Wednesday, September 17, 2008


The retirement block is frankly laid out in new red brick, but a stand of young ash trees planted in front are already softening the geometric lines of windows and walkways, and there are vigorous bushes of jasmine hauling themselves up from the small patches of garden at the front. The sounds of children playing in a nearby park drift across to us, and to the group of elderly women standing by the open front door. It’s a cardigan-wrapped, whisperingly tight little huddle, although as I open the gate and walk up the path towards them, they chip in brightly enough:
‘Flat Eight.’
‘Ground floor.’
‘Turn right as you go in, dear.’

We make our way along a narrow corridor to number eight. The runner is rucked up outside the open door. ‘Ambulance’ I call out, and make my way inside. Another confined space, but this one strewn with a pair of broken glasses, the contents of a toppled plant stand, a discarded jacket. We pick our way through towards the voices we can hear in the sitting room.

‘In here, guys.’

Stanley is sitting on the edge of a flower-patterned arm chair. He looks up at us, and dabs at a small cut above his right eye with a blood spotted handkerchief. A policeman stands next to him; over in the kitchen a policewoman looks round the door and waves at us. They’re both wearing rubber gloves.

‘What’s happened here, then?’

Stanley – an eighty year old with a full eighty years of gravity expressed in his face – lowers the handkerchief.

‘I’ve been beaten up, threatened, locked in a cupboard and had all my savings taken. That’s what’s bleedin’ happened.’

The policeman puts a hand on his shoulder and tells us the story: two guys knocked on the door, when Stanley opened it they pushed him backwards into the flat and onto the floor. They punched him in the face but he wasn’t knocked out. They threatened him with further violence if he didn’t tell him where his safe was, then they locked him in the broom cupboard and stole his money. He managed to escape from the cupboard by undoing the hinges with a screwdriver.

‘I don’t understand how they knew I had a safe’, he says, dabbing his eye again. ‘How would they know that?’

We clean his wounds and check him over. He seems to have come through the ordeal reasonably intact. We offer to take him to hospital but he refuses.

‘They can’t do nothing. They can’t get me my money back,’ he says. ‘What I really need is a glass of brandy and a cigarette. Can I have those, do you think?’

I tell him he’s in his own home and he’s perfectly at liberty to have what he likes.

‘My own home,’ he echoes, closing his eyes and waggling his jaw slightly, as if he were rolling those words around in his mouth for the first time.

‘No good will come of these people,’ I say to him, packing my stethoscope away. But no-one in the room, not the neighbours looking in from the hallway to pay their respects, the Scene of Crime officer arriving with a detective, not Rae, and not the police completing their paperwork – no-one can say that this will be so.

I shake Stanley’s hand, give a copy of the PRF to the police, and we leave.

Outside, the day has moved on. The children in the park have gone and the sky has deepened. The air seems colder. For the first time I really notice that the trees have started to lose their leaves; I scuffle through a patch or two back to the ambulance. There is definitely, definitely an autumnal pinch about the place.


Subville said...

Jeez, poor old bloke. Makes you wonder if a daft 'mate' told a dodgy friend about his safe.

Expect more of this, unfortunately :(

Caroline said...

God, I love your writing.

cogidubnus said...

Poor Stanley...from now onwards, everything suddenly is downhill...I know that suddenly vulnerable feeling and sadly caught the beginning of it some twenty years earlier than he did...

Spence Kennedy said...

Subz - I think they must have known about the safe. It was too targetted, too specific. And they ignored everything else.

Caroline - Thank you so much!

Cogi - It is a dreadful feeling to be subjected to violence like that. When I lived in London I was mugged at knifepoint. It took a while to regain my balance, so to speak, but I still think there are way more people willing to help than hurt. I hope your experience wasn't too awful, and that you're over it now.

At least with Stanley he had the support of his neighbours - and the police, of course!

Thanks for all your comments.
S :)

Anonymous said...

I only found your blog a couple of weeks ago, but each time I take a peek at your site and find a new post I am really moved by your descriptions, and delighted by your eloquence. What a sad tale this post gives - and what an utter lack of respect that horrid pair of theives showed. I hope they realise how much pain they cause.

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks, Hennie!

I would guess that the guys who robbed Stanley were looking for quick cash to buy drugs with. I suppose their world view is so skewed by the demands of their habit that they've lost sight of basic humanity - if they ever had any, of course.

I do stand by that 'no good will come of them' thing. It seems to me that if you're prepared to do something like that, what can you possibly expect in return? Who can you trust? Imagine never really being able to trust anyone? How could you live in a world like that? It would be so lonely.

Small comfort for the victim, but I know that I would find living in their world unbearable.

uphilldowndale said...

*sigh* some folk never recover from something like that, not sure I would. Terrifying

Anonymous said...


I too have just stumbled upon your blog.

I keep tabs on others but your style is superb, its different to the others.

Much respect from a PTS newbie waiting to go frontline.

Spence Kennedy said...

UHDD - I was impressed by Stan's resilience (but shock probably accounted for much of that). Poor guy. The level of violence they used was horrible, and I don't doubt it'll be difficult to come to terms with.

Anon - Thanks for dropping by, and for your encouragement. Good luck with the application. I think the PTS route is particularly good - sets you up in terms of knowing how hospitals work, getting to know patients, awkward lifts & such. But I suppose I'm biased (that's the route I took!)


loveinvienna said...

Poor old Stanley - we hear of this kind of thing more and more now. However, he might be made of tougher stuff than all us young 'uns put together - my mum told me of an 85 year old lady who, after her friend was mugged, began to carry a walking stick around to beat the living daylights out of any potential thieves. Tough old bird :)

And I agree with you about 'no good coming of them' Spence. Karma, Tenfold law, Threefold law, whatever you want to call it - they'll be punished someday.

Liv xxx (on the comp. at her youth hostel)

Spence Kennedy said...

All power to her stick!

I had a quick shimmy round Wikipedia about the threefold law etc. Very interesting. The idea of reciprocity, the Golden Rule that seems to crop up in religions across the world and across time. Simple and strong. I like the idea that those no-good thugs were breaking a code that dates back thousands of years. It makes me feel that they can't possibly get away with it.

Hope you're well and loving it in Vienna...

LoL Sx