THERE is, by our bed, a baseball bat. I brought it back from a trip to Canada, complete with baseball glove and ball.
No sooner had I brought the bat home, than my wife put it next to the bed “just in case”.
Just in case we get a late call up to bat for the Toronto Blue Jays? They can’t be that desperate, surely?
No, just in case of an intruder!
It is a great fear of course. My wife has seen enough episodes of Wire in the Blood and Luther to know that our streets are teeming with lunatics in clown masks hell-bent on doing unspeakable things to our eyeballs in the dead of night with a carving knife and bucket and hydrochloric acid.
And we’ve had them round our house on numerous occasions. In fact, I would say at least once a week
So far, however, the baseball bat has remained untouched.
In fact, the only time it has been moved was when we were living at our old house.
While in the process of selling the property, we showed a number of interested couples around, answering all the usual dull house-buying questions. I remember one couple in particular.
They had asked: What’s the area like for schools? “Good, there’s a lovely comprehensive just up the road,” we said.
How far away are the shops? “There’s a Sainsburys less than a mile away.”
And what’s the neighbourhood like? “Everyone’s really friendly and the estate is full of families.”
“Really,” the bloke said: “Is that why you keep a baseball bat by your bed?”
A nervous laugh and assurance that we’d “never had to use it” didn’t wash. They didn’t make an offer.
Hiding the baseball bat was added to the list of things to do before showing potential buyers around.
The new routine was: Remove baked bread from oven, brew coffee, hide baseball bat, chloroform kids. Usually in that order.
I mention this because Justice Secretary Ken Clarke this week issued his guidelines on how to kill any intruders who trespass on your property without being subject to criminal action.
It was disturbingly prescriptive. And at first glance appeared at odds to his plan earlier this month to offer offenders discounts on their sentences for guilty appeals (on reflection his plan is clear as day. If he can’t empty jails by freeing prisoners early, he’ll encourage us to kill them before they get to court).
Mr Clarke clarified the use of reasonable force when tackling burglars. He said the Government would “make it quite clear you can hit the burglar with the poker if he’s in the house and you have perfect defence when you do so.”
Crikey. But we haven’t got a poker.
Don’t worry. His second scenario, again disturbingly detailed, covered this.
“If an old lady finds she’s got an 18-year-old burgling her house and she picks up a kitchen knife and sticks it in him she has not committed a criminal offence and we will make that clear.”
And if an 18-year-old finds an old lady burgling his house?
He didn’t answer that one, though he did make clear that he drew the line at shooting burglars in the back when they are fleeing or “getting friends together to beat them up”. Spoilsport.
It’s good to know though because, as I said, the unhinged come calling in the middle of the night at our house all the time, but I never pick up the bat.
“Richard,” my wife will whisper shaking me awake, “I heard a noise. There’s someone downstairs.”
Despite my protests, I’m sent downstairs to tackle the elusive maniac. “Take the bat,” she’ll hiss. I never do. Me in my underpants is enough. The sight scares the bejesus out of me, and I’m used to it. God help those witnessing it for the first time.
Of course, every time I’m called upon there’s nothing to be found and I give my wife an earful for waking me up.
“I definitely heard something,” she always maintains. One day, I’m sure, I’ll stagger back into the room with a machete embedded in my head. But at least I’ll take solace in the fact that after shouting “I told you so” my wife has Mr Clarke’s permission to beat the living daylights out of the bloke in the clown mask with the baseball bat.