The Last Detective

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Let’s Recap – Again

It’s all here… But…

True Detective

Chinatown

Breakdown

I got into this because my Aunt died, I’d offered to drive my Dad to the funeral (once the date was announced) and I went to see him to have a chat, but he was more worried about whether my Uncle would turn up.

My Uncle and his wife went missing late last year and all contact was lost, no phone number, no forwarding address and a drive to his house showed that he’d moved.

My Aunt, his sister died on the 9th May 2018 and we had to try to track him down.

We found his solicitor, in Leyburn North Yorkshire and he asked my Uncle to call my Dad – which he did, from an unknown mobile, on the evening of Sunday 13th May, with a strange rambling tale that included:

  • He didn’t know or wouldn’t say his full address – just the house number and not even a town.
  • His driving licence had been revoked by the Police – he didn’t know why
  • Social Services may have visited and said that he shouldn’t live alone. Although he clearly didn’t – there were three women in the house with him, his wife and two others.
  • His bank account might have been frozen and he had no money and no car
  • He would send his details to my Dad  – by post – at some point.

I rang the owner of the mobile  – somebody unknown to the family and asked for the address – she refused.

I drove to Leyburn on Monday, tracked the house, did a property search to confirm that it was indeed my Uncle’s place and rang the bell.

Only to have the Police called on me.

Many hours later, I’d seen my Uncle, discovered that his mind is partway gone and that he doesn’t remember my whole existence.

I raised a safeguarding concern with North Yorkshire Social Services and was informed that the Police had also done so.

I managed to track down ‘Sharon’s’ family – they live about ten miles away from my Uncle’s place and I spoke to Estate Agents, Essex Social Services and North Yorkshire Social Services.

The Picture that was emerging was quite scary, one person who had been in quite close contact said that in their view, Sharon has some real mental problems.

The Social Services net is so loose that they literally moved away from one open case and disappeared from view.

I agreed to let Social Services do the contact as this is just so complicated.

But in the background I did lots more work and when we got the date of the funeral, I asked Social Services to let him know the date, only to find that they hadn’t seen him so far.

I wrote two letters that cross-referenced each other and bought him a mobile phone, programming my number and my Dad’s number into it.

The first letter said that I would be back on the 2nd June and would take him to Norfolk on the 3rd June if he still wanted to attend the funeral.

The second letter stated that I would call him on Monday.

I then went back to Middleham, staying in a very pleasant hotel for the duration, delivered the phone and letter by hand, caught up with his neighbours and drove home.

Then on the Monday, I called him – the phone was switched off and stayed that way despite me calling and texting every day.

Until Wednesday 30th May.

An Unexpected Call

I use a text programme called Signal to send and receive SMS / Files etc, and I have it set to show me when texts are received, I was surprised then to see a bunch of them go through to the phone, I then got a phone call from my Dad, he sounded angry, hurt and confused.

My Uncle had called him from the phone that I’d bought and in the shortest conversation that anybody can remember, he said that he had an eye problem and that he couldn’t go to the funeral. He still didn’t remember me and seemed vague about the fact that it was his younger sister who was being buried.

I asked my Dad to text me the details so that we had a trail, tried to reassure him with my plan for the weekend and hung up, slightly depressed and more than a bit angry.

I called my Social Services contact with the update and basically brooded for the evening.

Send In The Clowns

Life is strange, the smallest action has repercussions and impacts much further down the line. I’m an occasional shitposter on Twitter but the account is more photos of the dog and nice things these days. I follow a broad cross-section of people and have met a few over the past few years.

Two of these people offered to help and agreed to watch the house for me over the last weekend and beyond to see what happened after I delivered the letter / left the town / went to the funeral.

How photos of a small dog and a bit of piss-taking turns into people offering their time and travel for free can happen I have no idea.

But I’m glad that it did.

And their contribution has changed everything.

I arrived in Middleham late on Saturday afternoon and was joined for dinner by a notorious tambourine thief on Saturday evening and we discussed the events of the day so far.

Because..

Two Hours Earlier

I had hand-delivered a letter to my Uncle.

This is it in full, just the names and numbers are changed

Dear Uncle George

I hope that your conjunctivitis is better, I have driven up to Middleham and will be staying over until tomorrow.

Your Sister’s Funeral is on Tuesday 5th June at St Agatha’s Norfolk.

When we met, (with the policeman) you asked if I would drive you there, the answer is still Yes.

If you would still like to come, please call me on 0772 xxxxx , if you cannot attend, I have a condolence card that you can sign if you wish.

Please let me know what you’d like to do.

I will drive us to Norfolk if you do wish to go I have booked a hotel for two nights, it is fully paid for.

I will drive you back after the funeral if you do wish to go, so please pack enough clothes and any prescription drugs for two nights.

Love

I had enclosed the card and hand-written on the note to sign it and deliver it to the hotel by 1pm if he wasn’t going.

As I posted it, I met one of the neighbours.

The Yorkshire Tea Ceremony

He invited me in for a tea and once again, I had to enjoy the attention of their dog – a Rhodesian Ridgeback that thought that I was either a chew-toy or a hump-toy.  It could have been worse I suppose, it kept me alert at any rate.

We had a good chat and caught each other up on what had been happening, they knew that I’d delivered the phone and were surprised to find that it had actually been used. I explained about the letter and took the opportunity to tell them the real news.

My Uncle’s house would be under surveillance during daylight hours as from Sunday and that any strange cars parked up weren’t sinister.

While we chatted, my Uncle’s door opened and a heavy-set, angry-looking woman appeared, she marched out to the road, looked up and down – presumably for my car and then threw something into the skip while we all watched.

It was fairly obvious what it was, but I finished my tea and chatted for quite a bit longer before leaving and wandering to the skip via a roundabout route.

And.

Unsurprisingly.

The item in the skip was indeed the letter to my Uncle, I took photos and the name was clearly visible. I took photos from a few angles and walked back to the hotel strangely happy.

Cracks in the Armour

We discussed the letter and the conversations with the neighbours over dinner, they had given me some new horror stories and life in the house sounds as miserable as I can imagine. There’s no evidence of physical abuse, but it’s clear that only one person in the house is allowed to have a view or a say in anything.

Dinner was excellent, good food and good service – although I had to get rid of the candle that the landlady had put there after I changed my dinner for one to a table for two….

To walk it off and scout out the house, we took some back paths that bring you out to the corner of the road and we took a slow cautious walk through the churchyard to my Uncle’s house, the curtains were closed but interestingly, the letter was gone, either buried in the skip or removed elsewhere. I can only guess that she didn’t want me or perhaps my Uncle to see it.

Either way, this was good, she’d acted in anger, in full view of two impartial witnesses and it felt like a crack that could be widened with the right pressure.

We parted ways and I tried to sleep.

The Third Man

Turned up on Sunday morning, The Tambourine Thief and I had already walked to the house and met the neighbour on the other side of my Uncle’s house. He offered tea and support and we passed a pleasant ten minutes watching racehorses being walked through the town on their way to the Gallops on the Dales.

Middleham is delightful, I can easily imagine it being a great place to retire to, people are friendly, there are four pubs in a small square, the landscape is amazing and they have a castle just above the town centre.

So why would you move here, cut yourself off, not interact with the neighbours and leave your curtains closed all day when you could be looking at the Dales?

These were the questions that occupied us over coffee that morning while we watched the tourists…

At 12, we split up and the man with the most luxurious moustache in Yorkshire began the first shift of watching the house, which left the two of us with an hour to kill before the card was maybe due to arrive

So, we had a wander and drifted into an antique shop.

Awfully Pleasant Presents

Whereby.

I was bought a splendid Silver Jubilee Plate to replace a plate destroyed by Hurricane Saffa.

The Third Man was bought a delightful perfume bottle in the shape of a poodle with a luxuriant moustache.

Meanwhile, while the Tambourine Thief was giggling to himself like some some of deviant, I picked up a small ornament…

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I paid £7 for this stunning piece of artwork and with a jaunty ‘here you go Princess’ I silenced his frankly sinister giggling.

We then settled in to wait.

And nothing happened.

I phoned my Uncle’s number, it didn’t answer.

I sent a string of disappointed texts. No response.

At 13:30 I drove off, leaving the town behind in the care of my two friends.

Just a note here, they refused to take any money or payment of any kind, not for food, petrol, beer, anything. My suggestion that I should do this was dismissed as ‘Noncery’.

So I don’t use words like ‘friends’ lightly, I have very few people that I call that and I’m proud to add these two.

On the Road Again.

