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Friday January 30, 2009

Things that go bump in the night

There we are, George Clooney and I, expertly performing the Tango to a wildly appreciative audience on TV’s Strictly Come Dancing when suddenly there’s a tremendous thud followed by the sound of shattering china. My dream evaporates as I sit bolt upright in bed at the same time as my bleary eyed Scotsman.
‘What was THAT?’ I hiss, frozen with fear.
Without a word he bounds to the door, switches on the light and hotly descends the stairs with me scampering behind. The kitchen floor bears witness to a struggle. Broken crockery is strewn across the tiles but there’s no sign of the culprit. I’ve never worried about burglars since living in the hills of rural Mallorca. We rarely close our doors at night, and the only real risk is that some stray bat absentmindedly flies in and has to be exited the next morning. Now I’m wondering if we’ve been foolishly naïve.

We search the premises. Ollie is still blissfully asleep in his bed. I slip cautiously downstairs to the basement, my writing den, and scream when a wild, screeching ball of fur flies out of the door and up the steps. It’s a wild feral cat. Alan gives chase and after a struggle manages to shoo it out of the kitchen door. He examines the scratches on his arm.
‘Damned creature must have got in through the kitchen window and knocked over the mug tree,’ he grumbles.
We clear up the mess and return, wearily, to our beds.

The next night is stormy and with the Scotsman away in London for a few days, I decide to batten down the hatches. It is just before dawn that I awake with a start. Despite the howling gale, I can distinctly hear the low whir of a car engine and then the sound of tyres crunching on the gravel in our drive. An engine is killed. Silence. I cannot believe for the second night running, our normally tranquil mountain eerie, is fast becoming the set for a horror movie. In my nightie I tip toe over to the window, only to glimpse two swarthy figures sitting in the front of a white van. They peer out of their open windows, probably casing out the joint. What should I do? My immediate instinct is to dial the number of my good Mallorcan chum, Catalina, but from my watch face I see that it’s barely five thirty. I exercise some logic. The house is locked up and in an emergency surely I can quickly telephone a close neighbour or the local policía? With what macho spirit I can muster I turn on all the house lights and defiantly throw open the bedroom windows. In a commanding voice I call out in Spanish,
‘Who are you?’
Two heads poke out of the windows and then the driver gets out. To my consternation I see he’s holding what looks suspiciously like a cup of steaming coffee. He looks worried.
‘Señora! I am Pepe! We’re here to fix your husband’s irrigation system in the orchard. He asked us to come up today.’
‘Why so early?’ I say suspiciously.
‘We always start around now but we thought we’d have a quick coffee and a sandwich in the car first. I tried to keep the engine low not to disturb anyone.’
Now that I can see more clearly, I realise, to my embarrassment, that it is indeed Pepe, the irrigation expert.
‘Oh, not to worry,’ I say in mock cheer. ‘I woke early myself.’
He smiles up at me. ‘That’s good.’
I make a mental note to strangle the Scotsman when he returns from London. He did mumble about a problem with the lemon trees but nothing about Pepe.

The following blustery night, I go to bed armed with a chamomile tea and a good novel. It’s pitch black when I jolt wake. Did I hear a bump? The door creaks open. It’s Ollie. He wanders into the bedroom in his pyjamas.
‘Sorry, can’t sleep. Can I snuggle up with you?’
He shoots under the duvet and together, at last, we enjoy a blissfully peaceful night.

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