Ken Baker and his wife Val live in the Midlands of Ireland. They enjoy conversational theology, turf fires and good food. They help to pastor a few groups of Christians here and there, and Ken is writing a book on Jesus the Comedian and has written today’s post, which he tells me is a true story… 😀
I haven’t met Ken yet, but look forward to it.
So here goes…
Criminality at Christmas A Cautionary Tale by Ken Baker
Strange as it may seem, in my life-experience, Christmas is forever tainted with the merest brush of criminality.
We had this tiny house in Lancashire one Christmas: a neat little two-up two-down terraced cottage facing a row of shops. Our four children slept upstairs so Val and I slept on a bed-settee arrangement in the front room. In the middle of the night, an alarm began to sound. It went on and on. Val peered out of the window and alerted me to the fact that the shop directly opposite was being burgled. A van had pulled up outside and two men had simply forced the door and were loading electrical goods into the back of it. “What should we do?” I said “Wuh?” and so she decided to phone the police. The police station was perhaps five minutes drive away, but they were loading that van pretty fast. The policeman said, with a great deal of excitement in his voice “Keep them there! We’ll be on them in a minute, the rascals.” Val wasn’t quite sure how to accomplish this directive. She asked my opinion but apparently I snored back at her.
So being a valiant woman, she opened our window and called across the street, above the noise of the alarm. “Hoy, you there. I can see you.”
They looked across the street, a little perturbed, and then mentally digested the possibility that the police had already been called. They leapt into the van and tore off into the night.
The van backfiring was actually the noise that finally woke me up.
And as one van left, the police car arrived, flashing importantly. They knocked at our door and I answered, somewhat blearily, that the criminals had just left. As if I was a kind of answering machine.
The two young chaps looked at me crossly, and one asked if I had not received the message to keep them there. I apologised for that and they took my name more fully, as if I had suddenly made the transition from model citizen to suspected accomplice.
The next day, however, the shopkeeper arrived at our door and presented us with a toaster in recognition of our services to the dwindling stock of his shop.
We still have it.
But the policeman’s attitude to me (and my own total non-participation) stung me a little, and I nursed a little guilt about the whole affair, which sprang gently to the surface every time my toast popped up.
The following Christmas, as if on cue, we had a house in Didsbury, Manchester, and once more we were sleeping in the front room (though the bed-settee had been upgraded slightly).
I heard a noise.
A scraping noise only a few feet away from my head. I looked up through the frosted glass front door and saw the shape of a man leaning against the door. But it wasn’t my door. It was Next-Door’s door. Next-Door was an elderly, frail and somewhat deaf old lady called Mrs Fretwell whom I had spoken to now and then and who lived alone.
I manoeuvred furtively across to the telephone and summoned the police. After I had completed the call, I noticed that the shape had vanished. I felt somewhat disappointed but then I heard the scraping sound again. It was now coming from the rear of the property. The blaggard (there’s no other word for it) was now in the back – Away from the street-lights! I realised.
Just then the police-car streaked up and skidded to an impressive halt. Three burly figures in black and a female who seemed to be in charge, emerged SWAT-team-like and I bustled to greet them. She accosted me in a whispered conversation. “Don’t slam the doors, boys. Where is he?” “Round the back.” “OK, you two, that way. We’ll take the other way to cut him off.” They disappeared. I was so excited. A moment later, there was a scuffle, and then this man was frogmarched roughly towards car, street-light, and moi. “Do you know this man?” They asked me. “No, officer, I have never seen him before.”
The policewoman looked worried: “Only he says he lives here.”
I denied this flatly.
“He says his mum has locked him out for drinking and he’s trying to get back in.”
I looked blank.
“Well, he also says his uncle and cousins live down the street, so we better check.”
There was no need to wake anybody because house-lights had flicked on up and down the street Home Alone style. They knocked at the appropriate doors and I stood at my front door, watching, a little apprehensively. I saw the policemen interviewing what now seemed to be a small crowd of about twelve or so people in pyjamas. One by one, they looked at the Suspect and then glanced back at me. I started to feel uncomfortable.
The policewoman returned, looking a little grim-faced.
“We’ve checked out his story and he does actually live here.”
“Oh. I…” (Couldn’t think of anything to say).
An unpleasant pause.
“So that’s that. Goodnight and thank you…uh…for your diligence.”
It was a reprimand. The group of people down the street seemed to glower at me as they broke up and disappeared one by one into their houses.
Which left just two people on the street. Me and him.
He looked at me somewhat meaningfully and then resumed scraping at the front door. “Ma…am.Ma..am. Let me in. I’m sorry…”
I couldn’t believe that she had heard nothing of the whole thing.
The scraping went on for a couple of minutes and I couldn’t bear it any longer. I re-opened the front door. “Do you want to sleep on the sofa?”
“Oh yeah, ta.” He followed me in with alacrity and went straight to the sofa. I went upstairs and manoeuvred my way in between my kids and slept there.
It had been a long night.