Archive of ‘The International Man of Mystery Next Door’ category
So, as some of you may know, the initial motivation behind us deciding to move house came last year when, after a 6-year absence, Nigel, the International Man of Mystery Next Door, turned up and announced that he was preparing to put his house up for sale.
We were worried. His house shares a wall with ours, and after years of having no neighbours, we were used to the peace and quiet, and didn’t really fancy having to share “our” space with The Others, who would obviously move in with their thumping baselines and their drum-kits and make our lives a misery. Even if that didn’t happen, and our new neighbours were model citizens, it was the push we needed to start thinking about moving, and it was the main catalyst which sent us down the path we’ve been on for the past few weeks, of preparing our house to sell and looking at others.
It was almost exactly a year ago that Nigel re-appeared and told us he’d be putting his house on the market soon. But he didn’t. Oh, he did a ton of work on it, but it didn’t go up for sale and then, last autumn, Nigel abruptly disappeared again: until last week, it had been six months since we’d last seen him. We relaxed a bit. He obviously wasn’t in any hurry to sell, and hopefully by the time he WAS ready to sell, we’d be long gone.
Our ’For Sale’ board went up on Monday.
Nigel’s went up today.
In retrospect, there was really no other possible way this could have panned out. Everyone I’ve told so far has said, “I can’t believe it… but then again, actually I can, because that’s just your luck, isn’t it?”
And yeah, it really is. On the one hand, we guess there’s a good chance that anyone who comes to see his house will decide to take a look at ours too, which will hopefully give us a bit of free advertising. Obviously that works both ways, though, and when there are two identical houses, both listed for exactly the same price, but once is empty and just “dressed” for sale, while the other is full of all our stuff (and, you know, US) I know which one I’d go for. Our house is probably going to be hard to sell anyway, (It’s very much a “first-time buyer” home, and with the economy the way it is, it’s quite difficult for new buyers to get mortgages right now) and given the lack of buyers for houses like ours anyway, we’d really rather not be having to compete with the house next door, and the International Man of Mystery within. (Or without, as the case may be…)
Basically, then, after 6+ years of living peacefully, side-by-side with our international mystery man, the time has come for us to go to war with him instead. From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, or, to put it another way: IT’S ON, people. We will fight him on the beaches. We will fight him on the suburban lawns. We will fight him in the driveways, and afterwards he will go and meticulously clear his up, and we’ll probably go and open a bottle of wine, because we’re like that. We are footsoldiers in a suburban war: there can be only one victor, and it kind of has to be us, because God knows, those shoes will have to live SOMEWHERE.
The current plan is that any time we see people coming to view the house next door, Terry will run outside and invite them to take a look at ours, too. I’ll be waiting with a tray of cupcakes, a basket of kittens, and a handful of hair-raising tales about all the bodies under the patio next door. “It’s said that those who step over the threshold never return!” I will cackle dramatically, in the manner of a wise old crone. “Would you like another cupcake?”
Now, who wants to bet that Nigel has only done this so that he can make an offer on the house we’re interested in? Anyone?
[P.S. To answer the question that always comes up when the subject of The House Next Door arises: no, we can't just buy Nigel's house, knock down the walls and turn it into a walk-in wardrobe. For once thing, it's not nearly large enough to be my closet, but for another, we can't afford to buy ANY house unless we sell this one first. The houses we've been looking at aren't in this area, but even if we did want to stay here, we'd still have to sell this house in order to buy N's, and then we'd be in exactly the same position, only we'd be living next door. So we'll just have to curse him, unfortunately: it's the only way...]
I have to admit, all these years I’ve been writing about Nigel, the International Man of Mystery Next Door, there’s been a little part of me which secretly hoped the mystery would never be solved, and that we would just go on like this forever, with me endlessly speculating about the bodies under the patio, and thanking the powers that be that we’d managed to essentially buy ourselves a quiet, detached house, with no pesky neighbours, for the price of a two-bedroomed semi. And then, when I was an old woman, I would STILL be talking about Nigel. He’d have become a creature of myth and legend by then, and his tale – or what little was known of it – which would be essentially NOTHING, really – would be passed down through the generations, until one day, a flame-haired distant ancestor of mine, would find some small spark of interest in the story, and would use this very blog to uncover clues that I even I wasn’t aware of at the time, to finally solve the mystery, and discover the deadly secret Nigel had been hiding. The secret he thought he’d taken to his grave. The secret that I still haven’t actually decided what it would be yet, so please just imagine something truly shocking and groundbreaking. Then please tell me what it is, so that I can put it my novel.*
(*I am not actually writing a novel. Because I can never work out the endings to any of the stories I make up. And because, ooh, lookit those shooz!)
