risky business

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The G.O. has changed his nickname for our Sydney apartment from “the kennel” to “San Quentin“. After 11 years of city-fringe/Inner West residency the fine balance between good sense and good fortune tipped…

We make reasonable efforts to keep ourselves and our possessions safe without espousing fear and paranoia. Neither in the city or at Taylors Arm are were we slaves to locked doors. The external climb onto our balcony would take deliberate agile effort and timing; encountering the G.O. in particular (although I’m no wooss either) would be inadvisable.

And yep, we’re idiots but we’re idiots who know the risks and live according to what we believe. We got off lightly and learned a few lessons. As I recently commented to ChgoJohn about stayin’ alive “The Fates are kind but I think they expect us to learn from our experiences too”.

Halloween Friday night in Sydney was hot. Not that it makes much difference, when we’re home our balcony door is usually open. Always has been in this apartment and the previous. When living space is small and lacking any other windows, unless the weather is freezing or boiling you want to embrace the outdoors.

After a long working week we went to bed early, around 9.30 pm, the balcony door adjacent to the bedroom wide open. Saturday morning as usual I woke an hour before the G.O. who’d given himself the day off work, and spent it pleasantly reading & responding to blog posts. When the G.O. offered to make me coffee in bed I happily accepted. Just before 9 am I reciprocated by going to make second coffees.

It was only then the glaring absence of my distinctive bright blue handbag from its customary place on the kitchen chair was apparent. “Where’s my bag?” I uselessly asked the G.O. We looked at each other suspecting in our hearts the answer but not wanting to admit it yet.

In case I’d sleep walked and moved it, or we’d been visited by mischievous gremlins, we twice searched every nook of the apartment, which given its snugness didn’t take long. I logged on and checked bank accounts. No transactions. But, no bag either.

We swigged cooled coffees and each set off in different directions scouring neighbourhood gutters, parks, bins, front yards and railway lines. It’s not a small bag and I suspected it would be dumped sooner rather than later. No luck.

I checked the bank transactions again. Nothing. Good. I called Newtown Police; a bright blue non-leather hand bag hadn’t been handed in but they made a note, and advised me to call the Police Assistance Line. Before I did, I called the bank and cancelled my debit & credit cards.

That process was familiar as I’d cancelled the credit card a month ago after an attempt to use its details in London, where the wise ol’ bank knew I wasn’t! While on hold I began a list of handbag contents… dear me, I carry around a lot of stuff… I continued the list while I was on hold for the Police Assistance Line, where I talked to Bronwyn, a real and helpful person, who logged details and said local police would be around as soon as they were free.

We waited. I added a few more items to the list, cancelled my office access pass and Opal prepaid travel card. It was too hot to go outside anyway, although the G.O. did to walk, smoke and fume. I could see he was angry. He’d been up, as is his custom, twice during the night and hadn’t had the luck to run into the opportunist who’d helped themself to my bag… walking within a few metres of us. Having faith in the world is a risky business, but the risk goes both ways.

Before the police could arrive, at about 2 pm the G.O.’s phone rang from a private number, and a woman’s voice asked if he knew someone who’d lost a handbag. My hunch it would be handed in was realised. Christine found it in a laneway garden 3 blocks further on than I’d searched, with the G.O.’s emergency contact details in my wallet. Comparing notes we ascertained all main contents were intact except for $150 cash. She’d notified Newtown Police who were sending a car to collect it.

When the police arrived just before 4 pm, they didn’t have my handbag… ah, but they were from Redfern, the L.A.C. area where the crime occurred, the bag had been found in Newtown area. They called Newtown Police and anyway the bag was being held for forensic testing. The two policemen were friendly, efficient and didn’t make us feel stupid. They said known local offenders were monkey-like in their climbing and leaping agility, and our experience was the same as another recent stealing… although they took my handbag, the thief didn’t take our mobile phones, the G.O.’s wallet or the Ultrabook computer all of which were nearby, or the credit cards from my wallet.

Nothing else to do but our original plan to go into the city for dinner (the G.O. paid…) where with lucky timing we saw the fireworks display over Darling Harbour. Life goes on.

BlueOn Sunday right on 9 am my phone rang, the forensics officer 10 minutes away. He too was personable, and he did call us foolish but kindly as he too has been the victim of theft… while he coated the balcony railing with finger print dust. No finger prints but shoe prints across a neighbour’s balcony railing the acrobatic thief accessed via scaling an external wall led onto ours. He advised my handbag would be released, being found in a public place and rummaged through, any evidence was compromised.

