My wife, Shirley, came out of the living-room as a burglar was coming downstairs. "Ah ha," he said, and with my Canon 70lxi camera and Sony videocam slung round his neck carried on walking past her through the hall. He opened the front door and went out,closing it behind him.
"Why didn't you you say anything to him?" I asked my wife when I got home. "Like what?" Shirley asked. "You could have said, `Excuse me, could you take my photograph?' Or, better still, `Would you like me to take your photograph?' "
Apart from the cameras, he had also taken Shirley's new mobile phone. "It's the portable phone of the year," the salesman had said, and how right he was.
I rang her number. It was engaged. I rang again. A man answered. "Can you hang on a minute, he said. "I'm on the other line." I hung on for our burglar.
Two minutes later he came back on the line. "Sorry about that," he said, "but I'm making a video."
"Let me guess," I said. "You're using a Sony 70le camcorder."
"How do you know that ?" he asked.
"Because you just stole it from my house," I said.
Our burglar hung up on me.
I sat down and reached for an insurance claim form. We keep them next to the burglar alarm. My broker always sends me a dozen at a time. The last delivery came with a note: "Try and make this lot last till the end of the year. We are running out of forms." It was dated 20 November.
"Don't worry, darling," Shirley said. "It could have been a lot worse, couldn't it."
"Yes, I suppose you're right," I said. "He could have taken my mobile phone as well."
"Actually, I meant I could have been attacked or raped," she said.
The next morning I found my car had been broken into, again; the third time in a year. I had forgotten to put the alarm on. I think there is a psychic car thief active in west London. I had taken out the radio-cassette player, but I had put my remaining camera in the glove compartment. I had thought it would be safer there than in the house.
It looked like a small tornado had spent the night in my car. Incredibly, the thief had left his own door-keys and a can opener in a little wallet among the debris on the floor. He'd probably had a few friends in for drinks. Unfortunately, he didn't leave his name and address inside.
He had opened the boot but, amazingly, hadn't taken my new set of golf clubs and trolley. I suppose he thought that pushing a set of golf clubs down Ladbroke Grove at 4am might have aroused the suspicions of the police. (From my experience of the local constabulary, I would have given him a 50-50 chance.)
"Good morning, officer, you don't know where the first tee is by any chance?"
"I'm sorry, sir, I don't play golf myself, but enjoy your game."
The next day it was goodbye to London and away for a weekend in the country. Early the next morning, I scraped the ice off the windscreen with a CD. It snapped in two. I didn't care. I'd gone right off Phil Collins since I read he'd faxed his wife to tell her he was leaving her for some stunning 18-year-old heiress model. Why couldn't he have a stand-up, face-to-face screaming row that the whole street could hear, and got all his suits cut up like the rest of us?
I had put my portable phone on the car roof while I was scraping the ice away.
As we got on to the A22 at Purley, I remembered where I'd left it and screeched to a halt.
I got out and stared at the roof for two or three minutes. I ran my hand over it. I couldn't believe it wasn't there. It had fallen off. "Don't even think about it. Get back in the car," Shirley ordered just as I was contemplating retracing my route by crawling the 12 miles back to Holland Park on my hands and knees.
Trying to unwind later over a pint at the Griffin in Fletching, East Sussex, I read in the paper about a lady in Lagos who had been confronted by four armed robbers in her house who demanded the keys to her Mercedes. She went off to get them, came back with a machine gun and shot the lot of them dead.
"She did a nice job," the local police chief said. Well, I've got a seven-year-old Mercedes, and I've been burgled three years running. On Monday I'm going round to see our Neighbourhood Watch Crime Prevention officer at Notting Hill police station aboutgetting an Uzi.