In this way, I liked to imagine that in the year 3112 (say), my true genius would finally be recognised (Bloggers are never appreciated in their own time, are they? Except all the ones that are, obviously.), and I would become famous. I would get my own postage stamp, perhaps, and a documentary on the History Channel. (Oh, shut up. I know postage stamps won’t exist in 3112. And the History Channel goes bust in 3010, when they invent TV that’s beamed straight into your brain. But humour me.) And I’d be the answer to a question on a TV quiz show, too. (“Which 21st century blogger was the lamest of them all?”) It would rock. And, you know, even if none of that happened, it’s not like I have anything else to write about here, is it? I needed Nigel to keep on being an International Man of Mystery: not just for the sake of my current sanity (Did I ever mention how thin the walls are between our houses? Or how much I detest noise?) and my future notoriety, but for the sake of the BLOG, kids. Will no one think of the BLOG, here?
But it’s no use. I can’t keep the truth from you. And so today I bring the news that the mystery has finally been SOLVED.
And I’ll tell you how after this from our sponsors!
OK, I’m joking. The truth, as it almost always is, is just such an anti-climax that I thought I’d try to make it a bit more dramatic. I can’t, though, so let the record show that the mystery was finally solved on the afternoon of Saturday May 5th, in the year of our Lord, 2012, by that daring sleuth known as “Terry”.
You see, as he pulled into the driveway on Saturday afternoon, Terry glanced at the house next door, and who should he see standing in the doorway, giving it a quick lick of paint (a BAD SIGN), but Nigel, the International Man of Mystery. And Terry, not being a complete wuss, like I am, decided to take matters into his own hands and solve the mystery right then and there. So he did what I should’ve done last week: he strode over to the M.O.M and said, “Hi Nigel! Sorry to bother you, but we couldn’t help but notice that you’re an International Man of Mystery. Next door. So, what’s up with that?”
Or words to that effect.
And the thing is, people: absolutely NOTHING is up with that. Seriously, nothing at all. It turns out that the M.O.M has just been working abroad for the past few years. He couldn’t be bothered with the hassle of renting the house, and the housing market wasn’t really conducive to selling it, so he just left it.
Now he’s selling.
Yes, it seems that my worst fears are to come to pass, and rather than simply digging up the bodies, the recent frenzied activity next door has been part of N’s preparation to sell the house
to a family of 12 pot-smoking rock drummers. I, er, guess the fact that “digging up bodies” was the BEST case scenario here tells you all you need to know about how well THAT bit news went down with me, huh?
For the first time in six years, we’re going to have neighbours. And honestly, I know that with a bit of understanding we could become the perfect friends (boom boom!) but folks: those walls are THIN. Like, REALLY thin. Like, “you can hear someone clear their throat through them” thin. Like, “We may as well sell the TV then, because we’ll be able to just listen to theirs,” thin. Like, “OMG, I give it two minutes before they’re round here complaining about Rubin barking and me clomping around in my heels all day,” thin.
So the walls are THIN, (Did you get that the walls are thin? Did you?) but not nearly as thin as my patience for other people’s noise is. And I’ve never had a neighbour who wasn’t noisy. This means that ever since Terry brought me the bad news on Saturday, I’ve been alternating between looking at new houses on the Internet, and just walking around going, “What if they have a drum kit? Or are Justin Bieber fans? WHAT IF?”
Terry thinks it’ll all be fine. My mum thinks it’ll be a good thing, because Rubin will learn to hear tiny noises without going off like a rocket, and I will have to learn how to be a better, more tolerant person, like the rest of you are.
But I have my doubts.
I also have a vague plan to make sure Rubin is always in the garden when people come to view the house. I’m guessing that “small, yappy dog next door” probably isn’t on most people’s property checklist…
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(H&M trousers, Rocket Dog shoes, Dorothy Perkins sweater, Gucci sunglasses c/o Shopbop)
When I was a kid, all of my friends wanted to be things like dentists and train drivers and stuff. (Note: none of my friends wanted to be dentists or train drivers. I just said that in case one of them reads this, recognises themselves, and then goes off at me for mocking their childhood dream of being a lollipop lady. Whoops.) (There is nothing wrong with being a dentist, train driver, or lollipop lady, by the way. You go on with your bad selves, lollipop ladies of the world.) (I really hate the way I always have to qualify everything I say in case I offend someone who doesn’t realise that it’s supposed to be a joke.) (I’ve written so many parentheses now that I honestly can’t remember what I was talking about. How are you all? What’s your weather like? Can anyone remember why I’m here?)
