House hunting HMSO style
by Pat Kennedy
Prior to my transfer on promotion from Norwich to Manchester in January 1980 to succeed Jim McDonald, I was allowed the normal few days special leave to house hunt at the new station. Accompanied with my wife Sheila and youngest daughter Kathryn, we motored to Manchester and began our depressing quest in October 1979 to find a suitable property within our price range and within reasonable cycling commuting distance from HMSO Chadderton near Oldham. By about midday on the second day of our hunt, we parked outside an estate agent’s office in north Manchester to obtain house particulars to study over our lunch break. On leaving the agent’s office after about fifteen minutes, armed with a dozen ‘house for sale’ specifications, we were puzzled to note that our car was not in the place where I had parked it!
After a nightmare thirty minutes, we found ourselves in a Bury police station giving the duty sargeant our car specification: Ford Capri, white, reg. number, etc. ‘Do you have a roof rack’ he asked. ‘Yes’ I facetiously replied, which he duly noted down on his lost property sheet. ‘Why do you want to know if I have a roof rack’ I asked. ‘Because it’s another good means of identification’ he said. ‘But my roof rack is hung up in my garage at home in Norwich’ – the serge almost arrested me on the spot, but instead he graciously allowed me to phone Dicky Dunn, the Manchester Director to explain our plight to him. ‘I will send out Alan Bintley, our welfare officer’, said Dicky, ‘he is currently out on a call but he should be with you in about an hour’.
Alan duly arrived at the Bury police station to bail us out and after renewing old acquaintances, Alan asked what we wished to do next: ‘carry on house hunting, or can I take you to the railway station for your journey home?’ By then, all feeling thoroughly despondent, I suggested that perhaps he could take us to my brother’s place in Keighley, West Yorkshire, about thirty-five miles away, when hopefully my brother could loan me his car for us to resume house hunting. Alan readily agreed and we set off for the Yorkshire border. It was about 3 pm and nearly three hours had elapsed since our car went missing, ‘presumably burned out’, suggested a burly Bury constable, whose own car had been stolen and suffered a similar fate some weeks previously.
We had motored about six miles and stopped at red traffic lights on the outskirts of Rochdale, when in sheer disbelief our white Capri was seen to travel across the junction with a young joyrider at the steering wheel. My wife, daughter and I screamed at Alan to ‘get after him’. By the time the lights had changed to green however, there were several other vehicles between the get-away car and Alan’s. We had no alternative but to patiently follow the vehicle procession into the centre of Rochdale, until our quarry turned left into a side road cul-de-sac and stopped, with Alan following to pull up about a metre behind our Capri.
I quickly jumped out of Alan’s car, ran around the front of my car to apprehend the young thug, banging my hand on the bonnet and about to make a citizen’s arrest as he emerged from the car. He must have had the shock of his about-eighteen-year-old young life seeing me prancing about, pointing my finger and shouting at him ‘you’re under arrest’! He quickly put the car into reverse, roared backwards and slammed my tow-bar through Alan’s car radiator! He then made an attempt to get out of the car with me grappling him around his waist trying to restrain him. He quickly broke loose however and sprinted away hell-for-leather, with me in quick pursuit, screaming at gaping onlookers to ‘stop that thief’! He didn’t make much headway for the first half-mile, but he gradually pulled away from me because I had run out of breath due to me shouting at everyone in Rochdale. By then Alan, thinking of my welfare, had caught up, but too late to catch and apprehend the fleeing thief – at least we had got my car back – with about seventy additional miles recorded on the mileometer!
When Alan and I returned to the scene of crime we were met by my tearful wife and daughter who had wrongly assumed that I must have suffered a heart attack or had been knifed during the futile chase. Or were the tears shed because of the sight of Alan’s smashed and steaming radiator? My wife’s first words of sympathy when she saw me were ‘I’m not going to live around here!’
Another car then pulled alongside and two tramplike yobbos emerged to enquire what had happened. I said ‘Oh push off you two, we’re waiting for the police to arrive’. ‘Yes we are the police’ they replied. They then took me on an unwanted but exciting scenic car tour of central Rochdale with me trying unsuccessfully to identify the crook amongst the crowds.
Poor Alan, his wrecked radiator sustained in the line of duty, had ruined his plans for a restful holiday long weekend away. My urgent report on the incident provided the necessary evidence for Alan to hire a car and have his own repaired at HMSO’s expense to enable him to reinstate his holiday plans. After our grateful thanks to Alan Bintley for his help, we left him at the roadside in central Rochdale pondering how to have his car towed home and repaired.
The following day we bought a house in Ripponden, in the heart of the Pennines, far enough away from the crime scene area to pacify my wife and daughter and seventeen miles from HMSO Chadderton, a journey that I later enjoyed cycling on a few occasions during the summer months.
Has anyone seen Alan Bintley since his retirement to Delph in the early 1990s? He does try to avoid me, especially when he is motoring.