Back then we had proper TV shows, one of the biggest being The Sweeney, a firm (subtle pun there for Sweeney aficionados) favorite with our family. The Sweeney were the hard punching, harder drinking, womanising, gun toting, rule breaking department within the Metropolitan Police who specialised in the fight against armed robbers. It featured John Thaw as DI Regan, the leader and talisman of the outfit, and his sidekick DS Carter, played by Dennis Waterman. Carter provided an aspect of the programme that I never personally understood. I'm sure Dennis is a lovely chap, but he was never Brad Pitt, or Paul Newman, or Justin Beeber, if you see what I mean? However he was a perennial hit with the ladies (or 'birds' as they used to say..) in the series, and they were normally beauty queens or glamour models. I was always convinced he was giving the script writers a bung in order to steer the beauties in his direction. Although he was later married to the saucy Rula Lenska, she of the infamous 'George Galloway thinks he's a cat' incident, so maybe my opinion is skewed, or maybe she believed the hype?! (Carter is on the left, nuff said....)
Amongst other things that we youngsters learned from the series (apart from how to act in a big fight, how to drive through stacks of empty boxes when being chased by the police, how to wear tights on your head if you're going to rob an armoured car, the list continues...) was an entirely new vocabulary. Starting with some cockney rhyming slang, The Sweeney - Sweeney Todd/Flying Squad, they introduced in to our lexis: shooter - gun, drum - home, manor - the area where you live, blag - robbery, bird - young lady, motor - car, firm - criminal gang, I'm sure my brother and sister will remember more?
As previously mentioned, there was always a big fight between the coppers and the villains, which the bluebottles (more slang) always won. Always a car chase between the fuzz (slang) and the crooks, the former in a Ford Granada and the latter in a MKII Jaguar (Jag). This chase always ended in a goods yard, which every week was piled with empty boxes to drive through and always lead to the big group fight, at the end of which Regan would snarl 'we're The Sweeney, you're nicked'... Brilliant. What we didn't appreciate at the time was that the Ford had a lower top speed than Mark Cavendish and the handling characteristics of a super tanker. If you were being chased by one now all you'd need is a Fiat 500 and you'd leave them for dead.
What made me think of this was watching the recent film re-incarnation of the programme. I appreciate the dilemma that movie makers have when presented with the idea of using a tried and tested franchise. Do you make one set in the original era of the series or do you update it? They chose to update it and for the hard drinking, fighting, ladies man role of Regan they selected Julian Clary, not really, it's Ray Winstone. I mean who else is there in the Cockney geezer stable? Maybe Jason Statham, but he was off filming Transporter 9 where he drives a Tuctuc around the M25 carrying an alarm clock attached to a firework. For Carter they chose Plan B, he of the 'I know I'm not really singing but this is wot the kidz wont' music genre. For the Granada they gave the rozzers (police) a Ford as a nod to the original. Not a flame spitting, wheel spinning behemoth but a Fiesta, Thaw will be turning in his grave. The bad guys had a modern Jag, so crime doesn't pay then... I'm not going to review the film, but suffice to say I wouldn't watch it again whereas I would watch the originals.
My only brush with law enforcement was when working for a recruitment company. They had a large national client and a dedicated member of staff to run the payroll for the 500 or so temporary staff that were working in a call centre. The staff paid in to a fund which they could draw on for their holiday entitlement. Each week the payroll consisted of wages for the hours worked and lump sum cheques for those on leave. So the regular guy goes on holiday and I cover for him and one day I notice a discrepancy in the vacation payments. Cheques were being raised for people who were not on the regular payroll at all. It transpired our employee had created fictitious temporary staff who all shared his bank account and were taking lots of holidays, oh dear... We handed the file over to the local CID and despite their best efforts to do nothing, a conviction was made and the bloke did stir (went to prison).
What makes this memorable is the light bulb moment when I was staring at some figures and names and suddenly it morphed in to the crime of the century. Not quite an epiphany but definitely heading up the road to Damascus.
So to square the circle. I was marking some exam papers this week and begin to notice striking similarities between some of the answers. Digging out the relevant submissions I begin to cross check them and lo, here comes that feeling again. I cannot tell you how excited I am to go back to school next week and growl 'I'm a teacher, and you're nicked'..