The One Man Crime Hotspot

Monday was a bad day. Mondays are often not good days, but this Monday was especially bad. Two Thursdays ago, it wasn’t a good Thursday either. I returned from watching Jason Bourne break into houses and discovered that someone had done something similar to mine. And made a reasonable job of it, making off with my beloved Powerbook, digital camera, a friend’s camcorder, two iPods, an Airport Express and a PDA.

So here I was on Monday morning, looking at a space in the road that used to contain my car, and I realised that I could add my spare car key to that list.

“Hello, Lothian and Borders Police?”

“Hi, it’s Andrew”

“Hello Andrew, what is it this time…?”

The conversation didn’t quite go like that, but I feel like it could have. I’m getting to know the police quite well, and I have to say they’ve been very helpful. They thought my flat had been thoroughly trashed by the burglars, but I had to sheepishly confess that actually it normally looks like that. They even referred me to Victim Support, and before long a nice lady called me to ask if there was anything she could do to help. I considered asking her to have a hunt around for my laptop, but decided against it. She sounded very kind.

I spotted a Neighbourhood Watch sticker on the window of a client’s house, while out on Monday doing home visits in my colleague Tuckett’s car. I considered, in a moment of ironic genius, stealing it. Then sticking it to my forehead to warn thieves away. I mentioned this to Wiseman.

“When did you last check for the presence of your forehead?” was his reply. Wiseman does not work for Victim Support.

A few people of a more sympathetic nature have commented on how horrible it is knowing that someone’s been in your house. I have to admit this hasn’t really troubled me. I’m quite used to people being in my house, and they usually steal stuff while they’re here as well. But usually only biscuits and maybe the occasional CD.

Somewhat offensively, these thieves didn’t see fit to take any of my CDs. Not a single one. They even left the Denise LaSalle 7″ single. Criminals these days, tsk tsk, no music taste. After the car theft it wouldn’t have shocked me to see the CDs from my car carefully stacked on the pavement beside the empty parking space. But I daresay they’ve been torched with the rest of my car interior.

Still, every cloud and all that. I’m currently shopping for a new company car, and that’s never a bad thing.

I met the Loss Adjuster yesterday. After the introductions – “I am the Loss Adjuster, are you the Victim?” – she perched on the edge of my sofa, trying to minimise the amount of her expensive suit that was in contact with my furniture, and gave me the bad news. I would have to get my new laptop from PC World, unless they didn’t supply Apple products. I tried to pretend I thought they didn’t, even though I knew they did. Was that deceitful? Is it wrong to instead want to buy a computer from somewhere where they know something about (a) computers and (b) customers? I dreamt of marching in, leaning across the counter and growling “Now then spotty, I don’t like you because you’re PC World and you don’t like me because I’m a customer. But here we are, there’s nothing else for it, we’ll have to make the best of it.”

However, being confrontational is not my forte. I struggle to complain in a restaurant, even when the food is rank. And I don’t growl very well anyway. Mumbling is more my thing. Thankfully a trip to PC World has been avoided, as they told her they don’t have much of a choice Mac-wise. I am very grateful.

I am also very grateful that the thieves didn’t take more, or do more damage. And it’s a timely reminder to me that there’s more important things in life than possessions. Just before I arrived at the cinema, I remembered that I had left my iron switched on. Slightly paranoid about coming home to a burnt-out tenement, I phoned my mum and asked her to pop in and switch it off. The break-in occurred after she left, but I don’t like to think about what might have happened if she had disturbed the burglars in the act.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

These Bible verses often come to mind when I find something in my flat which moths have chewed on. But they have sprung to mind more frequently than usual of late. There are more important things in life…

For a while there my blog mysteriously developed an aversion to the apostrophe, which was distressing – thank you for bearing with me while I had it fixed. And please do not tell the Apostrophe Protection Society – I may have my membership rescinded. And that might be more than I could take…

Radio 2 and the vinyl-buying experience

Another morning of domiciliary visits at work provided another morning’s listening to Radio 2, and Ken Bruce in particular. Since the demise of Popmaster, effectively removed from the show following the BBC Phone-in Competition Shenanigans, Ken Bruce is barely worth listening to. As a decade, the 80s hold a certain number of fond musical memories for me, but there was undeniably a large volume of musical tat produced during that period, and Ken Bruce manages to dredge up most of it up. He finds some from other decades as well of course, but seems to prefer his tat to be 80s vintage.

I mused on this as he played a Johnny Hates Jazz song without any apparent shame. I once owned a Johnny Hates Jazz album, and am thoroughly ashamed of it. In fact, lots of my early musical purchases are now an embarrassment. Is it just me? The first record in particular. Every time I hear someone on the radio naming the first record they bought, it’s always something by the Beatles, the Stones, Joni Mitchell. Some GREAT song or album that’s endured, or if not then something obscure and therefore by definition ‘cool’. I have my suspicions that they might be making it up. I’ve never heard anyone confessing to buying a tacky one-hit wonder as their first record.

I spent one penny short of 2 Irish punts on my first record – “My toot toot” by Denise LaSalle – in a Golden Discs outlet in a Dun Laoghaire shopping centre. The Golden Discs has probably gone, and the shopping centre is now likely a mall, where people spend their Euro-subsidised euros instead. But they’re not spending it on Denise LaSalle records, or even CDs for that matter. A classic one-hit wonder, except that it wasn’t a classic, and might not even have been a hit, I can’t quite remember.

But I still have the record. It still has the branded price sticker on it, so I daresay you think I read that information off it. But that’s the thing about records for me. I didn’t need to. Buying a record was an event, and a full-size LP, or even a 12” single, provided you with something distinctly tangible for your cash.

Buying a CD has never been the same experience, although even that beats downloading music digitally. Nothing could be more soulless. Browsing through my collection of records sparks memories of where and when they were bought – an Extreme box set from Ripping Records on South Bridge during my student days, a classic Ten Sharp 12” single from a now-forgotten record shop on Great Junction Street, another single from somewhere in North Berwick while on holiday. Lots from Makin’ Tracks in Belfast. A Black Crowes picture disc from Caroline Music in Newry. Most of my vinyl collection bought ‘currently’ – rather than long afterwards from a second-hand record shop – consists of 12” singles rather than LPs. Sadly, even way back in my youth vinyl was dying out. Cassettes were by then the medium of choice for albums. The first album I bought (in another Golden Discs as it happens) was on cassette. It was Curiosity Killed The Cat. No idea what the album title was. It was terrible, but I managed to flog it to a future girlfriend.

I’m resigning myself to the sad fact that the days of significant musical purchases are slipping away in the face of a relentless digital onslaught. Perhaps even the days of the CD are ultimately numbered. The experience will be missed, but maybe I shouldn’t grieve too much. Downloading music can be a very useful option, and burning tracks on to a vinyl-effect CD-R does minimise the pain somewhat… Time moves on remorselessly, and as if to underline the fact, I went to work yesterday without my belt on and my trousers stayed up all by themselves.

Ah, the onset of old age and rotundity. Pass me my slippers and rose-tinted spectacles…