The Pope is in the news again this week.
I don’t suppose there are too many UK cops who can pull a Pope story out of the hat so in an effort to impress here’s one;
On the 30th May 1982, Pope John Paul II paid a visit to the UK. Police were drafted in from all over the country for a jolly with loads of overtime.
We drove to Coventry in convoy on the Saturday night and spent the night in some convent-type school. During the early hours of Sunday morning we were bussed in to Coventry airport where the Pope was due to land later that morning. We spent most of the day standing still and not getting any paperwork.
There were loads of people from all over the country turned up for a glance at His Holiness. I mean, thousands and thousands and thousands. They even turned some dual carriageway into a massive coach park, there were coaches for as far as the eye could see. They reckon about 350,000 people turned up at the airport.
We had pride of place, right at the front lining the runway between the route the Pope was going to take and the massive throng.
The Pope arrived in a helicopter & after saying something, as Popes do, he did a slow drive up the flightline in his famous ‘popemobile’ so that everyone could tell their kids they’d met the Pope.
My mate brought his camera. He had this fantastic idea to get a shot of the two of us together with the Pope. He goes up to this total stranger at the front of the crowd, gives him the camera with instructions to take a shot at the precise moment the Pope is behind us so his future grandchildren can put a photo of their grandfather & the Pope over their mantle-piece.
So the Pope begins his drive up the crowd-line. Eventually he nears us, we’re supposed to be watching the crowd, making sure we throw ourselves in front of any bullets some assassin might fire from within the crowd, but hey, it’s the Pope, so you kind of ignore the crowd and watch the Big Fella from Rome.
Timed to perfection just as he gets directly behind us we both turn to the unknown cameraman, snap to attention and smile and he captures the moment of history forever in glorious technicolour. The crowd are caught up in the moment, all shouting, cheering, crying and fainting as he drives slowly past.
Eventually he leaves our sector & we have to return to the personnel-carrier for further deployment. It’s at the moment where we take our seats on the transit that my mate screams out “fuck, that bloke’s still got my camera”. Then the reality dawns on him that there are about 350,000 people between our van and the bloke with a nice new and completely free camera.
If you’ve got a photo of me and my mate & some geezer in a white frock, get in touch. I’m sure Dave would love his camera back.