Today was set to be another crappy day waiting for the painters to make the place a mess just so that I could spend time and energy cleaning it up. That would have been bad enough but I had to make things worse by my own stupidity.
One of the first things they did when refurbishment began was to replace a pane of glass in the front-room window and to insert in it one of those rotating plastic fans. I tell you that in order to set the scene. Another element in the story is the scaffolding at the front of the house which has a low walkway across the same window. If you have that firmly fixed in your mind, we can proceed.
The painters left at just after 2pm. I had arranged to meet Tigger from work so that we could run some errands together. As usual, the painters had left an unholy mess. The question was whether I had enough time to do any cleaning and tidying before going off to meet Tigger. I decided I could do a little bit. The plan was to shift step-ladders and paint pots into the hall of the house to make more room in our tiny flat. There was also a big black bin bag full of rubbish. I decided to put this in the bin in front of the house.
This was where I made my first mistake: I went outside without my keys. Not only that, but I didn’t do the sensible thing and lift the latch on the Yale lock. I hadn’t realized the back door was open, creating a draught. I opened the front door and walked out only to hear the door slam shut behind me. I was stuck. No keys, no phone, no nothing. What was I to do?
The obvious thing was to ring all the doorbells of the house in the hope that someone was in and would open the door. (The flat door was open.) No one was in. They never are when it really matters. I went to the house next door as we know someone who lives there and I thought if he let me in I could climb over the garden wall. He wasn’t in.
The sensible thing would have been to sit on the step and until a neighbour or Tigger turned up to let me in but there was urgency about the case and I felt it necessary to alert Tigger that I was unable to come in case she worried.
Below our front window is a basement entrance so normally I wouldn’t be able to reach our window without a ladder but – aha! – there is scaffolding and I can crawl along it to the window. Having reached the window, the question was what to do next. The window has a screw closure effectively locking me out. I now turned my attention to the plastic fan and this was where I made my second mistake.
It turns out that these fans can be unscrewed fairly easily (I am sure I am not telling burglars anything they don’t already know) but I didn’t realize this. I only knew that if I could remove the fan I could reach the window lock. Concentrating on the fan and missing other possibilities was the third mistake.
As I told you above, the glass with the fan in had been installed recently. It turned out that the putty was still soft. I could have taken hold of the fan and yanked the glass out. I didn’t do that. Instead I had the brilliant idea of punching the fan in the hope that it would break and let me access the window lock. You’ve probably guessed that what actually broke was the pane of glass.
Having unlatched the window, I now had to open it. Guess what: yes, it had been freshly painted today. The paint was nearly dry but my efforts to open the window were unsuccessful. So there I was with a broken window pane, a broken fan but no access.
I climbed down from the scaffolding wondering (I’m still wondering, as a matter of fact) why the police were not taking in interest in a scruffy individual apparently intent on breaking into a house.
“This is daft,” I thought. “Windows are made to open. This window has got to open.” I climbed onto the scaffolding again and crawled along the planks. I stood on the window sill and heaved with all my might. Now, I am aware, thanks to Newton, that for every force there is an equal and opposite force. Heaving the window up was also pushing me down on the original window sill of a rather old house with the basement gaping below. “I hope it doesn’t give way,” I muttered, somewhat obviously.
Still no joy. The window would not budge. It is a rather big sash window and being freshly painted did not improve its mobility. I switched my attention to the upper part and pulled down. Suddenly it gave and I managed to open it by about three inches. Surely, this would have released whatever was holding the lower part. I heaved and the window budged slightly; I heaved and it budged a little more. I had a small gap.
Somehow – I do not know how – I limboed down from the scaffolding and under the bottom of the window, trying not to mess up the new paintwork. I was in.
I could now phone Tigger and also call the glazier. His phone was engaged for a long time and I thought the shop might close. I got through just in time. He came and installed a new window pane with a fan in it, not the same fan as before but a less elaborate one. I can always replace it if it doesn’t pass muster with the management.
The interesting thing is that the glazier is a tall young man in rude health, as they say. He couldn’t open the window. The fact that I did is either because desperation lent me unusual strength or because I stumbled on the right way to do it.