The children returned to their uni houses before the end of the Easter break. Independent living clearly suited them, so I had a week at home alone.
I needed to unpack the remaining boxes which were responsible for my bedroom being an assault course. Did it have carpet? No idea. Half the house was in my room. I took my life into my hands every night when I went to bed and every morning when I got up. The time had come to empty it, as my new bed was due to arrive soon.
I spent whole days in that room, painstakingly picking my way through boxes, bags and a generalised chaos. The play for which I was providing musical interludes, along with 2 others, (Singing Sister and a friend) loomed and I was starting to feel the tension, so I rehearsed while I cleared. The harmonious sounds of wartime celebrities like The Andrews Sisters wafted from my iPad and I sang wartime numbers such as Comin’ In On a Wing and a Prayer, Don’t Fence Me In, You Belong to Me . . . Over, over and over again until the words were cemented into my memory. At the end of one such day, I sat down, enervated from relentless sorting, singing and tidying and whereas I thought half an hour had passed, in actual fact, 2 hours had passed.
Halfway through the ‘going to bed’ ritual, I needed a glass of water. I turned the doorknob of my bedroom door . . . And turned . . . And turned . . . Feeling slightly panicked, I pushed the door but of course it remained firmly shut. The doorknob on the other side had come off earlier and as the wood around it had broken, it couldn’t easily be screwed back in. As a temporary measure, I shoved it back onto the metal rod that connected the two doorknobs, but it must have come off on the other side, possibly taking the rod with it, therefore rendering the inner doorknob useless.
I sat on my bed (well, mattress, until the bed arrived) in order to allow this information to settle in my very tired brain that really didn’t want to be dealing with unexpected entrapments in one’s bedroom. I was well-equipped for a spontaneous incarceration: the dog had followed me in, so I wouldn’t have to deal with his rising levels of anguish outside the bedroom door (and possible scratch-marks on the wood); I had my phone, so I could call for help if desperation set in; I was still clutching my iPad, complete with charger, to power-up overnight, so I had entertainment; I was blessed with an en-suite toilet; the previous people left a 42in TV screwed to the wall, for which they apologised profusely and magnanimously, I forgave them, so I had access to even more avenues of entertainment; I had a copy of Oryx and Crake, borrowed from my son, to read so boredom was not a possibility (but crises are rarely boring, to be fair). And of course, I was in my bedroom, so I could at least sleep in my prison. The option of ignoring this predicament until the morning by pretending that the door was merely closed, was an appealing one, but I figured that I would struggle to sleep, knowing that I was trapped. Planning my escape without a fire raging was preferable over waking up to my charging iPad having set the room alight and me remembering that I chose sleep over The Great Escape. Not quite as dramatic, of course, as there is no barbed wire around my bedroom and I am not in possession of a motorbike. But the point was, I felt an overwhelming desire to release myself.
But how?
Ah . . . I’ll status on Facebook, I thought; one of my genius friends is bound to be awake at twenty-five minutes to two in the morning, having a lightbulb moment. They can come up with some plan for me involving a credit card and a spoon or something. Not that I had either in the bedroom with me. One of my Canadian cousins was awake and helpful (after reacting with a ‘Haha’ which is fair enough – I would have done the same) and a local friend was awake and willing to come round to help. Both offered advice involving firemen and coat hangers and the former was tempting, if the stereotype exists, but I wanted to attempt to break out first. My bedroom is the only ground floor one in the house, so I was able to escape from my room by climbing out of the window. But then, of course, I would be locked out of the house. I decided that brushing my teeth would be my next step. I’d have to brush them at some point, it was one of the few things I could do and if I needed to call the emergency services after breaking out of my own house, I may as well have clean teeth.
Whilst I brushed, I deliberated over my method of breaking in and came up with one or two ideas . . . So, armed with my phone and fresh breath, I set about the break-out. Now, my bedroom still had, as yet unpacked, boxes. I had to move these from the floor under the window in order to access it. Everything going according to plan so far . . . Now I needed to reveal the window which meant raising the blinds. Historically, I have a poor relationship with blinds. They baffle me. I can see that there are two ways in which to move them: one involves turning them so they allow horizontal lines of light to enter the room and the other involves them moving up from the bottom so that they are flat against each other at the top of the window like a flattened concertina. It is the second movement that vexes me. Either, one end only rises so it becomes an OCD nightmare, or the whole lot goes up together, fooling me into thinking all is well with the world (or the blinds, at least), only to come crashing back down again when I fail to ‘fix’ them in a concertina position. But these blinds came up with a new form of vexation for me: they went up an inch at a time, becoming fixed after said inch, all the way up. So I got into a sort of pattern of pulling, fixing, releasing and so on and so forth. Clearly, I was doing something wrong, but I was tired and as I can never figure out the wretched things, I was past caring. I noticed they had yet another quirk in that they sagged in the middle, rather than at an end. Then, when they had almost made it to the top, and I was giving one last tug on the strings, there was a sickening ‘crack’ and I fell back onto boxes as everything came away from its fittings and landed on me.