I drove to Norfolk, the landscape gradually flattening out into wide open grasslands and then wetlands, but always staggeringly beautiful.

England is an amazing place to drive through, there’s beauty and history wherever you look and the view changes so quickly that a 3 hour drive felt like an hour.

I stopped once for coffee but was keen to see what updates – if any there were from Bodie and Doyle.

I arrived at my hotel parked my car 100 feet from the water and checked in.

Ugh.

What a dump, I’m going to skip over the hotel with a succinct review.

Poor food, bad service, stairs patched with duct tape, awful room, crappy beer and food poisoning.

HOW MUCH? HOW FUCKING MUCH?

Nothing else happened in Middleham on Sunday, except an unexpected result that I’ll put down to Karma or something. I don’t know.

Anyway.

Remember the £7 sand castle?

An identical one is on eBay – bidding was at £893 on Sunday evening, not bad for a bit of slightly gay tat bought as a wind-up.

Meanwhile

In the world outside, I had a few beers with my cousin on Sunday.

I haven’t seen him for, well, I don’t know. We talked about anything and everything and I was surprised and pleased to find that I really liked him, I put him in a cab and we agreed to meet with his Dad and brother the next day for dinner.

I Don’t Like Mondays

Food poisoning took up most of the day for me, along with work and conference calls.

Cagney and Lacey spotted a fire surround, a TV and some patio furniture being delivered from a hospice van, before Lacey left to go back to real life, leaving just one man to watch the house for just one more day before real life would kick in again.

I had a nice dinner with the family and told the story so far before heading back to the hotel where I had drinks with my Cousin’s sons, who turned out to be excellent company and I told the story again over lots of gin until they threw us out of the bar.

Tuesday was the day of the funeral and I went to bed and again slept badly.

Tyrsday

Is one of the many old names for Tuesday, I’m going to let you look up the god Tyr for yourself, but it’s appropriate, I promise.

I went to my Aunt’s house, it’s in a stunning location and had a cup of tea before driving to the funeral.

I had a chance to catch up with a few more relatives and was quite relaxed on the way as it was still morning and IF anything was going to happen at the house, it’d be PM.

My Dad had arrived first and he looked dreadful, gaunt and drained and it’s clear that losing his sister and possibly his brother was eating him alive.

I didn’t see much of him, just gave him an update that the house was still being watched and some vague reassurances that made my teeth itch to say them.

The funeral was nice, beautifully done and went without any drama.

He left to go home and I went back to the house for another cup of tea.

While I was there I spoke to my Dad’s cousin who walked up to me, gave me a hug and said ‘You’re the Investigator’.

I may have blushed.

She told me that she and her sister had also lost touch, confirming that my Uncle was indeed completely isolated.

And then at 13:15 – it all changed.

The Last Detective

Followed a taxi from my Uncle’s house to Leyburn and watched them wander around for a while before ‘Sharon’ went to a hairdresser and my Uncle wandered off and was lost to sight.

A few minutes later, he found my Uncle in a cafe, managed to get a photo of him and then actually struck up a conversation with him.

He’s written a report for me on the conversation, there’s no standout admission that he’s being abused, but the transcript verifies everything that we thought and more.

Much More.

I told my Dad about this yesterday and I could hear the pain dropping away for a few seconds before realisation kicked in that the situation really is bad.

But…. I now have the report and after sobbing my heart out for a few minutes, I sent it to Leyburn Police and North Yorkshire Social Services (they knew that it was coming) .

It’s heartbreaking stuff and I think that it’s going to make my Dad cry or scream when I read it to him later, but it’s evidence that nobody else has managed to get, an interview that nobody else has managed to get and it’s going to change everything.

A Few Good Men

This isn’t over by a long way, I think it may have to go to the Court of Protection, but I’ve already done the paperwork. I can see some some of light ahead now.

I’m proud of what we’ve achieved in a few weeks and sad that the system can’t quite fit together despite a lot of good people.

But…

I have no words for my friends right now, they have my loyalty until the day I die and I can never repay them.

To Be Continued

 

 

Breakdown

Yesterdays

Ok, if you haven’t read True Detective and Chinatown I’ll recap.

My Uncle and his wife went missing and all contact was lost.

My Aunt, his sister died on the 9th May and we had to try to track him down.

We found his solicitor, in Leyburn North Yorkshire and he asked my Uncle to call my Dad – which he did, from an unknown mobile, on the evening of Sunday 13th May, with a strange rambling tale that included:

  • He didn’t know or wouldn’t say his full address – just the house number and not even a town.
  • His driving licence had been revoked by the Police – he didn’t know why
  • Social Services may have visited and said that he shouldn’t live alone. Although he clearly didn’t – there were three women in the house with him, his wife and two others.
  • His bank account might have been frozen and he had no money and no car
  • He would send his details to my Dad  – by post – at some point.

I rang the owner of the mobile  – somebody unknown to the family and asked for the address – she refused.

I drove to Leyburn on Monday, tracked the house, did a property search to confirm that it was indeed my Uncle’s place and rang the bell.

Only to have the Police called on me.

Many hours later, I’d seen my Uncle, discovered that his mind is partway gone and that he doesn’t remember my whole existence.

I raised a safeguarding concern with North Yorkshire Social Services and was informed that the Police had also done so.

I managed to track down ‘Sharon’s’ family – they live about ten miles away from my Uncle’s place and I spoke to Estate Agents, Essex Social Services and North Yorkshire Social Services.

The Picture that was emerging was quite scary, one person who had been in quite close contact said that in their view, Sharon has some real mental problems.

The Social Services net is so loose that they literally moved away from one open case and disappeared from view.

I agreed to let Social Services do the contact as this is just so complicated.

And so we move on.

You can’t put your arms around a memory

Deep down, I already know how this ends.

And it doesn’t end well for anybody.

Especially Me.

But I’ll play the game out to the bitter end, knowing that the right thing to do is also painful, fraught with anguish and may break the people I’m trying to save.

Maybe I’m wrong, we’ll see in a month or two.

Patience

I got the funeral date from my Dad last week and also spoke to my cousin who’s making all the arrangements and tried to explain how things were. It wasn’t easy.

My Dad is quite despondent about all this, I think that he thinks that he’ll never see his brother again, I’m determined that he will, but it may not be soon.

I made all the right noises to my dad and left a message for the assigned Social Services worker with all the details and a request to:

  • Let My Uncle know the funeral date
  • That I would pick him up from the Black Bull next Sunday, 3rd June and that we would then drive to Norfolk.

I’m two months into a new job and strike action in France and issues in Colombia along with a twelve hour journey into London and back for meetings kept me busy for a few days so I didn’t chase until Thursday.

When I finally had a conversation with the Case Worker.

It wasn’t good.

Double Talking Jive

First the good news, Healthcare staff were going into the house a few times a week and some rubbish clearing had been done (they filled a skip up) .

The older ladies in the house are healthy and they’ve all been told not to keep the curtains closed all day.

And that’s it for the good news.

‘Sharon’ is very hostile to the Social Workers and won’t allow them into the house, no mental health assessment has been done on my uncle yet and they’re taking it all slowly in case they run again..

I feel for these guys, they’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t but this wasn’t helping me at all.

We chatted

‘So what you’re saying is that I can’t get a message to my Uncle to tell him when the funeral is?’

‘Unfortunately no, at this stage we can’t get past the lady’

‘The one that we all reported as being a potential abuser?’

‘Yes, I’m sorry, maybe if you sent a letter…?’

‘That she would likely open and not give to my Uncle…’

‘Yes, sorry’…

We talked for a while longer about whether I should have Power of Attorney, everybody thinks I should, but – and there’s always a but…..

My Uncle would have to sign that over to me.

I hung up, depressed and angry that one woman could have this sort of power over us all.

Ain’t it Fun

The letter idea wasn’t the worst idea in the world, it was how to execute it so that I can use it as evidence if Sharon didn’t play nicely.

So..

I bought a mobile phone for ‘Old People’

And a Sim

I prepaid it with £30 of credit and I programmed it up, testing it by calling my number and my Dad’s and making an incoming call to test calls both ways.

And I wrote two letters.

Here they are.. only the names and numbers have changed.

‘Dear Uncle George
Your Sister Sarah’s Funeral is on Tuesday 5th June in Norfolk.
When we met, (with the policeman) you asked if I would
drive you there, the answer is still Yes.
I will collect you from the Black Bull on Sunday 3 rd June at
4pm and will drive us to Norfolk.
We will stay in a hotel for two nights – I will book and pay.
I will drive you back after the funeral, so please pack
enough clothes and any prescription drugs for two nights.
In the other envelope, is a mobile phone. It is yours and is
fully paid for.
I have given the number to your brother, my Dad, he
would very much like to speak to you again.
My Number and his number are in the phone and already
programmed.