Liberated from Newtown Police Station the contents of my handbag painted a curious picture. As well as the cash, also missing were: an unopened box of mints; nail clippers & file; earphones; tin of cat food; and Opal prepaid travel card. Of note, intact were: designer sunglasses (although with prescription lenses any wearer of normal vision would have gone whoa, bad drugs man…); Mont Blanc pen; 2 sets spare car keys; 4 x memory sticks of photos and personal info; umbrella; writing notebook; eco satchel-pouch; office pass; “drug bag” of headache, hay fever & cold tablets, etc; 3 x tinted lip balms (which I regularly lose, replace, find); all cards, drivers license and sundry wallet contents including my lucky shopping trolley dollar.

All cancelled cards have now been reinstated and we’ve reluctantly, sensibly embraced a locked door regime.

What we learned:
lock up;
bright colour inexpensive non-leather handbags have the dual benefit of being visible but less desirable to others;
local police (despite graffiti and paste-ups alleging the contrary) are good guys;
contact details on valuables are useful;
cull non-necessary handbag contents;
sense of humour and positive perspective will get you through almost anything;
there’s always someone worse off;
we hate being prisoners in our own home.

San Quentin, what good do you think you do?
Do you think I’ll be different when you’re through?
You bent my heart and mind and you may my soul,
And your stone walls turn my blood a little cold.”

San Quentin, Johnny Cash



39 thoughts on “risky business

    katechiconi said:
    November 7, 2014 at 8:23 pm

    I do feel for you. My handbag was swiped out of my Melbourne kitchen, complete with wallet, cards, filofax (I’m a bit old school) and who knows what. It happened in the evening, when I was at the other side of the house watching TV. I didn’t discover the loss till the next morning, by which time my account had been cleaned out, including my month’s salary, my Christmas bonus, the lot. This was two days before Christmas…. I’m a huge fan of lockable screen doors, my handbag lives beside my bed at night, down between the bedside table and the bed, and it’s black. We take ordinary precautions, and so far, we’ve been lucky. As I told myself then, and continue to tell myself now: It’s only stuff. I’m ok, just poorer and angrier….


      EllaDee responded:
      November 7, 2014 at 8:52 pm

      Thank you. Theft is sadly not uncommon even with precautions. We lost very little in material terms, far less than you… I’d have been incredibly angry… anytime is bad but at Christmas, that was cruel. We have no screens but we do have sliding door locks it was our choice not to use. We were fortunate we had so many uneventful years, and although it was inconvenient, a week later all is well.
      I hope your day went ok 🙂


        katechiconi said:
        November 7, 2014 at 9:11 pm

        Bone scan today. I’m looking at the image, and am feeling a bit wobbly. Lots of arthritis (not news), but a loud, bright hot spot in the lymph nodes in my neck. Waiting to hear about the MRI on Monday and trying not to think the worst…


    roughseasinthemed said:
    November 7, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    I knew just how you felt when you look and see it’s gone and you try explain it rationally, and there only is one rational explanation 😦 Our bags were never recovered, so we lost more, all cards, passports, Cross pen, gold earrings and all the other essentials one really does not need to carry round. But they do just grab the bags. There was an iPhone sitting right next to them and they left that. I suspect they chucked the bags in a bin. Would have been nice to recover the contents though. The hassle of replacing all cards, passports, trying to get money out of the bank without a card or ID …

    But like many people we reflected that losing material possessions is a lot better than being knifed or knocked over the head.

    On a lighter note, we’ve always called Gibflat Pippa’s kennel flat. I wonder whose is smaller? Ours I’d bet. Still, you don’t need much, and large properties need more cleaning.


      EllaDee responded:
      November 8, 2014 at 6:35 am

      Exactly, the rational explanation was the last thought resort. While I was waiting, writing lists, I was entertaining dire thoughts of identity theft and mentally adding up the cost to replace the contents but was calm (the G.O. was impressed how much so!) as I had that feeling it would be back. Not an uncommon experience and we got off lightly, and accordingly have made sensible changes to our security practices although there are no guarantees.
      I remember from when my sister bought it, the apartment is 44 sqm 1 bedroom, 1 living area + balcony, the smallest allowable size here. Same as our previous apartment which was open plan 3 level loft + stairs + smaller balcony – inner city living!


        roughseasinthemed said:
        November 8, 2014 at 6:46 am

        I’ll have to look it up, I know it’s similar around the 40 mark, might be a bit less than yours. ID theft freaked me out as much as clearing my bank account 😦

        Of course I drew the short straw of sitting in a Spanish police station in August for hours at midday. Def something I would cheerfully wish on my worst enemy. Unlike you, I did not remain calm however.

