I live in a comfortably safe middle-class area, presumptuously described as 'little Switzerland' by estate agents who presumably have never set foot in Switzerland.
I've lived here for a long time, over thirty years, in that time my children have grown up, my parents have spent many happy times visting, lots of parties, the wakes of my father and brother, when anything is wrong everyone congregates here, it's the bedrock of the family: all in all a house blessed with very happy memories.
All that was viciously torn asunder last Wednesday afternoon. A beautiful, typically English sunny midsummer's day.
I rarely go out in the daytime as I run a business from home, but that day, encouraged by the fact that my son Toby hadn't turned up and savouring the cessation of noise from building activities accepted an offer to pop out with my daughter Celia around lunchtime. She picked me up around 1pm and decided to meet up with Bill in Rochford to view a couple of houses he'd seen on my laptop that were up for auction.
Whilst we were in Rochford I called into PC World to buy a mouse pad for my laptop and after an hour or so for some inexplicable reason felt a keen need to get back home so asked Bill to run me back, it was about 4pm.
On walking into the house Bill went straight to the laptop which still had his auction site page open on it - only it wasn't there. He turned to ask me where I'd put it? Not a little annoyed, as he wanted to check out one of the houses he'd viewed. I stared at the glaring space non-plussed, I know I'm getting a bit more absent-minded but not that bad yet and remember freezing with the realisation that - hard as it was to believe in the middle of the day - I'd been burgled.
I ran upstairs, looking in on my temporary bedroom and to my horror saw the cut crystal glass pot that stores my jewellery upended on the bed: empty. I just couldn't take it in at first but dialled 999 and mechanically asked for the police and told them I'd been burgled and heart racing started to fear what else had been taken.
The scenario was surreal, as if I'd dreamt it or a ghost had visited. I work from home, both my computers were on, all lights etc and a cup of tea was still warm on the table that I work from. How could anyone break into a house that to all intent and purposes had someone there. Then I started looking around and saw the French doors slightly ajar and assumed they or he must have forced them open to gain entrance.
To give the police their due, they acted promptly, telling us not to touch anything until they'd fingerprinted everything and that when i was ready to give a full statement and take my fingerprints to eliminate them I guess: or rather hope.
When it started to sink in exactly what they'd taken I broke down in tears: my mothers wedding ring was in the pot as was mine and my engagement ring. Plus many presents bought for me in the Middle East by Bill during our tyears out there as well as presents from other boyfriends, so many memories. In a daze I went over to where my Ipad was and realised I'd put it on charge next to my laptop that morning, what a gift for the burglars. That was gone too.
Then an idea hit me, Mobile Me, I had both the Ipad and Iphone linked to it. Exultantly, I told the police, we could track them and catch them. I sat at the desktop clicking on the site expectantly but to my dismay the Ipad had disappeared, I presumed I was doing it wrong and confused in my mental state so rang Apple for help. Somewhat unhelpfully all they offered was that it must been reverted to factory settings. So my euphoria was short-lived. I asked them why in this age of technology it couldn't be tracked. Thinking of all the recent scandals wth the News of the World and phone-hacking. And always been of the opinion that we are all tracked far more than we may know: Big Brother and all that.
Celia my daughter came over straight away as did Toby. The police did a house-to-house asking for information up and down my road but incredulously no-one saw anything or were out that afternoon. Almost as if a ghost had been in. I still find it odd that of the houses in my road mine was one of the few that to all intent and purposes had someone in it, clearly visible from the road, even my car was on the drive as Celia had picked me up in hers. And noted with not a little bitterness that the traffic wardens who've been plaguing us during the restricted parking time which may have been around the time I was burgled weren't around either. No tickets to issue as no building work going on.
Celia insisted I stay at hers and I was only too glad to get out, feeling strangely torn not wanting to leave but not wanting to stay either. That night I drank a full bottle of wine, something I haven't done for a long time.
