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Rear view mirror: The cat and the bird...

...and a tale of domestic violence. Liverpool taxi driver Tony Schumacher observes life on the streets after dark

Written by . Published on August 5th 2010.


Rear view mirror: The cat and the bird...
 

I WATCHED a cat get beaten up by a bird the other morning.

Well, I say it was beaten up. It was more sort of knocked around and chased a bit. But if I started with "I saw a cat get chased a bit by a bird the other day" you may not have read this far.

Assuming of course that you have.

Sat on the chair was a sparrow of an old lady.  She was clutching a tissue to her nose and I could see it was red with blood

I'd been putting in an all-night shift. Occasionally the mood takes me to work right through. Normally about ten hours with a little break. Well the night had been pretty busy and I'd pushed on through till about 5.30am when hunger and thirst forced me to "have a mo".

I popped into the garage on Smithdown Rd - which is staffed by the most cheerful person you are ever likely to meet at five thirty in the morning. A classic case of someone making the best out of a bad lot.

I bought a curly sandwich and drove around Sefton Park, pulling over right by Greenbank Drive.

The park is always gorgeous, but especially so at that time of the morning, it tends to have a misty look to it, the dew point, and occasionally if you are lucky you can see a couple of foxes mooching around.

There I was, door open, radio off, sniffing my sandwich (I wasn't going to leap straight in) when out of the corner of my eye I saw a cat sitting under a tree watching me. It was about 30ft away and seemed to be "having a mo" also.

Out of nowhere a massive blackbird swooped down and quite literally knocked the cat over, and then flew off. Poor old puss jumped up and hopped around sideways a couple of times and then stopped and stared at me.

Now I am no expert on cat body language - but I knew for a fact that the cat was saying: "What....the...fuck...was that?"

I actually found myself shrugging and said out loud "You must be in his spec mate."

The cat regained some composure and sat back down when the bird swooped down and did it again, this time pecking and flapping its wings at the creature who was trying to escape and failing miserably.

After a moment it flew back up into the tree and the cat took a couple of steps away and sat back down, looking even more confused and even a tad embarrassed.

I broke off a bit of sandwich and held it out to him and eventually he wandered over and sat about five feet away sniffing the air. I tossed him some tuna and he ate it and did that cat thing of not looking at you, in a kind of "oh, over there looks nice", sort of manner.

I tossed him a bit more tuna which he ate and that did the trick of at least getting a slight nuzzle on the back of my hand. And then he set off back to the tree. I swear he almost sighed as he did so.

I said out loud: "She's not worth it mate!"

But he didn't listen and sat back down under the tree and studied me from there.

I tossed the sandwich in the bin (best place for a Monday morning garage sandwich) and set back off for a couple more hours' work.

It was only when I was driving that I thought of the old lady and her husband who I met many years ago when I was a copper.

It was Newton-le-Willows, probably about 3am midweek.

Now it would be fair to say that Newton-le-Willows at 3am isn't a hotbed of crime - it's more Dixon-Dock-Green than Hill-Street-Blue - so any job that came out on the radio would be seized on as a means of staying awake.

A report came in from a neighbour reporting shouting from next door. I was the first car at the scene and after some concerted banging on the front door I was surprised to be met by a bloke in his mid seventies wearing a pair of trousers, vest and braces.

He'd had a pint but was polite and, after initially not wanting to let me in, he stepped aside.

I went into the living room - one of those that is full of brass and rugs. Sat on the chair was a sparrow of an old lady. Pink flannel dressing gown clutched tight to her throat, furry slippers peeking out from its hem. She was clutching a tissue to her nose and I could see it was red with blood.

To cut a long story short I ended up arresting the old man, I let him dress and put him in the car and lodged him at St Helens for assaulting his wife.

He was a bit put out but came quietly, and never spoke in the car or when in

front of the custody sergeant - other than to politely answer questions about his details.

"Lodge him Shoey" said the sarge, so I walked him to his cell. At the door, as he took his shoes off, he said; "What happens now, son?"

I told him I would go and get a statement from his wife and that then I'd interview him and someone else would make a decision what would happen after that.

"Do you understand?"

