14st 10lb, 4.5 units. We were woken in the early hours by shouting and flashing lights to the rear of the house, where all is normally dark and peaceful, so I got up to peer out of the bathroom window. And there I heard the unmistakeable sound of Plod lumbering along the alleyway behind the marital home, and through the gardens of the houses behind ours, on the trail of Bad People (a.k.a. Scratters). There were two police cars parked in the street to the front, so whatever the BP were deemed to have done must have been pretty serious, given that everyone I know who has been burgled has found it almost impossible to engage the interest of the constabulary. Similarly, my retailer friends tell me that it is a hopeless task trying to persuade them to turn out to arrest shoplifters, though they are quite willing to come along and threaten shop managers with arrest for assault if they have the temerity to try to restrain a shoplifter until “help” arrives. Perhaps the BP concerned had done something truly heinous like making homophobic or racist comments, on which I believe that Twenty First Century Plod is very hot indeed.
We could not really get back to sleep after that. It took me back twenty-five years, to when I lived in a top floor flat on the Cromwell Road in London’s then rather unfashionable Earl’s Court. Being a fairly light sleeper, I would frequently be woken at night by the cat-like tread of someone creeping over the flat, zinc roof above my bedroom. This was faintly irritating, and I did toy with the idea of hiding behind my water tank one night and leaping out to say “Boo!” in the hope that shock would cause the intruder to plummet four storeys to his doom. But it was nothing to the racket that ensued when someone called for Plod and they duly turned out to play “Catch me if you can” across the roofs one night. Their huge size 13 boots made my whole flat shake as though it had been struck by an earthquake of around 8 on the Richter scale.
Of course they did not catch him, assuming that it was indeed a him. The story they told me when I went up to enquire was that someone was regularly making their way from the hostel at one end of the terrace and stealing underwear from the washing lines on the roof of the block of flats at the other end. The thing that did not compute at the time was the fact that the hostel was, notoriously, frequented by male homosexuals, while the disappearing undergarments were what my mother would have called ladies’ smalls. Perhaps the place was, with the benefit of hindsight, an early outpost of what I believe is now known as the transgender community.
Whatever the facts of the case, one morning shortly afterwards we woke to find that the hostel had burned to the ground. No-one died, and the nightly visitations stopped. A better result than the Cheshire Constabulary are likely to have achieved today, I imagine.
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