I managed to hold it together and calmly placed the baffling – and now broken – blinds to one side, climbed onto the windowsill and opened the window. It opened a couple of inches . . . Then I remembered the survey: ‘Downstairs windows not British Standards’. This probably wouldn’t even be remembered by most people, because most people don’t end up climbing out of their non-BS windows (or BS windows, as I was starting to feel quite hostile towards these windows and their false promises of opening sufficiently to let me out). I started to force it, thinking it might be stiff, but on looking at the mechanism, I could see a hole where there probably should have been a thing and there was a strange sound emanating from this poorly window which almost sounded like a plea for mercy. Gently, I eased the pressure and slowly closed it, imagining it sighing with relief. I climbed off the sill and sat on my bed, allowing a few tears to spill onto my iPad as I checked for more advice. Local Friend was insistent upon helping out, which was a comfort and Canadian Cousin was offering practical advice. Both were keeping my spirits up, which was the best thing of all. I decided to try the other window, hoping it was not as broken as the first one and off I went. I opened it and it opened a little more than the other one, possibly enough for me to squeeze through. I climbed up onto the sill, placed my phone outside of the window, on the outside sill and began my escape. The drop to the ground was surprisingly high; I would have to slide down and even jump a little, maybe. Tentatively, I began to slither down the wall – there was a fearful moment when my jeans caught on the window hinge at the bottom of the frame, but I pulled sufficiently for them to snap off. The journey down the wall took longer than anticipated, but at some point I was losing my grip so I jumped. I had nearly reached the ground, so all was well. The break-in was straightforward (can’t give that away) and within minutes I was back in the bedroom with the door wedged OPEN, not to be closed again until the doorknob was fixed.
It was around 2.30am by this time and after announcing to my supporters on FB that I had succeeded in breaking out of my house and then breaking back in, I crawled into bed. I fell asleep immediately. I know this because a ‘ping’ from my phone woke me . . . And then another . . . And another. The third offending ‘ping’ woke me adequately for me to sit up and address this ‘pinging’ and it was around half an hour since my adventure had drawn to a close.
Wimbledon Man.
The next morning I addressed Wimbledon Man’s late night messaging. This was not the first time his messages had woken me, so I sent some frank messages telling him not to message me so late and maybe he shouldn’t see the play, but if he did, he couldn’t stay at my house.
He accepted everything. He apologised and said he agreed that he should make other arrangements, admitting that he wanted more than friendship, but he would like to see the play. I expected a row, or another severing of friendship, but I got contrition. So I couldn’t complain.
I went to sleep that night knowing I wouldn’t be woken by pointless messages from a hormone-driven man from Wimbledon. I got a phone call instead. At 4.30am. This wasn’t Wimbledon Man, though – this was the police. Getting a call from a police officer at an anti-social hour is unpleasant but, I was so sleepy, I didn’t have time to panic. He asked me if I was the Rastafarian’s girlfriend. No, I told him. Ah, he cogitated this information, but you know him? I told him that I did and he asked if I’d been with him that night. I said that I’d been in a pub where there was an Open Mic evening and he’d been there too. I’d left around midnight, whereas he’d stayed. I asked if he was ok and he said he’d been punched on the nose. Then one of us went – or maybe I fell asleep – my phone was still in my hand when I woke up the following morning. The next time I saw him I felt I’d earned the right, from my 4.30 awakening, to quiz him. He had a slightly bent nose with a cut where it looked like his glasses had been shoved into his face and as he wasn’t wearing them, I guessed the fist in the face had broken them as well as his skin. I also noticed tell-tale marks around his wrists where clearly he’d been handcuffed. I asked why they called me to ask me if I’d been with him and he claimed not to know. He also claimed to have been randomly punched in the face, yet admitted he’d spent the night in the cells. I’d never know, but I said I didn’t appreciate the late-night call and he apologised, whilst handing me a chain from a silver crucifix I’d given him once. It was twisted and he explained they took it from him, along with all his jewellery, cutting off his rings and bracelets. Tempted to keep it, instead I untwisted it and returned it to him, for which he was grateful.


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