Tuesday, 30 December 2008
Two nights ago we'd just driven back from Christmas in Wales, unpacked the car, fed the cat, prepared leftover turkey pesto risotto for ourselves with some mulled wine and settled down to watch the back story of University Challenge when the doorbell rang. The young man at the door was shivering in just a thin sweater and jeans. He introduced himself as Jonathan, the nephew of Peter and Elizabeth, our next-door neighbours. They were on their way home from the theatre and he was locked out and needed money for his taxi. Double-time fare, he said, £27. Elizabeth and Peter would repay us when they got back. We handed over the fare, made him a bowl of risotto when he returned from paying off the taxi, poured him a glass of wine, sat him down, made him comfortable, showed him where the loo was when he asked and the bathroom to wash his hands. We thought he might have ADHD as he kept jumping up to answer his phone and popping out onto the landing so as not to disturb us, apologetic for intruding on our evening, quaintly spoken - "Marvellous, marvellous!" being his effusive response to our hospitality. Then another mobile call and he announced in tears that his aunt had died and he had to go. Of course, with hindsight and to everyone hearing the story, the outcome is obvious - no sooner had he gone than I saw that my camera case had disappeared from my study, packed so conveniently with my precious digital SLR, all my lenses and my camcorder. So had the remaining notes from my mother's Christmas gift to my daughter, her iPod and the notes from my wallet, buried deep in my handbag. Credit cards, car keys were left, so it could have been much worse. The police arrived within ten minutes and discovered that he'd scammed taxi fare from several other neighbours, including Peter and Elizabeth, but not got into their houses. Their names had been his passport into ours. Forensics found fingerprints on the bowl of risotto and some DNA on the wineglass, but he'd used toilet paper to put up the toilet seat and hold the flush. The rooftop and moon photos on the blog banner were the last ones taken with the stolen camera and my new telephoto lens, but fortunately, I'd downloaded all my irreplaceable photos just before going down to Wales. The moral? I guess 2009 has to be better than 2008, which started with major computer problems, consequent messed up deadlines and stress, continued with lost leave and no summer break, the threat of redundancy as the university is reorganised and ends with this tale of goodwill. Roll on the new year!