OK, I’m just going to start this again…
When I was a kid, all of my friends wanted to be things like dentists and train drivers and stuff. Not me, though. I wanted to be a pop star/actress who was also in the British showjumping team, and who solved mysteries in her spare time, like Nancy Drew. And who ran a riding school, which also had kennels, and I kept all of the abandoned animals of the world in them. And the stables were next to a big, glass house, which I lived in and wrote all my Booker prize winning novels from. It was going to be freaking ACE, seriously.
Now, the fact that I couldn’t sing or act for toffee, and was also pretty rubbish at showjumping, to be completely honest, didn’t even enter my mind here, although I DID spend a disproportionate amount of time worrying about how I would juggle the demands of an international showjumping career with the worldwide stadium tours I would be undertaking. And who would run the riding school when I was on location, shooting my next big movie? It was a worry, and I mean it was an ACTUAL worry. I would lie awake at night fretting over the fact that there were no existing showjumping detectives with amazing vocal talents, and that I would have to blaze the trail in this respect. “It’s not fair,” I thought, moodily. “I have to do EVERYTHING by myself.”
Then, of course, was the fear that I hadn’t started early enough with my plans. I’d started riding lessons when I was relatively young, sure, but I was still no closer to actually owning a pony, and I couldn’t carry a note in a bucket. One thing I COULD make a start on, though, was the detective work. I knew that all of the great detectives of our time – Nancy Drew, the Famous Five, Frederick “Fatty” Trotteville of the Five Find-Outers and Dog – had all solved their first mysteries by the time they were in their early teens. I, at ten, was quickly running out of time, so I decided not to bother waiting until I grew up (which was wise, in retrospect, given that I’m STILL waiting for that to happen…) and just become a famous detective right now.
To this end, I acquired a notepad and pen, roped in some unfortunate friends to be my sidekicks, asked my parents if I could use the garden shed as my base (they said no. So, really, it’s their fault that I’m not sitting here with medals hanging off my chest for my services to detective work, seriously), and went out in search of a mystery to solve.
I searched long and hard for this mystery. I would patrol the neighbourhood with my friends, collecting “clues” – to what, I had no idea. The “clues” were things like old cigarette ends, discarded Coke cans and, on one memorable occasion, A FRAGMENT OF AN OLD SHOE. Which proved it, basically. I don’t what what it proved exactly, but I told myself that this motley collection of “clues” (which were by no means just bits of rubbish, so don’t even think it) offered concrete evidence that something was going on.
Sadly for me, I never did work out What Was Going On. Actually, the biggest mystery of my childhood was the one I like to think of as The Mystery of Why There Were No Mysteries. Because really, there weren’t. My life was as un-mysterious as it’s possible for a life to be, which was a source of endless disappointment to me. Nancy Drew couldn’t leave her house (in her snazzy little convertible) without falling over a mystery. The Secret Seven could solve FIVE mysteries, and still be home in time for tea. The Famous Five had more mysteries than they had hot dinners – and the Five had a LOT of hot dinners, let me tell you. But me? Nothing. Not a single light shining from the window of a supposedly-abandoned house. Not a rich young child kidnapped, with a ransom note which only I would be able to decipher. Not even a smuggler, people, seriously. I mean, what do you have to do to find a freaking smuggler in this town, I ask you?
I tell you all of this because at the weekend, it suddenly occurred to me that my younger self would have been absolutely thrilled to know that one day she would live next door to an International Man of Mystery. She would’ve had that case solved: probably by tea-time. And when that International Man of Mystery Next Door suddenly re-appeared after a six-year absence, and started digging up his patio, my younger self would, under no circumstances, have simply stood open-mouthed at the window, shouting, “Terry! Terry! HE’S ACTUALLY DIGGING UP THE BODIES! MY BLOG READERS WERE RIGHT! OMG!”
(I mean, seriously: the mysterious neighbour who you secretly suspect of being a mass murderer turns up one day and starts digging in his garden: you’re going to at least try to find out why, aren’t you?)
