Shoplifting I have great sympathy for those who have absentmindedly taken something and walked out of the shop, only to be nailed. I have walked into the street many times with a book, a birthday card, you name it, unpaid for. The interest in other products I didn’t buy in the end, distracted me and it was only when I was outside I found I still had the book or whatever, in my other hand. I had a friend who suffered from Alzheimer’s and would lift things in shops and casually walk out with them. His wife had circulated his photo, plus a reference from his doctor to the neighbouring shops with her telephone number and an explanation – it saved everyone stress and inconvenience.

Burglary We lived for 42 years in a corner, detached house, were burgled six times and had my car stolen four. The burglaries started almost as soon as we moved in and were still a chance when we left. The first one had an amusing side, if being burgled can ever be called amusing. It was Saturday, 6 am, when Spicer, our Golden Retriever barked. It woke me and I told him to ‘Shut up!’. At eight o’clock I went to make the tea and found little piles of goodies, silver, cut glass etc in all the downstairs rooms, drawers ransacked and electrical goods missing. My wife joined me and you can guess the pantomime which followed, but the most interesting part, of which, was her attitude when she had almost recovered. She went from room to room, looking at the piles and exclaiming that a lot of her prized articles had not been selected by the burglar, obviously not to his taste. She was affronted.

Car Stealing I have driven off in someone else’s car on three occasions. Same make, same colour, the key worked, and it was only when I found different contents that I discovered my mistake. In one case I thought my mates had played a practical joke by gluing a Madonna and Child to the dash My car was stolen, four times, during the period of the ‘Troubles’, a common occurrence. After a couple of instances I had a secret ignition switch fitted so that if it was hot-wired it still wouldn’t start. The lads who were stealing invariably broke into the car, pushed it down the path, out the gate into the road before starting it. On the third occasion it was found by the police half across the road. I was dragged from my bed, shown the car and asked to drive it back into the drive. My job at that time was sensitive and I would check my car for bombs, when I remembered or not in a hurry.. There were three policemen there with their Landrover. I asked if they had checked it for a bomb, they all nodded, so I got into the car and searched for the secret switch. While I was searching I noticed they all retreated to a safe distance – the liars. I guessed it was joy-riders not the IRA, they would have left the car in the drive. I smiled, thanked the police, drove in and went back to bed.

The Theft Of A Grandfather Clock The most awful event of stealing, was perpetrated when I was at sea, well, not exactly at sea, rather on it, at anchor. The whole ship’s company was embarrassed. We had taken a convoy out into the Atlantic and there was a delay in picking up the one coming back. Our Skipper, a Scott, was basically a kind man and took the ship to a bay in the north of Scotland where, in peacetime he had fished. When we arrived and dropped anchor all hell broke loose ashore, because the residents thought we were the advance guard of a defence force and Scotland was about to be invaded. The Home Guard was called out, phoning and all else took place, with the result that when they discovered we were just visiting, the relief had a profound effect. It was Sunday and the pubs didn’t open on Sunday in Scotland but this one did – and how. They had cases of fishing flies and some of the men were given these as souvenirs, drink was on tap, we ate and by the time we went back to the ship we had had an extraordinary day. It was late at night when we were woken and the ship was searched from end to end. Someone – I assume, obviously drunk – had stolen the grandfather clock from the hotel hall, wrapped it in a rug and smuggled it on board. Every mess was searched – nothing. Hammocks were examined, those slung, those still in the hammock rack – nothing. Then the ship rolled as it did, invariably, and a loud ‘Dong’ was heard. The clock was well concealed but it could still chime. The Skipper and the crew were fit to be tied. The miscreant was sent back to the hotel, with the clock and the rug, in the whaler, under guard, to apologise, before being courts marshalled.

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