The next morning I felt much worse. I went into the house with my son. I couldn't face going in alone. The feelings I experienced were awful, such a violation of my personal space and alienation of what had always been my safe refuge from the problems that life inevitably brings.
I ventured upstairs, every door and drawer had been ransacked. I shuddered. What type of unwelcome scum was handling my personal possessions and clothing? My fathers and grandson's photo's looking out from my bedside table as a silent witnesses to their invasion, likewise Loki my cat.
My lovely house which had always been my haven, passion and hobby now feels alien and toxic. I can't sleep there at night but have to be there in the day for my work. At present I'm fine during the day as Toby and often Bill are there working but as soon as they leave I feel anxious and jump at every noise.
Celia rang and said she'd bough me a small present to cheer me up. She brought it over and when I looked in her car saw a pet carrier, she'd driven to Suffolk to buy me a kitten. A handsome boy. Lilac point British Shorthair. I cried at her thoughtfulness and how lucky I am with my family.
The insurance assessor visited the following day to go through the claim which I hadn't got round to. How do I know what's been taken, I keep finding things missing with every day that passes, not to mention inconvenience. Stupid things, like my Iphone charger so couldn't charge my phone. The laptop was used by both Bill and Toby to source and price building materials. Now we all have to share my old desktop and as I'm on it nearly all day causes difficulties. A pot of change containing pound coins and 50p's that I used for tips and to give to my grandsons when they visit has been emptied, leaving a few cursory scattered coins as a grim reminder of their haste and greed.
A week on I'm writing this as a catharsis as much as anything else. A sharp learning curve, the burglar alarm is put on every time I leave even if it's only for a few minutes. Nothing is left to chance. Security cameras and CCTV have been installed, my God, I don't live in a sink estate, though as someone pointed out yesterday, I wouldn't have been burgled if I did as would have nothing worth taking.
Last weekend was spent poring over forty years of photos looking for proof of the jewellery I had with some success but not total.and for a while was lost in nostalgia and eventually tears. I'm told the insurance company may not pay out on all the jewellery I had if I have no proof of it. How can I offer proof of my mothers wedding ring? I haven't made an insurance contents claim in years yet was asked if I had any convictions? All this both saddens and angers me in equal measure. And adds to the pain and trauma of being burgled. The insurance company treating a claimant as suspect plus the work entailed to itemise everything.
To say I wished I'd stayed in is pointless or got back earlier as for all I know I may have walked in on them and who knows what may have happened. It could have been a lot worse so thankful for that at least. I'm not a weak woman and have had my share of grief and upsets, borne so I'm told with a degree of stoicism, so why has this had such a terrible effect on me? A feeling of violation of my precious inner sanctum. I want to go back to loving just being in my little house again. To experience again the soothing and welcoming sensation of walking in my own front door, a sense of peace and home.
Talking to people since I find with some alarm that there is quite a bit of crime in my so-called 'safe' area, But quite why is mystifiying. Is this for drugs? Kicks? Boredom? Why can't they just get a job? Where are they coming from, is it from the station, a cheap awayday ticket to more prosperous areas. Why take from those of us who do work hard? The jewellery was all I had of any real value, a lifetime of special landmark memories and celebrations precised down to fund - no doubt - a drug habit. I wouldn't mind so much if it was to feed a child or heat an old persons home. That would at least make sense to me.
I know I sound like my parents but it really wasn't like this when I was young.and I lived in New Cross, London, not an area known for it's wealth or culture save for Goldsmith's College. Perhaps society is at fault, bad parenting and role models. An out of control drug culture. Benefits paid out too freely to youngsters? Even if they're caught - which I'm very much hoping they will be - what will happen to them? Prison with it's 'career opportunities' of learning further crime and drugs isn't the ideal option for young offenders. I want to sit across from them, look them in the eye and ask why? There must be a way of getting criminals to put something back into society rather than just taking from it.