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Personal view: TV has led me to have the wrong idea about police

Like many children in reception class, it was a strange day for me to run into a teacher in a supermarket. The teacher said hello and chatted to my dad, but I stood in a stunned silence - at least in those days I could blame awkwardness on being four. The appearance of the teacher in Sainsbury's felt wrong. Like the natural world order had been skewed, and all my laws of how the world worked were being challenged. A teacher outside of school? It was as unthinkable as a cat barking, my parents too being children once or Odion Ighalo signing for Manchester United.

McDonald's at Barton Mills, just outside Mildenhall (Photo: Google) (28218065)
McDonald's at Barton Mills, just outside Mildenhall (Photo: Google) (28218065)

But after the Sainsbury's experience, encountering teachers outside of class was no longer an end of days event - just one with enough routine embarrassment for both parties to wish the world would end. I established a new understanding that all grown ups had times where they had work and times when they were at home. That law has remained in place ever since, but apparently my mind has decided somewhere down the line that there is an exception when it comes to police officers. From years of watching films and TV series likes The Bridge and Arne Dahl, I seem to have subconsciously adopted the idea that the police never rest, are completely focused on their job at all times and never off duty. A strange and naive assumption, but one that apparently extends beyond the inspectors fighting crime in Nordic noir, on to the mean streets of rural Suffolk.

Allow me to set the scene. It's just gone half past eight on a Thursday night and I am starting to drive back from a council meeting (I always like a meeting to finish before 9pm so I can catch the end of the Annie Mac show before Radio 1 enters the choppy waters of specialised content). I pull into a petrol station and I'm followed in by two police cars.

Another naive concept I have is that whenever a police car is near me, they have found me out - whatever it is to find out, and that I'm about to be arrested. But the police cars drive past the petrol station and pull up outside the neighbouring McDonald's. Now that I'm apparently in the clear from whatever it was I thought I was about to be arrested for, I feel quite excited watching the police. Two officers get out from both cars and these four are now conversing - probably about how they are going to raid McDonald's. Now they're going in. This is so exciting!

But after no gun fire or explosions emerge from McDonald's, I decide to do what I came for - and fill up my car. Maybe the police didn't have enough to go on.

But after paying for the petrol, I start to drive out and then stop at a zebra crossing as out of McDonald's step four police officers, now carrying burgers, chips and drinks. Could this be a bribe? Some evidence? No, it seems I have momentarily forgotten that police, too, need to eat and do at some point in the day stop working. I smile at the sight. And it's no doubt reassuring that officers in Suffolk do have opporunity to rest now and again.

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