I will call you at 12PM on Monday to make sure that we can finalise the arrangments

Love’

‘Dear Uncle George
This is your phone. It is fully paid for.
The Number is 0795x xxxxxx

To unlock, press and hold the # key
To turn it on, press and hold the red key
My number and My Dad’s are in the phone, press the key
below NAMES to bring them up.
MY NUMBER IS 0772 xxxxxx
Your Brother’s Number is 078 xxxxxx 
Your Brother In Law’s House Number is 0xxxxxxx

I will speak to you on Monday at 12pm

Love’

I printed them and put the phone, charger and letter into one envelope and the other letter into a different envelope, I wrote his name in huge text and then went to the next stage,

Mr Brownstone

I was never fully convinced as to whether this plan would work, but by this stage, I was thinking of move and countermove, if I did this, what would Sharon do next – and what would I do after that?

So I booked a hotel for Saturday – It was the Wyvill Arms and I have to say that it was absolutely lovely, if you’re in that area, it’s money well spent. Then on Saturday morning, I took a slow, painful drive across The Pennines on a bank holiday weekend, arriving in Middleham at around 1pm.

I parked uphill from the house, took the envelopes from the car, set my phone to record a video and walked up the path.

Dust and Bones

I could see an old lady asleep in a chair in the lounge window and I put the first of my letters through the letterbox.

I couldn’t get the phone through as the charger was too big, so I left it by the door, very visible, with my Uncle’s name in large script on the envelope.

I’d been recording all this time and on a whim, I turned my phone towards the window as I walked away so that I could view it later.

The old lady may have stirred, but she was asleep again as I passed.

I got into the car and drove to Leyburn for some lunch before going to the hotel.

Welcome to The Jungle

I have a theory about Sharon, I’ve talked to so many people who’ve had dealings with her and my overriding impression is one of arrogance and a sense of her own superiority.

Here’s the thing though, people who think they’re smart very often aren’t and if you use the power of the state as a weapon against other people, then don’t be surprised if it backfires.

The best thing that she actually did was to call the police on me, if I’d got access for 10 minutes, arranged the funeral and done a bit of driving, this would likely vanish into the middle distance again.

But she didn’t, she treated me like some sort of embarrassing lackey to be removed by her footmen and she now has my full attention.

Everything that I show and post is also being put into a file that I’ll be using in a week or two if things go as badly as I suspect, so the photo below is two things.

The first thing is a nice view, taken using the rather nifty OS Maps app, which puts an augmented reality overlay on the photo. Middleham is over to the right of the photo.

The second thing is a small piece of evidence (along with invoices) that I was in the area, at my own cost and that any statements I make further down the line are backed up.

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The Garden

As I mentioned earlier, the hotel is rather splendid and a good meal, with wine, beer and a XO or two made the troubles of the day melt away before I crashed into a strange disturbed sleep with some elements of the day popping into my consciousness at odd stages.

Including…

A screenshot I’d taken from my delivery video earlier in the day, I hadn’t seen him, but he was also asleep on a chair, surrounded by clutter and looking very frail. Only he and the old lady were in the room.

I woke at 4am and just lay there and read a book until it was time for breakfast, before getting in the car and taking another quick trip to Middleham before getting back on the road again.

Right Next Door to Hell

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this in the thousands of words that I’ve written now, but it doesn’t matter.

My Uncle’s neighbours on both sides are absolutely lovely, genuine people who would have looked out for them as neighbours and brought them into a close-knit community of mostly retired people.

That’s never going to happen while Sharon lives there.

I parked opposite the neighbour higher up the hill to my Uncle and was immediately called over and invited in for tea.

We chatted for quite a while and I can’t say enough nice things about them, working class people who saved for their retirement, living a life overlooking the Dales, with regular pub visits, walks, cheap lunches in the social centre and a weekly ‘lads’ night out for the husband.

They told me horror stories of screaming, shouting and abuse – all from Sharon directed at the others in the house.

I told them that I’d tracked their history and her family and I was quietly pleased with myself when they said that a car with distinctive number plates had been present during their move and also to take them away when they disappeared at New Year. I correctly predicted the distinctive letters (it’s Sharon’s brother’s initials) and they told me that they’d seen the car in Ripon.

Sharon apparently treats my Uncle like a porter and drags him behind her carrying huge bags of shopping while she marches in front of him.

My new friends, no stranger to booze were shocked at the sheer volume of wine bottles that the house produces – pretty good considering that my Uncle has been teetotal all his life.

They owe money to every tradesman in town and are blacklisted by the plumber and the TV shop, not bad given that they’ve only lived there two months out of six.

I had a quick wander down the slope and rang the mobile quickly (twice) – it rang but I couldn’t hear it, so it wasn’t in the skip.

They gave me one last snippet before I left, Sharon was berating my Uncle to keep something tidy ‘for the Estate Agent’..

I drove home, another five hours in the car and waited until 12pm today.

Get in The Ring

I rang the phone, the phone that I bought for my Uncle. 

It was switched off, yesterday it rang.

I’ve tried six times now, it’s switched off every time.

I don’t think he ever got it.

That’s OK though, I’ve booked a hotel for next Saturday night in town, I’ll put another letter through the door about the arrangements, I may even get a neighbour to knock and deliver it to him personally if I can.

I’ve booked two rooms for Norfolk.

I have a paper trail.

I have money and will never need a penny from my Uncle.

I have friends.

I have a plan.

Watch this space to see if I can actually get him to the funeral.

It doesn’t matter if I can’t.

I have a plan for this game, I know where every other player is on the board now and nobody can move without me knowing, so they can’t disappear again.

I have a plan.

Sharon, I’m coming for you.

 

Chinatown

This is How You Remind Me

If you haven’t read True Detective

My Uncle and his wife went missing and all contact was lost.

My Aunt, his sister died on the 9th May and we had to try to track him down.

We found his solicitor, in Leyburn North Yorkshire and he asked my Uncle to call my Dad – which he did, from an unknown mobile, on the evening of Sunday 13th May, with a strange rambling tale that included:

  • He didn’t know or wouldn’t say his full address – just the house number and not even a town.
  • His driving licence had been revoked by the Police – he didn’t know why
  • Social Services may have visited and said that he shouldn’t live alone. Although he clearly didn’t – there were three women in the house with him, his wife and two others.
  • His bank account might have been frozen and he had no money and no car
  • He would send his details to my Dad  – by post – at some point.

I rang the owner of the mobile  – somebody unknown to the family and asked for the address – she refused.

I drove to Leyburn on Monday, tracked the house, did a property search to confirm that it was indeed my Uncle’s place and rang the bell.

Only to have the Police called on me.

Many hours later, I’d seen my Uncle, discovered that his mind is partway gone and that he doesn’t remember my whole existence.

I raised a safeguarding concern on Tuesday this week with North Yorkshire Social Services and was informed that the Police had also done so.

Carry On My Wayward Son

It’s not any clearer now.

The Song Remains The Same

The whole situation is weird – strange women appearing from nowhere and co-owning a house with a vulnerable old couple.

In the absence of any updates from Social Services, it was time to look at how they’d got there. So it was time to search the web and make phone calls, lots and lots of phone calls.

The electoral roll showed Ada living in my Uncle’s old house – but not Sharon, Sharon didn’t appear in any searches.

Ada had lived in two houses almost a street away from my Uncle over the past ten years and had suddenly appeared as living with them in the last electoral roll.

Alice? Alice? Who The Fuck is Alice?

Who was this woman, was she related to Sharon, why was everything to do with this so difficult to track down? Web searches will only get you so far and I hit a brick wall, so I mailed the Police asking them if the older lady in the house with my Uncle was indeed Ada.

Because.

Ada doesn’t have a daughter named Sharon.

She has two other daughters that are the wrong age.

I got a reply from the police that said they’d look into it, but that’s really as far as I could go..

Unless…

I started making some phone calls, but where to start?

Oh yes.

Him…

Sympathy For The Devil

It must be tough being a solicitor these days, you have the whole duty of care to your client(s), Data Protection, GDPR and your reputation to think about at all times.

So this call must have been tough.

‘Hi, we met on Monday and spoke about my Uncle’

A pause.

‘Yes, what can i do for you?’

A longer pause.

