About 6.15 yesterday evening I saw Sharon post an update on Facebook to the effect that Paul, her son, had taken the dog out at 4 and not come back. Shortly after, a text arrived saying the same thing. Paul going missing is not a huge problem for no reason other than he's got a few learning difficulties. He's 31 going on 5 and probably with a splash of autism thrown in. Despite that, he can understand almost any language spoken to him - specifically English and Norwegian; I've tested him on French and German and he seems to get those too - and has a genuinely caring nature, although he's wont to couple this with a certain ungainliness and clumsiness. He can't rationalise the consequences of his actions and has a feeble grasp of mortality (in his younger years he cleaned a few pets rather too thoroughly and also tried to take his toddler sister back to the hospital after he'd decided he didn't want her. It was Norway, the middle of winter and the poor girl was stark naked. She survived). But he does usually do as he's told (unless he's developed a singular notion about something and then nature, or an aware adult, takes its course. More than once he's been removed from power tools, screwdrivers and hammers only just in time and he hasn't tried to burn the house down for at least ten years).
Sharon had already had a quick flit around the area (scaring a couple of doggers in the park car park in the process) to no avail and then Linn Marie, her youngest and myself shot off in various directions trying to cover every local road. No joy. After another hour or so, she called in the police. An officer was sent and took control. After the obligatory search of the house and garden (Sharon, good naturedly: "You need to make sure I haven't murdered him, of course") he set off himself. I went for another drive around and caught up with him as he was about to enter the park which the council had just opened (the entrance to which is opposite Sharon's house). I said I'd go with him just in case Paul, should he have got himself locked in the park by mistake, was spooked by the sight of the cars and the dog handler. We drove round, me calling him through the speakers but to no joy.
Then the fun started. I was walking round the locked pavilion when the officer called me back to say there'd been a possible sighting - right across town. There was actually a serious fire in town that evening and this bloke had been seen hanging round the scene. As we cruised out of the park, the officer calmly said "I think we'll make this category 1 if we're to catch him at the scene". Something told me, as he pressed a button and the blues and twos started, that he wasn't referring to the category of incident. We were going to attend the scene, well over a mile away across the town centre, and we were going to be there very quickly. I stole a glance at the speedo as we shot off east along Victoria Avenue (blessedly straight for half a mile): 90 and accelerating. And there's a bend. With lights and a crossroads coming up. And he's still accelerating. Odd though, I felt really safe. This guy was totally in control and although I knew we were going very very fast, it didn't actually feel like it. I could have drunk a cup of coffee without spilling it. We got there, it wasn't Paul.
We drove around a bit more and had just heard the helicopter say that it was 17 minutes away (the area we thought he'd gone missing in comprises a 38 acre park, a 9 hole golf course, a large open space called the George V Playing Fields and some farmland. And a small river) when we received a call to say a distressed man with learning difficulties and a dog had been found - two miles away in a Co-Op Leighton. Oh, joy. The button was depressed, the noise started and off we shot. I'm supposedly taking driving lessons for a bus licence soon - I learned more about hazard perception in 2 minutes than any instruction DVD could ever teach me. All ended happily ever after. And there were tears. Not from me, I was laughing like fool. I'd had two rides you'd spend a couple of hundred quid do round Oulton Park (although there all the other traffic goes in the same direction and just as fast) and the adrenaline was pumping.
You can watch those shitty rubbernecky Police, Camera, Action things on telly till the cows come home but I can tell you now, it ain't nothing like the real thing, baby. And the copper said it had been pretty straightforward, no idiots pulling out or anything like that. Our perceptions of this were slightly different, and I suppose he does that several times a day - I saw at least two cars pull out right in front and half a dozen tits must have thought the flashing blue lights approaching at speed in their mirrors were forgotten Christmas lights. An education.
Seriously - It's so easy to pick on the police, especially when they cock-up on the high profile stuff. But when it's day to day policing for the man in the street and they do it without fuss or bother then we can rightly be proud of them. This stuff doesn't make the papers because only bad news is newsworthy. Treat them with respect and that's what you'll get back. So big up to Cheshire Police who played a blinder. Not once were we made to feel we were wasting their time despite there being another major incident in town and they were 100% professional, caring, skilful and understanding at all times. Happy customer.