It was the grandest of adventures – my life in blue.
I remember the moment I first knew that I wanted to be a Copper. The PC walking down the other side of Hammersmith Broadway won’t have seen the tentative schoolboy standing at the bus stop. But I saw him. And, from that moment on, I never seriously considered doing anything else.
I remember being driven through the gates at Hendon for the first time, all nerves and expectation. Sergeant Parkes was at the wheel of the minibus, with half a dozen of us sitting in the back, wide-eyed and wondering.
I remember the marching and polishing and running and revising.
I remember my first day on patrol and my first vehicle stop. I remember being terrified. I remember catching my reflection in tall shop windows and that unmistakeable sense of pride at who I was becoming.
I remember my first armed incident.
I remember my first nickname: Tarquin or, more often, Tarkers. Apparently, I talked a bit posh.
I remember my first arrest, my first dead body, my first car crash, my first pub fight, my first murder scene. Rites of passage in a policing life.
And every contact left a trace.
I remember the canteen and the snooker room: the places where we would gather in the rare moments of quiet – to smile and let off steam and set the world to rights. I remember lock-ins after Late Turn at ‘Stickies’ – the pub behind Brixton nick.
I remember the first time I called for Urgent Assistance and the blessed sound of sirens approaching from every direction.
I remember the lung-busting foot chase across the South Circular. I remember winning it after thinking I’d lost it. I remember walking into custody with my prisoner, feeling just that little bit taller.
I remember laughter and tears, exhaustion and elation, heart-break and hope.
I remember lives being lost and lives being saved.
I remember being punched in the face and the sight of my own blood speckling the front of my shirt. I remember the man who hit me disappearing under a pile of uniforms as my colleagues arrived to help.
I remember the suspect with the meat cleaver and the shattering sound of gunshots in the near distance.
I remember endless faces and places: some of them seared into my soul.
I remember the colleagues who fell, who paid the greatest price – men and women like Pat and Derek and Phillip and Nina and Kulwant and Nigel and Gary and Adele. I loved them, though I’d never even met most of them. Because I was one of them.
I remember standing for Keith. Thousands of us.
I remember the aftermath of riots and bombs. I remember the stories of those who went down into the tunnels. Down into hell. I remember the smoking rucksack on the platform at Shepherds Bush. I remember the Siege of London. I remember the Olympic Games. I remember yesterday’s shift written in today’s headlines. I remember the days when everything went right. And the days when everything went wrong.
I remember breaking.
I remember friendship and sacrifice, horror and harm, courage and compassion, sadness and silence, humility and humanity, the very worst and the very best that people can be. I remember most of all the everyday heroism of the men and women who police our streets.
For the rest of my days, I will remember. What it is to live a life in blue.