By the time I was sixteen, my parents had decided I was old enough to be trusted with the keys to the house. It made life easier for me, and it also meant there was no longer any need to hide the front door key in the one place that a thief would never, ever think of looking: under the flowerpot right next to the door. All well and dandy if you remembered to trouser your keys in the morning. Which, for both me and my brother, was not very often.
Our house was hardly an impregnable fortress at the best of times, and it was easy enough to get in if you’d forgotten your keys. The downstairs toilet window - a gap about two feet by one foot - was as loose as hell, and with a little difficulty you could squeeze yourself inside. Just stick a small slither of metal up through the window seal and flip up the handle and it was open. A quick struggle and you were in, making sure the neighbours didn’t notice your bit of amateur house-breaking.
However, as we got older, we also got bigger and it became increasingly difficult to get through the tiny opening. The last time I tried resulted in a huge bruise on my thigh as I got stuck on the window latch, followed by falling headfirst onto the bog floor in a painful, crumpled heap. I’d rather go round a mate’s house or sit in the shed than try that again, thank you very much.
Nigel, on the other hand, was still regularly key-less and pushing his luck with the window. So it came to pass that I arrived home after photographic club one summer evening at about five o’clock to see a pair of legs poking out of the window, waving around frantically. It was my brother. He’d come home over an hour earlier, forgotten his keys and had climbed through head first in the time honoured fashion. He’d got stuck fast halfway through, his belt loop was jammed on the window latch, and there was no way of moving up, down, in or out to free himself.
There was no point in hurrying to rescue him. For starters, I was in fits of laughter at the sight of him, and his swearing and shouting just made me worse. And I HAD to see the front end first, yet with tears running down my face, and my hands shaking with laughter, I couldn’t get the key in the door to get in.
About five minutes later, with the cries of the trapped reaching a crescendo I finally turned the key in the lock and staggered down the hall into the downstairs loo. What I saw just finished me off. Nige was propping himself up on the sink, bright red with all the blood rushing to his head and covered in dog slobber from Snoop’s usual over-enthusiastic welcome home to the young master. We was livid.
“Well, don’t just stand there laughing you bastard - get me out!”
I will forever curse the fact that I didn’t have any film in my camera.
He was stuck fast. I tried to drag him through, but the ripping sound of his school trousers giving way told us this was a non-starter. I had to go back outside and literally drag him back out of the window by his legs, while a small crowd of interested passers-by shouted encouragement and clapped heartily when he shot out, like a cork out of a champagne bottle. Worse for him, the entire groin area of his trousers was ripped away, revealing a lovely pair of crusty Y-Fronts for the entire world to see.
Of course the folks found out, and we caught hell (as usual) and the bog window was placed permanently out of bounds. Anyway, by climbing up the cherry tree, swinging across to the balcony and jemmying the window, we soon found that getting in through the bathroom was a doddle. But It had to come to an end sooner or later. We did one of those careers tests at school. It said my ideal job was “housebreaker”. A fair cop.