It has been a strange week. Sunday afternoon my car was sideswiped by an 18 year old girl named Lauren, driving too fast on a country lane with a cigarette in one hand and no doubt her boyfriend in the other. The following day her mother rang. Her opening remark, 'We are both educated people' (delivered in a Medway Towns accent) seemed questionable and somewhat irrelevant. In the course of the conversation it emerged that she thought I had been driving. When I explained that it had in fact been my wife, the woman accused me of being a liar and 'dodgy', promising to have me investigated by the police. That seemed like an excellent idea, and far preferable to being harangued by a mad virago, however imperceptibly educated. However, the call left me curiously unsettled; from being an injured party probably about to be out of pocket thanks to the recklessness of a teenager, I was left wondering how to clear my name.
On Tuesday we arrived home to find two police cars in the drive, and uninformed policemen and policewomen peering into our windows. Before I could surrender myself they explained that they were looking for a nearby house. We told them how to find it, and then they were just uniformed. K remarked that they were fit. Including the women. (It's the outfit that does it, I think. I once had a crush on a Salvation Army girl in Lowestoft...)
On Wednesday night some hillbilly woke us at 1.15 am by sounding their horn repeatedly outside the house. Brother Tobias spent most of the rest of the night unable to sleep, alternately devising appropriate punishments for whoever the retard had been (mostly involving those rubber bands they use to dock lambs' tails), and reading Peter Carey's 'True History of the Kelly Gang' - my early autumn recommended read).
On Thursday night a neighbour's house that we had been asked to keep an eye on was burgled. Spent much of Friday fielding police and forensic officers, repairing damage to the neighbour's door and making good the constabulary-issue hob-nail boot prints in some recently seeded grass in my garden.
On Friday night, on his way to work, the headlamp on K's boyfriend's motorbike went out suddenly, and he stacked it in a hedge. He tried several times to call us reverse charge as he had no credit on his phone. Unfortunately my wife misheard the name each time, and refused to accept the calls. Eventually he flagged down a passing stranger, borrowed their phone, and got through.
Untimely ripped from his bed, Brother Tobias managed to cobble the headlamp with the help of a twig. However, this was patently unreliable, so we drove ahead of him. Just as well. On an unlit stretch of rural dual carriageway the lamp went out again. He stopped the bike, switched on the indicators, then wheeled it onto the verge. Except there wasn't a verge, just a deep ditch, and indicators, boyfriend and bike disappeared completely from the rear-view mirror.
We succeeded in wheeling the bike by torchlight to the car park of a pub - the only dwelling in sight. This seemed a handy place to contact the AA (the motoring organisation, not Alcoholics Anonymous). Except that of the two mobiles in our joint possession, one had no credit and the other needed recharging. K peered into the pub window to see if there was a pay phone, and reported with a degree of surprise that there was a naked girl in the bar.
It turned out to be a members' only lap dancing club, and very hospitable they were too. A phone was made available and lemonade was offered. AA men came and went, and it was past 1.00 am before a trailer arrived to take the bike away.
Four hours in a car park on a September night is not Brother Tobias' perfect evening out, but the leather-scantied girls who came out at intervals to cool off and have a smoke were charming and solicitous, and the club has generously offered to host a stag night for us, should the occasion arise.