Number 98- There ain’t a lock that can keep me out”
That’s the 10th he thinks, he’s made it into double figures.
It is, he supposes some sort of achievement, perhaps this house could be on TV, next to Britains most haunted,Britians most noisy neighbours,Britains celebrity cribs. This house, number 98, Britains most burgled, although the has to admit, he’s not really sure if it is actually the most burgled, it just feels like that, but, then again it would, to him, it’s his house and yesterday , his house had been broken into for the 10th time.
He’s got the routine down pat now, no insurance company to call anymore, they stopped covering him after break in number 6, the locksmith on speed dial and a courtesy call to the local cop shop. He likes to keep them Informed, doesn’t want them to think that he thinks that the police are useless, although of course, that’s exactly what he thinks, but he knows how despondent the local beat officer gets, how powerless the nice woman from crime prevention feels, so he makes sure to ring them, tell them that this time he is sure that they will catch the bad guys, restore his property, make everything ok.
He sweeps up the smashed glass from the kitchen door, wraps the glass up carefully in newspaper before he places it in the bin and takes a first glance around, takes stock of what’s gone this time.
The ten pound note he habitually leaves in the centre of the table has gone, of course. It’s the idea of the crime prevention officer, it’s meant to satisfy the casual thief, stop them pulling out every drawer and cupboard and sometimes it works, but not this time.
Today’s burglar has opened every drawer in the sideboard , dumped the contents onto the carpet, pulled the sofa cushions off, looking for something more exciting than the TV remote for a TV that doesn’t live here anymore , a half eaten packet of chocolate toffees and a dog brush.
But, he has found the iPod and rejected it, ground his heel onto it and left the remains,smashed, bent and unusuable , the sad detritus of a robbery hardly worth the effort of climbing over the garden wall and breaking glass so that he could get into the kitchen.
Henry used to get angry, used to rant about the scum that used his house as some sort of walk in freebie shop. He used to be scared, invested in bigger and stronger locks, even bought a dog, considered a burglar alarm and then he stopped being able to afford insurance, stopped being able to replace the stereos, the TVs, the lap tops and the microwaves.
At first he missed the things that had filled his home, missed the familiar TV programmes, missed listening to the news as he made his coffee, buttered his morning toast, missed his little dance moves when he ran the Hoover around and then he missed the hoover when it went too.
He struggled to fill the time, worried about missing out on stuff, wondered if there were great world events happening out there that he no longer easily access.
And then something happened, gradually he found that he no longer found himself pacing around the small, neat sitting room, not sure of how to navigate the time between eating, washing up and bed time.
He started to potter around the small back yard, not gardening exactly, but planting a few bulbs, a couple of climbers and then he bought a bird feeder and watched in amazement when even in the middle of this city, birds found his offerings of peanuts and sunflower seeds. He began to recognise regular visitors, the robin who took on all comers, regardless of size, the homing pigeon, hopelessly lost, gone feral, but still a cut above the truly wild street pigeons and still tame enough to sit on the garden fence when Henry came outside to replenish the feeders and seed holders and water saucers.
Henry is not a bird watcher, he has no interest in going anywhere else to look at birds, he can only just name the most common urban birds and even then he suspects that he gets it wrong sometimes.
He is he decides, a bird feeder, a jovial mine host. He makes sure that the dishes are regularly topped up, he offers a selection of tasty snacks and is vigilant, removes stale seeds, chases off any of the local cats who show too great an interest in whats going on.
He has acquired an ancient battery powered radio, but forgets to replace the batteries often enough, so the speech has slowed down, become sub audible. Generally now, he doesn’t bother to turn it on.
And there is the library. It surprises him that he is a member and of course, he could buy books, he has never had any reading matter taken even by the most inept of his burglars, 1 to 10, but,he likes the temporary nature of borrowing books and the routine of his Wednesday evening visit, late night opening, to the local library.
He has become braver in his choices in the last year. He’s stepped out of the shallows of detective fiction and Terry Pratchett , paddled into science fiction and is now wading,a little anxiously, hoping that he’s not going out of his depth, into books that have won proper competitions and even been talked about on the news and he knows this because burglar number 9 went a bit freestyle and attempted to break into his car as well, but clearly disgusted or simply depressed by the absence of CD player or in car entertainment centre, had only the most half hearted go at digging out the car radio and its this that Henry uses to get a news fix on the way to work and on occasions, if the programme is especially riveting, will continue to sit in parked neatly in front of his house until it ends.
He sighs as he throws away the battered iPad, the gift of a colleague who wanted to make it better for him. He has actually stopped listening to it sometime ago, found the headphones irritating and had meant to return it to his workmate, but burglar number 10 has put paid to that.
He casts an experienced eye over the back door, the robber has made a hash of the actual lock, which is impressive given that the key was actually still in the lock on the inside of the door.
The door will still open and close, but unless he gets the lock mechanism fixed, he won’t be able to lock it again.
He pauses then,actually pauses and straightens up from his angled inspection of the damaged door.
He opens the door, he closes the door, he opens the door, he closes the door and then he reaches across the work surface and picks up the back door key.
He can’t quite bring himself to make an heroic gesture, the bird table is full of evening feeders and he doesn’t want to alarm them by throwing the key into the tangle of shrubs.
So, he tosses it into the cupboard under the sink and then walks quickly, purposefully to the coat hooks by the front door, reaches into the bowl where he habitually drops his car keys, wallet and lose change.
The front door key is there, as it should be, he picks it up,feels its familiar weight in his palm and then opens the front door and puts the key neatly under the door mat.
Later, returning from the library, The Life of Pi and Atonement in his bag for life. He opens the front door by simply turning the handle and feels a little frisson of freedom.