Saturday, July 28, 2007
I was about to make the obvious joke to K, “They’ve come for us at last!” but there wasn’t time. We heard an urgent knock at the door. I was again about to make a remark, but the normal tapping turned into a collective heavy-weight pounding designed to break down the door if I did not open it of my own free will. I hurried down to see three anxious policemen in bullet-proof vests, ready to leap in and overpower me. “Thames Valley Police”, one of them announced unnecessarily. “Did you call us?” He could see from my startled confusion that I had not. So they commenced pounding the adjacent door to the downstairs flat (labelled D: we are B) with equal vigour. So I left them to it.
I heard a voice from inside the downstairs flat, to the effect that he or she could not open the door. It was locked. It sounded like a voice speaking through a window aperture. The other day they had called me through this window when I was coming home and passed me a letter delivered to them by mistake, apologising that it was not possible to open the door. Perhaps they only use their back door, though the previous tenant (who was certainly wanted by the police on several counts) mostly used his front door. He was a very pleasant chap, helped me start my car a few times and I helped him with his. He came from a country world-famous for the ingenuity of its criminals, but I will say no more.
So the police went round to the back, with me trying to see and listen through our bedroom, then kitchen, then bathroom windows. The only intelligence I gathered was one policewoman telling her radio: “The situation seems to be this: that the . . .” She walked round the corner to a blindspot where I could not see or hear anything.
Things went quiet, no struggle, no shouting, no drama. Downstairs they are a pleasant Pakistani family, known to our landlord (which is no guarantee of their respectability, I should add); a couple with a baby, though I have always felt a certain mystery about them. When the police raided (or responded to an emergency call, whichever way you see it) the couple’s nice new car was not in the car park. Yes, we have a big car park at the back, big enough for a dozen police cars---but that is not their style, police throughout the world prefer to park randomly and untidily. Later, while the police were still in attendance, the tenants’ car was there. Still later it was gone again. Was no one under arrest? Could members of the family (or gang) come and go freely? Most of the police contingent departed with their vehicles, leaving just one car. I went to empty the garbage and saw the downstairs flat back door open. The remaining policemen must be inside: doing what? Windows were open too, the curtains flapping. If it was the smell of death they were trying to get rid of, where was the forensic team? I got a glimpse of the front room, through the disarranged curtains. A large printer/photocopier, a fan: looked more like an office than a lounge. A desolate atmosphere like an empty nest.
Tell me, Mr Sherlock Holmes, what was going on? As I have reported on my now private Wayfarer’s Notes blog (why private? you may ask) this town is officially a centre for the plotting of terrorism. For months at huge expense the woods were searched for explosives and clues. I never learned the outcome, but the teams of police were glad of the overtime payments for such easy work. For a centre of terrorism, it is a very peaceful place and in particular the teenage Muslims are polite and well-behaved compared with their counterparts---what shall I call them?---Christian, white, indigenous? My theory is that it’s the peacefulness of the town that’s the source of the danger. If the Muslim youth spent their spare hours in binge drinking, nightclubs and general rowdyism, they might be less inclined to heroic suicide missions.
Posted by Vincent at 8:22 am