One of our more recent recruits, Steven Edwards, is here to give us some insight into his journey from patrolling the streets of East London to writing sterling copy for us here at Systemato.
You need to know where to find prostitutes, because where you find prostitutes, you find drugs. It stands to reason therefore, that where you find drugs you also find drug users. Finally, where you find drug users, you always find stolen goods. So it should have come as no surprise that my first arrest was the trifecta – a drug-using prostitute with stolen goods on her.
It was Dalston, Hackney, London, January 2007. I was a shiny new Police Officer fresh out of training school, she was a pitiful sight. She stood rake thin, bloodshot eyes sunken deep into bag-laden sockets, her lank hair laying plastered atop a head that’s only notable feature was a mouth bereft of several teeth. I arrested her for shoplifting. I didn’t want to. It felt pointless.
She wasn’t going to stop performing sexual acts for money – how else was she going to get money for drugs? And she definitely wasn’t going to stop stealing food. She had no money to feed her kids because she was spending it all on drugs, stealing food was the only way she could get it. She’d stolen a few packs of fish and some chocolate bars, nothing more. It was as victimless crime as you can get – a multi-million pound corporation like Sainsburys was hardly going to feel the loss of £12.60. I should have realised at that point, that I wasn’t always going to be a police officer.
For the next decade, being a police officer defined me. It set constraints on how I conducted myself and lived my life. I took the responsibilities of my office seriously, never straying outside the lines. The recklessness of my youth was gone. I was living life in a box.
On top of the expectations upon my character, I found being a copper to be a thankless task. I worked long hours, I missed special occasions and had my days off cancelled. I spent days on end stood out in the cold, the wind and the rain, on cordons and crime scenes. I was forever turning up to places where people were having the worst day of their life. And I was the one expected to get them through it. Car chases, drugs seizures, fights, surveillance, riots and arresting murderers, all became mundane.
It was unpleasant as well. People screaming at me, decomposing bodies, and strip searching homeless drug addicts. Plus, it was dangerous too. There was always someone wanting to fight me because I wore the uniform, or because I stood between them and somebody they wanted to get at. It was mad, putting myself in harm’s way to protect people that I didn’t know and would never meet again. Eventually and inevitably I reached breaking point. I didn’t want to be a police officer anymore.
For the first time in 10 years I updated my CV and half-heartedly applied for jobs in risk assessment and security management. I never followed through because I didn’t want the jobs. Why give up being an unhappy police officer to go and be an unhappy security manager? I wanted to quit, but I had nothing to quit for. So I opted for a diversion instead, a distraction from the bleak reality of my day-to-day existence.
I found that distraction in writing. Underwhelmed by an incessant stream of poorly written articles on the internet, I decided that I could do better. So I started a blog. The positive feedback I received proved me correct, I could indeed do better. I also found an odd sense of joy in writing a sentence that was pleasing to read. Writing lifted me, it made me happy.
I turned my creativity in a new direction and wrote a screenplay for a TV show based upon my experiences within the police. When I began sending it out I was hoping for a bit of feedback and not a great deal more. What I got was an offer of work. The South East Coast ambulance service had commissioned a short film and I was writing the script. It was a breakthrough moment. Not only could I find happiness in writing words on a page, apparently I could get paid for it too. Was this it? Did I finally have a way out? My wife made the decision for me, tired as she was of seeing me so unhappy about my work. If there was the slightest chance that I could make a career out of writing, I had to go for it. What would I regret more, chasing a dream and failing or never dreaming at all?
We decided to go all in; quitting our jobs, selling our flat, packing up our car and driving 2,000 miles to end up here in Malta. Moving to Malta was not by accident, we’d always talked about living here given our strong connections to the island. My wife’s family is Maltese, so she has been coming here her entire life, whilst I have been visiting the island with her for the best part of 10 years. When the opportunity arose to finally make the move, the decision was a straightforward one.
Of course, living in Malta has some pretty obvious benefits such as sun, sea, sailing, and a relaxed lifestyle. But to us it has always been more than that. More than the sum of its parts, it is a second home. We know our way around and have our favourite places to swim, to hike, and to get pastizzi/pizza/rabbit/ice cream. We are enveloped by friends and family who are determined to feed us at any opportunity.
On an individual note, Mdina and Valletta have become two of my favourite places in the entire world. I can wander the streets for hours, lost in history. Despite my English and Irish blood, at times I almost feel Maltese. Whether it be correcting improper pronunciation of Ċisk and explaining the unique taste of Kinnie, or stifling “Madonna/uwejja/issa” from moving from my brain into my mouth!
Malta is also a place of cherished memories. For my wife there are the childhood memories of her Grandma knocking up some Ħobz biż-Żejt at the family boathouse in Mellieħa and sneaking out in the early hours of the morning with her Grandpa to go fishing. As a couple we also have the rather important memory of our wedding, taking place as it did in the parish church in Mellieħa. It was a beautiful day and we wouldn’t have had it anywhere else in the world. On that day, Malta officially became a part of the fabric of my relationship and my life.
Quitting my job meant that I was finally able to answer “Yes” to the often asked question of “should we move to Malta?” There was no longer anything to hold us back.
I’m pleased to say that so far it’s going well. On a day-to-day basis, I don’t miss London or being a police officer at all. I have had a few moments – following the recent terror attacks – where I felt lost. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I should have been there, stood side by side with my mates in the job. I should have been helping. I guess the instinct to run towards danger is still strong.
Work wise, things are going well, too. I am operating as a consultant scriptwriter and copywriter, and have work coming my way from both the U.K. and Malta. In Systemato, Blonde & Giant, and Brnd Wgn, I have found Maltese companies that were able to spot my potential and brave enough to give me the chance to make use of it. With some local experience now under my belt, work is beginning to flow in. All in all, I’d say my dream is tentatively becoming a reality. I’m beginning to make a living from writing, I live in the sunshine, and I couldn’t be happier!
If pushed, I’d only have one complaint: the standard of driving. It seems to me that the whole island is on a mission to drive straight at me in any given situation.
You can read more blog posts from Steven at https://writingsteven.com/, or watch the short film he wrote here: