or even a dealer. Nobody else cares.

Each block as a garden. That’s often a slab of tarmac but some may have grass. Teams of ‘gardeners’ will arrive, each armed with a mechanical buzzer of some kind that are used to strim the grass, flail bushes and trees. Occasionally they will improve the area. One tenant planted tomatoes in a square metre or so of ground. All were strimmed flat by the ‘gardener’. The tenants asked to plant fruit trees. The gardeners planted a short row of sycamores instead. Perhaps hoping that these trees will produce more leaf and seeds that will need to be noisily blown up and down the street.

In London Borough of Newham the Carpenter Estate is the centre of a controversy. The Council, pound signs flashing, wants to sell off this estate to Malaysian property developers, despite having a list of folk desperate for somewhere to live that is over 24,000 applicants.

Carpenters Estate protestThe deep malaise is that many Councils are run as dictatorships. There is no opposition. Newham is 100% Labour, Suffolk Coastal Council has a deep blue core. This means that very few people are involved in decisions that affect whole communities. One suspect official, a planning officer perhaps, can blight an area for generations, and possibly do so just to serve his own needs. One Councillor can strut around like Napoleon with no-one to question their motives.

I like travelling by bus in London. It is always changing. It’s unfortunate to see so many buildings, or spaces between buildings, that could be used for housing. Equally it is dreadful to know that many office blocks are unoccupied. One that I helped build 25 years ago is about to be demolished, so they can build another one. It is criminal activity.

I was told of a new development of social housing where Boris the Mop is saying the rent will be £2800 per month, and he regards that as socially acceptable. Welcome to the Blue World, where you are urged to work and pay taxes by people who have never done either.

High water on ThamesWe strolled along the South Bank. It’s become very interesting in later years. It was sunny and lovely until we reached the Festival Hall. Then the heavens opened. It rained. No, there was someone up there emptying the bath water over us. It deluged, forcing us to take lunch at the only pub that is on the Embankment, close to Tate Modern.

Malevich at the TateWe went toTate Modern to see the Malevich exhibition. Of its time it may have been. To read the reviews I should have been stunned. I was shocked by the quality of the sound on a video based on his designs. It was inaudible. Such a waste.

As my son said Tate Britain has always been a pleasure. There are rooms that remain largely unchanged. There’s great pleasure from seeing a familiar painting. The world now wants change, spectacle and lacks concentration. You don’t even have to listen, just spend a few seconds watching a poorly-made video and move on. I wanted to go back to Sir John Soanes.