But that’s what happened, people. Yes, on Sunday afternoon, Nigel TIMOMND, graced us with his second visit in a month. He came with an accomplice. They were here for several hours, digging. And OK, they weren’t actually digging up the patio. They were just…digging the patio. Presumably to clear some of the weeds that have gathered there in the past, you know, SIX YEARS. Something is obviously UP. Either he’s moving back, or he’s selling up, or he’s renting it out,
or he’s digging up bodies… Any one of these outcomes will be deeply traumatic for me because a) I’m a total freak, seriously and b) I’m a freak who can’t tolerate noise of any kind, and who is used to having no neighbour now. And the thing is, I COULD have tried to find out what he was doing. I could’ve opened the back door, walked out, and been all, “Hey, diddly ho, neighbour! Long time, no see! How’re them bodies cookin’?”
But I didn’t.
Nope, I just stood peering out through the blinds, wondering how much we could sell the house for if someone DOES move in next door, and whether it would be enough to buy that penthouse in Edinburgh I sometimes look at on the Internet when I’m bored.
(Answer: no, it wouldn’t. Also: hahahahaha, AS IF.)
My younger self would be so disappointed.
I’ll just have to hope all the shoes I’ve bought her will be of some comfort….
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Our car was officially written off yesterday. I knew it would be, of course, but I’m still completely devastated. It doesn’t help that right before we got the email (yes, they told us by email. Presumably so that we wouldn’t sob down the phone to them?) confirming this, they’d told us by phone that there was a chance they might fix it, so I’d gotten my hopes up, only to have them dashed again a couple of hours later. So that sucked.
As Terry started to deal with the huge mountain of paperwork that followed this horrible episode, and I struggled to not to start crying again, however, we slowly became aware that the house was noisier than usual. There was banging. There was crashing. There was whining from Rubin, who seemed to be trying to communicate something to us. Hmmm.
Assuming that the various thudding noises were coming from a car in the street, and that Rubin probably just needed to, you know, relieve himself, I let him into the garden, and stood there for a few seconds, listening. Nope, no car stereo was pounding out obnoxious dance music, so I shrugged my shoulders and went back inside to resume my misery.
And the banging and thudding resumed, too.
So consumed were we with the horror of the whole car drama, that it took a particularly loud bang, followed by a volley of barking from Rubin, for us to decide that hey, maybe this was something we should investigate? The sounds did, after all, sound a lot like they were coming from inside the house, in classic horror movie style, so Terry headed downstairs, and I headed to the bedroom window, to peer out into the street.
And there he was. Nigel, the International Man of Mystery Next Door, had returned to us, a mere SIX YEARS after his last known appearance.
Or at least, we think he had returned to us. It’s been so long since I last laid eyes on TIMOM that I wouldn’t swear in a court of law, say, that the man spotted leaving the house next door yesterday evening was definitely our suspect, and Terry didn’t get a good look at him at all, but let’s just say that he met the suspect’s description. And had been in his house for at least 30 minutes, which does seem to confirm that this was either the Man of Mystery himself, or someone acting on his behalf. Let’s say it was him, though: it’ll make this post more interesting.
As for what Nigel – if, indeed, t’was he – was actually DOING inside the home he hasn’t visited for six years, well, who knows? What we DO know is that it involved a lot of banging, a bit of thundering up and down stairs, and was accomplished within the space of about 30 minutes or so, after which Nigel got into his car and drove off into the sunset. Can you bury a body in 30 minutes? Anyone?
What we ALSO know is that if Nigel ever does move back, we’ll have to either buy a new house, or cut off our ears, because damn, those walls are thin. And that dude is noisy, with the thundering on the stairs, and the burying of the bodies.
What is the meaning of this latest sighting, though, that’s what I want to know? Why would you own a house for six years, never bother to visit or maintain it, and then turn up one day, under cover of… dusk… spend 30 minutes crashing around, and then leave? What was he doing? Why did he come? Why NOW, after all this time? And why didn’t he mow his freaking lawn while he was there? So many questions. So little chance of them ever being answered.
For now, though, at least we know this: Nigel is out there. Alive. And one day, he may come back…*
(*But hopefully not until we’ve moved out, because like I say: THIN WALLS. INTOLERABLE.)
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This weekend, something went bump in the night. Literally, I mean.
It was Sunday night/Monday morning. We’d been in bed for maybe half an hour – long enough to have completed the ritual of Rubin padding up to the bedroom door and being sent back to his own bed approximately eleventy-one times, anyway – when suddenly there was a loud BANG from downstairs.
The noise had definitely come from inside the house: there was no possibility of it having been something out in the street, say, and it was loud enough to send Rubin into a frenzy of barking, and make Terry and I sit bolt upright and stare at each other, each of us wondering who had left the front door open THIS time, and whether or not we were YET AGAIN in danger of being murdered in our beds.
