Friday, November 13, 2009

Cat Burglars

The door was locked.

The cats, beyond the door sounded like they had just knocked something over. "Silly cats." Taking out the key and turning it in the lock, I didn't get the usual three-stage series of weighted clicks; instead just a solitary single rotation, signifying a flatmate was home.


No answer, I walk into my room, but catch a glance of Abe's. "He must be doing washing." Clothes everywhere. Cupboards open. Something is not right. Thoughts of Abe or his girlfriend in a frenzied argument wander through my brain, as I pass into my room and see a symmetrical display of laundry. Something is definitely not right.

The penny drops at about the same speed as my jaw as I glance round my room. Lenses and camera intact. Passport strewn on the bed. Computer accounted for. I run back into Abe's room; again I see his camera equipment and computer, and am even more confused. The trifecta of laundry-themed rooms ends in Armando's, as I run past on the way to the living room, and awaiting brand-new Macbook Pro. What is going on?

Abe. No reply. A quick word with Armando, and he cuts short dinner to run home. Obviously avoiding touching anything at all, I do a quick second sweep of the rooms - the only stuff missing seems to be Abe's computer and our beloved three-legged cat, Tripod, who is likely hiding in a dark corner somewhere. Armando arrives - pennies and jaws dropping all around.

"What's the number for emergency services in Taiwan? ... 012?"

I try Abe again. No response, so I call Natasha and ruin one more evening.

Time to dive into emergency Chinese, and I dial. The guy on the end of the phone is calm and positive, and he dispatches a policeman to arrive in the next few minutes. Just before hanging up, he compliments me on my Chinese; and even under such stress my ego still pauses to be stroked before I shake myself out of it. Meanwhile, Armando is doing his own sweep of the house, shocked that he had only left home an hour previously at 6:50. We play out the scenario - the door, the lights, the stuff left lying around - nothing quite making sense. I grab the camera, take some shots of each room, and run a video around while narrating what I remember.


My dirty laundry


Abe one more time. Or maybe two. His phone is clearly off.

The first cop arrives, and I rattle off what happened to him. This shit clearly happens all the time, and he calmly listens to our story while he wanders around and takes photos of the most pertinent details. He sits me down and I sign some forms that seem to allow detectives to come in and do a formal inspection. Switching between his Nokia cell phone and radio, he radios for backup, and Armando and I look up to see the househould Hulk cookie jar, well, ajar; it's head and shoulders telling the story of a very polite burglar taking a peek inside and returning the lid.

The phone rings. A conversation completely out of context is difficult enough to grasp at the best of times, and it was only after a minute that I realised it was the police call centre asking to see if I was 'satisfied' with the timely service so far? Satisfied? What... yeah sure. