I truly wished over the past week I owned a castle, since it would keep everyone else out and me safely in.
For those of you who have been following my blog for a while now, the term Grunters will probably ring a bell…
Actually, bell-ringing is how it all started last Tuesday night at 11.50 pm, when I was woken up by persistent ringing and hammering at our front door.
As I was completely alone in the house at the time, I didn’t switch on the lights or answer the door. Eventually the nuisance callers went away and I fell asleep once more…only to be woken up again at 1.30 am by more bell-ringing and fists on the door.
This time the callers had brought their very own helicopter which circled over the area and woke up the entire neighbourhood.
I shut my eyes and started dreaming of buying Pierrefonds Castle, pulling the duvet over my head until the callers went away.
I fell asleep only to be disturbed for the third time at 2.18 am, when more bell-ringing followed, this time unaccompanied by helicopters or fists.
The next morning I went down to check with the business located on the ground floor of our building, if anything was missing or if someone had tried to break in, only to be told that my upstairs neighbour’s boyfriend had made a nuisance of himself there by turning up repeatedly with the police, trying to get into the building when I was out and my flatmates were also away.
Was the nocturnal nuisance caller dressed in blue uniform or just in his customary dirty shirt and jeans?
Turns out, the middle aged lady living upstairs has gone missing, just like in the Hitchcock classic “The Lady vanishes” (1938, starring Michael Redgrave and Dame May Whitty as Miss Froy). Perhaps it was the Gestapo at my door or Hitch himself reminding me to always expect the unexpected in my prose?
The vamoosed lady left more than a month ago, conveniently forgetting to tell her boyfriend she’d be staying elsewhere – her post has been re-directed, so I’m assuming she’s safe with her daughter or son.
Meanwhile, on Sunday morning at 10 am I was once again disturbed by more bell-ringing, this time via an imposing ring-finger belonging to one of 3 police people, who couldn’t give a flying fig about vanished ladies but quizzed me about….YEP, THE GRUNTERS who moved out in March!
I had to identify the chief Grunter from a picture and tell the plain-clothes detectives everything I know – which is precisely zilch – about the whereabouts of this most nauseating of former neighbours.
Now, you would think that this interview represented the pinnacle of a public spirited performance from a foreigner living in the UK – but no, this morning (Tuesday) I was allowed to show a repeat performance to two uniformed officers, who came ringing and hammering at our door at 8 am. Yep, the knave Grunter strikes again. Did I know of his whereabouts and had he been seen near the premises and when did he actually move out…?
Where are my knights, my soldiers, my castle guards and crossbowmen you might ask? Where are the archers who’ll put an arrow into the paininthearse that is Grunter and Co?
Before everyone jumps to the conclusion I live in the slums of Cardiff and therefore only have myself to blame, well, I don’t. At least I didn’t until the Grunters moved in…and out again. Now our house has a police reputation and is probably under surveillance as I’m writing this.
My new flatmate S. and her small dog B., who only moved in on Saturday afternoon, will probably spend today sniffing through my kitchen cupboards in case I’m involved in a major drug deal or gold bullion heist. Meanwhile, I’ve fled to a university library, which is currently free of uniformed menaces in blue but full of men in white coats…they are painters and decorators the librarian said, but I don’t believe in the tooth fairy anymore so why should I believe a librarian with gold dust on her nose?
In fact, I’m no longer sure, if I shouldn’t simply throw in the towel and head for the safety of a padded cell. Reading through Caerphilly Castle’s estate agent blurb I find it requires far too many repairs to be of interest to me.
When Earl Gilbert de Clare (1243 to 1295) built Caerphilly Castle, he apparently forgot to add a keep, a pretty stupid thing to do when you live in Caerphilly town centre – I worked there – I know what the local peasants get up to come sunset!
You want to head straight for the keep and let down the portcullis the moment school’s out, not hang around by the fire in the great hall, watching half-naked minstrels perform your favourite bit from Blackadder or cheer your jesters jousting in the corridors.
Come to think of it, the Grunters would fit right into Caerphilly, a run-down little town surrounded by hills, where even toddlers are likely to carry knives I’m told (by Welsh people). Earl Gilbert built the castle because nearly one half of his revenues were derived from the south of Wales and as a consequence he needed to defend his agricultural realm from rebellion by the Welsh and a jealous King Edward I, who was after Gilbert’s wealth.
Caerphilly may have concentric defences and major reinforcements at its gatehouse that would keep out even the most determined of boyfriends, but the east front defends the dam that holds the waters of the moat in place and that makes the whole place rather damp and not to my taste. Just imagine the mess, if somebody broke through that curtain wall! You’d never get the stains out of the carpets.
Also, Caerphilly train station is right opposite, a cesspool of rebellion if ever there was one and a favourite hang-out for Edward I, when he’s been to a rugby match.
Caerphilly Castle is in fact an early example of the keep-gatehouse principle of defence, meaning there’s an entrance passage that can be closed at either end by letting down a portcullis and shutting a heavy door. This means my imaginary knights could defend the castle against besieging boyfriends entering the courtyard and against any detectives knocking at the other door from the outside.
The keep-gatehouse was constructed far higher than a normal gatehouse would be, affording my armed guards excellent views over the undefended back of the wide southern platform and the whole of the outer ward in that part of the castle complex – in the event any Grunters should try to sneak in, you understand.
Caerphilly Castle relies mostly on its impressive water defences, which nowadays include floating dead pigeons, used condoms, plastic bags and drinks cans; no doubt these were put there by the local tourist board to repel any fan-girl visitors, who arrived hoping they’d get a signed photograph from Merlin’s Colin Morgan or Bradley James once the fearless fan-girls get across the stretch of water and past the BBC’s own crossbowmen.
Having worked in Caerphilly I can honestly say it’s not worth attacking – I wouldn’t waste a single arrowhead or bolt in its defence should any Welsh person rebelling against taxes imposed by their big-eared overlord come knocking at my portcullis or swim across my moat.
Grunters on the other hand should watch out for flying chamber pots, left-over lances from the Merlin production and Earl Gilbert’s toasting forks!
(source of animation: heathersanimations.com; photographs Wikipedia)