The sound of something hideous woke me in the dead of night, and I shot out of bed.
I looked at my watch, blinking in the gloom of the energy-saving bulb as it grudgingly dribbled out a slither of light. It was 3 a.m. and there was a strangled wheezing sound in my bedroom.
I’m getting used to this house making noises, though it took me a while to come to terms with the groaning.
An old man groans in pain in the dining room. I assumed it was a ghost. I’ve got every other problem going, structural, legal and decorative. So now I’ve got a poltergeist: the tortured soul of some other poor sod who tried to renovate this place and was driven to the point of insanity and beyond.
Then one day the keeper came round with long strips of sponge, stuck them into the window frame in the dining room and the groaning stopped.
I kind of liked the groaning. It was company. But I still had the wailing of the wind through the cracks in the front door, huge ceiling to floor gaps where the brickwork of the porch isn’t tied on to the house.
‘Heathcliff! I’ve come home now! So cold…’ says the front door most days and especially when the Beast from the East blows across the common.
The keeper tried to stop that too, with injector foam, but I was pleased when it didn’t work.
As for the upstairs window, I was enjoying having Cathy banging on that until I realised all my money was flying through it in the form of lost heating. I taped a clear plastic dress bag over it with gaffer.
It filled with air like a balloon and has been straining at the quadruple thick tape ever since. The bag crackles, which is not as good company as Cathy, but it’s warm.
But this wasn’t Cathy, or the groaning man from the dining room. It was a
whirring, mechanical sound.
At first I thought the radiator under the window was about to burst, and I fumbled my way around the bed to turn the valves. But the heating was off. It felt like the sound was coming from the window, then I realised it was coming from just outside the window.
I ripped both curtains back and there, an inch beyond the pane, was… was what?
A small craft with a piercing red light like an eye was hovering in front of me like an alien being. My brain tried to come up with an explanation, but there was none.
Until I saw the camera. It was a drone. Someone was flying a drone outside my bedroom window at 3 a.m., filming me in my pyjamas.
I pulled the curtains shut and ran back to bed. The spaniels climbed under the duvet with me and we huddled together, trying to will the madness away. After a while it went quiet and I fell into a fitful sleep.
The next day I called the police. How could it not be a crime that some idiot was filming me with a drone in the night?
After all, if they had put a ladder against my window and climbed up to spy on me that would be illegal. The police said it was, but as I didn’t have any evidence of who had done it they would open a case, and then close it.
That’s how they do things now. Either you solve your own crime, in which case they will come and do something, or you admit you haven’t a clue and they pass you on to Victim Support.
I declined the offer. A week later, I was walking my dogs on the common and I heard a whirring sound above my head. I looked up and there was another damn drone, or the same one, filming me again. Ten minutes later, I came upon the skinny young nerd with the remote control sitting on a bench.
‘I am complying with the law,’ he said pompously when I challenged him. ‘This…’ he paused for effect, ‘is my hobby.’
‘Then you’re a sad little man,’ I said, for since when has voyeurism been anything other than the preserve of creeps?
I called the police again. This time I asked what the law was: turns out you can’t fly a drone within 50 metres of a person.
‘Well, someone is, right now,’ I said. Would they therefore come and arrest him? But, of course, they wanted his exact coordinates, and when I had finished explaining where he was to their satisfaction, he had walked away.
They opened a case, gave me a case number then sent me an email telling me that, as I had not given them any further evidence as to the man’s identity, the case had been closed.