The day dawned, as December days do, dull and overcast with wet pavements, the sort of day on which I hated going to school when I was a child. Come to think of it, I hated going to school on sunny days as well. Anyway, I have neither seen Silas nor heard any sounds from his flat. His post remains uncollected and in particular, the letter which I think is the one from the council advising that they will seek access to his premises today.
Seated at the computer, I have hitched back the curtain to give me a clear view of the front gate and path so that I will see anyone who approaches. So far there have been a lady in a woolly hat, who let herself in with a key before I had a chance to identify her, and some pigeons. The pigeons didn’t let themselves in with a key, of course, but contented themselves prospecting for food in the front garden. They are possibly friends of Silas, prevented by the scaffolding and netting from going to his window as they are accustomed to do.
Today, as you may recall, dear Reader, is Omelette Day, when I normally join Tigger for lunch at the cafe round the corner from her workplace. As I would have to leave by 11:15 am it is likely that today’s events will conspire to frustrate the intention.
Alice arrived with two men whom I had seen before. They took a look at the tanks and pipes (I had to supply a torch and steps) and concluded that there were several leaks, not just one, and that water was definitely coming from above. There was some discussion about the legal situation and Alice said that the Tenancy Officer had sorted this out, so they settled down to wait for her to arrive, knocking on Silas’ door having produced no result.
There then ensued considerable discussion, to which I was not party, though it seemed to be about whether or not they could gain entry to Silas’ flat by forcible means. Phone calls, more discussion. Suspense.
The nub seems to be that the man responsible for the safety of his personnel doesn’t want them to go in because, for all they know, the tenant could be waiting behind the door with an axe. Always possible, I suppose.
A decision has been received to “go in and do it”. Footsteps on the stairs. Hammering. “Hello? Hello? Anyone in?”
Alice comes to ask whether I have a hand-held mirror. Silas’ door is blocked and they need a mirror to look around it.
They’re in and water starts cascading down the stairs and dripping into my hall. I move what receptacles I have to catch the water. Silas has buckets of water in his flat, I am told.
They tell me they have found Silas. He is dead.
The leak is apparently from tanks above Silas’ flat. The water has been coming through his ceiling, then through his floor into the cavity above our bathroom and from there into our flat. Silas’ water tank is being drained but the immediate effect is to cause more water to come into our flat, so I am playing chess with receptacles trying to catch it. I point out that there is water running over the light switch for the bathroom fan. “That’s OK,” they say, cheerfully. “Just switch it off. It’ll dry naturally.”
I ask if I am needed or whether I can keep my lunch date. They reckon they won’t need to come into the flat today. “You’ll probably get more water,” they say, almost as if this is a fun thing to be having. “But it’ll stop eventually.” Oh, good.
Paramedics arrive to attend to Silas.
I see police officers have joined the party and are taking statements.
Nobody seems to need to gain access to the flat (“We’ll wait for it to dry out, then touch up the bits that need it”), I leave for the tube station to keep my lunch date with Tigger. I reach the cafe after an uneventful trip and fill the time waiting for Tigger telling the owners about the morning’s events.
My phone rings. It’s Alice. “Are you at home?”
“Er, no. I’m at Borough.”
“Oh. Well, the police have locked themselves out. I told them to leave the door on the latch but now they can’t get in. I was wondering if you could let them in.”
“Er, no. I’m at Borough.”
“OK, no problem. They can go up the scaffolding. Thanks. Bye.”
I am home and all seems quiet. The dripping has just about stopped though there is an impressive amount of water in the receptacles I managed to gather to catch it. Tigger wondered whether there would be a public inquest on Silas’ death and whether, if so, I would want to go. I thought I might. I would like to know exactly how he died. I had seen him only a few days before and he seemed all right. I suspect he died of hypothermia in his unheated flat but it could have been a heart attack or any one of many other causes.
Silas was odd. He was clearly delusional and probably paranoid as well but he was harmless. For me, he was part of the continually rewoven tapistry of my environment, a colourful feature. He inspired my little story about the pigeon man. I am sorry he is dead though glad that he died in the home he defended so fiercely from intruders and not in a hospital or nursing home. We can afford to remember him kindly and with respect.