On your bike

So we’ve been a bit mystified about security at the new house. It seems like a lovely area, the neighbours we’ve met so far have been really nice, and there are no locks on the garden gate. In London, that’s pretty unusual. Well actually, it’s unheard of. It’s like taping a note on the gate saying, ‘rob us.’ Add to that the fact that the gate is not really a gate at all, but a pretty little swirl of wrought iron that you can see straight through and could knock over with an over-zealous swish of a 7-year-old girl’s pony tail, and the note might as well say, ‘PLEASE rob us now.’

At first I was on red alert, on the phone to the locksmiths, getting an appointment for their welder to come out. This he did. He scratched his head a bit, said he’d make a lock box and be back in the morning, and off he went. The next morning, it rained for five minutes. It’s the only rain we’ve had for months. The locksmiths rang. ‘Welder can’t come, it’s raining,’ they said. ‘But it’s stopped! And it was only five drops!’ I yelped. ‘Don’t worry, he’ll be back in the morning,’ they said consolingly. That’s the last I’ve heard from them.

Meanwhile, at first we were assiduous in bringing bikes and other stuff left in the garden – clothes, toys, books, shoes – in every night. Gradually, I admit our vigilance has waned. There are only two adults here, both forgetful, and a host of children whose only contact with burglars is Allan Alberg’s charming book Burglar Bill. Thanks to that, they think it would be rather lovely to meet a burglar.

Well, I’m afraid the inevitable happened. With all the builders’ paraphenalia and all the kids’ rubbish and all the rest of it, the bikes got left out one weekend. And disappeared.

And, to add insult to injury, the robbers left a rusting, broken old bike propped up against the skip outside the house. This skip has been pretty much a permanent fixture since we moved in and started deconstructing the dungeon downstairs. It’s full to the eyebrows with rubble, old loos, bits of pointy wood and a million other unwanted items. It doesn’t really need garnishing with a broken bike. But there it was. Cheeky blighters, we thought.

I spent a lot of time wailing about the new neighbourhood, wringing my hands and rueing the day of the move. TL was a little bit more practical, dashing down to the police station and reporting the theft. We were prepared for the Londoners’ usual comfort in such times, ‘it happens a lot, we’ll never catch the thief, get over it.’ Instead, the police showed a huge amount of interest, because the bikes stolen were girls’ bikes, and because they had left the rusting bike by the skip

‘They’re sending over the forensics team. Apparently no-one usually steals girls’ bikes, it could be a specialised gang,’ said TL. I admit I was quite excited. Finally, I was going to get an episode of CSI Miami on my own doorstep. People in white coats would be swarming around, doing serious things with pipettes and rubber gloves. Of course, it wasn’t going to be quite like the telly. I doubted they would be universally good looking and we probably wouldn’t be getting Miami-style weather, clothes, makeup or tooth whitening services, but still. For downtown Dulwich it was pretty damn thrilling.

Then the builders arrived. We told them the sad news about the bikes, and the good news about forensics. ‘Erm …… they said. ‘Actually, we put the bikes in the cellar and locked the door,’ they said.

I didn’t know whether to be thrilled, or miffed that CSI Dulwich would now be cancelled. But wait a minute, they’d still need to fingerprint the bike by the skip …. ‘What bike by the skip?’ said the builders.

Yep. That’s right. The bike propped up against the skip was gone. It had been stolen.

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