There were 10 of us all bent double and being sick. Like birds feeding their young we were all regurgitating our dinners into the open mouths of the toilets whilst at the same time rubbing dislocated limbs. This had nothing to do with the food at the Dishforth Police Training College which was actually quite good. It was our second day there and the end of our first fitness and self defence lesson.
The officer taking us for the fitness lessons had a hobby of ripping the legs off puppies, dipping them in Tabasco sauce and eating them raw. At night he went round loosening the wheel nuts on wheelchairs and dropping people with Alzheimer’s miles from home. He was a hoodie without the hood. Anyway, enough about his good points. For half an hour we were given a real life demonstration of how body parts fitted together and how easy it was to separate them. There must be a manual on this somewhere written by Mary Shelley of Frankenstein fame. When he demonstrated self defence on you, it always felt like some body part had been ripped off and he was using it to get free food for his pet Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
Just when we thought the torture was over we went straight into half an hour of fitness training. Before I started at Dishforth I had been out running every night with a piano strapped to my back to improve my fitness. I thought I was close to Olympic standard. Unfortunately when it came to police fitness, Olympic was not even entry level. I do not know how I got through it but at the end of the lesson the instructor just pulled another puppy out of his rucksack and watched as we crawled, red faced, towards the changing room.
The fitness tortures were twice a week. As the course progressed the school looked more like a hospital with students on crutches and in bandages or plaster. This was not fitness. It was a war of attrition and we were losing. We knew from that second day that the lessons would get harder so, as a class, we decided to go out running for half an hour every night after normal lessons. This is where the ex-forces lads came in handy. They were used to pain and gain so shouted and pushed us every night to get fitter. We were also glad to see that we were not the only class who felt like this. In fact all the other classes were out trying to improve their own fitness each night. I am no distance runner and I hated it but I also knew in the last week there was a timed cross country run I was dreading but had to pass.
Besides the fitness and self defence we also had to go swimming every week early in the morning. The pool was some distance away so we took a very old, green, RAF bus there. You never knew what you were going to get when you arrived. Some days the water was “Dancing on ice” temperature and at other times it was hotter than a Russian wrestlers butt crack in a sauna. The swimming was all about passing the “Bronze Survival” medal. You may remember doing it yourself. The one where you have to be able to make your pyjamas into a float so you could just stay in one spot for an hour. Just one question though. Why would anyone be walking around in their pyjamas or nighty and then jump into a river? Why would they want to float for an hour when they were probably two meters from the shore and could touch the bottom? I did later find the answer to this question that had puzzled me for weeks. On some council estates in Humberside the height of fashion was to stand on your doorstep at three in the afternoon in your winceyette nightie, smoking a fag whilst talking to an identically dressed neighbour. The shell suite later became fashion and I am presuming this was because it was easier to make into a float than the nightie was! I never really found out just why they would want to jump into a river unless it was to put their fag out?
Anyway, I digress. Whilst our bodies were being broken they also needed to break our hearts, souls and loin’s and again they had well practised skills to do this. Firstly they gave us three large cooked meals a day. This is something most normal people do not have but you learnt very quickly that on a day with a fitness/ self defence lesson you never ate before it. You also never drunk the tea they supplied. The police run on tea and the training school was no different. There were tea breaks every hour and as much as you could drink with the meals. The problem was that the rumour grapevine had it on good authority that the tea was laced with bromide. It was a well known fact that bromide destroyed your sex drive and if you did get the chance it would be like trying to shove hot marshmallows in a money box. As there were only about two or three girls per class so the chances of seeing if bromide really worked were negligible. I cannot live without tea so just accepted the added flavour.
Another lesson we had each week was marching. This was where the class would attempt to all walk together to the same place at the same time along to military band music. Let me tell you that there are people who will never, ever, be able to march. Their bodies have no concept of rhythm. If they were in a school band they would always be the kid at the back with a triangle who could never hit it at the right time and would always wet himself. The lessons were given by Sgt. Cochran. Windsor Davies had used him as a model and he was the true image of every British army films Sgt. Major. Besides the marching lesson we also had to march as a group anywhere we went on the camp. If someone had left a book back in the dormitory the whole class had to march there and back to get it. You soon learnt not to forget anything.
In between the physical stuff we had law lessons and practicals. Some of the things that went on at Dishforth would land you in an orange prison suit with a rock breaking pickaxe for company. There was no health and safety, no such thing as words you could not say and you could even tell jokes without being sacked. We also had lots of beer and learnt some army games that no one should ever, ever, ever try at home, or anywhere if I am honest, but that is all for the next part.
How did you find the fitness and self defence training?