Welcome back! I hope you all had a great Christmas and New Year. Mine unfortunately was a mixed bag and I suspect it will continue to be so for some considerable time :(
Anyway as they say in Scotland, "out with the auld and in wi' the new!"
Now I would like to tell you a little tale of what happened to me just before Christmas.
'Twas the night afore Christmas [actually it was the 23rd but what the heck] and all was still and quiet all around. I had a friend staying over and the house was festive and Christmas looking. Tinsel adorned picture frames, cards littered the mantelpiece and hearth and there was a large glowing fibre-optic tree in the lounge window and another two scattered around the house.
As usual I had several items which had just sold on Ebay, one of which was my old dining room table set and I was awaiting its collection. My friend and I had just returned from walking the dogs and both humans and canines were dishevelled and muddy.
The children were excited and all around us there was much high pitched talk and laughter, children racing each other up and down the stairs and causing the biggest dog to whirl around and around, trying to catch her own tail in anticipation of some extraordinary event. The very air was charged with adrenaline and the scent of some long awaited pleasures and surprises.
It was at that precise moment that the doorbell rang and I ushered in a very dapper looking Asian man who turned out to be my Ebay buyer. Having returned late from the walk, I had not had time to dismantle the table as I had assured him I would do, so I did as any insane Scottish five-foot-two author would have done - I lied!
"I was thinking that to save you the bother of having to assemble it with all its various parts," were there various parts, I had no idea but I was into the bluff now and damned if I was going to fall at the first hurdle I encountered, "and as I knew you were bringing a big van for the collection," I had known no such thing but luckily he had turned up in a big white van, "you might want to take it out assembled and save yourself some bother." I actually managed to nod sagely at myself as if it was the best idea ever spoken aloud.
The dapper Asian gentleman agreed. So we began, the Asian man at one end of the table and my friend at the other. We tried to manoeuvre it through the lounge door into the hall ...no way was that happening! The legs of the table almost jammed in the door frame and we had to beat a hasty retreat.
But of course there was the piece de resistance - the patio doors which led from the conservatory to the back garden. We got the table back through the double doors from lounge to dining room and then dining room to conservatory and finally the outside with no ill effects. But the brick walls of the side passage which leads from back garden to front were a daunting obstacle. Unbending and unyielding they stood steadfast in their foundations and taunted me with their narrow confined space.
There was nothing for it but to dismantle the table - there would be no other way of removing it from the home. My mind searched through the old memories of the ex-boyfriend who had assembled the table originally. I remembered there had been a lot of cursing and many tools and instruments used in the process. But for goodness sake, it was a table...not a build-your-own-house-kit, how complicated could it be? Then I remembered that half-way through the job he had left to buy some bolts...there were bolts holding the table together! My blood ran cold. How on earth was I going to get the table dismantled with the new owner looking on? In absolute panic I turned to my friend.
Like a horse fed on a diet too rich in oats I must have resembled nothing more than a panicked little pony [I would have liked to say horse but that's stretching the truth a little too thin.]
Lips pulled back in a tight grimace and eyes rolling wildly, I assured the buyer that my friend would have the table dismantled in a jiffy. The Asian man went back outside to tell the van driver that there was a delay. It was at this point that it started to rain.
Huge sheets of glacier drops shattered to the ground, soaking everything in their path within seconds. Like rapiers, the raindrops sliced through clothing and footwear; mini heat-seeking missiles which leached the warmth from bones and the humour from hearts.
I could tell that by now the Asian gentleman was no longer impressed. I went back inside to see how my friend was faring.
Like an old beloved relative who is past his prime but wishes to be shackled to the home he has known and loved for so long, the table seemed to be resisting all his efforts to dismantle it. And even more unfortunately the house appeared to be colluding with it! I watched transfixed as the first screws were removed and promptly fell into the cracks between the dining room floor boards. I lunged across the room and using a butter knife, began to frantically gouge the minuscule gap in order to retrieve the screw. Hair plastered to my scalp by rain and the thin sweat of fear and embarrassment I grappled with it until I managed to clasp it in my damp palm.
Meanwhile my friend had moved on to the bolts. The table fought bravely, seeming to withdraw the bolt heads deeper into their holes and securing them there with a determination I had not known an inanimate object could possess. My friend persevered. The table resisted. My friend grunted and groaned. The table remained quietly victorious. Until with a quickness of wrist and keenness of eye my friend held the table a certain way, twisted the bolt whilst simultaneously pushing away from it and in one fell swoop, the table was finally undone, mastered, defeated.
And somewhere inside the very pit of my stomach it felt like a hollow victory...perhaps it was the presentiment of things yet to come...
We carried the table remains outside. By now the unrelenting rain had turned to hailstones of the most frightening kind. Huge balls of ice struck us as we hurried the wooden parts to the two men waiting in the white van.
