The teapot there is big and round. Shiny stainless steel. It needs a tea cosy and it has one, pretty and well-padded. That morning, just after dawn, at first I forget to use it. I’m often dozy, early on. Then, on my way to cover the teapot, I notice the drawn curtains. Mindful of my responsibilities, I go to let the daylight in. I pull back a curtain and see someone outside, curled up against the front door.
At home, I’d jerk open the door and shout: WHAT do you think you’re doing? But my lethargy gives me a moment before the adrenalin kicks in. In that moment, I think. And I ring The Boss. Should I call 111, I ask? Yes, she says. And stay in touch.
So I tap with enthusiasm: 111. (OO! That’s what it feels like!) Get the fastest list of phone options ever: Fire-Service-Ambulance-Police (maybe not in that order). Police, I say, for the first time ever. Almost immediately, an Efficient Young Woman: This is the Police, where is your emergency? I respond quietly, because I’m close to that front door and the phone isn’t portable.
The introduction takes a while. Fifty-two seconds, according to the EYW’s Police Event Chronology, which I later obtain (recording thirteen action-packed minutes, RRRR-redacted, mostly in capital letters and minimally punctuated), with a CD record of our conversation.
I’m tense. I can’t remember the street number. And I can’t find it in the file provided. I can’t read the phone book without my reading glasses. And EYW wants me to stay where I am, so I can’t fetch them. But we get there with the necessary basics, Whew.
EYW asks me to describe the person at the door, tucked into his hoodie and now on his hands and knees. The top of his head rests against the doorsill. He rocks to and fro and scrabbles with what looks like a credit card. Then he’s on his feet and I can see a few more details. His height. His clothes. (MALE U[n]K[known] RACE APPROX 18-19 YEARS OLD BLUE JACKET BLUE PANTS APPROX 5’9” SLIGHTLY STOOPED HOOD UP says the Event Chronology). The police are on their way, says EYW.
And he disappears. Up the path maybe. A different kind of Whew. (INFMT HAS JUST LOST OBS). Gone.
But no. He bangs on the back door. Rattles the handle. I can see his shape through the rippled glass. (MALE NOW KNOCKING ON BACK DOOR ADVISING TO JUST KEEP DOORS LOCKED AND NOT LET HIM IN…INFMT SUSPECTS ALCOHOL/DRUGS AS MALE MOVING SLOWLY…BOBBING UP AND DOWN). He starts to scrabble again. (Is he using that card to open the lock?) He thumps.
(INFMT IS THE CAREGIVER OF ONE ELDERLY FEMALE AT ADDRESS NIL DOGS NIL CHILDREN…RRR…INFMT CAN HEAR MALE TRYING TO OPEN BACK DOOR NOW FYI ELDERLY RESIDENT AT ADDRESS NOT AWARE ALL THIS IS HAPPENING – SHE IS IN BED PROPERTY STILL SECURE BUT MALE TRYING VERY HARD AT BACK DOOR).
I’m frightened, I say to the operator. What if he breaks the glass and comes in? How much longer will the police be? (To my surprise, on the CD, my voice sounds calm.) You’re doing great, she says. Not long, she says. They’re setting up cordons. (UNITS NOT FAR OFF – ONE GOING 10/7 BUT AT CORDON). I’ll do some qi gong breathing, I say.
Then I hear another voice: ‘Marian’. I have to go, I say. I’ll be back.
The Elderly Female would love another cup of tea. I sidle into the kitchen, pour the tea, get that tea cosy on and take the cup to the bedroom. I want to thrust it at her and race back to the phone. But I slow down, share a few words and a smile. Decide that I can scoop her up and run with her if necessary. Yes, I can. But how would we get past the Male, whichever door he comes in?
On the way back to the phone I pass the kitchen. And I see the Male plainly for the first time, through a pane of clear glass next to the back door. He’s rocking to and fro again, but on his feet. Looks a bit like my youngest son. And confused. (CAUC WITH BROWN STUBBY HAIR).
If he gets in, I say, back at the phone, I’ll go into the Elderly Female’s bedroom and shut the door.
The EYW asks about gates. Explains that a police dog is coming to track the Male if he runs for it. (ADVISED IF MALE DOES LEAVE TO NOT EXIT PROPERTY IN CASE DELTA ATTENDING). I move slightly, to see a bit of the path. And hear something. Running feet. A flash of blue? A chase? Then hear a cheery voice, Hiya mate. They’re here, I say. (INFMT CAN SEE POLICE TALKING WITH MALE NOW). Stay on the line until an officer arrives at the door, EYW says. (WILL STAY ONLINE UNTIL POLICE 10/7 WITH INFMT). Please ask them to knock very quietly, I tell her.
A gentle knock. Here they are. Goodbye then, I say. No, she says. Wait till you’re in contact. I answer the door. A tiny quiet police officer. Can I come in, she asks. No, I say. I’ll just say goodbye to the 111 woman. And come back.
I return to the phone. EYW and I say goodbye, almost absent-mindedly. Both of us on to the next thing. Thank you, I say. I return to the tiny police officer. Give my details again. He’s a neighbour she says, highly intoxicated. Got the wrong house. (EXTREMELY 1K MALE 0 NIL ISSUES). She holds out her palm. On it rests a drivers license and car keys. These were out here. Are these yours? No, I say, wondering why she asks; she must have just seen the young man whose photo is on the licence. (GIVEN THE VERY 1K MALE A 4L HOME). Thank you, I say again.
Then back to the phone. Call The Boss. She’s relieved it all went well. And how are you? she asks. Drained, I say. I think I’ll make a cup of tea. And then I hear another call from the bedroom: ‘Marian’. Gotta go, I say.
The beautiful Elderly Female gives me another smile. I’d like some more tea, she says. That one was cold. Sure, I say. I’ll put on the jug.
This story’s for my big sister Judy, who was probably there when I had my very first cup of tea, with every good wish for her special birthday, with carnations that remind me of our grannie and this photo to remind her of New Zealand.