Well, once again, Terry drew the short straw (because yeah, right, like I’d venture downstairs in the middle of the night to investigate a mysterious noise. I may like to THINK I’m Nancy Drew, but actually, I’m more like Scooby Doo in these situations, if I’m completely honest…) threw on his dressing gown and headed downstairs, and ONCE AGAIN I lay in bed, shivering slightly and imagining all kinds of horrible endings to this particular story.
Terry, meanwhile, got to the bottom of the stairs, stepped into the living room, and, as if on cue…
THE TV SUDDENLY SWITCHED ITSELF ON. YES, JUST LIKE IN THE RING!
I swear I’m not making this up.
Of course, Terry didn’t actually TELL me this had happened until the next morning. “I thought it might freak you out,” he said casually, as if it was totally no biggie, and TVs are just ALWAYS switching themselves on in the middle of the night, following a mysterious banging sound. And he was right about that, too: if I’d known that the mysterious BANG had been immediately followed by a mysterious switching-on-of-the-TV, I would instantly have deduced that, why, we were obviously in the middle of a horror movie! And I would have proceeded straight the basement, just like a good horror movie heroine
who gets killed. OK, I wouldn’t have: and not just because we don’t got no basement. It’s fair to say that I wouldn’t have gotten much sleep, though, and the reason I know that is because I didn’t get much sleep the NEXT night, on account of how I was lying awake the whole time, listening for mysterious banging noises.
Oh, and about that: Terry didn’t find anything at all to explain the bang during his nighttime tour of the house. He obviously wasn’t looking very closely, though, because when I went down to make coffee the next morning, I walked into the kitchen, and saw the two canvas prints which are currently propped up against one of the walls, both lying face down on the worktop, as if they had offended some ghostly hand and been thrown down there. (Which I bet they did, seriously.) This, I can only assume, had been what we’d heard the night before.
We have no explanation for this occurrence, or the switching on of the TV, other than that there is totally a ghostly presence in our house now, and it REALLY dislikes those prints. And possibly wanted to catch up on its soap operas, or something.
My money is on it being the ghost of our old friend NIGEL. And folks? He’s ANGRY.
(Image has nothing to do with post. Is cute, though, no?)
Remember Nigel, the International Man of Mystery next door?
No, of course you don’t: it’s now been almost six years (SIX! YEARS!) since Nigel was last sighted, and almost two since I last wrote speculatively about the possibility of him being either a spy or a serial killer, so I doubt I have any readers left from Those Days. (“This was all fields! And we had to walk uphill in the snow, both ways! And we could go to bed and leave our door open… oh, we still do that, don’t we?”) It’s OK, though, because here is the series of deeply exciting and not-at-all-hysterical posts I wrote on the subject, you’re welcome:
An Introduction to Nigel, the International Man of Mystery Next Door
Nigel is Sighted
Nigel, the International Man of Mystery in my Attic
Here Come the Men in Black
It’s OK, I’ll wait here while you read them.
You’re done? You’re sure? I will ask questions, you know. OK, well, anyway…
Today, people, I bring you A NIGEL UPDATE. And, actually, I’ve just realised that it’s almost exactly the same as the LAST Nigel update I brought you, so now I feel kind of stupid. Here is a completely unrelated photo I took of the Magic Garden Centre yesterday to distract you from the fact that I’m about to tell you the same thing twice. I said, I’m about to tell you the same thing twice:
I thought it looked a bit like some weird, alien culture attacking earth, no?
What was I talking about? Oh yeah: Nigel, the International Man of Mystery Next Door.
So, anyway, this morning there was a knock on the door (which was closed AND locked at the time, go us!), and for once it wasn’t the police. (Yeah, still not over that, obviously…) In fact, it was a Mysterious Stranger in a suit, with a long black overcoat and a leather folio thing full of official looking papers. I mean, I’m assuming they were official looking papers, here: I witnessed this man from behind the closed blinds in the bedroom window, so I didn’t actually get a close look at the papers. They could’ve been photos of shoes, for all I know. That’s what I would carry around in a posh folio thing, anyway. Let’s pretend they were official papers, though. And that the man was from MI5. Trust me, it will make this post much more interesting.
(Let’s also pretend I was wearing this dress at the time:
Dress of My Dreams
It won’t make the story any more interesting, unfortunately, but it WILL give me an excuse to post a photo of that dress, and God knows, I’ve been looking for one.)
