The trouble with being burgled is that it makes you question how good your stuff is when they decide not to take any of it. That, and the safety of your abode. But mostly your stuff. I got called home from work last Thursday saying there had been a break in. My neighbour had disturbed them and they’d been into both flats. I legged it home assuming that the only thing I own of any value – my mac – would definitely have gone. And surely the reprobates would have had the good sense to spot that the 1980s brown glass perfume bottle in the shape of a bassett hound was a fine collectable that might not fetch much on the Cash Converter circuit, but would provide hours of whimsical inner mirth. Neither were touched. And when they’ve flung your clothes out of the drawers onto the floor of course you’re going to judge yourself. As you fold it back up and place it back in the drawer, you’re thinking “fine, ok, so these sequins weren’t the best decision I’ve ever made, but I’d had some darn good times holding my stomach in in this skirt and if you can’t see that then it’s your loss”. Burglary makes you take things very personally.
Turns out they hadn’t taken anything except for some Royal Horticultural Society vouchers my neighbour had got for his birthday. That’s quite niche isn’t it. I imagined the robbers stalking around the walled gardens of a stately home, guiltily opining the peonies. I comforted myself that they had only blatantly disregarded everything I own because they had been rumbled by my neighbour before they could bag up the loot. Of course they would ordinarily have taken the knot of sterling silver necklaces I have amassed since my teens that would take seventeen hours of picking apart with patient fingers and possibly a pin to make any of them wearable again. If only they hadn’t been cut short by the vigilance of Stephen downstairs they would have been right in the money.
When the attending cop came round he introduced himself as Christian and I thought it was a bit inappropriate, changing established police protocol in such a friendly manner. If I was going to be questioned, I wanted to feel sufficiently ill at ease to call him Officer. My burglary, my rules. Officer Christian was satisfyingly big and burly. I found myself wondering if he could lift me with one hand while batting back hardened crims with the other. I decided I bet he could if he wasn’t feeling tired and I had only had a light breakfast.
I felt bad that Officer Christian had to come round to mine for a rather lacklustre tale of a basic bungled burglary where nothing was taken. I wanted to pep it up for him so he had better stuff to jot down in his neat tilted handwriting. Then he mentioned he’d just come from a double-stabbing and of course I felt inferior. I couldn’t compete with murder. My knives couldn’t hack the seeds out of a tomato anymore let alone disembowel someone.
It’s a funny feeling knowing someone’s been in your home without asking. I’ve been burgled before and the last time left me feeling vulnerable for months; it felt like the windows and doors were permanently left open for all and sundry to come bursting through, and in the darkness at night I was jumpy at every sound. It’s not about the stuff. I don’t have much and what I do have is not going to support anyone with a £200 a day heroin habit, not even long enough for a five minute high. It’s about feeling safe. So while I stared around at the mess and the broken glass and the worthless things I own and felt that familiar unsettled feeling of my private space having been violated, I mostly felt relieved that I have never had to feel the desperation that one day turns ordinary people into thieves. That can’t be fun. Especially if Officer Christian catches you and pins you by the balls to the wall, which I’d kind of like to see if I’m honest. That’d teach the tykes for thinking my stuff is shit.