Historical omniscience

By the mid-1980s, young people were steadily becoming concerned about the spread of HIV / Aids. Media reports and government campaigns had led to increased awarenes  that it was not only drug addicts, prostitutes and homosexuals who were ‘swirling in a cesspit of their own making’, but that heterosexual couple could also be at risk.

Anecdotal evidence acquired from recruits undergoing training with Greater Manchester Police, for example, suggests a distinct change in attitudes when the young officers-to-be visited the city on rare evenings off. Several cadets attested to their fellow trainees during Monday morning tea breaks that women they had met over the weekend had insisted that they should wear a condom if they wanted penetrative sex. Even women who admitted to regularly taking oral contraceptives, and therefore had little chance of becoming pregnant and who had previously been willing to have unprotected sex, were demanding the use of a prophylactic. Cadets who did not yet routinely carry or could not acquire a said item at the appropriate moment reported heightened levels of frustration, and even complained of a whole weekend being ruined. Such grievances were particularly acute among cadets who had only arrived in the Greater Manchester area immediately prior to the commencement of their training. They were reported as being especially vocal upon their return to quarters, stating that they had expected more from the city, and the ‘slags’ who inhabited it.

Not all cadets experienced such a sense of injustice, of course. There were those who had long-term girlfriends who would readily offer detailed accounts of their Saturday evening recreational activities, especially after attending a cinema showing of the film 9 ½ Weeks. There was even one cadet who appeared unaffected by the fuss his colleagues made. This cadet merely smiled, or laughed openly, when he listened to their accounts. The recruit in question had left his home in Scotland to attend the GMP training programme. He had informed his fellow cadets that he was remaining faithful to his childhood sweetheart who was expecting their first child in the near future. In several statements made at the time, the recruit claimed that she would be joining him in the north of England as soon as possible.

The young Scot appeared to pass most of his free time following a countryman who had also recently arrived in the area. The cadet was said to have been a long time fan of Aberdeen, even though he grew up nearer the west coast of Scotland. When Alex Ferguson then took up the position of manager at Manchester United, the cadet  believed it was only logical to make these other Reds (the true Reds, many told him) his local team. He, therefore, spent his Saturday afternoons at the football matches whenever he was free and there was a home game. In the evenings, he visited bars such as The Bishops Blaize where, for his own protection, he told fans and fellow drinkers that he was a carpenter working for the Liverpool city council and that he had to escape the ‘Scouser scum’ every opportunity he had. This cover story was accepted without further questioning, but it gave the young cadet some cause for concern when he successfully completed his training and had to attend the games in uniform. Much to his relief, however, none of his weekend acquaintances managed to positively identify him as ‘Dibble’.

As the months passed, the Scottish cadet found it increasingly difficult to account for the continued absence of the alleged girlfriend and baby. After some time, he did confide in one colleague with whom he frequently worked that the ‘bitch’ had ‘put the kid up for adoption’ and had ‘buggered off’ from their home town without confessing any word of justification or even admission of temporary insanity.

Around one month later, the young constable attended a club night at the popular venue, The Hacienda, where he met a young woman. When he reported the incident to his colleagues the following Monday – two of whom had witnessed the encounter from a distance – and gave details of a swift, condomless assignation, it was station mates’ turn to indulge in derision. They informed the newly-appointed constable that the young woman in question was a prostitute and drug addict, and that his ‘cock’ would probably drop off in the weeks to come while the rest of his mortal substance would whither away with the ‘gay plague’. It is said that the Scotsman then proceeded to abstain from sexual relations for a period of almost one year, during which time, it is alleged that he could not even entertain the idea of touching his own private parts for fear of contracting an illness or illnesses unknown and so purchased many rubber prophylactics for the sole purpose of relieving himself through a method known colloquially as a ‘posh wank’. Any evidence of this behaviour, however, remains purely circumstantial, but the constable in question gained a reputation among his colleagues as one who always kept a condom handy. In fact, they duly provided him with the nickname, Handy Andy.


(Exercise: write about an event set in the past as if by means of researched opinion)

Book editor with www.NovelGazing.org, considering the links between therapy and fiction at www.TheFictionTherapist.com and reviewer for @bookmunch.

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