For as long as I can remember, which is a period that extends to at least last Thursday, we have operated an open door policy at home.
You open the door to enter and you open the door to leave – all depending on which side of the door you are on at the time. It is a universal principle relating to all doors, and seems a steady modus operandi that has worked well, at least I am not aware of any complaints.
But like all good things it came to a sudden and surprising end as a result of a loose screw. Such a small thing but like the want of a hap'porth of tar and so forth the consequences were significant – notably I could not get out.
Initially my own thread of thought did not encompass the screw. All I knew was that the back door, not long ago installed, would not unlock. The key turned, the handle lifted, but the lock refused to release.
My anxiety was compounded by the fact that hard at my heels was Jack the old dog, who was keen, even desperate, to reach the back garden and carry out his daily ablutions. Although a bright and willing animal, he was not able to grasp the door problem and just stood there, adding a sad pawing that was as effective as my more solid footwork. There was little time to lose, for Jack is not the most patient of beasts in these matters, so I directed him towards the front door.
Stuck in his back door ways, Jack confused and not open to change, just continued to stare at the shut door. Knowing that time was of the essence, I picked up the bewildered animal – no lightweight – and together we staggered to the front door which I was able to open using a knee and one elbow.
Of course, all this in no way solved the back door crisis, which was now very serious as the back garden is the one place I am allowed to enjoy a cigarette. This one refuge was now denied to me and so I joined the dog at the front gate for my own relief.
Both of us felt better for our break and I decided something had to be done about the recalcitrant door. There was only one thing for it.
I asked my wife.
She suggested, with her usual command of the situation, that we phone John the builder, a man of considerable skill, acumen and easy charm.
Following up this idea with action, my wife called John, who nipped around, sized up the situation, removed the glass from the door, looked at the jammed lock, fished out a loose screw, replaced it with a new screw, replaced the glass and double checked all was operating smoothly – all in the time it took me to explain that kicking the door hadn't worked.
John smiled the smile of a man who has dealt with more than his fair share of people who don't know what on earth they are talking about.
It was, he said, a simple, open and shut case.