‘Well, two things actually, a strange question for you and a statement that I’d like you to take in’

Another pause.

‘O.. Kaaay’ 

First, can you confirm for me that the older lady in the house is Ada Postlethwaite?’

‘It is Susan’s mother I’m not at liberty to confirm her name.’

I explained the web searches, the electoral roll and the strangeness of one person with a different name appearing at the old address. He explained that he couldn’t divulge the other lady’s name but that it.

Was

Not

Ada

I took a moment to wonder what was going on, hours and hours of searching had gone into this and it was very strange.

‘OK, thank you, here’s the second part, you were very helpful in not telling me anything the other day and I found them by 930. Sadly Sharon called the Police on me and after a very long chat, I got to see my Uncle.’

A pause.

‘So what you should know, given our conversation and your thoughts on his mental state, is that he’s showing clear signs of dementia, doesn’t remember me AT ALL, in fact he thought I was my Dad, he couldn’t explain why he’d moved there, said he thought it might be a mistake came out with a load more concerning statements.

‘Where are you going with this?’

‘Nowhere, this is a heads-up as you’ve been so helpful, both I and the Police Officer who attended have opened Safeguarding cases independently and the Police and Social Services are now involved.’

Another long pause.

‘So in the interests of being open, I’m not dropping this at all and the next few weeks and months will likely see some changes. Thanks very much. Have a good day’

*CLICK*

Dark Side of The Moon

I was feeling quite stabby by this point, a whole day spent looking for a woman who may have been an error on an electoral roll.

A woman who had lived a street over previously in two separate houses..

Weird

The next step..

What could it be?

One Way Or Another

I called the estate agents in Essex and on my second call, I got through to the selling agents.

They were so helpful and remembered the case very well.

I’m not surprised.

It transpired that both Sharon and my Uncle had put their property up for sale at the same time last year, with her flat – in the next town, selling months before my Uncle’s sale went through.

The estate agents were concerned enough about the proposed move to Leyburn that they asked my uncle multiple times and logged each conversation. His responses were always vaguely ‘yes’ and involved a ‘new start’ .

His wife was in hospital for months during this period and the estate agent mentioned that social services also became involved.

Data Protection (yes, that again) meant that they couldn’t tell me much more.

Except.

They could give opinions.

Sharon had mental problems, in their opinion and they were concerned that this sale of the two properties and the move North would be a bad thing.

I hung up, thinking much better of estate agents than I ever did (there’s a theme developing here)

And..

Call Me

I rang Essex Social Services, in truth, this was frustrating as our old friend Data Protection became the wall that it’s supposed to be. In fairness, I could be anybody trying to get enough data to do some bad things.

So.

They couldn’t confirm or deny that a case existed.

But  – if it did it might be closed.

They said they’d call me back.

True to their word, they did and quite quickly too. But the answer was a flat NO, unless North Yorkshire called them.

Won’t Get Fooled Again

Another web search and Sharon was found.

She’d lived with somebody likely to be her mother, ‘Ethel’ in a flat one town away and previously near Hereford.

The older lady is definitely her mother, she’s around 90 or so and Sharon’s no older than 63 or so.

This was a touch scary, a very strange woman who may not have lived alone or with others is now effectively head of an extended household.

Oh yes, people that have met her think she has mental problems.

Hanging On The Telephone

I’ve spent two days ringing North Yorkshire, I also had a couple of update calls from a neighbour of my Uncle.

They told me that Police and Social Services had visited when my Uncle and Sharon had gone out and managed to get in – and that after they had left and Sharon / my Uncle had returned, shouting was heard where Sharon stated that:

I’m in charge of this house, nobody is allowed in without my say so’

Anyway, today…

Nothing Else Matters

I finally got a call from Social Services and the Police, all of them round a single phone. They told me that a team has been put together, they have another meeting on Monday to formulate a plan and that they are returning to the house today.

I asked that they keep in touch and that they find a way for me to arrange the funeral (still no date) through them and NOT Sharon.

So:

All good.

Except:

All Along The Watchtower

They knew NOTHING of what I’d learned, no previous Social Services contact, the previous house, NOTHING.

I spent twenty minutes telling them things and we killed the call.

The system isn’t right, it can’t be.

But…

The support I’ve had from Twitter (three people in particular, you know who you are), the decency of the police, social services and estate agents has given me a new faith in people and I can give my Dad updates that don’t hurt as much as they might.

 

TO BE CONTINUED

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

True Detective

Welcome

Are you sitting comfortably? I have a story to tell.

It’s only a few days old and it’s still developing.

Every single word is true, I wish that they weren’t, just the names have been changed for now.

My Uncle

Is four years older than my dad and is the oldest of three siblings, followed by his sister and then my Dad.  He’s one of the nicest men I’ve ever met. In truth he’s a simple soul who has lived a life free of complications for 83 of his 84 years.

He married his best friend’s widow, a lady six years older than him as it was ‘the right thing to do’ and they’ve been married for well over 50 years. I used to see a lot of him as a kid as he was a lorry driver who did regular runs to the coast and the Anglian countryside and he’d take me along as a treat and a day out.

He bought my Nan’s house after my Grandad died and lived there until he retired. The house was in Leytonstone, so he sold it for a reasonable profit and moved to a small town near Clacton in Essex.

Although we’re not a massively close family, my Dad would call him once a week or so, just to catch up and make sure that all was well. Occasionally one of my brothers would drop in to see him on the way to another town on the coast.

A Strange Event

That meant little at the time occurred when my Brother dropped in and found that my uncle had gone out to give ‘two women a lift somewhere’. My Aunt wasn’t sure when he was due back as he’d been gone for two weeks.

This was roughly 18 months ago.

Dropping off the Radar

Around 8 months ago, my Uncle stopped answering his phone, my dad left a series of messages until the system stopped answering. After a few weeks of this, we made physical contact and he called my Dad to say that the answerphone had filled up.

Then he disappeared. No phone calls, nothing.

An Empty House

Another visit found that the house was empty, with mail piling up and a ‘for sale’ sign outside. There was no forwarding address and he had no mobile phone.

He was gone – so was his wife and another person who had appeared on the electoral role that year. Nobody in the family had ever heard of her, but a search has since revealed that she’d lived in two houses in the same town previously – at some point with her husband and then ‘alone’.

And that was it for a while.

Web searches showed nothing – no variations of a search helped at all.

Follow the Money

My Uncle’s house was sold in December 2017 and that enabled to make initial contact with his solicitor, who confirmed that my uncle was alive and that he would ask him to get in touch.

but nothing changed until last week.

My Aunt, their sister died in hospital on Wednesday night and I told my Dad that I’d drive him to the funeral as it’s around a 100 miles from where he lives.

Funeral Arrangements

I drove to see my Dad on Sunday this week (the 13th of May) to check that he was OK and to see if there was any news about the funeral.

We chatted for a while and it was clear that he was worried about whether my Uncle would attend. He’d still not managed to talk to him, but the solicitor had promised to go and see him personally and ask him to call. My Dad was beginning to believe that my Uncle had no interest at all and was both angry and upset. I took the Solicitor’s number and tracked it to Leyburn in North Yorkshire, a move of over 270 miles for a man of 84, who as far as we knew had never been to that area, even on holiday.

I said that I’d try to track my Uncle down, gave my Dad a hug and drove home.

An Unexpected Set of Events

Three hours later, my phone rang as I pulled onto the drive, it was my Dad and he was very concerned. My Uncle had finally called (from an unknown mobile number) and came out with a long rambling story.

In summary though:

  • He didn’t know or wouldn’t say his full address – just the house number and not even a town.
  • His driving licence had been revoked by the Police – he didn’t know why
  • Social Services may have visited and said that he shouldn’t live alone. Although he clearly didn’t – there were three women in the house with him, his wife and two others.
  • His bank account might have been frozen and he had no money and no car
  • He would send his details to my Dad  – by post – at some point.

I took the mobile number and rang it.

An old lady answered it  – I didn’t recognise her voice, but confirmed that she was indeed ‘Ada’ who had appeared on the electoral roll and asked to speak to my Uncle, who was apparently in the garden.

Ada called for him five or six times and I could hear another, younger, sharper voice demanding to know who was on the call  and took the phone from her.

I asked her name and she replied that it was ‘Sharon Chaverson’  (obviously I’ve changed this and because she’s quite snobby and cold, think that she’d hate this name.. )

I asked to speak to my Uncle and here’s the conversation.

‘He’s too busy in the garden to speak to you’.

‘OK, can you let me know the address there please?’

No, I’m too busy right now’. 

