In this blog I'll be publishing a series of true stories drawn from incidents and encounters which have made my life more interesting. They come from a largely unpublished collection called My Life Sentences. Here's the first one...
Her Sussed Kids
Her home was just over the road from ours in Undercliffe, the Bradford suburb where I lived first with Kay, then with an assortment of lodgers, and finally with Gaynor. The centre of Bradford is nestled deep in the Aire valley, with Queensbury perched high on one side and Undercliffe on the other. From our Victorian terrace we’d an aerial view of the whole city. Kay and I bought the house in the summer of 1977. Gaynor and I sold it in seventeen summers later in 1994, by which time we were married with two children, one boy, one girl.
Like us, she had two children, both boys. They’d a father who turned up from time to time. He was a professional burglar whose prolonged absences coincided with his prison terms. Whenever he came to stay, he’d take the kids out with him on burgling sprees, teaching them what he knew of the trade.
By the time the younger of these two boys was seven he’d been caught burgling by the police seventeen times. It was around then that I moved in. Having been told all about them by neighbours, I waited until I saw the pair playing in the street and went out. I called them over, introduced myself and chatted a bit. Then I said “You see all the houses down there in the valley, hundreds of them, right?” “Yeah, Nick.” “And all those down the hill from here and up the hill behind us?” “Yeah…” “And all the houses in this street and the other streets round here?” “Yeah…” “Well, you can burgle any of them, most of them for all I care, but this one here is mine. I’m not rich and there’s nothing really worth having in the house, nothing of much value… so I’m asking you not to burgle my house, okay?” “Okay, Nick.” And they never did.
Once they even burgled their mum’s house, selling her TV, stereo and other possessions to a second-hand shop about half a mile away. They actually thought she wouldn’t think it was them. She knew straight away, recognising their burgling style instantly.
One day, I lost my house key and couldn’t get in. “What’s up, Nick?” It was her older lad. When I explained the problem, he grinned and said “Hang on a sec.” He darted home and returned with a table knife. “Time me, Nick. I’ll be less than a minute.” Putting the knife between his teeth, he set off up the drainpipe, opened our bedroom window with the knife, climbed in and – moments later – was opening the front door and ushering me in like he was my butler. “How long was I?” “Fifty-seven seconds! How the hell did you know where we kept the spare key?” He grinned back at me, “I’m a professional. I’ve always known where you kept it. That’s my job, innit?”
Another time I watched two cop cars pull up outside her gate. Five minutes later, she was standing in the street with a couple of other parents and a bunch of cops. They were all staring down the hill. Coming slowly towards them, each carrying a heavy suitcase, were her youngest and a couple of his mates. A shouting match ensued between parents and kids while the police seized the cases of nicked stuff. Moments later, as the other kids were being dragged off up the road by their parents, her errant son broke free, leapt up onto the wall outside his house and shouted after his accomplices: “Don’t worry. Like I said, they can’t do us for it. We’re too young.”