I won’t go into the lyrics from the Pirates of Penzance as I don’t remember too much to sing about, unless it was a send off. Then it was drinks all round, one of the typists dancing on a table, mini sausage rolls and more beer. There is nothing quite like the camaraderie of a close knit force of men and women but the day you leave it you are just another civilian. It is in itself a unique profession and you need to have the hide of a rhinoceros to survive. When you’re doing your job right, the people who you arrest/upset/tick off complain bitterly. When you don’t do your job everybody above you complains bitterly. It can be without doubt the most rewarding of professions and the worst. I don’t want to use this post to run out the bad old days, or the dirty, gritty and sometimes horrendous jobs we had to attend. Instead I’ll take you on a nostalgic look at a couple of hijinks. The picture is of me signing on after taking the oath and yes I was knackered, it was a gruelling six months.
THE MUD CRAB DERBY. It was a quiet, rainy, Sunday afternoon in a south east Queensland provincial city. I’d been working in CIB as a plain clothes officer for a few months and had fallen into the, ‘Let’s go to the pub culture.’ A couple of hours before knock off myself and four detectives decided a beer and a game of pool seemed to be the way to go. We duly arrived at a local watering hole, walked in like a scene from The Sweeny and took over the pool room in an upstairs bar. The locals, most of whom had seen the inside of the Watchhouse on several occassions shuffled out. A couple of cold beers later and an unsuspecting chap, carrying a large cardboard box walks in, “Oi, any of youse blokes wanna buy some mudcrabs.” Now for those of you who don’t know, a mudcrab is a delicacy in Australia. One of the best eating crabs you can have. In Queensland there are strict laws on the taking of them, especially females and the undersized.
The look on the crab mongers face when he recognised one of the Detectives was priceless. He tried to beat a hasty retreat and was collared at the door. An inspection of the crabs that would’ve done CSI proud came to the inevitable conclusion, one very large male and five large, muddy green coloured females. Forbidden fruit. By now we all hovered around the box, muttering about fines, time in jail, should we nick him now or call in the fisheries bloke? Being upstanding men one and all, a group decision was made, “Leave the crabs with us Mate and bugger off.”
Feeling full of fervor that we had saved the crabs, and full of fourex it was decided to take the ‘evidence’ back to the office. Pulling quietly into the rear of the station we stumbled out of our cars and hurried into the CIB. One bright individual decided that what was needed was a Mud Crab race. Desks were pulled aside to make a course, bets were taken and our runners were removed from the box. To safely transport mudcrabs they need to have their pincers tied up, after making our selection I dug a flick knife out of my drawer and cut the ties.
The crabs were quickly marked with a texta pen and put in the middle of the floor. It’s a well known fact that crabs scuttle sideways, soooo, to make them go in the right direction you need to nudge them a little. The race was on and someone had opened a new case (of beer) and the cheering brought a few inquisitive constables up from uniform. I don’t know about you but if I were a crab that had been plucked from my home, transported in a dark box, then let out amongst a bunch of half drunken coppers – well – I’d be cranky too.
Our Detective in charge was something of a flash dresser, bit of a spiv really and he had on a $150 pair of Italian leather moccasins. Of course being in charge he’d picked the big male crab. Call it being cranky, karma or well deserved but that crab didn’t like him. It didn’t fancy being a Derby winner, he was big with a left claw the size of a front end loader. As soon as it hit the carpet it attacked, all his females were there and he was probably having a sugar low or something. It didn’t matter, he saw that moccasin coming at him and attacked.
The owner of said moccasin let out an unmanly squeal, backpeddled and sat up on one of the desks. The rest of us were too busy trying to coax our runners out from under chairs and desks, the smarter ones using wastebackets to trap them. The squeal made us all stop and look around. To my way of thinking, if something is attacking one of your extremeties, you don’t shove said extremity back at it. He did and it was a sight to behold, quick as a flash that claw latched onto the toe of his moccasin and -SNAP – clicked shut. Right through the leather upper, his sock and through the sole.