Terry answered the door.
“The eagle flies at midnight!” said the man. OK, he didn’t. But he did start asking Terry a whole lot of questions about Nigel. Where is he? When was he last seen? Where does he work? Who is he REALLY? That kind of thing. All of the questions we ask ourselves about Nigel, really.
“Look,” said Terry, “If I knew all of this, I’d be a happy man, because then my wife would stop bugging me about this.” Yeah, no, he didn’t. Terry did, however, ask the man who HE was, and what he needed to know all of this for, at which point the mysterious stranger deftly changed the subject, and, without actually answering Terry, started repeating his “Where is he, have you seen him?” questions. Probably to see if he could catch Terry out, I would imagine. They do that.
(WHO ARE THEY?)
After that, the man went outside and had a good look around the property, looking exactly like a spy. Like, EXACTLY. And afterwards, Terry came upstairs and said to me, “Did you get a photo of him?” And I said, “GOOD GOD, MAN, WHAT DO YOU TAKE ME FOR? It’s not like I’m going to Instagram the Mysterious Stranger at the door, am I? They’d probably cut off my hands for that, or something!”
(NO, SERIOUSLY, WHO ARE THEY?)
And then Terry looked at me, like, “Well, you Instagram everything else, so…”
Conclusion: er, there isn’t one, really. It’ll be six years this summer since we last saw him. The mystery continues…
Folks, there has been a development in the mysterious case of Nigel, the International Man of Mystery Next Door.
It’s not much of a development, to be honest. In fact, if you just clicked through from Twitter, or wherever, hoping for some kind of juicy development, you may just feel you’ve had a wasted trip, because this development actually happened last week, and was so insignificant that I totally forgot to mention it. In the interests of keeping an accurate account of the comings and goings next door (or, er, the goings and staying gones, as the case may be), and also in case one day the police need to use this blog as evidence, let the record show that, last week, Nigel had visitors. Two of them.
I say Nigel had visitors. Obviously he didn’t, because he isn’t there. So Terry and I took it upon ourselves to speak to these visitors. You know, as nosey good neighbours do.
The two men arrived by car, and spent a few minutes sitting outside, observing the house. Terry happened to be passing the window at the time, and this activity instantly triggered his “Nigel” sensor, so he called me over, and together we watched the men get out of their vehicle and approach Nigel’s door. Both men were wearing dark suits, and looked a bit like the Men in Black, only without the talking dog, which was a bit of a shame, because that would’ve made for an AWESOME blog post, no?
Anyway, no sooner had they knocked on the door than Terry was out of the house and headed towards them. (I’d have gone with him, but I was just back from the gym and out of the shower, so I was wearing my dressing gown and a towel turban at the time…) Sadly, however, Terry’s Nancy Drew skills are less finely honed than mine, possibly because he has never been a 12 year old girl, so he didn’t manage to get much more information out of the visitors other than that the usual, “When did you last see him? Does he ever come back to the house? What, NEVER?” Terry was left with the strong impression that they were debt-collectors, or similar. I’m still convinced they were, you know, galaxy defenders, but I do have a pretty active imagination, so maybe not.
What this proves, however, other than that Terry and I would be useless detectives, is that wherever Nigel is right now, and whatever he’s doing there, not everyone in his life knows about it. He appears to have left some loose ends behind him, shall we say, and obviously if this was a novel, this would be the part where Terry and I (and possibly Rubin, because never underestimate the importance of a dog when it comes to solving mysteries) tie up those loose ends into a nice, neat little bow. It’s just a blog, though, so I’m going to have to leave you to try and tie them up yourselves. Enjoy!
P.S. I had to switch comment moderation back on this week, but I totally forgot to tell the site to notify me when comments came in, which means they’ve all been sitting in the moderation queue for a couple of days. If you posted a comment in that time, sorry, I wasn’t ignoring you – it should have been approved now!
Well, after three years of barely even thinking about Nigel, the International Man of Mystery Next Door, let alone writing about him, I now find myself writing about him TWICE in the space of just a few days. Just call me Magic Amber, Super Sleuth Extraordinaire. Or, perhaps more accurately: Girl Who Answers the Door in Her Dressing Gown With Jogging Pants and a Hoodie Underneath Because She is SO FREAKING COLD All the Time.
Or even “Girl Who Capitalises Too Much”. You decide.
