Real life

How to catch a thief

18 January 2020

9:00 AM

18 January 2020

9:00 AM

My tech guy Andy appeared on the doorstep in a puff of smoke. I had just texted him to ask if he was still coming and as I typed the words I heard his footsteps outside.

I raced to the door and opened it to find him standing, wizard like, amid a cloud of vapour. I sniffed. Mmm. Blackcurrant. He sucked a big guzzle of it in before stepping inside. He knows to stock up on nicotine ahead of an evening with me.

He is having to service the surveillance cameras I have fixed in the trees at my horses’ field after two burglaries. You may remember the first was a truly baffling affair in which some broken old horse rugs were wheeled away from the barn in an ancient wheelbarrow with a flat tyre. The second incident a week later was a bit jollier, because by then I had affixed my first spy camera to a tree, and caught the thieves on film loading horse feed into a Ford Transit crew van with tinted windows.

Alas, I failed to capture an image of the registration plate, for it was on the left hand back door and this they flung open obscuring the view. There is quite a lot to this security business.

Still, I was of a mind to continue my private eye work believing I would catch them in the end.

This meant putting up more cameras in more trees, to cover more angles. I purchased ever more complex ones from Amazon, plunging the builder boyfriend into ever more installation nightmares.

Bless him for climbing up roofing ladders to drill camera mounts on to tree branches. And then once a week without fail he would clamber up there to change the rechargeable batteries. And he would do all this with several cameras up different trees and on various high girders in the barn.

How we laughed. Well, I enjoyed it.

The builder b was a trooper because he was so outraged by my being picked on by ne’er-do-wells unknown. But I decided it was not sustainable after a few weeks of him climbing long ladders in the dark, me standing on the bottom rung while he thrashed around in trees, swearing his head off whenever I stepped off the rung absentmindedly. ‘Just foot the ladder!’ he would scream. At one point he declared: ‘I should get a carer’s allowance for you.’

So I treated us both to the latest in technology, a camera so special it was only available to buy from two companies, one in the US and one in China. I plumped for China for no particular reason other than, I suppose, on a subliminal level, the devil in me decided it would make it more fun trying to understand the instructions and access the aftercare.

This 4G trail camera would produce images of stunning quality and also, just as importantly, it would communicate with us via text message or email — as often as we wanted — so the BB didn’t have to climb trees quite so often. It arrived promptly in a box full of gadgetry that was so baffling I pushed it into a corner and tried to forget about it immediately.

I asked the BB to please take care of it, for he had managed to set up all the previous cameras, but he also eyed the thing with terror and refused to go near it.

Eventually, after three weeks, I had to point out to the BB that if we didn’t approach the new trail camera it would be a waste of a not insignificant amount of money. He opened the box and looked inside.

I went to make him a cup of coffee and from the kitchen I could hear a lot of very worrying silence. When I came back, he had shut the box. ‘I’m done,’ he said. ‘What? You’ve set it up already?’ I marvelled. ‘No,’ he said. ‘I’ve worked out I can’t set it up already.’

So I called Andy tech guy and he appeared in a puff of nicotine vapour. Barely one hour later he had navigated his way around a Chinese website to download the set-up data we needed because the device wouldn’t talk to my laptop via the cable provided. He got the camera programmed and ready to talk to me via email.

All I had to do the next day was ring a phone company and order a Sim card on a particular data package, all of which he wrote down. Then, when the Sim arrived, call the phone company again to activate it, and put it in the camera. ‘I’m off for a beer,’ he said. ‘But honestly, all you’ve got to do is put that Sim card in and switch it on.’ What could possibly go wrong?

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