After Jessica’s death I returned to London and rented. After the fiasco at Hyde Park Square I moved into Leinster Mews on 23rd. December. Once the removal men had gone I looked at all the stuff I had to unpack, and decided to go to the pub on the corner for a meal. As soon as I closed the door I realised I had left the keys inside. When my panic subsided I walked up to Harrow Road police station, which I had known well in my days as a Social Services Area Manager, to ask if they could recommend a locksmith. It was freezing cold. Fortunately I was wearing an overcoat. Given the proximity of the pub, I might well not have been.
Full of the Christmas spirit, the desk sergeant said he would contact locksmiths himself. This turned out to be a rather good idea, since it took him an hour and a half to get anyone to come out. From the waiting room I could hear his patter. This is what he told each person he called: ‘Got one of our elderly parishioners here. Poor old boy’s a bit confused and gone and locked himself out. It’s such a cold night I don’t want him standing outside too long.’ At some stage in the conversation he would interpolate: ‘He’s a really lovely old boy’, and when he finally got someone to agree to a visit, he added: ‘Do your best on price. He’s only a pensioner.’ Once he had been successful, he said to me: ‘I hope that wasn’t too patronising. I wanted to make sure they came out.’ I just found it hilarious.
Two men then met me at the house, gained access by credit card in about two minutes, and told me I’d done that, hadn’t I? They took the policeman seriously and were doing their best on price. In their report they claimed that by the time they arrived I had got back inside. This, they said, would mean I would not get a bill. Their management must have been wise to this, because I did receive a bill, which I happily paid. The next day, I left the house as it was and took my myself off to Mat and Tess for Christmas.