Anyway, there was no super-sleuthing involved in this morning’s Nigel incident, but I DID open the door in my dressing gown (look, it’s REALLY cold here. Also, there is something wrong with our heating, apparently. It’s probably that a dead body has been stuffed inside the pipes or something.) to find a man from Scottish Gas standing outside, holding a clip-board and squinting at me suspiciously.
“Hello!” I said, trying to look like, why, I ALWAYS dress like a homeless person! (And actually, in winter I almost always do.) Whereupon he asked me if there was actually anyone living in the house next door.
“Not living, no,” I said, glad to have yet another excuse to talk about this. “But possibly lying dead on the floor, or inside the walls?” Then I embarked on a breathless tale of how Nigel hasn’t been seen for years – YEARS – and how this one time he turned up and then left in a hurry, and I think he is maybe with MI5, but if he isn’t, then maybe a dastardly villain of some sort, or dead?
(Of course, if he IS with MI5, they will probably come round now and “silence” me for blowing his cover on the Internet. If this is the last ever post here, you’ll know why. It’ll also mean he was a bit of a rubbish spy, though, to be honest, I mean, way to raise suspicion, Nigel! If that’s even your name.)
The man from Scottish Gas was most interested in all of this. It’s the way I tell ‘em, I guess. When I’d finished he raised his eyes to the heavens and thanked the Lord said “Really? REALLY?” but in a tone of voice that suggested, “Well, we’ll be doing something about that then, don’t you worry your pretty little head about it.” Then he made a note on his clipboard, which I assume said something about Nigel, but which may well have said, “Woman next door is mad” or “Homeless people have broken into house next door and are squatting there making up outrageous stories”.
He did spend some time after that walking around Nigel’s property and making further notes, so perhaps something has now been set in motion, which will lead inevitably to an exciting denouement involving everyone in the street standing out there in their dressing gowns while police surround the house and hostage negotiators try to talk Nigel down, using one of those loud-speaker things. And then Terry and I are rewarded handsomely for our role in the whole thing, which has been… er, nothing. (Although, to be fair, Terry does sometimes mow Nigel’s front lawn.) I hope all of this doesn’t happen while we’re on holiday next week. I also hope it doesn’t lead to a less exciting denouement, in which there is some prosaic explanation for the whole mystery, and Nigel’s house is sold to a noisy family of fifteen with ten TVs and five sound systems, which they proceed to blast music from all the live-long day, while throwing endless house parties and whistling.
I bet it’s the second one.
It’s been a long, long time since I last wrote about Nigel, the International Man of Mystery Next Door, so for the benefit of any new readers, a little bit of background…
Nigel is – or was – our neighbour. Our houses are semi-detached, so we share – or shared – a wall with him. Nigel bought his house about six months after we bought ours, and within about an hour of moving in, he was out there, mowing and weeding and pruning the already immaculate garden. Seriously, he couldn’t even have had time to unpack. “Wow,” we thought, “Dude’s going to totally put us to shame with all this obsessive gardening!”
But we were wrong about that. Because, just a few short months later, Nigel left. And never returned.
OK, that’s not totally true. Nigel DID return to the house next door, but only for minutes at a time, and almost always under cover of darkness. According to this very blog (Which will probably one day become important evidence about… something), the last known sighting of the International Man of Mystery was on February 23rd, 2007. ALMOST THREE YEARS AGO! On that night, he entered the house (“To leave food for the prisoners!” I speculated), banged about a bit (“Probably bricking up bodies in the wall!”) and then left, just a few minutes later. That was the first we’d seen of him in well over a year, and we haven’t seen him since. It works out pretty well for us, to be honest, because other than the fact that his garden now resembles a small jungle, at least we don’t have any neighbours. Well, other than the dead bodies I am periodically convinced he has hidden in there.
The house is still fully furnished (which means that someone is still paying council tax on it). It has not been repossessed, so either the mortgage is being paid, or Nigel owns it outright – which, of course, begs the question: why buy a house you have no intention of living in, renting out, or even maintaining properly? If it was bought as an investment, why go to the trouble of furnishing it, spending a few weeks obsessively tending the garden, and then not bother to even visit it for years, during which the property will surely be losing value due to lack of maintenance? Mail is still delivered for Nigel, although after we stopped accepting parcels addressed to him (circa 2006), it has tailed off significantly. No one ever visits the house for maintenance purposes – or not that we’ve seen, anyway. It’s not like we actually have lives, though, so I’m pretty sure we’d have noticed if someone had been in. It is a mystery.
1. Nigel works for MI5, and the house next door is a “safe house”. We will only find out about this when it is one day blown sky-high, probably with us inside.
