Sunday, 3 March 2013
So there I was - all 5'2" of me - standing under a streetlamp in my white see-through nylon nightdress around one o' clock in the morning, chatting to these two blokes. Each of them was like the side of a house, and one had blood running down his head.
Why? You may well ask...
It was late, well past midnight, and one of my boys, the one who still lived at home, wasn't in yet. My daughter was already married and living elsewhere. I still called them "the boys" (still do, today) even though they were pretty much young men by then. Both in their late teens, one of them 6'2" and the other not far behind. They used to go into town for a few drinks with their friends and usually got home safely. This night, however, that hadn't happened.
I was asleep in bed with their father, but was rudely awoken by a crashing sound at the front of the house. Blearily we made our way into the living room to see a brick on the floor and a jagged hole in the double glazing. My husband was furious, naturally. It was a large window that he and I had installed ourselves, with a great deal of effort and at great expense, and very recently.
Then we noticed two creatures on the pavement - sidewalk - outside the house. There was a street light immediately by our drive so it was impossible to miss them. I would have said "young men", but I wasn't convinced they were any such thing; these were gorillas in clothes. Huge. And ugly. And they had obviously been imbibing freely during the evening. They were swaying gently and peering at the house.
My husband clenched his fists and stomped out of the front door. He approached them, asking what I considered to be a somewhat unnecessary question.
"What d'you think you're doing?" he said, in a tone of utter bewilderment. He didn't even sound angry; more perplexed really. British, you see. Polite. Have to keep the stiff upper lip. Dignity at all times. He went on to ask, equally redundantly: "Did you do that?"
I'd followed him out there, in my nightdress. I'm not really sure why, now. Maybe to keep the peace or something. Help out in some way.
"Yeah. Where are they?" one of the neanderthals grunted.
"Who?" I asked, knowing full well. At this point I was keeping it general, not really wanting to know which of my little darlings had provoked this assault on our premises.
Nevertheless he told me - in no uncertain terms - that it was the older one he really wanted. "He hit my brother. He's bleeding!" He turned the other man-mountain around and sure enough there was a small gash on his head from which blood had clearly been trickling down his head. To be fair it was probably a mixture of blood and alcohol.
My husband did one of those exasperated, blowing sort of things and quietly suggested: "You keep them talking while I go and phone the police."
My hero, I thought, as I raised my eyebrows, wryly. Not in surprise; there was little that could surprise me any more. 'This then, is my knight in shining armour!' I admitted to myself, watching his back as he retreated to the safety of the house.
Over the next few minutes the vandal who was capable of speech told me that they'd had a fight with my sons, which wasn't exactly a shocking revelation, and one - the bleeding one - had been hit with something hard. For this they wanted retribution.
I explained that one of the boys, the younger one, no longer lived at home; he shared a flat with another lad. I don't think they believed me. They looked pretty sceptical. At least, that's how I interpreted the looks they were giving me. I also told them that the one they were looking for hadn't returned yet but I'd be sure to look into what had happened when he did.
They appeared less than satisfied with this but there was nothing they could do, being too drunk in any case, so the semi-coherent one simply told me that I was to tell my son and heir that when he saw him he was going to kill him. Actually, the phrase he used was "put him in a box" which I assumed meant "kill him". He was a young man of few words to be honest.
Now it was my turn to sigh, deeply and meaningfully, but after a few more sympathetic motherly comments from me they decided to go, and I went back into the house. My husband came into the living room and said the police were coming round so we sat down to wait for them.
My older son came in soon afterwards and we questioned him about the incident. It appeared that the gorillas were brothers and well known local hooligans. One of them had thrown someone through an upstairs plate glass window once. Nice! I thought.
Anyway, my younger son had been in a bar when the aforementioned thugs had come in and decided to start a ruck. He decided to leave the pub, but as he did these two hoodlums leapt on him from behind, so his brother, who had been upstairs playing snooker or billiards - something like pool - was told and ran downstairs and followed them out.
Aha, the weapon was a snooker cue, I thought, but no.
Nothing so simple. As he ran after them he came to the rescue with his nunchucka. Yep, that's right. He'd made it himself from two hammer handles and a short length of chain, and he'd been practising using this, unbeknown to me.
He'd caught one of the assailants on the back of the head, then someone called the police so he'd dropped his weapon and the two of them made a run for it. I should explain that the police station in that town is only a couple of hundred yards from this particular pub they drank in.
As promised, I passed on the message from his would-be murderer which probably came as no surprise to him. These brothers were well known in the town. As were my sons, actually, but for different reasons, which I won't go into now.
Those guardians of English law and order, the local bobbies - PC Plod and his sidekick - eventually arrived at our house, looked at the window, looked at the lump of brick, and asked if we'd seen who threw it. They pursed their lips and stood shaking their heads regretfully when we said we hadn't. There was nothing they could do; no witnesses, you see. As we hadn't actually seen the men throw the brick they couldn't charge them. It counted for nothing that the men involved had admitted it to us. Hearsay, you see. Can't charge a person on hearsay.
Which is no doubt true, but not what we wanted to hear. I mean, they didn't go and ask the neighbours if anyone else had seen it. That would have been too much trouble, no doubt. Easier to just let it go.
They said they would go and speak to the other men and see what they had to say, but it was unlikely they would admit anything.
You don't say, I thought.
As they left us the police suggested that, as they could do nothing, my son should catch these blokes down a dark alley one night. It would be doing the town a favour. They wouldn't be mourned, apparently. Unfortunately, my son thought this was a splendid idea.
To say I was appalled is putting it mildly. I was too stunned to say anything to the policemen but when they'd gone I left my son in no doubt that I would not harbour a murderer under my roof. He could put all thoughts of getting revenge out of his head or leave home.
My husband insisted I was being totally unreasonable. Surely I wouldn't turn my own son out of the house! Why was I taking sides with the enemy?
Unreasonable? Me? I said he had a week to think about it. And I wouldn't be changing my mind. All that such an action would do is set some sort of family feud in motion. And I was having none of it.
That was not the easiest week of my marriage by a long way. My husband set up a cine-camera, trained on the front door, in case the morons came back for another go. I think he thought we'd be murdered in our beds or something. He barely spoke to me, not to say anything civil anyway, but I was adamant. I love my son dearly, but there are limits to what I will tolerate.
By the end of the week my son had reconsidered and agreed he wouldn't attack anyone. He did ask me where they were supposed to go for a night out now, as it was a very small town. The kind where almost everyone is related. You know the sort of thing: kick one and they all limp. Our family was not a part of that, however, as we'd moved there some years before from a totally different part of the country. Incomers. Outsiders. We didn't really belong.
I suggested they go to the next town just a few miles up the coast, no distance at all, until things blew over, and he agreed that was reasonable.
So that's what happened and no more came of it, thankfully. But I think that night was the first time I'd realised just what wimps men can be, not to mention idiots. And why they need women around.