The editor has had quite a week. He tweeted: “I’ve had car vandalised, been pick-pocketed and had pram stolen from locked car. In leafy suburbia.” And “the police don’t give a damn”.
I am of course hugely sympathetic but it could have been worse. It did at least ebb and flow over the whole week and didn’t erupt in one great, cataclysmic, criminal episode.
And it’s not just media folk like my editor they’re after. Just last Saturday morning, I was standing in Clifton Road, Maida Vale, waiting for my friend Toby who, for 10 minutes, had been trying to master the complexities of text-parking in Westminster, when he suddenly took off at speed like an enraged hippo – that is to say as rapidly as a large, very overweight, red-faced man in his 60s can manage while running across the road bellowing: “Stop! Thieves!”
Two tough-looking Eastern European men in their 20s were walking casually towards me carrying two fully laden Harrods bags remarkably like the two bags I had loaded half-an-hour earlier into the boot of Toby’s car. So I, too, started shouting: “Put those bags down!” (I admit I embellished this slightly with a suitable expletive just to show that I really meant it.)
It was a classic pincer movement. We had them surrounded. They nonchalantly put the bags down on the pavement and, without missing a beat, continued in my direction. And, as they passed me, they repeated back to me the very word I had just uttered to them … only this time with the word “you!” added.
A heavily puffing Toby – who had by now made it across the road – and I briefly discussed the advisability of two decidedly non-slimline 65-year-olds chasing after them, rugby-tackling them to the ground and hanging on until the police arrived.
“Lets go and have a cup of tea… and you can forget about the police.” Toby said. And he should know – he is a judge.
They’d opened the boot while he was preoccupied with his serial unsuccessful attempts to text-park.
“What’s in those bags anyway?” Toby asked me as we sat in Raoul’s café. “Paint”, I said. “Paint!!?” he said.
“Yes… I’d loved to have seen their faces when they got home. No diamonds, jewellery or watches. Just 10 pots of Daler Rowney artist acrylic paint.”
(“Has the man no end to his talents? I hear you say. “He writes, he paints… he sells life insurance!” )
I’d actually painted Toby’s portrait recently and he’d observed: “Not bad but you have made me look a little red in the face.” This was probably because I’d used only red paint.
It seems crime is rampant in present-day London. Not so long ago, burglars got into our house while we were having dinner downstairs and were off with the swag before we’d noticed a thing. The WPC who later dropped round told me: “They put their hands through your letter-box and pick your door keys off your shelf.” Reacting to my amazement, she assured me that “some people do have very thin wrists and tiny hands”. “Do they?” I was intrigued. “Oh yes, sir, she confided: “Moroccans.”