John Vane’s London Stories: School summons policeman

John Vane’s London Stories: School summons policeman

Constable George Dixon of Dock Green in Paddington was a Metropolitan Police officer who knew his patch, knew its people, villains and all. George, pictured above, knew everyone and everyone knew George, the kindly but savvy local copper, Briton’s favourite bobby on the beat. He wasn’t real, but he was a nice idea. He appeared on TV screens from 1955 until 1976, by which time Robert Mark had become Met commissioner and stated his ambition to “arrest more criminals than we employ”.

The notion of George Dixon, a man lovingly embedded in the community he served, remains as seductive as it is nostalgic as it is elusive, as a teacher at a school in Hackney – no, not that one – learned not long ago. She had cause to summon a policeman to the premises, not because of drugs or anything to do with any student, but something to do with locks and alarms.

He rolled in, polite enough, about 14 years old, a bit of chit chat happened, as it will: burglary, can’t be too careful, state of the neighbourhood. Turned out he was from Essex, which didn’t make him a bad person. More chit. More chat. Perfectly inoffensive. There was, though, a mistaken assumption. At one point, the teacher described some feature of her daily walk to work. The school is only 20 minutes from her home.

“You still live round here, then?” said the policeman

It was the “still” that said so much. He seemed puzzled. Surely a person such as a schoolteacher, with whom he appeared to share some social common ground, would have long since fled this hostile terrain. Working here was one thing. But why would anyone, he didn’t quite say, want to live in east London if they had the means and wherewithal to escape?

John Vane writes words sketches of London. Sometimes he makes things up. Follow John on Twitter.

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Categories: Culture


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