Tales of the City: That window was shut, wasn't it?

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The Independent Online

Discovering you've been burgled is, emotionally speaking, a whole multi-media extravaganza.

Discovering you've been burgled is, emotionally speaking, a whole multi-media extravaganza. You are, say, in the shower when the lady of the house calls up the stairs, "Did you open the livingroom window for some reason?" and you laughingly reply, "Nobody's opened the livingroom window in years. I thought the lock was painted over..." and then a tiny, mosquito-sized tinnitus of worry starts buzzing in your head and the ground beneath you starts to tilt.

Downstairs, half-fearful of what you'll find, you examine the two-inch gap between sash and sill, as child No 3 says, casually: "Where's the laptop gone?" The tinnitus gets worse, only now a strange blushing sensation is creeping up your cheeks, and the floor is definitely tilting quite alarmingly. You remember you had something to ask the child - what was it? Oh yes. "Sweetheart, have you taken the new portable DVD player, which has mysteriously disapp..." Oh shit!

The buzzing in your head is threatening to break into the Gothic chorus from Carmina Burana, the one that sounds like a lot of monks running around with their heads on fire. A sequence of flashbacks flickers in your memory - the moment you wondered, on coming down to breakfast, why the Venetian mask had fallen off the mantlepiece, why the occasional table had fallen on its side, why this drawer was open, why all the mess beside the sofa. You remember wondering, in the playroom earlier, why child No 2 had moved the crash-ride cymbal from his drum kit into the middle of the carpet....


Scaring child No 3 with a yell of panic, you rush to the playroom and can now confirm that, yep, the GameCube has gone as well, while a ghastly, eloquent, tidy absence is all that remains of his collection of a dozen games (£40 each). Goddammit to hell, you say at last, we've been burgled.

The monks in your head burst, fortissimo, into "O Fortuna", and the ground beneath you gives a sickening lurch. OhmiGod, the camera, my new Nikon F75! Oh no, the passports in the filing cabinet whose drawer is now open. Where's my wallet? Where's your wallet? Money, jewellery, consumer durables, bits of electronic equipment all whizz through your head, like prizes on the conveyor-belt at the end of The Generation Game, while you run through an inventory on everything in the house that you'd nick, if you were a burglar, if you were a sneaking, thieving, maladjusted, needle-dicked halfwit who liked taking people's stuff because his own life was so empty....

Sorry, but gosh, burglary brings out rage in a bourgeois home-owner. It wasn't just losing one's electrical bits'n'bobs. It's the fact that the little so-and-so also stole my tiny daughter's PE schoolbag, in which to carry off the computer games. Somewhere in Badland, there's a guy with a bag on which is written, not "SWAG", but my daughter's name, embroidered by her granny.

Then you calm down a bit when the nice police lady called Sam arrives with her box of tricks. She finds fingerprints all over this box and that china mug. She isn't any more confident than I that the miscreant will be caught and boiled in oil, sorry, reprimanded by a young offenders' court. But then her gaze falls on a lump of chocolate on the sofa. "Did your children leave that there?" she asks. They shake their heads. It's the burglar's. With a triumphant gleam, she inspects its jagged edges, and takes it away for further interrogation. How can a lump of chocolate apprehend the criminal? "You'd be surprised how you can get DNA off food," she says. "We nailed a vicious gang of car-jackers in Bromley last year because of a half-eaten doner kebab." Suddenly you feel that life may not be too terrible after all, when the master criminal who ran away with your laptop might be betrayed by his fatal fondness for Galaxy.

"Funny, isn't it, officer," I say in my man-of-the-world voice, "how they always make one little mistake?"

Look what they've done to Lady P

I caught an early glimpse of the Thunderbirds movie, which will crash into a cinema near you in late July. In the Sixties, it was an inspired paradox - an action-adventure puppet show - that featured the intrepid Tracy family, all of whom sported heavy plastic eyebrows and held their hands wobblingly before them as they walked jerkily to their rescue craft.

Working Title's live-action update manages the amazing feat of deploying a cast who are far less life-like than the originals. Jeff Tracy's sons Virgil, Gordon, Scott and John are a bunch of wholly undifferentiated tailor's dummies, entirely dwarfed by the machinery, the CGI effects and the explosions. And dammit, what have they done to Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward? In the original, she was a tall, super-elegant Sixties posh bird with a pink Rolls-Royce, a deferential butler, a ton of lipgloss and a charmingly abstracted manner (I can't believe I once fancied a puppet).

In the movie, as played by Sophia Myles, she's short, rather ordinary-looking, un-glossy, and her car FAB1 is a Ford. She drinks tea in the bath like a charlady, adjusts the TV controls with a wet toe (risking electrocution at every turn) and flings herself around like a Malory Towers ninja. Worst of all - I needed my smelling salts for this one - she picks the lock of a vault with a piece of metal extracted from her underwired bra and whispers to her butler, Parker, "I didn't really need it anyway." Excuse me, but my Lady P would never discuss the configur- ation of her bosom with the household staff. Good God.