‘Yes, you can report it, but it’s going to take ten minutes to go through the process,’ said the oppressively cheerful bureaucrat at Surrey Police when I rang to tell them about my stolen saddle.
After the first 30 seconds I could see why. She kept asking me to verify that I was all right — still coping, still breathing, still pumping blood around my body — after every sentence. For example:
‘I just need to take your name and address. Is that all right? I need to open a file and log your personal details. Is that OK?’
‘Yes, fine,’ I said, before telling her my name and address, which prompted a lot of tapping.
‘If I go silent… then it’s just because… I’m typing. Is that all right? Are you OK with that?’
‘Yes,’ I said, rather testily, envisaging not ten minutes on the phone but ten hours.
‘Right, that’s good. Now… I’m just logging those details… Are you all right with that?’
‘Yes!’ I snapped, but unfortunately my exasperation only held the process up further. ‘I did explain to you, at the start of this conversation… (she was one of those young girls who put unwarranted emphases on random words)… that it would take a good ten minutes to go through this process.’
Oh it was a ‘good’ ten minutes now was it? She only admitted to ten minutes at the start.
‘And you did say you were OK with that…’ ‘Yes, I’m fine with it, really,’ I said, affecting all the ‘seeming fine-ness’ I could muster.
Mercifully, she did manage to finish taking my home address. But then she noticed it was in London and not anywhere near where there were horses and saddles. So it took another age to explain that the horses didn’t live in Balham with me, but resided at another address in Surrey which, in turn, was not an additional home address of mine.
When all that was dealt with, we proceeded to only her second question. ‘What is your ethnic origin?’ she asked, sounding pleased as punch with herself.
‘WHITE!’ I shouted.
‘All right, all right! I did tell you this process would take a while, didn’t I?’
Oh, it’s a while now is it? Not ten minutes, or a good ten minutes. A while.
I then tried to describe how the saddle had been stolen, which was genuinely complicated, as it had been taken from one of two possible places. She made absolutely no attempt even to listen to that. ‘Stolen from yard,’ she chirruped. ‘No, I didn’t say that.’ She then asked if there was CCTV evidence. When I said no to that, she concluded very cheerfully: ‘Oh well then, we can file this away immediately because there are no possible leads. So there we are. All done and filed away.’
Hopeless. But then I also had the idea to email Surrey Police’s countryside crime prevention team because the saddle had been security marked, although I couldn’t find the paperwork.
Wonder of wonders, within a day of my emailing, someone emailed back. And not just any old someone, a someone called Sergeant Luck. He was delightful: courteous to a fault and incredibly efficient. From my surname, he found the serial number of the security tag and assured me it might be traceable as they had found saddles as far away as New Zealand.
He even apologised for my loss. Could this be? Was I was truly in contact with a real, live police officer who was sympathetically and enthusiastically investigating a crime I had been a victim of?
Forgive me for going over the top, but I want to mark this occasion properly. And so I ask the question: Luck be a sergeant?… (Drum roll)…
‘They call you Sergeant Luck. But there is room for doubt. At times you have a very un-sergeant-like way of running out. You’re on this case with me. The pickins’ have been lush. And yet before the inquiry is over, you might give me the brush. You might forget your manners, you might file me away. And so the best that I can do is pray… (Trumpets)
‘Luck be a sergeant tonight! Luck be a sergeant tonight! Luck, if you’ve ever been a sergeant to begin with… Luck, be a sergeant tonight!
‘Luck, let a girl see, just how nice law and order can be. I know the way you’ve treated other crime victims you’ve been with. But Luck, be a sergeant with me.
‘A victim doesn’t need Victim Support. It isn’t fair, it isn’t nice. A victim doesn’t want to be asked her ethnic grouping. And be made to say her colour, weight and height!
‘Let’s keep this investigation polite. Never let my stolen saddle out of sight. Stick with me baby, I’m your 101-and-only (see what I did there?) Luck, be a sergeant tooniiiiiight!’
With apologies to Frank Loesser.