Sunday, November 27, 2011


Open sesame

I'm currently living in west London, quite close to Wormwood Scrubs. Everywhere I go in London, I seem to end up next to a prison. A few months ago, it was HMP Holloway. Now it's Wormwood Scrubs.

I went out and ran ten miles round the Scrubs today, which I thought quite a commendable effort as I'd done a cross country race yesterday, prompting an evening of guilt-free drinking.

When I got home, what I was really looking forward to was a long, hot soak in the bath and a big plateful of the potato and lentil curry I'd put in the slow cooker prior to setting off on my run.

My zesty, sanguine mood, however, was interrupted by the realisation that, in the course of running round Wormwood Scrubs, I had at some point trodden in quite a hefty dog shit.

I stepped out the front door and bashed my shoes together over some potted plants until the worst of it had come off (well, it's fertiliser, right?)

It was then I realised that I'd allowed the door to swing shut behind me, locking me out in my running shorts. Apart from Joe being away for the weekend, a quick buzz of every bell on the building informed me that no one else was in either.

Here, I found myself becoming a little dispirited. However, I'm a practical man so I decided I would just have to break in. Here's what I was faced with:

My keys were in the deadlock (upper part of the door). I would need to poke them out and retrieve them from the floor, with the proviso that the letterbox was not big enough to admit an arm.

I collected a few bits and pieces from the front garden to help me in my endeavour, including the hook and chains off a hanging basket, a garden cane and a brick.

Hammering a bit of hanging basket wire flat with the brick (and increasingly conscious of the spectacle I was presenting to anyone with a view of our front door) I had a go at pushing the key out of the lock. No dice. The key, you see, was slightly turned. Further waggling established that the piece of wire was unequal to the task of levering the key straight.

At this point, the middle-aged lady next door (who owns a couple of cats) stuck her head out to ask me what I was doing. I told her the whole story. I even mentioned the dog poo. I also asked her if she had a screwdriver. She did.

With this, things were finally going my way. I waggled the screwdriver in the lock until the key was properly aligned, then deftly poked it out. My new-found accomplice looked askance at this and asked me how I now intended to retrieve the keys from the other side of a locked door. With, I trust, a straight face, I informed her that my plan owed much to the chimpanzees of the forest and their celebrated method of retrieving termites from their anthills (video below). The look she gave me suggested she might have begun to think I was a lunatic and was regretting arming me with a screwdriver. In any case, I gave her it back and she hurried indoors.

Next I used the garden cane through the letterbox to wangle the keys across the doormat to where I had a good view of them. I then tied the chain/hook off the hanging basket to one of my shoelaces and tossed it in. Using the cane with my other hand to guide the hook, I snared the keys and, feeling smugger than I have in many a moon, reeled them in.

Not one to forget my debts, I took the lady next door a bottle of wine and some gourmet fish pate for her cats. I also gave her a piece of paper with a phone number on it and told her that if she ever needed someone killing, she should ring the number and ask to speak to Mr Smith. Ok, I didn't do that. I did, however, swear her to secrecy on everything she saw today: it wouldn't be a good lookout for my future in property security if word got out about me losing my keys and breaking into places.

I myself have likewise resolved never to tell another living soul. Except you, of course.

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