How my bid to become Juliet Bravo fell short – Susan Morrison

Stephanie Turner as Inspector Jean Darblay in Juliet Bravo ' a role model for aspiring policewomen everywhere
Stephanie Turner as Inspector Jean Darblay in Juliet Bravo ' a role model for aspiring policewomen everywhere
Share this article
0
Have your say

When I was a gel I desperately wanted to be a policewoman, just so I could walk up to people and say, “What’s going on here then, mate?”, writes Susan Morrison.

And they’d have to tell me. It seemed to me the career of choice for nosey women everywhere, but how I came by this ambition is a bit of a mystery.

Angela Lansbury as Jessica Fletcher in Murder, She Wrote

Angela Lansbury as Jessica Fletcher in Murder, She Wrote

There were few role models on the telly when I was a kid. Z Cars was a boys’ club, featuring no less a talent than the leather-lunged Brian Blessed, a man who I suspect took up ­mountain climbing just to give us all a bit of peace and quiet.

Seriously, how could that man with that voice ever have been a real policeman? It’s not like he could ever have gone undercover. Can you imagine him trying to whisper on a stakeout in Leith? He’d ­rattle ­windows in Burntisland. Mind you, one bellow from the Blessed and the entire stand at Hampden would have been silenced. Bet you’re humming the Z Cars theme tune now.

We got Softly Softly next, basically the Z Cars boys in different places. ­Reusing characters and stories was pretty common back then. It might have been something to do with post-war shortages of creative thinking in British television. Oh look, that idea worked, so let’s flog it to death.

Still very few women, but it did break new ground by featuring Inky the Police Dog. Of course, adorable Inky had just one job, and that was to get shot and killed on active duty. Cue outrage from the people of Britain.

I imagine Points of View was hit with a veritable tsunami of letters written in green ink, starting “Why, oh why . . .” Concerns were raised in the House of Commons. This was back in the days when the House talked about things not Brexit-related. Remember that? Me neither.

Inky, or at least the dog who played Inky, had to be trotted out on Blue ­Peter to reassure an anxious nation that all was well.

But still, few girls for girls like me to be inspired by. We had to wait ­until 1980 when the screen suddenly ­exploded with Detective Inspector Maggie Forbes in London with the Gentle Touch, backed up by uniformed Juliet Bravo keeping safe the mean streets of Hartley.

My dream was doomed. Far too short, y’see. This was back in the days when the pride of the City of Glasgow police loomed a good six feet above you. Even the women looked like ­Viking shield maidens.

I still don’t know quite where the ­police got these women from, but I have ­distinct memories of them ­standing on duty in Glasgow on Old Firm Days.

These were the days when the city ­centre lamp-posts could go missing as the green and blue flooded through. Unruffled, these women stood like Easter Island statues, with a look that could quell a riot.

I was so short I didn’t even reach their radios.

There’s been a murder, Jessica must be here

Even being a detective was out. The only female detectives on telly were nearly always desiccated old spinsters with cut glass accents.

They were portrayed as interfering busybodies, endlessly investigating gruesome murders in quaint English villages. It’s why you won’t catch me visiting the Cotswolds. Apparently, it’s got a murder rate akin to a Mexican drug cartel killing spree. That, and the horrible off-chance of bumping into David Cameron, of course.

Now that could get seriously murderous.

Wrong class for the murder in the vicarage, me. These grand dames were so posh they could effortlessly drink tea with a cup, a saucer and a teaspoon, and drop none of them whilst reaching for a cucumber sandwich.

I’d leave a ten-foot radius debris field of smashed crockery, tea stains and soggy white bread.

Things weren’t much more inspiring across the Atlantic. There was only Murder, She Wrote. Let’s be honest, the biggest mystery here was why people kept inviting Jessica Fletcher to visit.

Ms Fletcher barely had the chance to unpack her jammies before the bodies started cluttering up the flower beds and floating in the pool like discarded lilos.

For 12 long years, Jessica Fletcher rattled about with murder in her wake. Nobody ever turned around and said ‘It’s this auld bisum! We need a bulk order of crime scene cordon tape every time she shows up!’

I’m ready – by special invitation

But now, my chance has come. Chief Superintendent Gareth Blair has put out a call for special constables.

At last, my chance to recreate the opening scenes of The Bill with steady, measured footfall, although I do see myself more as Catherine Cawood in Happy Valley, more tea-drinking, door-kicking and sweary really.

Chief Super, look no further. The solution is here. Probably just a bit shorter, fatter and older than you were expecting, I’ll grant you that, but you can’t fault my enthusiasm.