        Liked by 1 person

          EllaDee responded:
          November 8, 2014 at 7:11 am

          If I hadn’t been in the familiar surroundings of my own home, it would probably have been different.


    Bill said:
    November 7, 2014 at 10:36 pm

    Ugg. Sorry this happened to y’all. When we lived in Tampa we were victims of a smash and grab one night when someone bashed in the window of our car in our carport and stole a box of tapes out of it. The boldness of thieves sometimes astonishes me. Risking life and limb for some cassette tapes. Even crazier is climbing into someones apartment to steal a handbag. Glad it wasn’t worse. Stay safe.


      EllaDee responded:
      November 8, 2014 at 6:38 am

      Thank you 🙂 It is crazy and I try to imagine the thought processes behind your experience and ours and I just can’t… I guess they and we live in different worlds that meet sometimes. Regardless, I prefer mine and at least have the option of taking better precautions to alleviate risk.


    davidprosser said:
    November 8, 2014 at 12:17 am

    I’m so sorry this has happened to you both. It’s ridiculous we can’ t feel safe in our homes any more and can’t enjoy open windows and doors even when we’re in. I’m glad you got so much of the stolen stuff back. It sounds like youngsters who haven’t got onto the business of stealing from banks and cloning cards yet.
    Maybe this feeling trapped inside San Quentin will give you another shove in the right direction of moving to a nidcer environment.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx


      EllaDee responded:
      November 8, 2014 at 6:43 am

      I thought of you straight away! But I didn’t lose anything precious… I’m sure you will see your own stuff on eBay one day… No-where is immune, even the G.O. had a break-in before my time at TA. We’ll simply modify our somewhat liberal approach to locked doors and hope for the best.


    philosophermouseofthehedge said:
    November 8, 2014 at 1:58 am

    The entire world has become a very strange place. At one time everyone left their windows and doors open and unlocked day and night.
    How wonderful the police came and actually dusted for fingerprints and tried to help. Here’s unless there’s a lot of blood, they just shrug and say stuff like “stop buying nice stuff” Seriously they said that. Here the crooks always come back again thinking you have replaced stuff – or they spotted an easy target with stuff they didn’t take the first time.
    It’s amazing they left all your other stuff.
    A little more innocence is lost – always taking precautions, a bit of added nagging in the back of the brain stress. And it’s darn annoying.
    So sorry you were invaded and ravaged – that is what it feels like.
    Perfect song lyrics


      EllaDee responded:
      November 8, 2014 at 6:48 am

      We confess to not wanting to keep up with this strange world but it caught up with us. And yes, I’m sure the opportunists revisit just on the off-chance so we’re being more vigilant, but more-so for peace of mind… once the idea is in your head… but I constantly have to remind myself to follow the new regime, sigh.
      I was impressed I got the bag and contents back, but they were just after easy cash… big risk though for $150.

      Liked by 1 person

    memoirsofahusk said:
    November 8, 2014 at 5:57 am

    Lots of sympathy and empathy to you! And I recommend a stick behind the door to stop it sliding open – if it’s a sliding one… My husband had his laptop bag stolen by a cat burglar when he was at a conference in France. He was sharing a twin room in a cheap hotel – on the 2nd floor! – with his PhD student. Fortunately said student sleeps soundly and only awoke as the 2 guys with the knives were heading over the balcony. My husband was in the shower. Ultimate irony, although cash and wallet were gone and I had to struggle on the phone with my rusty French to pay their bill – there was no laptop in the bag – just notes taken at the conference. The burglars risked life and limb for archaeological gobbledegook! Ha ha ha!
    Nice blue bag! Mine’s currently orange mock croc – I know – but it’s fun, really….


      EllaDee responded:
      November 8, 2014 at 6:59 am

      It’s the simple solutions that work, if we use them… at TA we have curtain rods behind the sliding windows and doors, here we have keyed post locks, just didn’t have it locked… The thought of the burglars sifting disappointed through the gobbledygook amuses me immensely 🙂 I hate the thought of armed thieves, risking so much for so little.
      Having somewhat of an affection for handbags, which I keep on a budgetary leash, I have considered orange, or tangerine… but the right one didn’t find me. The blue was an impulse buy, and although it’s complimented regularly, sometimes I think it looks like a supermarket chilly bag!


    Vicky said:
    November 8, 2014 at 7:02 am

    How awful for you that because of some lowlife you now feel like prisoners in your own home.
    It’s quite frightening to think that somewhere that would appear inaccessible obviously isn’t to those determined enough to get in.
    I’m guessing the larger items weren’t taken as they’d need their hands to descend with, but what they took from your bag before discarding it! ……why a tin of cat food?
    I’m pleased nothing serious happened, it could have been a different matter if they’d been confronted by you or the GO.
    Stay safe, I bet your even more desperate to escape to Taylors Arms now.


