Saturday, July 07, 2007

Musings on 07.07.07

King & Queen
Crime scene: the King & Queen public house, Cleveland St., London, W1

Apparently 7/7/7 is a lucky date and members of the public are engaged in all sorts of slightly bizarre antics that they believe will have an auspicious outcome on this once-in-a-century occurrence. Well I've now seen this date in two separate centuries and on neither occasion was it fortuitous. Now I'm not really a TimeLord; the last occasion I lived through a succession of sevens was 7/7/77 (which I know is not quite the same) some 30 years ago.

I can remember the day quite well. It started with Noel Edmonds playing Emerson Lake and Palmer's version of "Fanfare for the Common Man" and crowing that he started the record at precisely seven seconds  into the seventh minute past seven o'clock in the morning. Noel has always been a smug, pretentious, patronising, git. Anyway, shortly thereafter I noticed that I couldn't find my cheque book. I didn't think much about this and proceeded to my new job at the Middlesex Hospital Medical School. I was living in the residential quarters of the Middlesex at the time and the end of the day I returned and had a determined look for the missing cheque book. It was not to be found anywhere but I wasn't particularly worried as even back then cheques were rarely accepted without a guarantee card which I was carrying safely in my wallet. Or was I...? I then rummaged though my wallet and the card was not to be found although all other items, credit card, cash, driving license etc were all there. This was very odd. Had I simply misplaced the items or had something more sinister occurred? And then I had one of those feelings-of-doom moments...

The previous night I'd ended up in one of the medical school's favourite watering holes, the King & Queen pub in Cleveland Street. I can't quite remember the initial social circumstances but I ended up chatting to a very engaging young fellow about life, the universe and everything. He appeared very well educated (he almost certainly was) and claimed to be the son of the Taylor in the then well known Taylor-Woodrow construction partnership. I remember talking to "Mr. Taylor" in an increasingly animated and well-oiled kind of way until closing time whereupon I made my way back to my digs and passed out. However I did remember quite clearly that at one point I'd paid a visit to the toilet and asked "Mr. Taylor" to keep an eye on my wallet (which as you may have guessed contained my cheque book and card). Now I wasn't entirely without neuronal function back in those days and had the presence of mind to call my bank and report a possible loss/theft of the items. I also popped into Tottenham Court Road police station to do the same thing. The bored officer who took the report assured me that theft was extremely unlikely as "these types always make off with the lot sir, cheque book, credit cards, cash, you name it". When I suggested that a con man could buy a lot of time if they didn't resort to such crude tactics the officer merely looked at me with that "just leave it to the professionals sir; Sherlock Holmes you are not" expression. I traipsed out of the cop shop feeling naive and slightly foolish.

I was however vindicated a couple of days later when a gentleman from the National Westminster Bank fraud division phoned and enquired whether I'd been writing cheques at Fortnum & Masons, Harrods and other London up-market retail establishments. I replied I hadn't: I was only a new postdoc, and until a week previously, had been living in grad student austerity. Such places simply weren't on my radar screen. Well the thief went on an amazing shopping spree for three days, stopping only when all the cheques were expended. I think the accumulated bill was about £600 which was a small fortune back then. Fortunately because I'd reported the theft in a timely manner I wasn't liable for a penny. I didn't hear any more of the matter until a couple of months later when I had a call from the Tottenham Court Road plod. They wanted to know if I would be prepared to identify the thief. I agreed and was duly escorted by a pleasant officer to Scotland Yard (disappointingly we didn't go in a police car with sirens wailing but rather prosaically on the tube [subway]). At Scotland Yard I was presented with a large volume of mug shots and told to look through them and see if I could recognise anyone (no line up, unfortunately). I didn't have great expectations but lo and behold on the second page there was "Mr. Taylor". He was even wearing the same suit he had on that evening in the King & Queen. I duly fingered him and asked the officer about Taylor's rap sheet. Hw wouldn't tell me anything other than "He's a very clever bloke, that one..". No kidding, he certainly had me fooled!

Well that was then and this is now. The events of today have been possibly less exciting but more expensive and certainly not lucky. I've just been informed that my car needs major transmission work that comes with a price that will induce nosebleeds. And to add insult to injury my dishwasher has packed up. As Hugh Grant would say, "sodding, buggery, bollocks!". I probably won't make 07.07.2077 but if I do I'm going to lock myself in a concrete bunker and not emerge for the entire day.

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