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Mon, 15 Feb 2010
A Curious Incident involving a paddle steamer, a policeman, and Aliens. xxx

Yankee Paddle Steamer Robert E Lee 
A Curious Incident.

        A paddle steamer drifted down from the sky, full of revellers and merry-makers dressed in the bright costumes of days gone by:  gentlemen in stove-pipe hats and ladies in bright crinolines, twirling parasols in the early afternoon sunlight: yellow, lavender, pink and jade green.
       As the unlikely vessel came to a gentle rest beside the abandoned and desolate factories along the old canal tow-path, bemused children and office workers on the way back to work after late dinner breaks flocked to gawp at the strange sight,  calling down in wonder from the City's old stone bridge and even traffic came to a standstill as trucks, buses and taxis stopped,  passengers and drivers disembarking to view this unparalleled thing.
"Are they filming a new series of Dr Who?" asked an old lady peering this way and that but there wasn't a TARDIS in sight. But soon a police-man did arrive, a puzzled frown upon his face.Dr Who? I
don't think so !
"I was told nothing about this," he muttered underneath his breath as he radioed back to HQ for backup.
"They must be breaking any number of city by-laws and regulations. And ere, I'm blowed if it ain't a gambling ship
without a  license too, most likely!"
        Making his way down the refuse choked old steps towards the filthy canal, kicking with disgust at old cans and junkie's discarded needles, the police constable was more than astonished to find the paddle-steamer's broad gangway lowered to receive him, a couple of strong-armed sailors in striped pullovers and blue-peaked caps grinning at him broadly and inviting him on board.
Behind them, smartly dressed toffs smiled pleasantly, bending to whisper quietly into the ears of beautiful women in low-cut dresses,  their faces half-hidden behind fluttering fans.
"Welcome aboard, PC Cooper-Smith!" A neatly uniformed and bearded man came forward to greet him. From the elegent beading on his cap and jacket and the piping down his trousers,  PC Cooper-Smith imagined he must be the Captain of this extraordinary vessel.
"Welcome aboard," said the Captain again and taking the Police Constable's hand in his he pumped it warmly. "Welcome aboard and Happy Birthday!"
The paddle-steamers great round wheels began to start turning again, a whistle blew sharply three times and amidst shouts of what-ho!  from the distinguished gentlemen and shouts of hurrah! from their lovely companions, the paddle-steamer lifted into the sky again, drifting lazily and leisurely over the grimey streets of London and the bemused crowds beneath it, never to be seen again.

* * *
        The papers refused to print the story, not wishing to look foolish and the Home Office insisted that no such incident ever took place.
        But I was one of the children that witnessed that strange event thirty-five years ago and I still recall it clearly and vividly. Ten years ago I even tried to conduct my own private investigation into the affair, going as far as locating, after an extensive search, the then young police constable's wife.
"Yer what?" she belched through heavily painted and drink-loosened lips, her breath reeking of gin. "I ain't seen'im now for twenty bleedin' years.  What do you want comin' round here dredging up old stories?  Pox off!"
      The local police were equally unforthcoming.
"I'm sorry Sir," the stony-faced Desk-Sergeant explained, "but we have no record of any such incident.  And even if we did I'm not sure we'd want to discuss it with the public. You haven't been drinking have you, Sir?"

Old bridge over
Canal But I had not.        
      Leaning now upon the parapet of the old stone bridge in one of the less salubrious parts of Hackney I can't imagine how a full-sized  Yankee paddle-steamer could have possibly fitted in the narrow waters of the sad and neglected canal beneath me...

         But it did!

Posted 17:50

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