If there was ever a competition for a, ‘get this effing crab off my foot dance,’ he would’ve won it. It wasn’t that we didn’t like the bloke, we couldn’t do a thing for laughing. Not polite chuckling or tittering but rolling on the floor holding your guts roaring out loud type. Finally settling down somebody took hold of the crab, it still had hold of the shoe and our fearless leader managed to pull it off. The nippers had gone between his big and second toe. The stewards decision was final, there wasn’t a winner and the runners should be eaten and I returned home with a fresh dinner.
THE STRIP SHOW. Still in CIB I was nominated to join our Senior Sergeant on an ‘undercover’ foray into the naughty world of vice, ie a lingerie show at a local nightclub. This was Queensland in the eighties and anything remotely resembling something naked needed to be looked at. (no pun intended) The main concern was that it may contravene the Liquor Act, live shows, naughtiness etc. To me it seemed quite ironic that two coppers should be sent to check it out. It’s on par with, ‘my hens aren’t laying, hang on I’ll send the fox down to check them out.’ I didn’t complain there were worse things I could’ve been doing. The Senior, I’ll call him Tom was a real old timer in the job. He looked more like a dairy farmer than a copper but was a nice bloke. Not straight laced, more of an old school, harumph harumph type. We were dropped off at the club and were spotted straight away, the manager had two chairs and a small table in front of the stage for us, well almost on it. Before the lights dimmed two cold glasses and a jug of beer were plonked down by a very attractive waitress, dressed as a french maid. Tom gave an harumph and filled our glasses. The club wasn’t full, it was jam packed, I think they were using Japanese railway porters to keep pushing them in.
The club had filled with cigarette smoke so one had to sit forward to get a better glimpse of the stage. The show started with a fanfare of disco music and the girls began to strut their stuff. I’d seen cage dancers in Saigon and been in every strip joint in Kings Cross and these girls were well – tame, God bless their prickly G strings. Don’t get me wrong, most of them were stunning and they stoically put up with the jeers and catcalls and may I say, some unkind comments. They were giving it their best shot. They hadn’t all come out at once, they each had a routine and the MC prattled on about where the outfits could be bought. The night dragged on, the crowd kept pressing from behind and we shifted a little closer to the stage. By now we were on our third jug of beer and no pain was being felt,.Tom had loosened up and by the look of him couldn’t have given a rat’s rectum about the Liquor Act. The final girl came out, a big girl, with a big personality and even bigger breasts.
She went through her personal rendition of the dance of the seven veils, someone forgot to tell her she only had six. Tom’s face had taken on a glow: beer, high blood pressure, excitement? I’m not sure but the dancer saw it and targeted him. She stood in front of him in a classic belly dancers stance and shimmied. The lingerie had long gone, along with the nipple pasties. A G string lurked somewhere but I couldn’t see it. Tom leaned forward and she spun around to her right, her breasts followed a split second later and slapped him across the top of his head. It was hard to say what embarrased Tom the most, my hysterical, beer fueled laughter, the roar of the crowd or her coming right up close and apologizing. Time to go and we waited out on the footpath. I’d made a quick trip to the loo, Tom hadn’t. Two doors up from the club stood a photograpic shop, the doorway like an alcove. While I kept watch he relieved himself against the doorway.
The following morning I was approached by the officer who had sent us there. Let’s call him Paddy. Paddy had the most fearsome visage I’d come across and he was huge. You’d never meet a nicer bloke, his cartooning ability was only outstripped by his wicked sense of humour. I told him what had gone on the night before and within half an hour the station was festooned with drawings of Tom and the stripper. Worst of all, one of Tom taking a leak. He couldn’t let it lie, next order of business – phone call to Tom from an irate photo shop owner claiming to have photo evidence of some lout taking a leak against his window. Everybody heard Tom yelling as he made his way from CIB to uniform looking for me. He might have been a nice bloke but he didn’t have a sense of humour.