I didn’t remember ordering a plump lady with a tabard.
But I must have done. There was one in the hall.
Admittedly, there’d been a brief knock and a cry of ‘Only me!’, but it was still more than a mild surprise to see a complete stranger on the premises, shrugging off her anorak with a determined, sleeves-rolled-up, let’s-get-some-stuff-done here air.
We looked at each other. There was an awkward pause. One of us, her rapidly- narrowing eyes seemed to say, was in the wrong house; but which?
Now, I haven’t had a great deal of legal training, but I felt fairly sure justice was on my side. My brand of toothpaste was in the bathroom, the Sky box had my kind of programmes on it (American Pawn Shop Owners Do Up Cars Owned By Sharks) and, if challenged, I could identify the kitchen cupboard with the mugs in without even a momentary hesitation; these are the three immutable indicators of long-term residence, as decided at the Old Bailey and ratified by the European Parliament.
The gimlet gaze of the lady in the hall didn’t waver. She flexed a not-inconsiderable bicep. It became clear that Something Needed To Be Done.
So I defaulted into right-thinking Englishman mode and took the only possible course of action. I apologised.
‘I’m sorry’, I said, ‘but I think you might be at the wrong address’. (Note the think’ and the ‘might’. Even through my near cast-iron confidence, I was allowing the possibility that I’d actually moved house, but forgotten. These things happen.)
Stasi-like, she peppered me with questions until, at long last, we established that I had committed, with malice aforethought, the crime of living in a street with a name not dissimilar to another street. Blame allotted, and dishonour all mine, the lady went on her way to ‘Only me!’ herself elsewhere.
To do what? I never found out. And that, I feel, can only be a good thing.by