2 June 2014
Monday morning. Phil woke late and was in a rush the whole time as he made his way in to Helen Street to pick up his new partner. Such was his rush that he was late for the star of their official induction ceremony and had to wait outside to be called in. He felt sheepish as the eyes of dozens of colleagues who would later chide him for his lateness smirked in his direction.
Once he and Andy had been introduced and presented they left the station and began their first walk together. Phil explained to Andy about how his walks usually went. He failed to mention Sunday’s walk and the demoralising effect it had on him.
For Andy’s first day, he wasn’t as nervous as he had been expecting. For all the training he had received, for the advice he had been given, part of his becoming a police officer felt unreal to him. The night before he had went to bed barely able to think straight with anxiety about the coming day. When his head hit the pillow though, he was down. In the morning, an unnatural calm fell over him. He saw what he had to do, he knew he had to do it and he knew he was able to do it. His induction ceremony had passed in something of a blur, so much that he barely knew how he had got onto the street with this older officer who was speaking words he couldn’t hear.
“Sorry, what?” “The weans. The children, I’m telling you. It’s not the same, it’s not like it was when… well, maybe not when you were, but when I was their age it was different. There was a different dynamic between adults and children. Maybe it’ll be easier for you, being closer to them. More of a mutual area, that sort of thing. You look about twelve, by the way.” Phil grinned as he was speaking. Andy burst into relieved laughter. “Sorry, my head’s been gone a bit this morning.” “Aye don’t worry about it. There might be a lot of rubbish in this job that you’re not ready for and that will hurt you, but you’re allowed freebies on your first day. Here, this is where we go.”
Walking down Helen Street Andy took in Govan in a new light. Yesterday’s calm day had led on to a deceptive day, one that seemed brighter than before but which wasn’t any warmer. Andy couldn’t tell if his shivering was down to nerves. He felt small inside his uniform. Walking next to Phil, he felt almost out of place, as if people would look at the two of them and see one real police officer and one who was just pretending.
“And here we are, Govan Road. Now there’s two ways we can do this, we can go straight along and come back or we can cut down there first,” said Phil, pointing down Langlands Road. “Tell you what, since it’s nice we can go straight along the main road. We might get more people there and break you in by talking to them.” They followed Phil’s suggestion as buses thundered past. “So, the Govan Fair this week. You ever been? You from here?” “Yeah, yeah,” said Andy. “I went with my family or friends a few times when I was younger but I’ve not been… oh for a good few years now at least. Looking forward to getting back into it this year though, it seems like they’ve moved it on a bit from what I last remember.” “Aye it’s quite the event they’ve got going. I’m just worried about the profile of it though, you know? The sort of delinquents you get round here, a big marquee event like this, and with a bunch of new starts like yourself policing it? Recipe for disaster.” Andy felt dismayed by this but didn’t have a meaningful response right away. “We’ll manage,” he said. “We have to.”
The rest of Andy’s first day as a police officer on the streets of Govan passed with little incident. He narrowly avoided a drunk man being sick on him before calling an ambulance for him. His conversations with Phil remained largely superficial as they got to know each other. He found out about Phil’s life (as much as Phil was willing to tell, anyway) and his history in the police. Throughout their conversations Andy could see what the years of Govan policing had done to his new partner. The cynicism wasn’t really evident at first. It wasn’t in the way he walked or stood within the community as he walked, it wasn’t in the words he spoke or the way he spoke them. His demeanour when talking about Govan was predominately one of hope, but Andy could feel it was a hope very close to its last ebb. For all his first day enthusiasm, his desire to help the people and enter into a true two-way relationship as part of the community he felt that Phil had once been exactly the same – and had since lost all of it.
The lightness of their conversation meant Andy could hold back his disappointment. As lunchtime came he found his first piece of resolve of the day. “I’m going to be different you know.” “Oh aye? Different how, exactly?” “I am of Govan and now I am for Govan,” said Andy as they stopped outside Greggs. “And I will stick to that. It’ll be different. You’ll see.” Phil grinned the grin that every younger or inexperienced person in any situation in their life knows. The grin of the person who knows they know better. “Fine. Watch me then. Wait here,” said Andy as he sloped off to buy their lunches.
“Aye, whit?” snapped a female voice as he walked in.