Chapter 19

Xero and the Law (part three)

One grey autumn day, Xero took the train up into the Pennines to try his luck busking in Huddersfield. What with the Police in Leeds being a bit heavy-handed of late, and the public being distinctly ungenerous, he was beginning to feel that he was fighting a losing battle on his home turf.

But if the populace of Leeds had been a bit unresponsive recently, the citizens of Huddersfield made them seem positively philanthropic. For all they cared, Slingsby could have been invisible and inaudible. His sax case hardly contained any more than the few coins he habitually tossed in himself when he set up shop.

Just as he was about to give it all up as a bad job, he was interrupted mid-tune by a Policeman with "a face like a smacked arse" (to borrow one of Xero's grandma's quaint expressions). The officer jotted down Xero's name and address and ordered him to move along. Slingsby did as he was told and caught the next train home, cursing and vowing never to set foot in Huddersfield again as long as he lived.

Several days later, a summons dropped onto the doormat at "Dunbuskin". But perhaps it would be best to let Xero take up the story himself, as this was one of his all-time favourite encounters with the Law.

"..and the thing that really pissed me off was that the bloody envelope had 'HELP WEST YORKSHIRE POLICE CATCH THE RIPPER' stamped across the top. Anyway, I arrived at court having had to hitch all the way, and these three cobwebbed old beaks heard how I'd been charged with Vagrancy under the Town Improvement Act of 1870.

When it was time for my two bob's worth I got a bit carried away. I ranted on about how the West Yorkshire Police should be out trying to catch the Ripper, not hassling innocent musicians who are just trying to brighten up everyone's lives.

I even flourished the envelope at the court for good measure.

When the magistrates left the room, I turned to check out the public gallery. There were three fresh-faced police cadets with a stern-looking inspector-type. He looked like a right stuck-up prick. He was glowering at me when one of the cadets asked him what would happen next.

"One thing's for sure, he shouldn't have said that. You shouldn't have said that Sonny Jim!"

I sat there shitting bricks and wishing I hadn't opened my big mouth. I was worrying about how I was going to pay a hefty fine when my dole cheque is always spent three days before it arrives. Then the magistrates trooped back in and we all stood up and sat down again.

The one in the middle told me that they were dismissing the case, and that the officer concerned would be reprimanded severely for being so over zealous and wasting the courts time. What's more, he offered me some expenses to cover train fares and lunch. Now that's what I call Justice!"

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