Lair of Horwins I gaze upon thee
November 22, 2013

Dawn broke slowly over Holloway, as if it had preferred us in the dark. By the time the sun had hauled itself on stuttering fingers over the roof of Paradise Discount and Luxury Household Goods I had been ornamenting the Horwin’s cotoneaster horizontalis for over an hour as its palest, newest, largest and most truculent berry. From here I could see two puce-curtained upper bedrooms, a front room Hilda Ogden might have rejected for the plodding vulgarity of its flatpack bum-punishers, and a white-tiled kitchen extension. Even the presence of enough thorns in my sides to drive our quoting vicar into carnal apoplexies of reminiscence had helped to ward off sleep. I had chosen well.

A bedroom light flicked on, lingered, flicked off. Radio Four brayed briefly and was stilled. It was starting. A molecule of adrenaline tipped tentative toes into my bloodstream, an Amazon it had seldom hitherto attempted to chart. Satisfaction at my choice of vantage both petered and palled, however,  over the course of an all-but-motionless hour. The Horwins could not have avoided the windows more assiduously if I were a ring of high-powered assassins.

My mood climbed briefly when the front door opened and a male voice cleared its throat in the hallway. Could this be my lank young epitome? Alas, it was the Horwin’s embattled husband, a frozen plume of a man with the posture and aspect of a stick of Wrigley’s chewed once and replaced in the foil. He trudged past me at treacle speed, scrape-faced and cavern-eyed. Then nothing.

Did I doze? I think I rather abolished the distinction between wakefulness and sleep. I was a body and a view. My eyes were open but my mind was numb.

This state, like bliss but with the pleasure drained out, persisted for what may have been an hour. Then I felt a hand on my shoulder.

I leapt so far in the air I expected to land in a different time-zone, but not for the first time the earth’s rotation let me down. I came to ground again in the same bush with the same fell fingers on my collarbone.

“Mr Morrissey,” a low voice purred. I hoped wildly for an autograph hound, even one of those burger-breathed coils of avarice with twenty vinyl copies of Strangeways and an E-bay account. But I knew who it was. Her words bricked up any possible avenue of escape. “Mr Morrissey,” she repeated. “What are you doing in my hedge?”

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