Published: 06:00, 21 January 2021
Retired cop Melvin Hopper thought his days of driving through traffic with flashing blue lights were long gone after he became a pub landlord.
But the boss of The Heritage at Halfway on the Isle of Sheppey is now back behind the wheel driving ambulances to help stretched emergency services cope with the coronavirus pandemic.
He said: "With the current heavy restrictions placed on the hospitality industry it seemed the right way to use the spare time on my hands."
So when the London Ambulance Service appealed for drivers, Melvin jumped at the chance.
He said: "Like everyone in the NHS, they are stretched almost beyond capacity. They already have London firefighters helping but on Thursday, January 7, they put out a call asking if any retired advanced Met police drivers would be willing to help.
"It was all very quick. On the following Monday I attended a one-day course at Wembley to familiarise candidates with the equipment held on ambulances and to check our driving abilities.
"I’m pleased to say that even after more than 30 years, my advanced blue-light training still passed muster.
"I have been helping since Wednesday around the Bromley district and it's full on.
"In the police, we would patrol and seek work if not called to an incident. In the ambulance service you respond to a call, call in when you’ve finished and immediately get sent to another."
He added: "I thought I’d do my bit to help during this third lockdown, especially since I don’t see things changing much for a few months. And I get to drive around south London with blue lights again."
At the induction course he met up with Andy Parr, another ex-copper he had worked with years before.
Mr Hopper, who will be 66 next month, joined the police in 1976 and took his advanced driving test 39 years ago to become an advance response car police officer. He last drove for the Force 32 years ago. After leaving, he joined Kent County Council. Seven years ago next week he and his wife Margaret opened The Heritage, Sheppey's first micropub, in a former Post Office.
They also own A Ys Man micropub in Marine Parade, Sheerness.
Although customers are no longer allowed to step foot in pubs because of the latest lockdown measures, The Heritage is still taking orders to deliver beers and ciders.