‘You don’t want to give me your address?’

No, I’m too busy, we told your father that we will write to him’.

‘I’m sorry, but we don’t know when the funeral will be and that doesn’t help us at all’.

‘Well, I’m too busy to talk to you and we will have to get back to you’ 

‘You know that this sounds strange now? If you won’t give me the address. I’ll have to contact the Police as I’m now concerned about this’.

I don’t appreciate being threatened like this’. 

‘Sadly, it’s not a threat, just a next step’

*CLICK*

 

Thirty minutes later, my Dad rang to say that Sharon had called and stated that we could pick my Uncle up from the Black Bull if he wanted to go to the funeral and that neither she nor my Aunt appreciated visitors. He then told her to Fuck Off and she hung up.

That was it really, I had to commit to my Dad that I’d go to Leyburn and find my Uncle.

The Search Begins

The Black Bull isn’t in Leyburn, Sharon had narrowed the search down to a much smaller town called Middleham.

I packed a bag in case I had to stay for a few days, packed my work laptop and checked out hotel availability just in case..

I then sent a text to Sharon. Something about this whole thing was worrying me and going formal seemed best.

This is the text word for word.

Good evening, following my call earlier, please furnish me with details of my uncle’s property by return text. If this does not occur, I will be at Leyburn Police station by 830 am tomorrow to ask for their assistance. Thanks in advance. 

I had a quick meal, sat and brooded over a gin and went to bed, setting an alarm for 4am.

SatNavs are SkyNet’s Advance Guard

Let’s be clear, SatNavs want to kill us all. I programmed in Leyburn and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was a 10 mile shorter journey than Google Maps had said.

This might be because of this…

30 miles of narrow, winding, blind bends and steep inclines. Straight into the rising sun, making me half blind for a lot of the journey and terrified for the best part of an hour.

I’ve never had a more stressful drive in my life.

Screen Shot 2018-05-16 at 14.18.44

Anyway

I arrived in Leyburn just after 8am and managed to find a small cafe for breakfast. I’d decided to go to the Solicitor’s office first and see if he’d be willing to help. Breakfast was a good idea and I was nicely calm again after bacon, eggs, sausages, black pudding and tea..

And at 845, I wandered into the solicitor’s office. I’d prepared for the day by wearing a nice blue suit, with a tasteful and low key slightly pink shirt and had a stack of business cards with me.

Conversational Chess

Inside the office, I saw a set of larger private offices and caught the eye of the gentleman in the office nearest me.

‘Can I help you?’

‘I’m looking for Mr Smith’

‘Ah, there’s two of us, I’m John Smith’.

‘It’s you I’m looking for, my name is Small ThunderDog’ – he raised his eyebrows quizzically. ‘No, I’m his son, I understand that he’s been in contact with you, can we chat?’

He waved me into his office and closed the door.

I started by raising my concerns regarding my Uncle’s wellbeing following the calls the night before and my main concern that he didn’t even know where he lived.

Well,  I spoke to him last week and he’s up to date on current affairs, Brexit and the Government, but if you were to ask him why he took £50 from the bank, he may not be able to tell you. But he would know if he’d split a meal bill.’

I reiterated my worry that he didn’t seem to know his address and the issues around his bank account and driving licence. He looked at me for a while before answering.

Well, I can tell you that he does know his address and that his bank accounts aren’t frozen, although he probably has lost his licence – you’re aware of what he did for a living?’

‘Yes, Lorry Driver, I used to go on trips with him, the issue is that I need to make sure that he’s OK, I’m very worried that if he does know his address, why wouldn’t he let his brother know it and why would a woman that we’ve never heard of be acting as his gatekeeper and telling us that we can only pick him up from the Black Bull for his own sister’s funeral?’

‘Was that a suggestion?’

‘No, Sharon stated that this was her final word on the subject to my father, you can see my concern here, that there may be coercion.’

‘She doesn’t help herself sometimes I’m afraid, but I don’t think I can give you the address, I’m sorry.’

I looked at him without speaking for a minute, letting the silence build while I thought about what he might not be saying.

‘I appreciate your position, but you have to know that I will find him today, the Black Bull is in Middleham and if he doesn’t have a car and they’re taking taxis everywhere, I’ll start with the taxi firms and work it from there, I know the house number, if I have to check every number 11 in the town, I will’.

We looked at each other.

‘Would I be correct in saying that one of your father’s sons has had a run-in with the police in the past?’ 

‘No, it’s two actually, but I’m not either of them’

I passed over a business card, he looked at it for a long while before answering.

‘You understand where I’m coming from? I have to check this’ 

I pondered the strangeness of his question and looked at him for a while again.

‘Well I think so, but you have to understand that nobody in the family is interested in whatever money he has or doesn’t have and I’m interested that you even know that detail about my brother or why it’s relevant. To be as blunt as I can here, nobody cares what he’s up to, if he’s in a weird 4 way relationship and is taking Viagra 16 hours a day…’

‘I.

Don’t.

Care.’

‘When I find him and if he tells me he’s OK and that he has no interest in the funeral or the family, then I’ll walk away and let my Dad know what the answer is.’

I sat and watched him for a while.

‘I’m sorry, but I still can’t tell you the address, however, as you stated, he is in Middleham, there is no car, they’re all very late risers and there aren’t many number 11’s in the town. In fact, the first estate is on the left hand side of the town’. 

We shook hands and I drove to Middleham.

A walk in the Sunshine

I actually found the house on the first pass but couldn’t be 100% sure so parked up in town and wandered around for a while looking for other possible number 11s – none of them fit, but the town is a very pretty little place with a number of racing stables and a large equine business base.

I walked through the churchyard and smiled at a woman and made a small fuss of her dog as they walked past, eventually going back to the town and getting a coffee before driving back to the house.

Snooper

I walked up the drive and was struck by a large amount of household rubbish that more or less blocked it, along with offcuts of wood. The curtains were all closed, even though it was 10am but one of the windows had a large number of small dog figurines that I recognised from my childhood.

I’d found them. I was sure of it.

It had taken less than two hours.

I heard a voice.

Hello, are you looking for somebody?’ 

It was the lady from the churchyard.

A Sunny Day Becomes Slightly Darker

We chatted and she immediately confirmed that one older man and three women lived in the house but that the two older women were more or less bed-bound.  She apologised but said that they were all rather strange, that they had moved in just before Christmas but had then all left in a taxi and disappeared for four months and had only been back for three weeks.

The council had been called as the food they’d been dumping in the back garden had attracted rats…

I drove back to town and did a property search while I drank yet more coffee.

Keep Following the Money

The house had been bought in December 2017 and was paid for in cash. Three people are on the deeds.

  • My Uncle
  • His Wife
  • The mysterious Sharon

My Uncle sold his house for £81,000 less than the purchase price of the current house, leaving a question as to whether Sharon had contributed or he had taken £81k from his account to pay for the balance – potentially answering the question as to why his bank account may have been frozen – maybe.

I hung around until just after 11 , drove back and rang the doorbell.

Repetitive actions

No answer, I rang again.

And again.

And again. And again. And again.

And again. And again. And again.

I knocked loudly.

And again.

Still no answer.

I walked away and a voice came from the garden below.

‘Not answering?’

I shook my head.

Fancy a brew?’

I jumped at the chance and met another set of neighbours and their dog who decided that I was a potential chew toy.

Rats, Pharmacy Deliveries and Ambulance Rescue

Here’s the thing, if my Uncle had moved in the normal fashion, he couldn’t have asked for nicer neighbours, but the same story came out.

Move in at Xmas, disappearing for months and particularly scathing comments about Sharon who had called the neighbourhood a hellhole.

The rats that the other lady had mentioned had been spilling into this couple’s garden as the house in on a very steep slope, with the gardens being around 2 metres different in height. Nobody could understand why they’d moved there. Town was too far for them to walk, there are only two buses a day and there’s only one small shop.

The neighbours had spotted a pharmacy delivery service making multiple attempts to deliver over a period of weeks, delaying prescription medicines getting through.

The house was full of boxes and junk and Sharon had apparently rung the vendor to complain that he hadn’t left the fridge as promised. it was behind a pile of boxes that they’d never moved.

And.

My Uncle had fallen off the edge of his garden, through the hedge into the neighbour’s garden. An ambulance was called and he had to be rescued by being lifted out with a rope. He’d dislocated his shoulder and was taken to hospital.

As with the other lady, I left my number with them and asked that they call me if they had any concerns going forward.

I then went back to the house.

Repetitive actions in a Repetitive Stylee

I rang the doorbell

No answer, I rang again.

