Another take on tales of thievery

15th December 2000 at 00:00
ONE of the most incredible book reviews I ever read appeared in the long-lost and lamented magazine, Teaching English. The book was A Pair of Jesus Boots, concerning the exploits of Rocky O'Rourke, a boy definitely in need of social inclusion.

In the story, he takes a radio from an old woman's house, and the critical reviewer thundered that publishing such a book and exposing children to it would lead inexorably to a massive crime-wave. Ironically, a few chapters later Rocky - this hardened criminal - has a crisis of conscience and returns the radio.

Many years ago, we had a Friday night burglary while we took a group from the school folk club to Greyfriars Monastery, a friendly alcohol-free venue on the banks of the Clyde. When the CID officer visited on the Sunday, he looked in the spare bedroom, full of unsorted papers from a recent transfer between schools, and said: "They made a right mess in here." I didn't dare tell him the room was untouched.

Recent reports suggest children themselves have been victims of theft, with trainers, mobile phones, designer jackets and micro-scooters all being targets in this acquisitive society.

While all this was happening, my wife's aunt was burgled. As regular readers of this column may emember, this intrepid 92-year-old lives alone and frequently seeks literary advice about suitable texts for her monthly reading circle.

Thankfully, she was on holiday at the time of the theft, and passing through Glasgow she sought a book of essays for the next meeting. Lamb and Addison were judged a touch too remote (though both were read in her own Fort William schooldays) and by chance I had a copy of Laurie Lee's essays which she quickly embarked on.

The following weekend we delivered her to the village in Lincolnshire where she stays, and were amazed at the sanguine response to the domestic intrusion. Her neighbours had tidied up, and although some jewellery had vanished, everything else seemed in order. (The thieves obviously doubted the resale value of a Dansette record-player and discs of Jimmy Shand and Lewis waulking songs).

The mood changed, however, when she phoned to tell us that her dux medal from Lochaber High School and her gold medal for Gaelic from Glasgow University had both been stolen. Possibly thrown over a hedge, probably of no use to the thieves, certainly the theft a source of regret to the person who had kept them for more than 70 years.

And the ludicrous book review? Now I'm not so sure.

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