"Yes, I'm sorry son."

"Don't be sorry, we'll sort it out."

"I just snapped."

"Don't tell me here, we'll talk about it on tape."

"There is only so much you can take."

I shushed him again and put him in his cell, I made a quick notebook entry and then drove out to see his wife. When I arrived she had dressed and had regained some composure.

"So what happened?"

"It's all my fault."

"No, you mustn't blame yourself love, it's easy to blame yourself. you've been assaulted, nobody should have to put up with that"

"No, it is my fault,” she replied.

“I started it, I always start it... he lets me hit him. I batter him. I've done it for years, I hate him for it.

“Tonight he hit me back, he's never done it before."

To say that that wasn't what I was expecting would be a understatement. I was dumbfounded.

She told me they had three kids, had been married for 50-odd years and that he had never raised a finger until that night. She told me that he had come home from the pub and had fallen asleep in the chair, that she had woken up and come down and that they had argued and that she had slapped him.

And, for the first time ever, he had slapped her back.

"I deserved it,” she almost whispered, “I wish he'd done it years ago.”

“I'll not make a complaint,” she added. “I'll tell them I walked into a door."

There are times when you are a copper when you just don't have a clue what to do next.

And as I sat there that night, on that couch, looking at that little old lady who could have passed for Tweety Pie's grandmother... I was totally at a loss.

I can remember staring at my statement forms for a moment and then scribbling down some stuff about her not wishing to cooperate with the police.

With hindsight, I maybe should have locked her up for assaulting him, she had just confessed to it. But I knew that wasn't going to happen.

I told her I was going to go back to the station to speak to her husband and I left.

At the time Merseyside had a zero tolerance policy when it came to domestic violence, an excellent tactic of everyone being arrested and interviewed which resulted in some good work being done.

But as I sat opposite that gentleman, gentle...man in the truest sense of the word, in the interview room that night, with the duty solicitor, as he "no commented" his way through all of my questions, I felt like putting my arms around him.

He was ashamed and tired and looked very very old.

I gave him a lift home so that he wouldn't have to wait for the buses to start and, as we drove, I told him what his wife had said, I told him he didn't have to put up with it. I told him about various charities that could support him and his wife to find different ways to communicate without violence.

He didn't say that much back to me, until, that is we pulled up outside the house. "I've put up with it for 50 years,” he said. “There's not many left to go now. I'll be okay son, thanks.”

He then got out and walked up the short path to the front door.

The cat under the tree made me think of him, the cat could have just walked away and found another tree to sit under but it didn't. Something made it go back there and sit down and wait for the next onslaught from the angry bird.

It had the whole park to sit in, but it couldn't keep away from that tree, and its attacker.

Strange things cats...

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8 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

curiousAugust 4th 2010.

wow, a conversation with a real life writer! i thought I had seen it somewhere last xmas, tho i could have sworn it had been changed a bit since then. apologies. EDITORIAL: "curious" what a sharp eye you have! To clarify, this piece was the first one that we came across when we started looking at Tony's work. It was hidden on a brand new blog and we emailed the link to, perhaps, one or two people to see what they thought. Meantime, we asked could we publish an edited version on Confidential immediately and that was the intention. Unfortunately (or fortunately, that should be), Tony kept writing and sending us new pieces, and this one got put on a back burner. It deserved a wider audience we rather thought.

BendyGirlAugust 4th 2010.

Sniff, sob, smile writing at it's best - and 5% to me for pimping it all over t'interweb!

Tony SchumacherAugust 4th 2010.

hello curious, this piece was originally featured on my blog a few months ago. I can only assume you've seen it there.

EvilEddAugust 4th 2010.

Nice one, Tony.

curiousAugust 4th 2010.

Hasnt this appeared somewhere else?

Phil MooreAugust 4th 2010.

Best article yet Tony in many ways. The underrated plight of the man caught up in domestic violence. I was one such for 20 years, Whether a woman or man you cannot just walk away. Too many layers of stuff. Ta.

CroxtethPrincessAugust 4th 2010.

Someone give that man a book deal!

DigAugust 4th 2010.

Aah there it is. About bloody time too. I love this one.

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