And again.

And again. And again. And again.

And again. And again. And again.

I knocked loudly.

And again.

And again. And again. And again.

And again. And again. And again.

I rang Sharon’s number – it was switched off

I tried again

and again.

And then she answered.

‘Hello is this Sharon? This is Small ThunderDog, we spoke yesterday’

‘I don’t know who you are’

‘I’m George ThunderDog’s nephew and I’m on the doorstep, can you answer the door please?’

‘Wait there’

*CLICK*

I didn’t like the sound of that.. and so… two minutes later

Woop-woop! That’s the sound of da Police

A van pulled up and a policeman walked towards me.

I put on my best helpful face and walked out to meet him, getting my driving licence out as I walked.

‘Morning officer, here’s my details, my uncle lives in that house and I’m trying to get to see him to see if he’s OK and to discuss his sister’s funeral’

‘Over here sir, let’s have a chat, we’ve had a report from the owner that you’ve been trying to force entry – where are the others?’

I looked blankly at him.

‘I’m alone, that’s my empty car across the road, you can check if you like’

He called his control and asked for a check on me. I don’t have any sort of criminal record, so just stood there and tried to look as unthreatening as possible, that was probably wise as another van with two more policemen swooped up.  ‘My’ policeman signalled them that I wasn’t a threat and they waited while he did the check.

Once he’d confirmed who I was, I then showed them my property search on my phone showing my Uncle as owner of the property. I also showed them my text to Sharon from the night before saying that would go to the police.

I explained my concerns about the two older women being bed-ridden, the rubbish, the rats and the state of things inside.

Things calmed down nicely and the two new policemen went to the door to see what they could do.

We waited and chatted.

Hello Stranger

Eventually, my Uncle appeared at the side of the house and his face lit up as he saw me, a huge, slightly confused smile on his face.

‘You’ve put on weight’  – I’m both taller and broader than my dad, but we look reasonably alike.

‘Well, I am 55 now’

55 how can that…’ – he looked confused.

‘I’m your brother’s son, we have the same name’

His son, he doesn’t have a son with that name, my sister has a son with that name, but not him I think’ 

His eyes were watery and a bit lost, he was so shrunken, but he’d gripped my hand and wouldn’t let go.

‘No, he does, it’s me, don’t you remember, I used to go to Cromer with you in the lorry, we used to go for breakfast at..’

‘Mrs Brown’s place, yes, I remember, but.. he doesn’t have a son with that name does he?’

I wanted to cry.  There was no way that this man was fully in control of his self, his clothes were covered with bits of food and he was so very confused.

‘Anyway, I wanted to talk to you about your sister’s funeral’

‘I don’t think I’ll go, it’s er.. .’

I looked at him, he was still gripping my hand.

‘Don’t you think you should? She’s your only sister..’

‘Could you pick me up and drop me home again?’

‘Yes, of course’

Ok  then, It’s a shame it’s come to this’

‘Come to what? That I had to drive for three hours to find you after you moved house and didn’t tell anybody that you’d gone? That you haven’t rung your own brother?’

Well I’m sorry that it’s come to this’

‘Why did you move here? This is such a long way from Clacton, and this house seems not quite right for you, it’s miles from anywhere.’

‘I don’t know, it might have been a mistake’

We talked for around 10 minutes, his memory was hit and miss and he was vague on a lot of things – but I agreed that I’d drive him to Norfolk for the funeral if he wanted and he slipped away from view.

A Small and Very Strange Coven

I then spoke to the policemen again, they’d moved their view a long way from 30 minutes before and were very solicitous.

But, they also told me that the three women in the house, including my aunt, who I’ve known all my life, was present through a lot of my childhood and was a guest at my wedding stated that I wasn’t allowed in the house under any circumstances and that I’d have to collect him from the pub on the day of the funeral.

An Unexpected Outcome.

The two other policemen left and ‘my’ policeman, to my surprise and gratitude, said that he had a few worries and would run them past social services, I said that I’d be raising a safeguarding concern as soon as possible. We shook hands and drove off.

I Need a DRINK..It’s only been 24 Hours So Far…

I went home, grabbed a bit of food and had a couple of beers before sinking into a strange and disturbed sleep.

A Call to The Council

To continue my run of positive things, I had a 45 minute conversation with a lovely lady from Yorkshire Council, I referenced ‘my policeman’ and the job number and that he mentioned that he might raise a case. There was nothing in the system at that point, but she was incredibly supportive and raised a safeguarding case with:

My Uncle, his wife and Ada – (who it turns out is Sharon’s mum) – as the victims

And

Sharon as the perpetrator….

I emailed ‘my’ policeman to both say thanks and to let him know that a case had been opened and he may get a call.

Synchronicity, Like Wow. Just WOW Man.

Less than a minute after I sent it, the phone rang and it was ‘my’ policeman. He was calling me to tell me that he’d opened a safeguarding case directly with the local team and that they were likely to call me. 

He’d done some digging in his own time,  had found that there had been some earlier social services contact and had interviewed the estate agent who sold the property to find out his views.

The estate agent had confirmed that my Uncle was making noises about the house being ‘wrong’ and that he wasn’t sure why they’d bought it.

As I’d guessed, my whole conversation with my Uncle had been closely monitored and the look of joy on my Uncle’s face when he saw his ‘brother’ had convinced ‘my’ policeman that something was wrong with the whole story.

So that meant that as of yesterday morning, two separate investigations had been launched into a situation that nobody was aware of on Monday morning.

An Unexpected Update

I was at work this morning and received a call from one of the neighbours.

The Police and Social Services turned up yesterday and managed to get in while my Uncle and Sharon were out.

They then called for environmental service support and a skip was delivered and boxes and rubbish removed from the house.

Today they went back, with two police cars and more social workers but couldn’t get access. There was a lot of shouting and talk of warrants.

And That’s It For Now

I don’t know what happens next – I’m waiting for a call from social services to update me, but I guess that a warrant is going to be needed. The next thing for me once I hear is to try to find out more about his finances and how the house was funded.

And

Whether he has a will and what it says.

Apart From:

This isn’t over by a long way. I don’t care about my Uncle’s money, I do care that it’s looking increasingly like he’s a victim.

The only question is how many people are involved.

It doesn’t matter, I’m taking this all the way.

A lot has happened and..

This is continued in Chinatown

 

 

 

 

 

 

When bad science fiction gets too close for comfort

I wrote this.  A long, long time ago, or that’s the way that 1998 seems to me now.

It eventually ended up in a collection of equally appalling short stories that are available on Kindle under my real name.

I’m not trying to sell it..

When I wrote it, I borrowed from other dystopian stories and added a grim twist.

And now. This week, fiction is hard to tell from reality.

Anyway.

Anybody want to take a bet on the whole thing being real in a few years?

 

Mik darted into a doorway as the poli-cruiser hummed past, red and blue lights blinking their danger signals into his eyes. He wasn’t wanted for anything, it was just an instinctive reaction, similar to an octopus darting under a rock at the first sign of a big fish.

He waited for a few minutes, just in case they decided to pull him in for routine questioning, which always left him bruised and bleeding, and then carried on walking.

Mik was tall, around the two metre mark, and very thin. His blonde hair was thinning and hung in greasy ropes around his shoulders. He dressed well, as befitted a member of his profession, and was one of the lucky few who could afford real leather shoes.

Thanks to a friend, he never had to stand in line for food, or even meat. Although this was not much of a consideration these days, as he was unable to hold anything down for any length of time.

As he walked, he constantly scanned the street, eyes flicking left and right with the regularity of a metronome.

“Mik.”  A whispered call from a shop doorway.

He turned slowly, carefully making his face impassive. George, an old customer.

“Yeah, What’re you after?”

“What’ve you got?”

“Something very special, been banned for years now, one of the first ever to be banned as a matter of fact, just possession of this will be enough for six months in a cube.”

George’s eyes gleamed at this exciting snippet, moisture beading on his top lip.

“What is it? Come on, hurry up.”

Mik, in command now, reached slowly into one of his hidden pockets and found what he was looking for.

Waved his hand in front of George’s eyes, too fast to follow, the contents of his fist a blur.

He grinned, George was hooked.

Slowly he opened his fist and displayed the treasure held within.

George was openly sweating now. “How much?” He asked, voice trembling.

“Four hundred ecu’s to you, being as I know you that is.”

“Okay, okay, here’s the money, hand it over.”

Mik moved like lightning, snatching the small plastic coins from George’s hand with the speed of a striking cobra, and only then did he hand George his prize.