      EllaDee responded:
      November 8, 2014 at 8:36 am

      I’m hoping they took the cat food because like me, they feed the neighborhood strays 🙂 I’m divided between thinking of them as lowlifes who need to get a job or people less advantaged than me… but I’m sure they left what they did because it wasn’t convenient and too much effort to make use of it, and for that I’m thankful.
      Even TA isn’t immune to crime so we won’t be able to continue our relaxed security mindset there either. Such is life in current times.


    Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial said:
    November 8, 2014 at 7:19 am

    I’m REALLY sorry to hear this, less for the monetary loss and more for the loss of peace of mind such a thing brings. I’m glad you had such a positive experience with the local constabulary though! 🙂


      EllaDee responded:
      November 8, 2014 at 8:29 am

      Thank you, inner city living has good and bad points, and our experience added a point to the wrong side… it’s not that the money was nothing, weekend spending money plus emergency $100 but in the big scheme of things relatively little. Last week my brother, in the country, had driving lights, cheap ones -only $200- stolen off his ute. It’s just petty which makes it all the more annoying. However, I’m grateful to have my things returned and to Christine. The police were lovely, a positive experience from a negative.


    Eha said:
    November 8, 2014 at 11:27 am

    Sorry to hear you now have to be even more aware of the need for inner city security . . . we all know of others affected but when we ourselves are it is so much more real even if relatively little goes missing. Clever climbing monkeys: nothing traceable taken – I am afraid the tin of catfood gone did bring me a smile!!! Oh there are so many times I have regrets about my need to live a ‘cheaper’ semi-rural lifestyle, but – have been in this community for two decades and there has not been one single case of any kind of crime . . .I do lock the front door at night but most leave both doors and windows open all summer . . . and we are all one-storey 🙂 ! Would you believe our nearest police station was 9 kms away: that was closed and now the police travel 40 kms !! If needed!!!!!


      EllaDee responded:
      November 8, 2014 at 6:45 pm

      I’m pleased you can give such a good report of your community, and I hope it continues. Not so good that the police station was closed.
      I was amused at the picture painted by the some of the missing items but if they attempted to use the travel card they’d be out of luck, although minty breathed and manicured. Hopefully they’ll feed a local kitty 🙂


    anne54 said:
    November 9, 2014 at 8:07 am

    Oh, a horrible experience, but you are just the gal to see the Life Lessons in it. 🙂 That’s an interesting list of things you have learnt.
    We had a large amount of cash stolen on our first night of the recent trip. It was so brazen. The Fella and I had both gone to the toilet block, and were only away for the time needed to do what you need to do in a toilet block. Someone had been into the van and taken the cash from my purse and his wallet. Lucky really that it was only cash. We didn’t know anything about it until we tried to pay with cash 200 km up the road. It taught us to lock the van, and not be so trusting.


      EllaDee responded:
      November 9, 2014 at 12:10 pm

      I feel vindicated that we are not the only trusting souls… and appalled that people could be so unkind and selfish as to take advantage. I have heard some sad travellers tales, and somehow they seem worse than everyday life theft, having the potential to ruin a holiday. It’s something I consider when thinking about travel, how much our natural behaviors will be circumscribed by security consciousness. Less so now, I guess.


        anne54 said:
        November 14, 2014 at 5:48 pm

        Theft is always an intrusion, a violation. It is always exciting to be travelling, so having an ugliness come into your life is upsetting. I am quite security conscious at home, but never thought about it in caravan parks. They always seemed friendly, open places. Now I know I have to be more aware and secure.
        I hope you are feeling more at ease now.


          EllaDee responded:
          November 15, 2014 at 6:07 am

          Thank you, we’re fine 🙂 But the neighbours whose balcony they scaled are a little nervous… Sadly, the reality is we all need to apply that little extra awareness no matter where we are. The risk is random but present, and it’s best not to put temptation in people’s way.


    diannegray said:
    November 9, 2014 at 12:29 pm

    I feel for you. This has happened to me twice when I lived in the city (both while at home) and it’s horrible to think someone has been in the place while you’re sleeping. It really puts you on guard and this shouldn’t be how to live your life. These days my handbag is just sitting in the RUC wherever I drop it and I know it’s safe (it took me about three months not to sleep with it right next to my bed!) I’d like to think I could have grabbed the scoundrel and beaten them to a pulp if I found them in my house, but the reality is I would probably have freaked out and run in the opposite direction if I woke up to a burglar. At one stage during my time in the city I booby-trapped my fence (highly illegal) and if I heard a scream in the middle of the night I’d know it worked 😉