2. Nigel is a an arch-villain, involved in some nefarious goings-on, which we will only find out about one day when the house floods and someone is forced to enter it, only to find DEAD BODIES BRICKED UP INSIDE THE WALLS. And then Terry and I will be on the news, as those dumb-ass neighbours who say, “No, we had no idea he was a serial killer! He always seemed like such a nice, quiet man!”
3. That’s pretty much all I got, to be honest. Your suggestions are welcomed, though…
Anyway, because we haven’t seen or heard from Nigel in such a long time, Terry and I had more or less forgotten about him.
UNTIL LAST WEEK.
Last week I was working in the office, and Terry was downstairs watching TV, or something, when I suddenly became aware of this… noise. I thought it was Rubin’s paws on the wood floors, at first. In fact, I’d keep looking round, expecting to see him there, and then realising that Rubin wasn’t even in the room with me: he was downstairs begging for food from Terry, and probably waiting for the right moment to pee on the washing machine.
Then I realised that the sounds were coming from….
* drum roll *
INSIDE THE WALLS.
As creepy as this was, I… more or less forgot about it. I was listening to music through my headphones at the time, and I pretty much managed to convince myself that what I was hearing was either something in the background of the track I was listening to, or was maybe just the radiator cooling down, or heating up or something.
Yeah, I’d be a rubbish detective. This is probably why Scooby Doo never called me back that time.
Anyway. A few nights later, it happened again. This time both Terry and I heard it. We’d just gone to bed, when we started to hear a scratching/shuffling noise IN THE ROOM WITH US.
Well, this time I naturally freaked the hell out.
Terry didn’t. He got up, had a look round, and determined that the noise was coming from the attic, or inside the walls of the house.
“Oh, yeah,” I said. “I totally meant to tell you: someone is living in our attic! I heard them a few nights ago!”
The noises continued for a few minutes, and have been heard several times since, although always in the dead of night.
1. Bats in the belfry, dude!
2. Rats. In the attic.
3. Or possibly squirrels. I really hope it’s squirrels, because, you know, they’re cuter than bats/rats.
(No offence to any bats or rats reading this, by the way.)
1. A vampire
2. NIGEL, International Man of Mystery Next Door
Well, Terry made the trip into the attic last weekend, in a bid to try to find out what, exactly, we were dealing with. His verdict? “Something that chews things, particularly bags of clothes.” Uh-huh. This would SEEM to rule out the possibility of our unwelcome guest being Nigel, IMOMND himself (although you never really know, do you?), but given that we can’t find any access points on OUR property, it does make us wonder if the general state of neglect of the house next door means that it’s now teaming with vermin, dead bodies and the like, which have managed to find their way into OUR property via the attic space.
Either way, we’re calling the council to ask them to come and take a look. If that fails, I’m calling the Famous Five.
We interrupt this broadcast to bring you the news that after more than a year of neglect, the lawn of Nigel: International Man of Mystery Next Door was cut this afternoon. Front and back, people. The lawn was not, sadly, cut by the IMOM himself – that would have been more excitement than I could take on a Monday afternoon (and would also have broken Nigel’s “not seen since February” record, which would have been a shame, really). No, the lawn was mown by a workman who had obviously been employed for that very lawn-cuttin’ reason. The question now is:
I mean, it’s not like Nigel has ever bothered about the state of the lawn before. Other than that two-month period just after he moved in, when he would tend the garden obsessively, obviously. Why, last year the lawn didn’t get mown at all, and we had to rely on the neighbourhood kids trampling the grass down every day to keep it in check, and reassure us that there weren’t people living in it or anything. So why now? Could it be that Nigel is planning a return to the neighbourhood? Is he thinking of selling the house? Have the police finally caught up with him, and now he’s languishing in jail, and the house is being sold off to pay his debts?
More importantly: if someone is, indeed, coming to live in the house, HOW WILL I COPE? I am, as you all know, notoriously intolerant of noise and, well, other people. And because Nigel has been MIA for around three years now, I’ve become used to not having neighbours. I don’t want neighbours. They will annoy me. They’ll be all trampling up and down their stairs, playing loud music, having their TV on all the time, and just generally BEING THERE. I hate that.
I mean, it could just be that he sent someone round to cut the grass because GOD, that grass needed cut. Please let it be that.
In other news: I am once again up to my eyeballs in Huge Projects O’Doom, and barely even have time to breathe at the moment, let alone update my blog. Expect lots of updates this week, then: you know how I love to procrastinate…