"Border Force" at Dover.
What do you do with twelve smelly, frightened parking officers when you have kept them in a cellar for up to a month? I'd like to tell you that I had had it all planned out - like a military operation from first to last - but that just wasn't so. If I am honest, I should say that I had a clear vision of how to capture and detain twelve civil enforcement officers (parking) but beyond that point my thinking was woolly, vague.
Last weekend, I had it in mind to execute the lot of them for crimes against humanity. They were whingeing about hygiene and food and about how Frances had neglected them when we went on holiday to Portugal. I was getting fed up with their moaning so I yelled at them to shut up. I have had a lot of experience of disciplining unruly groups of kids. The way they were carrying on it was as if they had formed some sort of trade union down there. But what the hell could I do with them? I mean, I'm the kind of guy who refuses to kill flies or wasps so how could I murder them - even though they were/are parking officers? I knew I just couldn't do it.
Watching a fly-on-the-wall documentary series on Sky 3 called "Border Force", I suddenly had a brainwave. The programme is all about the British Border Agency's attempts to halt illegal immigration. In perhaps the second programme, they showed what Border Agency officers discovered in the back of a huge articulated lorry at Dover. Eleven wide-eyed young men from Afghanistan. They had created a little den in the middle of hundreds of stacked cardboard boxes - presumably containing "Opium"perfume and studded collars for Afghan hounds - and had journeyed all the way to England from Kabul to seek their fortunes. It suddenly occurred to me that I could copy their plan but in reverse. Send my whining parking people to Afghanistan!
Now it just so happens that a couple of dodgy long distance lorry drivers frequent our local pub. I've known one of them vaguely for years. He's called Des. Expensive items often fall off the back of his truck! Know what I mean?
"So Des. How far do you go in your truck?"
"All over the place mate," says Des.
"You mean like Germany and Italy?"
"Oh no mate much further than that. Turkey. Iran. I've just got back from Rabbit in Morocco."
"Do you ever go to Afghanistan?"
"Well I've never been but it's funny you should mention it. Terry here's off on Thursday morning!" grins Des, knowingly.
"Aye, I'm delivering Buxton mineral water to some godforsaken place called Kandahar!" says Terry who's about fifty and gnarled like an old pine tree. "Some new security firm called Aliban, Saliban or something."
Didn't he read the news?
We kept talking. I was winning Terry's confidence. After buying him a pint, I took a deep breath and whispered to him what was in my underhouse. At first he was open-mouthed in disbelief. "No way man!" I tried to offer him a thousand pounds to take the captives in his truck but when he heard they were parking officers, he insisted that he would help me for free. " I 'ate em!"
Des went home - he had an early start the next morning - so Terry and I put some flesh on the bones of my crazy plan. By closing time, it didn't seem so crazy after all.
In the early hours of this very morning, when nobody was about and with lights off, I drove a white Ford Transit van I had specially hired from "National" up the green lane at the back of our garden. Then it was back to the underhouse where my twelve captives were all waiting to go with gags around their ungrateful mouthes and heavy duty plastic plant ties securing their hands behind them. I felt like a biblical shepherd guiding them up our garden to the waiting Transit.
As I drove to my agreed rendezvous with Terry on a small industrial estate in the Don Valley, I could hear them bouncing about in the back as I screeched round corners. There were a few stifled groans and moans but I didn't care. I was going to see the last of them. It had all become a huge weight on my mind.
Terry was there already with the back doors of his Volvo FH 500 open to receive the extra cargo. There seemed to be millions of plastic wrapped litre bottles of Buxton water - both sparkling and still - all on these massive wooden palettes. Terry proudly confided that when loading up, he'd created a void in the very centre of the truck to accommodate my parking officers. You could only reach it by crawling over the top of the load and jumping down. Border immigration officials would never find it.
I unlocked the back of the Transit and pulled my prisoners out one by one. They had to crawl on their bellies over the top of the mineral water palettes until they met Terry at the top of the void. Only then were their plastic ties cut - just before they were forced to jump down into their special "compartment". At least they'd not go thirsty on their overland journey to Afghanistan. The last one out of the Transit was co-incidentally the very first parking attendant I plucked from the streets back on September 2nd. Robert was his name. He looked at me with pleading puppy-dog eyes but I wasn't feeling merciful. "You're going on holiday Robert!" I grinned like Hannibal Lecter.
Terry slammed the back door with a thunk, bolted it and sealed it shut. "With any luck I won't be opening that again till I get to the Aliban depot in Kandahar!"
"When?" I said.
"Should be Monday afternoon," said Terry. "But it can be a bugger driving through Turkmenistan. They've got bloody highwaymen out there you know. Riding frigging camels!"
I watched Terry's Volvo truck signal left into Attercliffe Road. He'd be down in Dover by nine o'clock and then well on his way to Afghanistan.
I hestitate to think what the Taliban will do when they find a nest of Sheffield parking officers in the middle of their truck load of Buxton Mineral Water. Perhaps they'll use them as hostages to win concessions from occupying western forces and thereby pave the way for a lasting peace. Or maybe brainwash them and train them up for guerilla action amidst the hills of Helmand. But it doesn't matter much to me. I have got our underhouse back. There'll be some cleaning up to do I'm sure but at least I'll be able to sleep more easily in my bed, knowing that I have done my duty.