      EllaDee responded:
      November 9, 2014 at 3:57 pm

      I remember you saying in one of your posts about being robbed, one of the benefits of moving out of the city. I’d like to think I’d have commonsense if I encountered an intruder but I’m not sure… if I hear a noise I’m up investigating, if provoked I attack… In both residences we have to hand perfectly legal household items that if I felt threatened I could use to defend myself.
      Now you mention it, I keep my handbag in the wardrobe at TA, only because days go by and I don’t need it, not for security! I love that you booby trapped the fence, all’s fair I think 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    safia said:
    November 9, 2014 at 5:50 pm

    Oh my, how lucky you were that they just took the cash. Fair play to the local citizen who found it and the police – it could happen to any of us – we rarely lock doors here, but I do keep my handbag in the bedroom! Not a pleasant experience, but it could have been so much worse. Thanks for sharing – does us all good to be reminded of stuff like this from time to time.


      EllaDee responded:
      November 10, 2014 at 7:02 am

      It’s good to be reminded but I’d prefer to be posting just the good stuff, not the cautionary tale. I wish our experience was an exception rather than an ever increasing sign of the times. We were unlucky and lucky, I think. A week later, I’m more annoyed at the amount of thought we’ve since devoted to remembering to lock the door, than anything else.


        safia said:
        November 10, 2014 at 5:20 pm

        Yes, indeed – I can understand that. An opportunistic thief if ever there was one – quickly in, quickly out, handbag swiped – I’m not sure, but I’d say on the law of averages, it won’t happen to you again – hope not anyway!


          EllaDee responded:
          November 11, 2014 at 6:54 am

          It certainly won’t happen again, not that way anyway, because although we’re trusting, we’re not complete idiots!


    Richard Guest said:
    November 10, 2014 at 7:29 am

    Sorry to hear it, EllaDee. Glad nothing much was taken, but what a pain. Hope life’s returning to normal now.


      EllaDee responded:
      November 11, 2014 at 6:56 am

      All good now, just a little less gung-ho about leave unattended doors open 🙂


    Lori D said:
    November 10, 2014 at 7:51 am

    Oh my Lord, good thing he wasn’t a violent sort, or that he wanted even more from your home. It’s so beautiful out here today, and it’s rare to get these kind of days. We open windows and doors during the day, but at night, all is locked tight. We live in a ranch house. I wouldn’t have thought someone would get into a place on the second floor, and might’ve done the same as you. Our dog freaks out very aggressively when anyone is near a window or door. So, during the day I feel safe with the windows open. I’m just glad you made it out of that safely, and with your sense of humor in tact.


      EllaDee responded:
      November 11, 2014 at 6:47 am

      Thank you. Same thought crossed my mind… we were fortunate in many ways. I’m think if someone wants to get in they will but we made it very easy… anyway… lesson learned. Having a dog is reassuring – another, very keen, set of ears and eyes, a voice and an instinct to protect.

      Liked by 1 person

    mybrightlife said:
    November 10, 2014 at 6:02 pm

    With technology being what it is, the big worry for me when it comes to theft is the extent of damage done with regard to photo’s and info. What didn’t I back up?? One of the good things about blogs and online storage I guess. I hate having stuff taken and the invasion of private space but to loose all my precious images of family, kids and places. That would be heavy. Of course even that is just stuff at the end of the day. But still….Glad you experience was relatively light.


      EllaDee responded:
      November 11, 2014 at 6:52 am

      Absolutely… I have multiple copies accumulated over time of media on CDs, memory sticks and now backed up to the Cloud… all in different locations. The memory sticks that were in my bag are now in a drawer at the office. No harm done, and we’re a but wiser, and anticipating being bit poorer after the next power bill, as without being able to leave the sliding door wide open we need the aircon at night to sleep, but at least it dulls the sounds of the trains – there’s an upside to everything!


    ChgoJohn said:
    November 11, 2014 at 7:15 am

    Sorry to hear this, EllaDee but very glad that only your handbag was stolen. It could have been much worse. I live on the first floor and have never gone to bed with a window open or door intentionally left unlocked. I’ve never been burgled but it’s the age in which we live. I do feel safe, though. Not only do I have Max — and everyone knows that I have him — but I’ve a police officer living above me. 🙂
    Thanks for the mention.


      EllaDee responded:
      November 11, 2014 at 2:36 pm

      A police officer and a dog are effective deterrents, as are locked doors and windows! We will make do with the latter but one day we will add a dog to our entourage, and still lock the doors and windows. The Fates were kind to us, and we won’t push our luck 🙂


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