by Alan Watkins
It seems like only yesterday I started at infants school, learned the three Rs and moved through the neighbouring junior school to the local grammar where I was one of the conspicuously poor pupils.
Then one day I was let loose on an unsuspecting world with one dream in mind – to be a reporter.
Never mind journalists: they are unlikely to recognise a news story and be able to report on it. I mean a hardbitten newshound.
I started with a freelance agency in Gloucester that’s still going, took my exams, got 140-words-a-minute Pitman’s shorthand and got ticked off by a judge for misunderstanding a court order allowing a couple of villains to have a few more days of liberty. Yep – I’ve been in the dock and never want to return there.
I have covered some of the big stories of the day. Tough newsmen covered in mud and coaldust were reduced to tears when they were offered a cup of tea after returning to the office from Aberfan.
Concorde’s first flight in Britain was like watching an anaemic mantis as it roared oh so slowly around the tower of Gloucester Cathedral before returning to its test base at Fairford.
I remember one High Court judge who could never refer to ladies underwear other than as nether garments (a distinct problem when dealing with many sex cases).
He hated psychiatrists – yet one had the temerity to turn up late for his court after carrying out trials on himself of a new drug called lysergic acid diethylamide (or LSD to the pop followers of the Sixties).
Fortunately the police stepped in, said he had been taken ill and rushed him back to his hospital to sleep it off.
We competed in a TV quiz called Beat the Press and defeated the Mayor of Taunton’s team so convincingly the Beeb ended the series.
I have chatted with some of the most notorious post-war murderers – they in the dock, me at the adjacent press bench – and watched the Home Office pathologist, Keith Simpson, as he ended the courtroom appearances of Quinton Hogg, the QC who went on to be Lord Chancellor.
Politicians? I’ve known a few and I still consider John Prescott to be misunderstood and under-rated (certainly he did a lot for Medway when he was Deputy Prime Minister).
I’ve had my day. I’ve loved every minute of reporting, most especially for the KM Group.
Now it’s time to give my wife the attention she richly deserves and let others get the stories I missed or failed to uncover. There are many of them to be unearthed.
It’s not the end, however. I shall still be writing for the Codgers column from my bath chair, as long as readers want it.