My friend the Tall Thin One (TTO) had barely been on holiday for two days when Lindsey, who was in Crieff at the time, received an automated call from his security company – “The alarm at xx Royal Crescent needs attention. If you are able to attend to this, please press 1. If you are unable to attend, please press 2 and we will proceed to the next contact on the list.” As Lindsey was in Crieff, she pressed 2, but then phoned me here in Edinburgh to tell me about it.
I was going into town anyway, so I dropped by Royal Crescent to see if everything looked OK at TTO’s pad. I couldn’t see anything untoward from the front, but knew not how to inspect the place from the rear, as it’s a terraced townhouse. Then I noticed a neighbour coming out of next door’s front door, so I asked him if he’d heard an alarm going off that morning. He said he hadn’t, so I explained that I was a friend of TTO and was trying to check things were OK. The neighbour was about forty, dressed in tweeds and looked wealthy. You don’t get to own a grand town house apartment in Edinburgh New Town without being wealthy, and you don’t get to be wealthy at forty without being decisive, and the neighbour gave an example of this decisiveness by, after giving me a once-over and deciding that I was legit, taking me round the block to an alleyway which gave access to the back of the town houses. He showed his decisiveness for a second time by quickly clambering up the six-foot-high wall to get a better view into TTO’s back garden, and said he couldn’t see anything untoward.
Then he told me that he could see from his perch that TTO’s back gate was not locked from the inside, so I opened it and inspected at closer range TTO’s back door and windows. Nothing was untoward.
All this kerfuffle had obviously alerted TTO’s neighbour in the apartment above. The window was raised, and a rather dignified older chap stuck his head out and asked us, in a typical plummy Edinburgh accent, if he could be of assistance. I explained who I was and what I was doing. It turned out that the neighbour was called Harry, and that the business with the alarm had all been Harry’s fault.
Harry had needed access to TTO’s back garden to let in some workmen to erect scaffolding to his second floor apartment, early that morning. The TTO had left Harry his front door key and Harry knew the security code for the burglar alarm, but in his rush to attend to the workmen Harry had left his spectacles behind when he opened TTO’s door and could not see which buttons to press to deactivate the alarm, which had then gone off.
Not only that, but TTO’s phone had then rung (almost certainly from the security company to check if everything was OK) but Harry, without his specs, could not find the phone. He’d picked up the TV remote instead and pressed the green button, which then meant that TTO’s alarm, phone and TV were all going at the same time, early in the morning. Harry explained to me, as he hung out of his window, that he’d eventually got everything under control, and that peace had resumed at xx Royal Crescent.
The other neighbour, the decisive one, decisively announced that as the situation had been explained to his satisfaction, he would return promptly to his general business, and strode off, decisively, leaving me to chat for a couple of minutes with Blind Harry.
Looking up at Harry poking his head out the second-floor window, with his distinguished look and his plummy Edinburgh literati New Town accent, made me giggle when I thought about wifies of the past having a hing’ oot their tenement windae for a natter. How things have changed.