All cleaned out.jpg

All cleaned out

By: JENNY GRAINER

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Jenny Grainer arrived in the Algarve to live, work and raise a family in 1968. She is a freelance writer and her book Portugal and the Algarve Now and Then has sold more than 2,000 copies.

HAVE YOU ever had your home broken into? Have you ever known that feeling of utter disbelief when some unknown person has managed to enter your private world, touch your things, choose what they want and reject things that they don’t?

Can you imagine what it is to realise that a person unknown has been running their hands through your very personal clothing, maybe fingering your underwear – seeing things that maybe even your husband didn’t know you had? You haven’t? Well feel very blessed.

Sixteen years ago it happened to me, not once, but twice in quick succession. Then, the thief was very selective and only took the best of my jewellery, quickly and furtively when I must have been in the house.

Culprit

Some time later I found out who the culprit was and she was arrested. The gold chain, wedding and engagement ring from my late husband had been sold for the price of a fix, but I was offered some money by her new boyfriend if I would drop the charges so that she would not get a criminal record.

I accepted, not because it could replace what had been taken, but for these youngsters it was hard to save any amount of cash and therefore would hopefully teach a lesson. Also because this new person in her life loved her and was determined not only to change her way of living, but also stop an early drug addiction strengthen its hold. I thought her young life was worth a second try and he did succeed in turning her around.

It took a long time for me to recover from all the unpleasant side effects the theft had wrought on my children and myself at the time. We had never had occasion to be anything but trusting people.

The Algarve had been our home for so very many years, the only one the children had ever known, but things were changing and so were the people, especially the young generation.

I swore that I would never buy jewellery of value again – not a difficult promise, I couldn’t afford any. Then my mother died and I inherited a few family treasures, some were even gifts I had given to her myself earlier in my life.

Over the last fourteen years I had forgotten my fears and when we moved into our new home three years ago, I felt quite safe. It was a brand new building with strong firm locks and safety windows, electronic shutters and a very quiet Portuguese neighbourhood.

Last week my husband called me to our bedroom. Annoyed, I put down the book I was reading, thinking he had probably lost something right in front of his nose. I was totally unprepared to be told that all his foreign currency had been taken from the wallet he kept in his dresser drawer. Worried, I immediately checked my own bedside drawer and the purse I keep for trips to England. The few pounds it usually contained had gone too.

Treasures

It took a long while for us to accept that it had really happened and that we weren’t mistaken in believing we had actually been robbed. I don’t know why I didn’t immediately check my few treasures but eventually the thought crept in to my head and I rushed back to the bedroom and stared into my empty box.

This time the thief was not selective. He or she had just emptied it. Along with mum’s engagement ring and the silver locket containing my dad’s picture went the eternity ring the children had given me on my 60th birthday and even a little box with their milk teeth. All sorts of treasured items of very little value to anyone but me had gone, except for the plastic nametag placed on my daughter’s wrist after her birth 33 years ago.

When we reported the theft to the GNR, we discovered that another property just two doors away had been burgled the day before. Neither of us knows how the thief got in.

Two days later I went to get a new prescription of sleeping pills from my bedside drawer to discover that they too were missing. Once again drugs must have been the motive for the theft.

As a Christian, I have no difficulty in forgiving this person, after all, these were just things that I will never have to worry about keeping safe any more. The memories they conjured up are locked safely in my memory where nobody can touch them.

The person or persons who took them will be judged one day by a far higher authority than me and will probably spend a useless life, suffering all the indignities and misery that addiction will inflict upon them.

At the moment I am still in a state of shock. I feel nervous in my own home, and have taken to manically double locking doors and shutting shutters where I probably didn’t before. The two thefts have shaken the neighbourhood as well, as they are the first to happen, but it will pass with time and trust will return.