It was on the first return journey that my friend turned a peculiar shade of white. "Get a bit of paper and take down their registration," he hissed at me theatrically.
"Why," I hissed back, just as theatrically [I hate to be outdone and have a terrible competitive streak.]
"Just bloody do it!" he sniped back, seemingly in a mood not to be outdone. But something about the thin set of his lips and anger in his eyes made me bite back any words which came immediately to my mind.
So it was that I stood outside of my house, in slippers and drenched clothing, in front of the van and tried to look as if I were inconspicuously eyeing up my neighbours property when in fact I was memorising the licence plate of the van for God knew what reason.
But being me, I could not bear the suspense and begged my friend to let me know what all the cloak and dagger stuff was about.
"You know when we went out with the first lot of wood from the table?" he said slowly, as if talking to a demented five year old.
"Yes?" I said, trying and failing to hide my annoyance.
"Well I noticed my car door was slightly open and the glove compartment lid was down... and my satnav is gone! Those men have stolen it."
"Well, I will go and confront them!" I said, feeling like I could now take on the world even though my knees were knocking. I told myself it was temper and sheer anger but in the calmer light of day as I write this I am less afraid to admit that yes, there was a little bit of fear in there too.
"No!" he said. "They will deny it and you have no right to search them. "We will have to phone the police."
I watched the two men battle the elements and lock up their van, all the while willing myself to go shove a banana up their exhaust pipe or a nail in their tyres, anything, everything that would prevent their leaving and prompt them into full disclosure and repentance, culminating in them returning our stolen property.
But of course, none of that happened. instead I snatched the money for the table from the man from behind a half-closed door and then slammed it shut in his face, hating myself for being so inadequate.
Then I reached for the phone.
The police, I have to say were very understanding. They were also very quick. Unusually so. I guess that should have started alarm bells ringing in my head...
"We have a rapid response team on the way and there is a helicopter in the area," the 999 controller informed me.
"Oh, um, ok," I responded. "But you will probably not be able to catch them, they left a few minutes ago," I explained.
"Do you know where they were headed caller?" she asked.
"They are on their way back to London," I related what they had told me.
Ok so at this point I should have known that things had become more than a little farcical I guess. But you know what? When wrapped up in the situation as it is actually unfolding, you cannot always see the wood for the trees. In my defence, Your Honour!
"So will you let me know what happens?" I asked.
"We have stopped them and are doing a full search on them as we speak," she stated triumphantly.
Now whilst we had been on the phone I had heard several police sirens but could not bring myself to believe it was in response to my call. But yes, it appeared that indeed it had!
Then the police controller said something which made it all fall into place. "We were in your area anyway as there have been a number of thefts within the past twelve hours, many involving satnavs and we think it is a gang targeting your area. With your help we might just have caught them. Hang up now caller as a constable is on his way to your house with more information."
I thanked her and duly hung up.
No more than ten minutes later, two very soaked PCs arrived at my house with a satnav.
"Is this it?" they asked brandishing the said article in my face.
"No," I stuttered dejectedly. "Did you find any others?"
"Well here's the thing..." he said slowly, strangely using that same tone of voice my friend had used on me earlier, the one that made me feel about knee high to a grasshopper and only half as intelligent.
"We searched the men extensively. We made them empty everything out of their van." He didn't say 'in the torrential rain and hail' but I felt the words anyway. "We made them unlock every box and empty out every holdall and bag in the van..." And oh dear God the feeling in my stomach was telling my head and heart things it did not want to know.
"We looked everywhere and there were none of the stolen goods from any of the houses." He looked me in the eye and we both knew he knew I was an idiot. "Is it possible that the theft had occurred before these men arrived and that their arrival was just a coincidence?"
It was of course the only logical answer and I was doubly humiliated. Not only had I caused innocent men to be pulled over and virtually strip searched but I had not even been aware of the burglary in the very first place!
I bowed my head in shame and felt the weight of life upon my shoulders as the policemen trudged away, back to the innocent men who waited still bent over their van in the rain and hail, searched and grappled with to within an inch of their lives. Treated like ghetto drug dealers - because of me!
So now every time I go to my Ebay account and view the feedback, I cringe. Nothing has been posted there - yet - but I imagine it nonetheless. It will read something like this:-
"Avoid like the plague. This woman will lure you to her home with promises of Ebay bargains but whilst you are there she will waste your time, snatch your money from your hand and then have you strip searched by the police on departure. AVIOD AT ALL COSTS!!!"
So dear readers, this blog post is my way of an open apology to those poor innocent men.
Now can I interest anyone in an only slightly used dishwasher?
[N.B. The above is a true story - unfortunately for all participants.]