Friday morning, 7.00 a.m., the husband told me to get up as – sometime in the last six hours (I went to bed around 1.00 a.m.) -- burglars (a burglar?) had paid a surprise and unwelcome visit to our house. The method of entry was clear enough: it had involved both removing and/or smashing a large quantity of glass.
Amazingly we didn’t hear a thing sleeping two floors up.
The good news is that they didn’t take anything that was irreplaceable or uninsured or sentimentally important. I’m not going to help any of the criminal classes who may – improbable as it is -- be reading this blog, by listing things they might come back for (nothing much with any commercial value at the local car-boot, I promise). Suffice it to say that the villains didn’t take my new laptop on which there was the only finished copy of the lecture I’m about to do in America (yes, I know I’m an idiot not to have a back-up – as I repeatedly tell the students). Instead they took the old one – which I had kept, when I upgraded, for use in places (beaches, swimming pools) where you shouldn’t really use laptops. The idea was that it wouldn’t really matter if it got damaged; for which now read “stolen”.
The immediate problem at 7.00 a.m. was how to get all this dealt with before the husband left for London at 8.30 (he had a meeting that couldn’t really be missed) and I left for Columbus Ohio at 10.30.
We needed the police, and some emergency glaziers to fix the gaping hole that had been left between us and the outside world.
In fact everyone came up trumps.
Within half an hour a charming, young police constable had arrived (he’d done Latin at school, he told us, and was just back from a career break, travelling around America and Australia). He instantly got the mood of the occasion (we hadn’t had our only wedding photos ripped off; we had had some portable electronics heisted; it could have been worse, much worse; we hadn’t (yet) had any time to be upset; but we would be really in the shit if we couldn’t get things dealt with pretty speedily).
He made us walk with him through the house to be sure that more stuff had not been taken (sensible, because it is actually hard to remember what was where – and indeed it wasn’t actually until the evening that the husband spotted more things missing). He then summoned the Scene Of Crime Officer to come straightaway – indeed as a priority -- to do the forensics. There wasn’t of course much hope of any fingerprints, so he told us to get a glazier anyway; if he arrived to put the new glass in before the SOCO man turned up, then so be it – having the house secured was more important.
Getting a glazier was a bit harder than getting the police. The first 24-hour emergency service I rang said “not a hope” by 10.30. I next tried N & C in Ely, and they were fantastic. After only a tiny bit of hesitation, the man on the end of the line got the idea of the challenge, and he rang his van (which had already left home base), and managed to divert him to me. He actually knocked on the door about ten minutes after the SOCO man had left (only glove prints discovered, I’m afraid), and was finished by 10.00.
I had said goodbye to the young police constable by about 8.45. The final thing after the formal statement was the question of whether we wanted to do a ‘victim impact statement’. Did we want to make clear how violated etc we felt? No we didn’t, I said. We had been annoyed, very inconvenienced, but not violated. Besides I hate the idea of victim input. I want the criminals to be punished the same, whether I am left in tears or just cross . . . that’s what state justice is all about.
The only thing left was getting in touch with the insurance companies. I suspect that this will be a much less smooth operation. We will have a relatively modest claim, but will no doubt be pressed to provide more and more documentation to prove that we really had bought what we said we owned. Never mind the victim impact statement – this is where the victims, who have properly and responsibly insured themselves, get treated as if they were potential criminals themselves. Where are those receipts for two iPhones…?
My reactions. Well, I hope this doesn’t sound too sentimental or sanctimonious. But there is an obvious rich vs poor issue here, isn’t there? We are not plutocrats, far from it (potential burglars, please note); but we live comfortably and we buy the electronics we need for our job, plus a bit more. I have no idea what the exact profile of the burglar/s was, but I have no doubt that he (or she) was much less well off than we are. Poverty doesn’t justify the crime, but it may explain it. Cambridge is a city of “two cultures” and I’m not sure that much is being done to change that – indeed quite the reverse. (For that matter, N & C replaced the glass for just £80.50 -- that’s instant call-out, two men, the skill, the glass, about an hour’s work and a nice bit of charm. Can that really be making a profit?)
For me, anyway, the story had one happy ending. This crisis meant that I hadn’t gone to my office to xerox the one article that I needed for the States. The excellent driver from AirportLynx (another well-deserved plug) turned up on the dot to whisk me to Heathrow, and – when the drama was briefly explained -- happily stopped off to let me do 5 minutes photocopying.
And I got there.