The Police Community Support Officer finally comes back to me and tells me I need to report my missing gate as stolen so that it can be recorded as a crime. Law-abiding person that I am, I do as I am told.
Wendy, who takes down my details on the 101 phone number, asks lots of questions I can't begin to answer, having been (you will remember) cavorting in the pool at Center Parcs with the Duracell Bunny and Co around about the
time the Dire Deed was committed. For a start, Wendy needs to know when I last saw my gate which I tell her was at approximately 9.30 a.m. on the Friday morning when I left to catch my train to Warminster. Had anyone seen it after that time? she wants to know
- which is a fair question but, you know, how many people take careful note of what their garden gate is up to until and unless it goes missing?
What is the value of my gate? Wendy asks. Well, extremely valuable
in terms of keeping the front of our house looking neat and tidy. Indeed I have been known to traverse the garden path in my slippers simply to shut the gate after Postman Pat has left it open. Wendy says, kindly, that this isn't what she means - she is talking
monetary value here. As it is the original gate, hanging on its hinges ever since the house was built in 1955, I haven't the foggiest.
Have I asked my neighbours if they saw anything suspicious? Wendy suggests
I do this. In the meantime she will pass all the details onto the Neighbouring Policing Team - which means I am more or less back where I started. I am, however, grateful for her attention, as she must have so many other, far more important, crimes to solve
I take Wendy's advice and call on my neighbours. Five year old Vinnie is extremely excited at my news. He dashes out to inspect the crime scene, so that his poor father has to run after him
in his bare feet to haul him back home. Vinnie assures me he will be keeping a close look-out and intends to round up anyone who looks in the least bit suspicious for questioning. I suggest it might be better if he doesn't actually tackle anyone himself but
should maybe just take notes and report back to me. And / or Wendy. Vinnie looks disappointed but soon cheers up when he comes up with the idea of setting a trap for potential gate-thieves. I am grateful, indeed, that Detective Vinnie is On The Case.
Later in the afternoon, a ring on the door-bell. It is the fella from Number 23. The Puzzle of Gardengate is about to be solved. Mr Number 23 noticed last Saturday morning that his garden gate was missing. A quick check
along the road and he came across a lone gate leaning against a tree which he duly carried triumphantly back home. The gate, I mean, not the tree. Oh, for heaven's sake!
On reaching home, however, he realised
that the gate he had rescued was too small to be his gate - just as I had found that the gate I had recovered from Mrs Number 27 was too large to fit the gap in my garden wall. Yes, folks, I had the gate from Number 23 and Mr Number 23 had my gate. This is
what we surmise happened: a Wandering Vandal had lifted our gate from its hinges and leant it against a nearby tree. This proved to be so much fun that the WV repeated the exercise by removing Number 23's gate and dumping it in Number 27's garden. Our collective
earnest endeavours at Gate Retrieval had simply complicated matters (now there's an oxymoron for you.)
Mr Number 23 lifted my gate back onto its hinges with enviable ease, then set off back along the road
cradling his gate in his arms. All is well that ends well. I am sure all my regular readers are delighted for me. Not least because you have now heard the last of Gardengate.
In fact the only person
who is bound to be disappointed at this most satisfactory outcome is Young Vinnie. He is probably up there in his bedroom at this very moment plotting retribution on the neighbourhood vandals.
I shall have
to advise him tomorrow that Gardengate is officially closed.
Which is just the way I like it.