ON THE BEAT: With Community Inspector Jim Tyner
I would like to update readers about reports of recent anti-social behaviour in Spalding.
It started last week, when officers responded to several reports of a large group of boisterous young men gathering in The Sheepmarket.
The group weren’t our usual street drinkers but appear to have been foreign farm-labourers, mainly sheep-workers with a few sheep.
The Sheepmarket hadn’t seen this many sheep for decades. When spoken to, the shepherds gave various accounts of why they were in Spalding.
Most claim to have been visited by some sort of ‘Guardian Angel’. This was treated with suspicion as we all know no one has ever seen the Spalding Guardian’s ‘Guardian Angel’.
Anyway, they said they were here to see a new leader. Despite this strange claim, the large number of shepherds meant that people could not carry out their Christmas shopping unhindered, so I put a Dispersal Order in place and they were moved on.
Next, ‘Spotted: Spalding’ on Facebook was alive with grumbles about excessive mud on the Cowbit Road coming in to Spalding. When the county council’s highways department cleared the mess, they reported back that it wasn’t mud but some strange animal dung.
No one was sure what it was until our CCTV volunteers picked up images of camels lumbering through town.
Later the same day, a PCSO on cycle patrol came across the camels on the Vista car park next to the old Bull and Monkey site. They were being tended by a group of travellers.
They said they were from the East (no, not King’s Lynn) and claimed that they had come to Spalding to meet a new spiritual leader. They had parked themselves, their caravans and their camels on the site close to St Mary and St Nicolas Church as this seemed to be a likely place for their religious experience.
My officers carried out checks with Immigration Enforcement and the travellers were here legally. The RSPCA checked the camels over and they were tired but well cared for.
My officers also used their powers of stop and search. One of the travellers was carrying a large quantity of gold jewellery. We checked but he had receipts for it and it didn’t match any that had been reported stolen.
Another of the travellers was carrying what looked like a controlled substance. Analysis revealed it might’ve da be a legal high thought to be called ‘Frank In Cents’. The third traveller was found to be in possession of a strange oily substance, but we checked our list, and no one had heard of myrrh.
Anyway, as the travellers were trespassing, we informed South Holland District Council, so that they could begin eviction proceedings.
On Christmas Eve my officers were on routine patrol with the Framework Street Outreach team, checking on the welfare of rough sleepers.
When they got to the Castle Sports playing field they came across a strange sight amongst the other homeless people and asked me to join them there.
When I arrived I was surprised to find that the sheep-workers from earlier in the week were also there. We were also joined by the travellers from the Bull and Monkey encampment.
I managed to fight my way through the throng. I almost slipped in a mix of sheep droppings and camel dung and avoided being bitten by a bellicose Bactrian. One of my officers introduced me to a man called Joseph Carpenter.
He and his wife, Mary, had travelled to Spalding because of the new law saying everyone had to return to the town of their birth in order to register to vote in the next election.
Unfortunately the Travelodge was full of shepherds so there was no room for the couple.
His wife had been close to giving birth, so in desperation Joseph had used some discarded wooden pallets to build a shelter. He proudly told me that his wife had given birth to a baby son and invited me to meet them.
As we approached the BMX track there was a strange light above, which I think might have been the International Space Station passing overhead.
It was at about this time that there were lots of comments on Twitter about loud music in the area. No one could tell where it was coming from and it sounded like angelic singing.
My attention was drawn to the most humbling sight. It was a beautiful star-filled night, and ice was starting to form all around, twinkling playfully in the moonlight. A newborn baby was lying in a bed made of wooden pallets. There are no words to explain the look of serene contentment on the faces of mother and child.
No one could explain it, yet everybody knew they were here to see this newborn. All thoughts of Police Protection Orders and Children’s Services were gone from my mind. I don’t know why and I don’t know who started it, but when I looked around everyone was kneeling in awesome wonder.
In a while, practical considerations began, starting with medical care for the mother, emergency housing arranged by the council and a trip to the lovely people at Lighthouse Church’s Agape Care food bank.
I am pleased to report that the shepherds moved on after a few days and the travellers appear to have returned home, leaving nothing behind. Well, almost nothing... the gardeners at Ayscoughfee tell me that the camel manure is very good for their roses.