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by Joe Hawkins


You've either got it or you haven't. A good mate of mine is the best sneak thief I've ever met. An upbringing in North Manchester obviously helped the lad and when we were in our twenties he could "nick for England". He still has his moments but back then he'd nick to order. From hot pasties from the pie shop to basically anything that wasn't nailed down. Saved us a few pence, I can tell you. It also stopped me nicking which was a great thing as frankly I was shite at it.


I put it down to getting caught nicking a box of Pontefract Cakes when I was about 9. The problem wasn't exactly that I got caught at our local paper shop but more the fact that I thought I was nicking a box of Liquorice Allsorts. Have you ever tasted Pontefract Cakes? Ever since that day I lost my nerve. Whilst my mates could secrete a nuddy mag inside their Crombie overcoat with ease I'd always be there coppering up for my quarter of Pear Drops. Other lads would eat like a king for exactly nothing as they emptied the whole of the sweet counter out as the dithering old dear was looking for the Paraffin they ordered.


As we got older and started going the match it was always me that got caught on the train without a ticket. The one time I scaled the walls I was lifted due to me wearing a long beige raincoat and blue cravat (don't ask) - clod out and told not to return before I paid, went back in and was immediately ejected again due to my natty attire. Away trips would see me as the only one buying a Ginsters pastie as the motorway shop was relieved of it's contents by all the other lads. At one game I was busy paying while one lad was throwing hot chicken legs over my shoulder to the lads waiting outside. On another occasion I overheard one of the lads say to the checkout girl: "Hurry up love this choc-ice is melting in my pocket" as he casually paid for a 10p chewy bar.


And the times I've been in record shops when it would have been easier to go behind the counter, find the right record put it in it's sleeve and walk out rather than pay are too legion to mention. I've stood and waited 5 minutes for people to appear to pay for something when I could have lifted the entire shop. I was once stood at a checkout counter in Potter's Bar as two checkout girls were so engrossed in their conversation (about being shagged the night before) that I could have walked out with the four bottles of wine in the basket. Yet I chose to stay and listen to their sordid tales. I've been caught running away from restaurants, and caught double clicking at the turnstiles.             


And it's not just me nicking stuff that I'm no good at. The fact the bastards always get me makes it worse. I've been short-changed hundreds of times. I've stood at bars and argued so much that I've been clod out. Once - as well as being short-changed - I was subsequently charged an extra 50 plus 30 costs for kicking the said establishment's door in. I've been pick-pocketed twice (to be knowledge) and had my house burgled twice. Had football gear stolen and even had a Fila BJ trackie top nicked as it masqueraded as a goal post.


All that said and done I made up with for it with offences for things that had nothing to do with thieving. The above is just a number of drink-related offences. I've been lifted about four times for drunk and disorderly, twice for urinating in a public place. The second time I was given the option of taking the rap for going equipped for a burglary or pissing. The crime being that I was in somebody's garden. Well when you've got to go you've got to go. My plea at the station of how long has a garden been a public place was when the burglary charge was raised. I've been done at the football, the night before the rugby league at Wembley. I was once lifted for falling off the back of a Routemaster bus, right in the path of an ongoing panda car! Luckily, like on most occasions, I wasn't charged. And in the case of the "bus incident" when emptying my pockets the Rozzers at Tottenham Court Road Cop Shop had a collective seizure when two bottles of poppers were revealed and they could do fuck all about it. Well they could actually - they punched me when they let me go. Thinking back - they always punched me. The only time they didn't was when some nave policewoman failed to do absolutely everything that she should have done which resulted in me saying as we entered the gaff: "After you". Before she had finished saying thanks, I'd bolted.


Ah it was fun while it lasted and to be honest I thought that with the end of my twenties that was the end of my brush with the law. That was until I went to Crewe Alexandra and somehow got nicked at the grand old age of 46! I mean - who gets nicked at Crewe. Me and my mates, that's who and even worse we were kicking off with some of our Johnny Come Lately fans. To cut a long story short: I went the bog, two pricks jumped in my seat and my mate who's in his fifties but still a bit handy in the words of the arresting office "almost throttled one of them to death". Me and my mate were lifted for "trying to stop the Wigan Strangler being arrested" and a further mate was arrested for "being drunk in a police station" when he came down to see what time we were being let out! They are probably not the technical terms but after spending 4 hours being finger-printed, DNA tested and listening to all sorts of lowlife being led in three of us were released without charge and "the throttler" was cautioned.


The one plus was when the desk sergeant said: "When you said you'd been in trouble before the good news is that you appear to be one of those that have been arrested in London where they've lost all your records from the database". "Nice One". Oh and I wasn't punched once. Which I suppose does show that the Old Bill do respect their elders.


I don't plan to being going back in the near future!










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