” A real classic that is, first film that Michael Caine ever made as a matter of fact, not many people know that.”

George smiled blankly, oblivious to the world, all he could think of was going home and watching his black-market copy of Zulu.

Mik shrugged his shoulders and walked away, there was no point carrying on the conversation, besides, he was going to the happy clinic soon, and he didn’t want to be late.

He checked his pockets as he walked, running a quick inventory of his stock, more copies of Zulu, Waterloo, The Dam Busters, Henry V, 633 Squadron, The Battle of Britain, the list ran on and on. Most of these films had been banned since 2020, when the EGov had decreed that “Offensive Imperialist Propaganda” would be banned.

This was not a move aimed exclusively at Britain, rather an across the board removal of each member state’s military past. Some subjects were removed from school curriculums, for example the First and Second World Wars were not even obliquely referred to, the same applied to Napoleon’s rape of Europe and Nazi Germany’s attempt to eradicate all “Untermenschen”.

This attempt to somehow lessen the old hatreds between the member states, predictably, did not succeed. The French still hated the English and were coldly polite to the Germans, The Germans still harboured a festering dislike for Britain, as did the Italians. The British still hated almost everybody, with especial venom reserved for the Ancient Enemy, the French. 

People in authority denied that these hatreds still existed, or in fact, had ever existed. But, every summer, coach loads of young men made the trip through the Channel Tunnel and kicked the shit out of people on the other side.

These incidents, often involving hundreds of people, never once made the nightly news programmes. Neither did stories of unemployment or crime, except when the crime rate went up more slowly than the year previously.

In 2018, the EGov decided upon a policy of trying to keep civil unrest to a minimum, therefore, certain news items were banned, crime, unemployment (currently standing at 97,000,000), pollution and Global Warming.

Alongside this policy, the Happy Clinics were opened. For a small amount of money, people could go along to the clinics and take the drugs of their choice.

This accomplished two things very quickly, the first that drug dealers were driven out of business almost overnight. The second was that the number of addicts skyrocketed, and now stood at a staggering 200,000,000.

A side effect of this was that drug-related crime dropped almost to nothing, just the occasional knife or axe-murder committed under the influence. These incidents also never made the news.

Mik was unconscious of most of these decisions, the only one that he was aware of involved the banning of films and books, and he didn’t sell books, too big and bulky. No, give him a mini-vid any day, small, compact and easily erasable with the coat that he wore. This had thousands of strands of wire all connected to a power cell, that when activated by a simple voice command, turned his coat into a powerful electro-magnet.

He drifted along through the crowds, still scanning for potential trouble, occasionally glancing up at the video cameras positioned on strategic rooftops, eyes squinting against the yellow sky.

He was sweating himself now, body reacting to the pressure of the sale. He tried to slow his heart rate down, he was losing weight all the time these days. He wondered if he should mention it to the doctor at the Happy Clinic.

He decided against it, they might want him to cut down on the number of visits that he made. He was up to two hits a day now, heroin followed by crack cocaine at each visit.

He really was getting hot now, sure that he couldn’t remember a January being so hot, it was almost thirty degrees today.

And getting hotter.

A thin trickle of sweat ran down the back of his neck, down his back and spread out across the base of his spine. Making him sticky and uncomfortable, his mouth was getting dry and he had the beginnings of a headache.

He decided to go for a drink before he went to the Happy Clinic, a couple of large vodkas was always a good base for the drugs.

The pub, as usual, was packed. It took Mik what seemed like ages before he could fight his way through to the bar, nobody seemed to mind being pushed aside these days, idly, Mik wondered if they were putting something in the booze.

In fact they were.

Two years ago it had been decided to drastically cut the duty on alcohol, it was also decided to add a harmless tranquilliser. This meant that more people could afford to drink, it also cut down on the possibility of violence, and most importantly, it nipped in the bud any thoughts of “what are the EGov doing about unemployment, crime, poverty…….”

Most people, after a few hours in the bars and taverns had no more thought processes than a homing pigeon.

To save time, Mik ordered a quadruple round of treble vodkas, sinking the first one before the second had even been poured. He paid the surly looking barman and fought his way out to the “beer garden”, which had been covered over with a super hard plastic many years ago.

After a careful look round at the other customers, he casually laid out a neat row of vids on the bench in front of him. He wasn’t too worried about the police, the euro commissioners scared him more, they had almost unlimited powers of arrest and seizure of goods. Within five minutes, a large part of his stock had gone and he was several thousand ecu’s richer.

And quite drunk.

Unsteadily, he made his way out onto the street and just stood there for a moment, trying to remember where he was going to next. Just stood there in the reflected yellow glow from the windows, mouth open and slack. Looking almost like a dummy in a shop window, except that dummies didn’t drool.

After a while, an image of white coats and needles fought it’s way into his drugged brain and he shuffled off like an old, old man towards the Happy Clinic.

He arrived ten minutes later and sat in the waiting room with all the other people, hundreds of them.  He suddenly realised that he couldn’t remember walking there from the pub, had only a vague recollection of moving among a swaying sea of blurred faces. Didn’t even remember sitting down.

He was worried.

He was forgetting more and more lately. He made a mental note to cut down on the booze, he vaguely remembered reading something about it killing brain cells. Drugs were ok though, the EGov had published a report on the beneficial properties of all the major drugs dispensed at the Happy Clinics.

Mik stood up and stretched, rubbed gently at his temples, the headache was still with him, it even seemed a little worse. He looked at the number that he’d been given and compared it to the number currently showing on the monitor above him, just under two hundred to go. Roughly ten minutes. He hoped that he could last that long.

The Happy Clinic was enormous, at any one time; at least thirty doctors were on duty and giving people their dosages. This particular clinic had at one time been a small hospital. It still retained a vaguely hospital-like air about it as doctors and nurses bustled busily about and porters carried the too-far-gone to the front door, where they were dumped.

Mik was starting to get itchy now, the spiders of withdrawal starting to climb all over his body, he tried not to start scratching, knowing that if he did, he’d not be able to stop for hours.

He waited.

And waited.

After what seemed an eternity of the spiders crawling over his flesh, even seeming to creep inside his eyeballs, his number came up on the monitor. Taking his ticket from the grim, unsmiling, security guard, he made his way to room number thirty four.

There was no need to knock, his image was being displayed on the closed circuit monitor inside and compared to a database. This process only took a few seconds and the steel door hissed open.

The doctor was waiting.

Poised over his monitor, Doctor Hamilton looked the very essence of a professional medical man. Crisp white coat, desk neatly laid out, hi-tech monitoring and test equipment surrounding his desk.

Only two things spoiled the look, his cold, cold blue eyes and the bucket of blood-filled used syringes behind him.

“Hello Mik, how’s business?” The question was friendly yet innocent. Professional.

It terrified Mik.

“Oh…. Not that great at the moment….. But it’s picking up. Honest.”

“No it’s not, I was talking to Feo the other day, he said that you’ve been ordering less and less each month. Maybe it’s time that you cut down on this a bit.” Gesturing to the syringes and drug cabinets.

“It’s not that… It’s just that I’ve not been feeling that great for a while now, I don’t know why.”

The doctor’s eyes narrowed, taking in Mik’s appearance fully.

“Yes you do look a bit thin, perhaps we’d better do a blood test. Give me your arm.”

Mik, knowing that it would be pointless to resist, held out a scarred left arm fro the testing unit.

A brief whir of machinery, a sudden sharp pain in his elbow joint, and the machine began its work.

The doctor hummed quietly to himself, Mik sweated.

The display changed, row upon row of figures traversing the screen, reflecting in the cold eyes of the doctor. Coming to a halt. Giving an instant diagnosis.

“Oh dear Mik, this doesn’t look very good at all, perhaps you’d like a small hit of a cocktail before I tell you the bad news?”  Already knowing the answer, preparing a syringe with practised hands.

Mik just sat there, too frightened to ask, and too frightened to do anything except hold his arm out for the injection that would give him the courage to hear the bad news.

He hoped that it wasn’t AIDS, everything else was curable, except AIDS. If that’s what it turned out to be, he’d kill that fucking bitch Martine.

Slowly, the drugs cut in and he felt their calmness spreading through his mind.

“OK, tell me the worst, it’s not AIDS is it ?” His voice seemed wrong, slower, deeper than it should be.

“No, not AIDS, you’ve got cancer of the liver and bowels.”

Mik sighed in relief. Curable.

“What are you smiling at Mik?” The voice was cold, detached.

“Curable.” His voice was slower now, but happy-sounding.

