Hurrying along my road on Saturday morning, my sharp eyes were distracted by a pair of smartly-dressed, middle-aged burglars climbing over the side gate at No 42. I stopped dead in my tracks, un-holstered my phone and appraised the dangerous-looking pair
Ever since squatters moved into No. 3 last month, everyone in our road has enjoyed being vigilant. In the orange glow of the urban night, dark rumours have circulated from dinner party to book club, talk of shadowy goings on, mysterious comings and goings, the amount of litter that's built up in their garden, and should someone clear it up or do we just leave it.
Naturally, I was thrilled: thwarting a Broad-Daylight Burglary would give me something to brag about and something to blog about, all at the same time.
I flipped open my phone, thumbed the 9 button and silently rehearsed my call. Burglary In Progress. Suspects IC1, 1 male, 1 female. Beige Slacks, Beige Anorak, Grey Hair, Medium Height, Early 70s, ringleader is climbing gingerly and slowly over side door of #42 with door keys in hand....
....I smiled brightly and strode over "Are you all right? Can I help at all?"
And the boot was suddenly, firmly, unequivocally on the other foot. She didn't look like the look of me AT ALL. She was elderly. She was climbing over a rickety 5ft side door, down to a crumbling 3 foot wall. But she wasn't about to trust me.
There was, you see a problem: I was picturing myself as friendly neighbour, offering a helping hand both literal and metaphoric. Unfortunately I was wearing an England rugby shirt; It was an England match day and I live in Twickenham. To her I was one of 70,000 passers-by up in town for the game and on the lookout for an opportunistic bit of burgling before kick off. I know that now.
They were babysitting their grandchildren. The front door was stiff. Their arthritic fingers couldn't pull it open from the inside. They couldn't get out. They went out the back and round, but their son had freshly padlocked the side door because of the squatters.
I smiled harder. 'Really, you shouldn't climb, OK, but let me at least help you down....BE CAREFUL! .. look, put your foot here... no, HERE"
Reader, she climbed. I watched. She stumbled. I opened my ventilated armpit holes. She reached the ground. I left.
On the way past No 3, I walked on tip toes and craned my neck to try and see over the cardboard sellotaped to the inside of the bay window, and stubbed my toe on the new recycling bin that has appeared on the pavement.