I’ve always been a light sleeper – so light in fact that my bedroom is fitted with sound-absorbing foam and my curtains are lined with silver foil (reflecting so much early morning sun that they can be seen from space). Quite from where this disability (if one can call it such) is inherited is anyone’s guess given that my mother is being considered for the British Olympic Team for the “sleeping through an earthquake” event and is widely tipped for gold.
Imagine my surprise therefore, when I was stirred from sleep in the early hours of a Sunday morning last June to discover a little pool of light scanning its way over my bedroom TV. Since this is not a usual occurrence I was moved to sit abruptly upright in bed and consider whether this was part of an ongoing (and especially lucid) dream or if perhaps, someone had taken it upon himself to force entry to my chamber. The harsh, bright torchlight jumped in my direction and the sight of a slightly obese, bearded and startled individual (wearing the regulation GP-issue tweed pyjamas) was more than enough to send my guest scrabbling back down the partially-completed conservatory roof, on to the scaffolding and haring his way across the garden to freedom before I’d even had time to suggest the customary tea or [instant] coffee one instinctively offers visiting tradesmen.
My bedroom is dual aspect with four windows and so naturally, I responded in the way anyone would under such circumstances by closing the window our intruder had forced and throwing the other three wide open (it seemed logical at the time – no, I don’t know why either – I just did). Reaching for the telephone I dialled ‘999’ and requested the presence of the local constabulary at their very earliest convenience. The operator was patient and calming and clearly realising that I was in a state of some shock set about asking questions and then posing the same enquiry again using different words. This I recognised as the technique I use with patients who are flagrantly ignoring my enquiries of “How long have you had the pain?” by answering with responses such as “My next door neighbour says it might be something in the water you know.” How curious, I pondered, to find myself in the same position.
The Police of course, were quick to respond and, with the aim of stealthily cornering our intruder, made their way at top speed from our neighbouring town. Three vehicles exhibiting blue lights and sounding sirens louder than a mobile DJ plays “Dancing Queen” at a wedding reception pierced the stillness of the balmy Yorkshire night. Frankly, there was more chance of The Taliban being considered for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize than there was of apprehending someone who’d been more than adequately warned of the approaching officers by the attendant son et lumière extravaganza played out across fifty square miles of darkened countryside.
Scenes of Crime Officers attended later the same morning and being a fan of “CSI Miami” I’d fancifully expected: “Well, it’s clear that your intruder was wearing a new pair of Doc Martin’s, purchased at exactly 2.17pm three Saturdays ago from his twin brother’s eldest daughter – he had a slight limp, a Geordie lilt and a penchant for Paco Rabane – it can only be…” so it was disappointing that there was nothing to find and they left my house the better for having had two mugs of coffee (instant) and an Alpen bar (Strawberry and Yogurt).
Naturally, looking back on the event, it was traumatising – good quality sleep eluded me for three weeks (until our steel, locking, retractable window shutters were fitted) and I couldn’t help considering what might have happened had the intruder brought the axe he used to force the window into the bedroom with him.
My greatest cause for regret, however, was my conversation with the 999 operator and the exchange we had that night:
Operator: “So you say that you saw a hand pointing a very bright torch at you from the window?”
Me: “Yes, that’s right”
Operator: “Could you describe the hand?”
Me: “Yes – it had four fingers, a thumb and was holding a very bright torch.”