“No. I’m afraid not. We gave up on cancer research twenty years ago.”

Mik could feel panic building up in his head. He couldn’t move his arms or legs.

Or his head.

All he could move were his eyes; he looked at the doctor, who seemed to be smiling.

“As I was saying, there were too many new cancer causing factors around, chemical spillage, air pollution, solar radiation, nuclear radiation. You name it and it was on the increase. So we started doing this.”

He waved the syringe through the air.

“This….. Used to be called a Hot Shot, but these days we just call it Option Three.”

Mik couldn’t see, he could only hear. And his hearing was fading fast.

“It was the best solution really. Cheap, quick, effective. Much better than raising people’s hopes with chemotherapy and radiation treatment. This way you just disap……”

A button was pushed and two burly porters, lobotomized to make their work easier for them to live with, came in and removed the body. Then took it to the sealed-off rear part of the clinic for incineration.

Another button pushed.

A new patient.

 

 

 

 

 

The Curious Case of Gary Lineker

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Gary seems to have had quite the damascene conversion in the past few months, he’s an open critic of Brexit and has had a go at trolling Donald Trump

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No. Scratch that, he’s becoming obsessive about Trump, and hardly a day goes by without a mention of how awful / evil he is.

Gary has now taken to the streets and is marching in solidarity with something or other along with other great thinkers like Lily Allen.

What’s caused this amazing change in his outlook? In my cynical little mind, there’s only two possible reasons that a man with a reputed £31m fortune and a TV career can have for this.

Cherchez la Femme and Follow the Money.

Let’s start with Cherchez la Femme

The expression comes from the 1854 novel “The Mohicans of Paris” by Alexandre Dumas.

Cherchez la femme, pardieu ! Cherchez la femme !

Meaning; whatever the problem may be, a woman is the cause, A new girlfriend, an angry ex, a mistress – whatever.

Gary seems quite open in his private life these days and a quick trawl through the horrors of the tabloid internet doesn’t show any new relationships, so unless he has a new, very young, politically active girlfriend, this doesn’t seem to be the reason.

Maybe we should try Follow the Money.

In the immortal words of Lester Freamon from The Wire, “You follow drugs, you get drug addicts and drug dealers. But you start to follow the money, and you don’t know where the fuck it’s gonna take you”.

Before we do though, here’s a short list of the things that Gary has spoken out about recently:

  • Immigration- the ‘Children’ who came through Calais.
  • Brexit
  • Trump
  • Nigel Farage
  • Press Regulation – he hates the Sun

Quite the list really, marking him out as a truly modern, left-leaning, liberal sort of multimillionaire.

Curiously, Gary has stayed clear of only one major story in the past few months – and I’d actually be happy to see him come out in support of the victims.

The story gets bigger week by week and very few footballers have made any comment at all, but Wayne Rooney was vocal from the first few days. screen-shot-2017-02-04-at-11-17-43

The Metropolitan Police force released a statement revealing that 255 cases of abuse in London (just London) teams have been reported, relating to individuals at 77 clubs.

The sex abuse claims include all five Premier League teams as well as three Championship teams, three League One and Two teams and 66 other named clubs.

The force refused to disclose the names of the clubs involved or the nature of the allegations against each club.

But the city’s top teams believed to be involved are Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham, West Ham and Crystal Palace.

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A massive story in fact – With Gary having played for two of the clubs now named.

Still maybe his silence is just him being sensitive and thoughtful, because he’s not the type to mindlessly opine about something on Twitter is he?

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Or perhaps he’s helping the police by quietly pointing out the people that he suspected when he was a player. That would be nice too.

In the meantime, he continues to pontificate on international politics and appears to be regressing back to the student activist that he never was.

He recently hosted ‘Have I Got News for You’ and managed to annoy a percentage of the population who still watch the BBC with a joke about Brexit voters being dead in 10 years, and maybe, just maybe, this is where the new persona is taking him.

Lineker is a freelancer to the BBC, although his work is almost exclusively for them these days, so it’s likely a tax arrangement which also enables him to sell crisps, rather than a desire to stay independent.

He’s building a media profile up with Twitter, interviews in the foreign press

and marching on the streets to protest things that will never affect him.

Can a new chat-show with a political slant and early guests such as Charlotte Church and Lily Allen be far behind?

 

Framing the discussion

I went to my first ever Christmas Lights switch on last night, which given that I’ll be 54 tomorrow, came as a bit of a surprise to me. I’ve never been a great proponent of Christmas, I can take or leave the whole present thing, but it’s always been a good time for Family, meals, booze and a good laugh.

More of the lights later.

Let’s talk about me for a bit.

For the first ten years of my life, my family lived in the East End of London, a place that was undergoing rapid changes in demographics and culture. Which, to be fair, is what the East End has always done, with generations of immigrants moving out to make a place for the next batch.

It was a harsh and hard place, I learned to fight and fight hard at a very early age, the first time that another boy pulled a knife on me was when I was nine years old. I’d just had a trial with the England Judo team, he didn’t stand a chance.

By the age of ten, I was fighting fifteen year olds and sometimes winning.For my parents, it was time to move out, we were becoming a minority in the area anyway and the promised land of Essex was calling.

However;before you start thinking that this is about race, my first curries came from a neighbour named Mrs Hewitt, whose family had come from the West Indies, she made huge bowls and brought them to our house, because she could and because we loved them.

I still think of her occasionally and hope that her life remained as sunny and pleasant as she made other people’s.

My parents had lived through the war and the ‘Germans’ were still the enemy in the abstract, although one of my godfathers had been a Luftwaffe fighter pilot who’d done enough to earn the Iron Cross.

Television was only three channels and the press gave you your opinions – unless you had a massive curiosity about the world and read book after book after book, as I did through my teens.

Still, attitudes become ingrained and the Germans would be ‘teutonically efficient’ and ‘humourless’ in my mind for many years to come.

The North of England would remain a wasteland in my jaundiced view for even longer. This view not being changed after visits to hellholes such as Hull, Doncaster, Rochdale, the list goes on.

Mind you Luton is hideous, as is Basildon and London is now almost a lost city, the Tower Hamlets of my youth when I delivered milk with my Dad to the sink estates is now a foreign land.

I learned both French and German at school and with a few days immersion, can navigate my way around both menu and conversations (particularly in German) well enough  that German colleagues no longer speak German in front of me, just in case.

And after many years of avoiding the place, I went to Germany, Specifically Hamburg on a work related trip and fell in love with the country, everything that I thought I knew was disproved on an hourly basis, Berlin is now one of my favourite places in the world.

In the past five years, I’ve worked a lot in the North of England (as well as India, Germany, Malaysia and Australia) and slowly but surely, my attitudes have changed. Rochdale is still a hellhole, as are many of the surrounding towns and the less said about places like Rotherham the better.

Guess what?

I was wrong about the North too.

I now live in Nantwich, I moved here for work, but plan to stay. My current job means that I have to work in London now, but I have no plans to move back to the beautiful South.

The pace of life here suits me, the town is reminiscent of 1960s towns everywhere but has ensured that all of the good things about traditional English market towns have been retained.

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People are friendly, nearly all of the (many) pubs positively encourage dogs and I confess that I now find London a bit too much for me and can’t wait to get back home.

And last night I went to the turning on of the Christmas Lights and it was fantastic.

People of all ages attended, I was surprised to see so many teens and young couples alongside the families and older people, the town was completely packed, there was a small funfair, mulled wine, music and fireworks.

All in all, it was awesome and I wandered back to the pub, which had put our beers behind the bar for safe keeping with a massive grin on my face.

So.

I was wrong about Germany and the Germans.

I was wrong about ‘The North’

I found this out by myself, I didn’t need to be harangued by people who didn’t actually live there, I didn’t need a diversity lecture, my ‘racism’ didn’t need to be called out and shamed, nor my ‘ignorance’.

And finally. Here’s my point.

I watched the video of that farrago of the Hamilton cast haranguing Mike Pence at their show and cringed. How does that help? Who does it help?

I know who Pence is and think he’s got some views that I really don’t agree with, but instead of taking the opportunity to welcome him in, show him that he’s wrong about things, get to meet with him, ask him backstage or to maybe come back another day  – and engage – the cast gave him an embarrassing lecture via an ambush.

Opportunity wasted – all for some virtue signalling.

I’m finding myself turning off from anybody that can’t frame their argument, ‘racist’ ‘sexist’ ‘ableist’ are just words now. If you’re not sure enough of your argument to actually discuss it, don’t bother.