Flashback to last December…

A war of escalation is taking place in the village. All to do with exterior Christmas lights.

I bought some hanging flashy icicle things. Short Tony bought some hanging flashy icicle things and a neon Santa.

I bought some starry lights for the cherry tree. Short Tony bought some more hanging flashy icicle things.

I bought some fairy lights to go round the windows and yet more hanging flashy icicle things. Short Tony bought a collection of powerful strobes and a seven foot high illuminated statue of the Reverend Ian Paisley.

Or suchlike.

A loud knock at the door. A ring. The impatient shuffle of official jackboots.

It is Mrs Short Tony, looking stern.

“You haven’t seen our outside lights, have you?” she enquires, looking me in the eye. “They appear to have disappeared.”

I am taken aback.

“We thought we’d put them up in the loft,” she continues.

The implication is clear. The Cheerful Builder and I had carried out some building work in the shared loft, to foil the Short Tonies’ incessant attempts to install video and sound recording devices in my bedroom ceiling. It would have been a simple matter to pilfer their tawdry Christmas illuminations in order to gain one-upmanship this year.

I stammer denials, caught on the back foot. She is already peering round me to check the conservatory. Finding nothing, she shoots me a suspicious glance and takes her leave.

Being accused of a crime one hasn’t committed is the worst feeling in the world. I am the OJ Simpson of the village.

Unlike Mr Simpson, however, I will not get a chance to prove my innocence in a court of law and thus stop people talking.

I retire inside, miserable and branded a thief.