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I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before but I live close to the home of a family who sometimes cause considerable disruption to people in this area. Actually, their house here in Edinburgh isn’t their main address. Their real home is in London. Their home here is just a house that they stay in from time to time when visiting Scotland - some people have more money than sense these days! The family consists of mum and dad, four kids and a number of grandchildren. Even though the kids don’t hang around the local streets too much they can still cause a great deal of distress to those of us who live here. They are noted in the area for being especially noisy when arriving here or leaving at the end of their stay. Rather than just using an ordinary car or even public transport like everyone else, they insist on coming in and out by helicopter, for goodness sake! They regularly come over my place at deafening, roof top height before dropping out of sight behind some nearby trees. I think that causing excessive noise must just be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to problems with this particular family, as I’ve noticed that whenever they come to stay the police increase their presence on the streets around their house quite considerably - obviously in expectation of trouble. Indeed, it’s an indication of the ‘nuisance value’ that this family represent that often the police have to call in the army to assist in keeping an eye on the situation. All that the police ever seem to do is monitor things while they are here. I have seen no reports of any of them ever being arrested or even warned and moved on.

I suppose I should be grateful that the increased police attention given to this family whenever they appear in town seems to be quite effective. However, only this morning I was made vividly aware of the threat that these people pose to us law abiding citizens. As you will see, it is no exaggeration to say that for a time my life was in considerable danger from this family’s paid henchmen.

I had set off from home to enjoy a healthy walk in a nearby park. I should have realised, I suppose, that my chosen route was not really the wisest one. I had heard the helicopter arrive yesterday and the park to which I was headed borders this family’s garden wall. I was reminded that they were here when I observed the considerable police presence round their needlessly large and ostentatious house and garden. I should have turned back then. However, it was a fine morning and I continued with my walk, which involved a pleasant climb up a grassy hill-path. I stopped for a while to admire the view. I had a small pair of binoculars with me and I have to confess that I did use these to take a closer look at this family’s house and garden. My curiosity had been aroused by a number of structures in the back garden which turned out to be several half-dismantled marquees. I think they must have been having a BBQ, or some equally vulgar event, in the back garden last night.

After a while, I continued my morning constitutional but realised that the sky had darkened considerably in the direction to which I was heading and rain was clearly threatening. Perhaps I should have headed home at that point but I was reluctant to cut my walk short unnecessarily so I just stood where I was for a while and waited to see what the weather was going to do. That was my undoing. After about ten minutes standing at the same point above this family’s house I was suddenly conscious that someone was approaching me on foot from slightly higher up the hill. There was also a white Landrover parked higher up. This person turned out to be a woman dressed in some kind of paramilitary uniform with the words ‘Royal Park Constabulary’ emblazoned on one of her tunic pockets. I assumed this to refer to some sort of protection organisation set up by this family to intimidate their fellow citizens. As she approached she called out to me and indicated that I should remain where I was as she wished to speak to me. I considered running for my life at this point but decided that that would be foolish as she was clearly younger than me and would probably have been able to overtake me within a short distance. Anyway, I didn’t want to appear intimidated by this family’s hired bodyguards.

I waited until she had come quite close to me and then deliberately raised an enquiring eyebrow which I hoped would convey a degree of superiority over her. It didn’t. She completely ignored my attempt to dominate her and instead launched into a pre-prepared speech to the effect that I had been seen from ground level taking an interest in the family’s house, that I appeared to have been using binoculars, and that she wanted to know precisely what I was doing there. Sensing that the situation had the potential to turn nasty, I resisted my initial urge to respond with a comment like, "What’s it to you, then?" and instead found myself meekly explaining that I lived just a stone’s throw away, regularly walk in that area and usually carry binoculars to observe the birds and wildlife. It was obvious to me that this was a reasonable explanation of my activities, delivered in a reasonable way, and I was sure that she would be prompted to apologise for the interruption, move off and go and find something more constructive to do with her time. What she actually did was produce a notebook and tell me that she would have to take my details and check me out.

I was outraged, of course, and was about to tell her so when she casually informed me that we were now being approached by what she described as ‘armed response officers’. I looked down the hill and saw that there was a local ‘Lothian & Borders’ police car parked at the bottom of the path and three officers moving up the hill towards us. All three of them were indeed carrying guns. My first reaction was one of delight that the 'real' boys in blue were clearly coming to my assistance. I assumed that some passer-by had noticed my predicament and had summoned help on my behalf. As they approached relief turned rapidly to disbelief when I realised to my horror that these three officers were obviously in cahoots with the para-military lady. My situation was clearly desperate. I decided that to turn and attempt to flee now might not be the best tactic. I stood my ground and thought, ‘let them do their worst' - which they did! Having searched me and noted my ‘particulars’ they informed me that they would have to check me out with something called the ‘Police National Computer’. This was my worst nightmare come true! Although in later years I have tried hard to lead an honest and industrious life I have to confess that my present apparent respectability masks an earlier episode in my life of which I am now truly ashamed but which still haunts me every single day.

My ‘particulars’ were read into the personal radio and we stood there for some ten minutes or more awaiting the dreaded response. I was ever more conscious of the guns pointing in my direction as the minutes ticked away to the moment when my cover would be blown. Eventually, the radio crackled into life. "Re: your person check," said the metallic voice, "no trace." I just managed to stifle a gasp! Again, luck was on my side. They had blundered badly. Somehow my 1964 conviction and £2 fine for ‘parking within 25 yards of a junction where a police officer was directing traffic’ had been completely missed. What an amazing stroke of luck! I realised that one of the officers was speaking and as if in a dream heard the words, "free to go". I needed no second bidding and set off down the hill and homewards with never a backward glance.

I'm left feeling shocked and aggrieved that one ordinary family can be allowed to cause so much grief to people in their neighbourhood. They appear to have left again but next time they return I am determined to go round there and give them a piece of my mind. There’s no point doing that with the kids though. I’m told that it’s the mother who rules the roost in that family. I’ll wait until I’m sure that she’s there and then go round and see her. I’m already rehearsing in my mind what I’ll be saying to her. I’ve made some enquiries locally and have managed to find out the family’s name. I think that, when dealing with these sort of people, one needs to be quite forceful.

"Now look here, Mrs Windsor... ," I shall begin.

Copyright © Mike Nagel 2004

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