Day 23

The reed marsh by the mill flooded with the night’s full moon. The earth bank traps the tide as a pool. At the point of turning back toward the sea the water is still. Without a breath of wind on its surface it becomes a mirror to the cobalt blue above, inverts reeds, the grassy bank and the trees to the west. Everything in duplicate; nothing moving.

A pair of marsh harriers patrol in the distance. A kestrel flies down from the wood behind the flint cottages, crosses my path and swoops up gently to stall its flight so it can perch on top of a telegraph post along the beach road. A red kite, its long, loose-elbowed wings at full stretch, pulls away from the bird reserve and heads for the low hills.

Along the coast road, midges and other tiny insects swarm in clouds at head height. One species, (that look like thunder flies), settle on my bare arms, tickle my face, make my hair itch. I move through this chaotic mist tight-lipped.

An RAF jet completes some oppressive circuits of the neighbouring villages. The pilot practises climbing and then diving on full throttle. An employee of the state summoning up the most terrifying noise whilst going about his duty.

In the small grocery store and post-office the staff jest with a familiar customer about the aching desire to just hug each other, those they know, or anyone they fancy. They are getting less choosy, they joke, as the “Lockdown” continues. The physical distancing demanded by the government may soon be getting longer. Social distances may soon be getting shorter.

Strangely, knowing that this illness attacks the lungs, the government’s scientifically-led health advice and regulations still say nothing about selling and smoking cigarettes. I am saddened to see that people still ask for cancer sticks at the pay counter. How does this evil industry continue? The population is being asked to “Save the NHS”, but some of its heaviest users are still allowed to self-harm with the connivence of Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs, piling wholly unnecessary demands on the health service.

My elder son gets home from the night shift. He sleeps; then later in the day plays with his two children; cooks for his family and plans an early night before Friday’s day shift. Another employee of the state. Another doing his duty.

My younger son, working in The People’s Republic of China, is now able to enjoy spring weather and is happily socialising more freely after the strictures of the past three months. There hope blossoms with the cherry trees along the river. He watches what is happening in Europe with concern.

Christopher Perry

9th April 2020

Sub-Machine Guns, South Street, Chichester

In the season of goodwill to all it is a little disconcerting to see two police officers, each with a sub-machine gun at the ready, patrolling side-by-side on South Street, Chichester.

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I was told yesterday that Sussex Police are increasing its number of armed officers. This is apparently due to the area having a major airport to cover at Gatwick in this time of perpetual terrorism threat and the increasing vigilance needed when investigating drug-dealing firms, who have possession of firearms.

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Sussex (split administratively into West and East) is an area that includes a substantial part of England’s south coast. It has two long-established ports at Shoreham and Newhaven, several marinas and many easy landing spots used for hundreds of years for smuggling, such as Felpham. Sussex also has particular problems within the internationally popular party city of Brighton, with its high demand for recreational drugs and the illicit trade that supplies them.

The coastline of Sussex is also quite heavily urbanised around railway termini linked to London. These towns were established in the Victorian era and initially attracted commercial investment and tourism to the “Coastal Strip”. These seaside conurbations now have complex social problems, including drug abuse. Towns such as Bognor Regis, Littlehampton, Eastbourne and Hastings have high concentrations of social deprivation and significant numbers of low income households, high numbers of street homeless and homeless people. These people can become victims of drug dependency and again provide opportunities for criminal business enterprises.

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Under Tory enforced Austerity policies crime in the UK has become more difficult to address. However, seeing armed police officers on the streets is far from reassuring.

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Large scale crime is organised, financed and profited from by people who are unlikely to be running around with guns in the tiny cathedral city of Chichester. More resources are needed to investigate illegal revenue sources, where the earnings are banked and by whom. I would like to know that more police officers who can read company accounts and understand digital financial movements have been deployed to help identify the management of crime syndicates and the lawyers and bankers who work with them.

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Placing armed response police officers into wealthy shopping centres at Christmas is driven by a need to be able to react immediately to acts of terrorism as and when they occur.

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However, it does seems a bit of a lottery about where to locate these teams and when. However, it is a very public gesture and I totally respect the men and women who are employed in these roles. The increased distribution and possession of guns in the UK is something that has to be acknowledged and these officers are needed to be able to deal with this issue.

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n.n.b. 24 hours later this happened…in Hull.

CLP 15/12/2019