Some twenty and something years ago my then wife and I took the tenancy of a Courage Pub in the Kentish village of Headcorn. It was our first ‘Pub’ and as such was not the Rolls Royce of the Courage estate. It was a filthy dirty round down place that was selling the equivalent of five hundred pints of beer a week but we could see potential.
Let me tell you how I got to Headcorn. I’m vain, so talking about myself here should come easily. My father died when I was sixteen leaving me, his only child, with my mother who was the partially sighted, (she later went blind.) I believe that I had been a disappointment to both of them, as my Grammar School education taught me little other than being moderately good at Cricket and being the best open side wing forward never to play Rugby for England. For some, even now, unexplainable reason to me, I changed from a Deck Chair kicking Mod (I buried my purple hearts amongst the stones on Brighton Beach before kicking them. It was the SIXTIES after all) into a Metropolitan Police Cadet. I had found responsibility as a different track to follow than being a dedicated follower of fashion. I simply got of the bus taking me to work, as a trainee accountant, one morning and picked up an application form from Shooters Hill Police Station.
I graduated on to become a fully fledged Police Constable and found another side to myself. I wanted not only to be the Sheriff in rounding up the bad guys but also I wanted to be the Judge and administer the punishment. I saw too much injustice and the sorrow that it caused to continue doing my job.
One day I found an eight year boy who had been reported missing from home. When I took him back his mother was relieved in seeing him but his father was indifferent. He was sitting beside a roaring fire, in the sitting room, and beside him in the hearth was the trident of brush, shovel and poker. The child had a red oozing wound to the side of his face and by the reticence of that boy to enter the room and look at his father, I knew that it was the poker that had caused the injury. I wanted to extract revenge on that man and cause the same extent of wound, but I didn’t and for that moment I realized that I could not continue being a Police Officer. At the age of twenty-three I handed in my papers and left the job.
The Police had taught me to drive and I had attended two courses at the Hendon College, one for advanced driving so driving was my crave. I bought a Mini-Cab business in Bermondsey, South East London found out that I liked it, so progressed to do ‘The Knowledge’ and became a London Black Taxi Driver. I married and found happiness but also ambition which lead to the discovery of the wish to become a Publican.
So there we are in this dilapidated establishment in the Weald of Kent and the picturesque village of Headcorn. The few customers the previous Landlord had run the Pub. It was they who decided when he could close. They swore openly and were a rowdy crowd and often violent. I wanted them out and attract a different customer, men and women to socialize and gather in a comfortable and well run local Pub. One night I had an uncomfortable disagreement with about twenty of them but managed to eject them all much to their annoyance.
Some days later we had a visit from the village constable who asked if we had been woken in the early hours of the morning by passing cars sounding their horns. I hadn’t but my wife had, as had a complaining neighbour. My past of being a Metropolitan Police Constable was well-known it had been declared on the application for an On-License, needed for selling alcohol, and was never hidden for those in that village. I had formed an association with the Regional Crime Squad as Headcorn, unbeknown to me, was near a drop off point used by a low flying plane from Europe smuggling in drugs.
A few nights on I was in the bars doing the cleaning when around about 12.30pm I heard the sound of a car horn, then another, as two cars approached the junction on which my Pub stood. I did a foolish thing. I went to the rear of the building and picked up a brick that was used to prop open a gate I then went to the front of the Pub and threw it at the first car. I shouted for them to stop and sort it out there and then but they didn’t, preferring the comfort of home and a telephone call to the Police. The police came some thirty minutes or so later and took my statement in which I never denied my actions.
That day I had a phone call from a Detective Sergeant at Maidstone Police Station asking me to attend saying to my reply of being busy; “If you don’t come now I’ll send a car and arrest you there.” On arrival I proffered my hand in recognition but was refused and arrested for Attempted Murder.
The duty solicitor advised me to refuse to answer any questions by saying; ‘I’m not prepared to answer that question at this moment.” The brick had hit the pillar between the windscreen and the drivers window and if it had been thrown sooner or fractionally later might well have killed the driver or a passenger. I was released pending further enquiries without being charged. After some weeks of worry on my part and the concern of others (I don’t have to paint pictures here do I?) I was charged with Causing Malicious Damage and had to attend court. Although a lesser offense it still could have carried a custodial sentence and not only that but the distinct possibility of loss of that On-License as well as the Licensed Taxi one that I still held. My life faced ruin for that moment of retaliation.
I attended court with all seven witnesses being informed that I was entering a Guilty plea therefore there was no need of their attendance but all seven and more of their ilk came to gloat. My solicitor stated the facts to the Magistrate and mentioned that the person to whom I had caused that material damage amounting to the sum of hundreds of pounds was in court and perhaps would like to put his point across. To this offer both the Magistrate and the complainant agreed.
After hearing all the evidence I was asked to stand and accept the judgement. I can not adequately describe my feelings at that time other than ones of sheer terror. I was given an Absolute Discharge meaning, in effect, that the court condoned my action and although I had pleaded guilty I was acquitted and no costs were awarded for that damage I had caused. The complainant was asked to enter the witness-box again, where the Magistrate ‘Bound him Over To Keep The Peace’ for a period of three years which meant that if he was to come before the court again for any reason, he could be sent to prison as being in default of that order.
That fault of mine of impetuousness has long since disappeared but I can not honestly say that if such an occasion was to arise again I would not take the same action, in today’s world, however, I doubt that I would receive the same leniency. Instead of throwing bricks I now tell stories and my second novel ‘The Desolate Garden’ was published on the 19 March. It is a spy murder mystery with more than just a hint of romance and is available on all the Amazon sites as well as Barnes and Noble and Waterstone’s Book Shops. http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_19?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=the+desolate+garden+danny+kemp&sprefix=The+Desolate+garden%2Cstripbooks%2C235