An announcement on the London Underground, asking for an Inspector Sands to come immediately to the control room, is the cue for Londoners in the know to make a hasty exit from the station dragging their bemused out-of-town friends with them. Long thought to be a coded message alerting station managers and on-duty police officers to a major emergency, such as a bomb scare or inferno, it has emerged that this is not the case.
We spoke to the real Inspector Sands in his Gothic lair deep beneath the ticket hall at Charing Cross. Settling into a dark green leather wingback armchair, with a glass of Malmsey in his hand and a stuffed owl on his shoulder, the Inspector cuts and intriguing figure.
“I do wish they wouldn’t drag me away from my parlour when I’m in the middle of Call of Duty: Black Ops. It’s nearly always a false alarm, like the time someone freaked out at a Tesco bag left under a bench, or when some French tourists vaped under the smoke detectors.”
The Inspector hasn’t seen daylight in 35 years and his approaching retirement will force him above ground. “My pension will get me a nice basement flat in Hampstead, where I can keep my rats. I like rats. Rats are my friends. Unlike the duty managers who keep cordoning bits of the concourse off for no reason. Why do they that?”
A new Inspector Sands will be recruited soon, and applications are invited from serving police officers who like stale air, rats, unexpected gale force winds and taxidermy.