Our house has an unfortunate feature to it.
It belonged to a family, before us, who had strange ideas about locks. There were locks on all the bedroom doors, odd seventies locks which were indestructible and had a certain Teutonic invincibility about them.
When they were locked, they were really locked, and no-one was getting out without a Jemmy and some cracked woodwork.
I have painful memories of my sister’s family all piling over to ours for Sunday tea, and the children getting locked in. There is a door at the top of the stairs which is the entrance to the mini-apartment which is the second floor.
It was this which clicked shut, with Felix and his little princess of a cousin inside, when Felix was about three years old. His cousin entertained him with a puppet show while all hell let loose outside the door: my father the engineer got out all his tools and all the men of the house became serious and collegiate, trying everything from battering rams to jemmies.
Finally, we prised most of the doorway from around it, removed the lock, and – as if we were removing all the spindles in the kingdom – we demolished every lock as finally as we possibly could. It was deadbolt carnage. The black incarceration fairy retreated, disgruntled, to the far reaches of the house to simmer and plot a singular revenge.
That was five years ago.
It has taken a long time for her to regroup forces, but about a week ago I heard her rumbling away. And it would have to be, wouldn’t it, when my son had his friend Freddie round to play.
They fell in through the door after school and charged up the stairs to access Felix’s extensive Lego collection with all speed. About five minutes later I heard thunderous hammering from the third floor.
I assumed it was some boisterous game and smiled indulgently. Fortunately my daughter was not of the same persuasion, and headed upstairs to investigate. From inside the door of Felix’s room they were shouting gleefully: “Help! We’re locked in!”
Without fetching me, Maddie worked out that one just had to pull the handle down a very long way to free the boys. It was not a crisis, but a salutary warning that this handle was very much due for changing.
The boys trooped down and told me all about it over tea. The moment the last morsel was consumed, Felix turned to Freddie and said: “What shall we play now?”
With a wicked grin, Freddie replied, “Let’s go upstairs and get locked in again.”
They thundered upstairs with me in hot pursuit.
I finally remembered to mention the dodgy handle to Phil today. “You might need to take a look,” I said. “It won’t be long before it becomes a problem.”
It was storytime, and Felix had seen little of his father today. Phil volunteered to read the story, and he pottered up to the top floor as soon as he had finished his dinner.
I was sitting in Maddie’s bedroom, also on the top floor, where I was treated to a barrage of sound effects as Phil stumped good naturedly up the second flight of stairs and into Felix’s bedroom. Sounds of non-specific bustle: “Now,” we heard him proclaim with his usual theatre, “let’s see what’s up with this handle….”
And then,we heard what we least expected to hear: the door slam shut, with Phil and Felix inside.
His timing, had it been contrived, would have been impeccable. We heard the handle rattling, gently at first, and then with greater and greater urgency. “Er….hello?” he ventured tentatively; this soon escalated to a pointedly urgent “Can you come and let me out – I’m locked in!”
Maddie was almost weeping with laughter by this time. I could hear Felix gurgling with mirth behind the door as I manipulated it and freed them. That naughty lock fairy must have been dancing a malicious jig.
And….she’s…..back in the game.
It took a while to calm the children down, and the tale will be told for many years to come. Phil explained sheepishly that he had though the problem was that the door wouldn’t shut; he had no idea it wouldn’t open.
Next week is half term and Phil is on holiday for a week. But we shan’t see him: oh, no. Because he has an extensive lock replacement programme planned.
No handle will remain unturned.