The thoughts of a man who's going absolutely nowhere

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The Independent Culture
STARTING FROM next Monday I shall be away for three weeks, and already the carpentry unit in my workshop is hammering away at the large hand-carved sign reading "Miles Kington is away on holiday" which it is customary for columnists to hang outside their houses during their absence.

However, I have noticed that this tends to lead to a rash of breaking and entering during my absence, so this time I shall leave a different sign behind, saying: "Miles Kington may not be writing his column at this moment, but he is certainly at home, yes sirree, he is standing behind the front door with a poker behind his back ready to deal with thieves, so go next door and ransack them, they have a really nice collection of china..."

You hear strange stories about people going away on holiday and being burgled. One story I am often told is that burglars will mingle with people flying out from a major airport and make a note of their home addresses from their luggage labels. It stands to reason that if they are flying out from Heathrow, their home will be unattended for a while, and safe for burgling. To combat this, I always put false labels on my luggage until I get to my destination, so that if a burglar is reading my "home address", it is not my home address at all. In fact, I usually use the address of my brother in Bristol.

(The only time this backfired was when I lost all my luggage abroad at Athens Airport, and it was eventually returned by the airline, to my brother in Bristol. He claimed he never had it delivered to him. I don't believe him. I believe he still has all my holiday clothes and favourite after- shave to this day. Well, I suppose it helps to compensate for all those times the burglars have read my labels and gone round to burgle his house...)

Another strange story I once heard was from a man living in Chelsea. He claimed that the police at the local police station were not always squeaky clean, and for this very reason he never went round, as so many people did, and told them that he was going away on holiday so that they could keep an eye on his house.

"It is a depressing but true fact," he told me, "that more burglaries take place among people who have told the police they are going away than among those who haven't told them. The inescapable inference is that the police leak their information to their underworld contacts."

Now, I want to stress that this was all a long time ago and that if there ever were any rotten police apples in the Chelsea area, I am sure that it has all changed since then, but this conversation did inspire me once to write a brief story in which the narrator tells the local police station that he is going away on holiday, but gives them the wrong dates by mistake. The result is that he is sitting quietly in his sitting room one evening when the window is forced open and the disguised shape of a local Detective Inspector forces his way in.

I can't remember how the story finished, and I don't really want to, because one gets fairly superstitious about this. No matter what precautions you take, you always feel there is something else you could have done. In fact, about the stupidest thing in the world you can do is write a daily column in a newspaper and then, when you are going away, have the newspaper insert a daily reminder to burglars saying that "Miles Kington is away on holiday".

So may I take this opportunity of saying that while there may be a notice to that effect in The Independent, I am actually staying at home all the time, running my annual sweepstake. This sweepstake is based on which newspaper stories will appear during August, the silly season. I am still taking bets on this. Some stories are clearly emerging as favourites and the odds on these are as follows.

Evens. "Cabinet ordered back as crisis looms"

2/1. "Dolly the sheep unmasked as fake"

3/1. "Two elderly Land Army girls found in hiding in Savernake Forest: 'We thought WWII was still going strong,' they say"

4/1. "Mobile phones do not work in Wales: thousands migrate there to avoid them"

7/1. "Freak tidal wave devastates Swindon"

10/1. "John Birt to succeed himself as BBC's DG, in complicated contractual deal"

11/1. " 'I am gay bishop's love child!' claim"

15/1. "Tour de France to be rerun"

20/1. " 'Viagra may cause CJD' scare", etc, etc. Full list on request.

If I make enough money on it, I will be able to get away on my real holidays in September, which will enable me to avoid the real silly season, ie the party political conferences.

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