I suppose if you read the last few blogs you had this vision of me writing them from a cool, damp Swansea. Well, I have to disillusion you. We have been on holiday and in fact I wrote the last three blogs together in the first week of July and had them remotely posted in our absence. I did however manage to check on my blogs reasonably regularly courtesy of my iPhone and a very dodgy and extremely expensive GPRS network. So I hope no one was terribly miffed when it took 48 hours for the answer to be posted.
You see the thing is you can hardly announce on the Internet that you’re going away on holiday for the next two weeks. All someone needs to know is where you live (and that probably isn’t too hard to find) and Mr or Mrs Badperson can break in and help themselves. Actually, you’d find it quite difficult with us as we have a very efficient burglar alarm and one or two neighbours who seem to know exactly what we are doing, even when we aren’t doing it.
We haven’t had a burglary for over ten years. What happened the only time we have been burgled is quite revealing about Swansea and doesn’t really reflect much credit on Swansea, its burglars or police. In addition to taking one or two valuable things, such as my wife’s engagement ring, the thieves helped themselves to a large part of my CD collection but apparently failed to notice that all the CDs were classical ones. I alerted the only two second-hand shops in Swansea that might conceivably take classical CDs (as you may have gathered, it’s not that sort of the town) and gave them my phone number in case some unlikely character decided to try and offload some improbable music. (You can imagine the dialogue. ‘Yeah well, I guess I’ve kinda got bored wiv late ‘em late Beethoven quartets. I know all the tunes.’ )
Rather to my surprise, a few days later, I did actually get a phone call: a couple of girls who obviously didn’t know Bach from Borodin had tried to sell a bag full at one shop and were heading to the next one. With the extraordinary glee that comes from the realisation that your own intelligence and righteousness is about to achieve a glorious victory over someone else’s stupidity and wickedness I called the police. They moved with uncommon swiftness and met the girls at the shop. Here however the achievement of the constabulary grinds to a miserable halt. The cops took the CDs off the girls on the grounds that they felt they might be stolen property, but let the girls themselves go because they couldn’t prove that they were stolen. (Me? I’d have asked them to whistle the opening bars of Beethoven Five but then I’m mean like that.) When, a day or so later, I went down to the police station I was asked to prove that the CDs were mine. At this point, I showed them that a number of them actually had my name and address on sticky labels on the back (I had lent them out to friends). Faced with this rather unwelcome but peculiarly compelling piece of evidence that they were genuinely stolen, the police then decided to search the girl’s accommodation. But by now the master burglar who had been running the show had moved on along with the loot. I was told that the girls were involved in drugs, that it wasn’t them that had done the burglary anyway and while I could press charges of them being accessories and receivers of stolen goods, the nasty man behind them would probably beat them up. So, I shrugged, committed it to divine justice, took my CDs and went home. The insurance kindly coughed up for all the other missing bits but they got their own back (they always do) by increasing premiums and insisting that we had a burglar alarm installed: which has on occasions been more trouble than it’s worth.
Anyway I digress. France was wonderful. We drove right the way down to the southeast corner, the Cote D’Azur, just above Nice. For the first week we stayed at the new centre A Rocha France have at Les Courmettes because I wanted to see how suitable it was for doing geology. We had intended to drive around the Mediterranean a way before coming back up the Massif Central but instead we found a nice warm freshwater lake with a good campsite and stayed put instead, enjoying sunshine, heat and good food. When we came back to Swansea it had been (guess what) raining pretty solidly for two weeks. As it is now. And probably will be tomorrow.
I consider myself pretty incorruptible. If someone offered me a life in the French countryside for a single night’s act of quality and competent burglary you’ll be pleased to know that I’d say no.