Thursday, November 30, 2006

Rude awakening

6 am this morning in the slumbering midst of phase 1 of my wake up process (Radio 4 gently raises me from the dead, a quarter of an hour later alarm number 1 goes off, followed 15 minutes later by my mobile – even then I am sometimes still asleep!) I am startled by a violently aggressive hammering on my bedroom window.

I awake, confused and flustered. My immediate thought is that I have overslept for something and someone has come round to wake me. I mentally check my day in my head, no nothing, I am right where I am supposed to be; in bed.

Now that the friendly option has been ruled out I am paralysingly struck with fear. Someone is trying to break in and not very subtly either. I pull my duvet over my head, hide, ignore and it will go away. But it doesn’t, it comes back, even harsher than before. They are knocking so hard I think the window will break. Then they ring the door bell.

The fear dispels and anger takes over. ‘For fuck’s sake!’ I mutter out loud. I stumble, glasses-less to the door & pick up the intercom, ‘Hello?’.

‘Home Office’ they growl, ‘we have reason to believe there is someone in this building who is in this country illegally’. As I press the button to let them in two simultaneous thoughts rush through my head. The first is guilt, ‘what have I done?’ The second is suspicion ‘they could be anyone’.

They fall against the door and flood into the hall, 10, 15, big burly, John Reid type thugs. They are ‘the enforcers’, cloned like their boss. They repeat their charge ‘well not in here’ I say, standing bleary eyed in my dressing gown. They throw their faces too close to mine and glare with suspicion. ‘How many other flats are there here?’ they bark. I describe the layout of the house to them and they ask if they can get into the garden. I let 3 of them in, tramping through the flat. They peer over the fence and up at the back of the house. Begrudgingly they apologise ‘sorry to disturb you’ one mutters. ‘It’s ok’ I lie, ‘you just frightened the living daylights out of me’. ‘Sorry about that’ as they march out of the door without looking back.

A woman thrusts a photocopied passport photo in my face. ‘Do you know this man’ she says. He doesn’t look familiar, but I don’t pay much attention to most of my neighbours, I tell her ‘no’.

They stampede up the stairs and I remember the dodgy Columbians who moved out 3 years ago. It could be him. I am tired and pissed off and still shocked from a startled awakening. I decide not to tell them, they can figure it out themselves.

Due to my blurry vision at the aforementioned time I missed a vital detail...according to my upstairs neighbour they were armed. They hammered on his door too, then said 'you're obviously British so sorry to bother you'! As he said, why go to all that effort and expense then not even search people's flats?