The Police Community Support Officer ran to the middle of the road to flag down the next approaching car. A few seconds later, one came around the corner he did just that. The vehicle was moving at some speed and its driver, really not wanting to stop, shouted an oath and only just managed to brake quickly enough as to not run him over. As it screeched to a stop in front of him, the PCSO grabbed open the passenger door and jumped in.
“I’m a PCSO,” said the PCSO, flashing something that could at a quick glance look like an identity card, “and I’m commandeering this vehicle in the name of the law. Now, DRIVE.”
“But this is an ice cream van,” said the ice cream man.
“Don’t get funny with me son, I can SEE it’s a bloody ice cream van. Just put your foot down.”
The ice cream man had no time to consider whether a PCSO’s authority included the acquisition of passing vehicles, but as he was in a bit of a hurry himself, he did as he was told, and down his foot went. The ice cream van pulled away at a rate that would not have seen it win any Grand Prix, but did have the wafer cones rattling against their Perspex containers.
“Where are we going?” asked the ice cream man.
“Never you mind, just follow the road. There’s been a crime.”
The ice cream man was a little unsure about this, but felt it unwise to ask further questions given the clearly agitated state of the PCSO. Not being designed to have a nifty 0-60, the ice cream van could only build up speed sedately. As they approached 50 mph, they could hear the plastic model ice cream cone screwed to the roof start to shudder against the airflow.
Within a few moments, a police car burst onto the road behind them, sirens screaming. The men glanced at each other. Past the freezers and boxes of flakes, the PCSO swore under his breath as he saw the patrol car closing down on them, its cherry lights flashing urgently in the ice cream man’s mirrors.
“BUT I’M DOING 55 IN A 30,” cried the ice cream, worried about the detrimental effect that driving in this unlawful manner could have on his licence.
“I know, I know. It’s OK – they’re on our side. I’ll see you get a civilians award for this. In the meantime, can’t you go any faster?” urged the PCSO.
The next stretch of road was slightly downhill which nudged them up to the 57 mph barrier – they were never going to do a single mph more unless they overshot the white cliffs of Dover.
The police car ate up the space between the vehicles and the PCSO could see the irate driver gesture to them to pull over. “KEEP DRIVING,” he screamed, so the ice cream man kept driving. The PCSO got up from his seat and staggered into the serving area, bouncing heavily off the Slush Puppy machine with the motion of the van as he went. He opened the freezer, reached in and grabbed a handful of Orange Mivvis, then threw them out of the side serving hatch towards their pursuer. It took him a few attempts to get the trajectory right, but soon the Mivvis were hitting the road just in front of the tyres, but they did not induce them to skid.
“My lollies!” shouted the ice cream man in indignation.
“I TOLD YOU TO KEEP DRIVING,” demanded the PCSO, further diluting the ice cream man’s opinions of the constabulary, which had not great to begin with. A second angry police car joined the chase. The lollies had now all been discharged, along with the Choc Ices, Feasts and Cornetto’s. The PCSO turned his attentions to the ice cream machine. He pulled the handle down with one hand, which caused it to whirr into life, then poured a gloop of the white dairy-based confection into the other. Once he had a good quantity, he flung the cold sticky treat through the hatch, aiming for the windscreen of the first pursuant. But to no avail. Any potentially debilitating effect on the vision of the driver by the direct hit was thwarted by his operation of the windscreen squirters, followed immediately by the wipers. The PCSO cursed the effectiveness of modern day police driver training. What’s more, he now had Mr Whippy all over his previously pristine tunic.
“TRAFFIC AHEAD,” yelled the ice cream man, keen not to further upset the angry PCSO whilst prudently keeping him fully appraised of the deteriorating external situation.
“You’ve got to keep going. Don’t slow down. Find a way,” insisted the PCSO.
“I know,” said the ice cream man, and started to flick the switches on the dash. Having first inadvertently turned on the demisters and then the rear fog lights, he at last he found the one he was looking for. Out of the front speakers blasted the extremely loud and contorted notes of Greensleeves.
“Brilliant,” exclaimed the PCSO, having jettisoned all available ammo. Ahead of them, cars pulled out of their way, desperate to avoid the appalling chimes. The ice cream van had to slow down, but the confusion of scattering vehicles made it impossible for either police car to overtake. Then they saw what was causing the traffic – the level crossing barriers at Thatcham were down.
“OVER THERE,” pointed the PCSO, and he told the ice cream man to drive over the pavement and across an area of grass where several tons of sand sat in preparation for some forthcoming road repairs. The workers had laid two parallel planks on the sand, which, as luck would have it, not only sat at exactly the same distance apart as the van’s wheels, but were pointed at a 45 degree angle upwards and over the wall that kept the public off the railway line.
“HOLD ON,” advised the ice cream man, as he floored the accelerator, crossed the grass and scaled the planks, unaware that it was exactly 12:37 and thus the train to Reading (stopping at Aldermaston and Theale) due at 12:09, was simultaneously hurtling down the track towards the exact spot where they intended to jump.
There was a pause which seemed to last ages, though it was just a fraction of a second. Across the grass, a young child holding her mother’s hand, pointed at the speeding ice cream van with a mixture of delight and confusion.
The ice cream van quickly proved itself to have the same aerodynamic qualities as a sideboard full of encyclopaedias and landed abruptly with an ugly squeal of chassis on brick on top of the aforementioned wall. The men had been airborne for a mere eight feet, and hence remained very much the same side of the train track.
The 12:09 clattered safely on towards Reading, its passengers completely unaware of the disaster they had narrowly avoided. But the occupants of the ice cream van were in new peril. The van had landed precisely on its centre of gravity creating a virtual see-saw with the wall as its pivot, and the weight of the two men in the front were exactly counterbalancing that of the freezers at the back. The addition of just one Strawberry Split at either end would have been sufficient to destabilise the van and cause the vehicle and its occupants to plummet onto the unforgiving tarmac some six feet below. They dared not move: even a sniff made the van list horribly. For them, the chase was over.
The two police cars made it through the traffic and came to a halt behind the stricken vehicle. The officers assessed the situation while the van creaked perilously on its fulcrum. There wasn’t time to bring in a helicopter to lift it to safety, so there was only one thing to do. Through a megaphone that their proximity did not require, but was such fun to use, they told the ice cream man and the PCSO to leap from their doors then roll clear exactly on the count of three, a manoeuvre requiring such perfect timing that it would have them the talk of the Thames Valley Police Synchronised Swimming Team for some weeks.
As the men rolled to safety, the van tumbled, resulting in an additional £40 of damage when its Look out for Children motif was badly scratched.
“YOU – DIXON OF DOCK GREEN,” shouted the policeman from the first police car at the PCSO. “Stand hands against the wall, legs shoulder width apart.” The PCSO did as he was ordered. “I‘m arresting you for resisting arrest and impersonating a PCSO.”
At this, the ice cream man stood and looked at the man who was not a PCSO, amazed.
“AND YOU, TONI BELL”’ shouted the policeman from the other police car. “You can also stand with your hands against the wall, leg shoulder width apart too.” The ice cream man did as he was ordered. “I am arresting you for resisting arrest, stealing an ice cream van and impersonating an ice cream man.” At this, the man who was not a PCSO stood and looked at the man who was not an ice cream man, amazed.
The arrested man who was not a PCSO, and the arrested man who was not an ice cream man, stood in their prescribed positions, turned their heads to each other, and smiled.
Story: Martin Strike
Illustrations: (which do you prefer?) Martin Strike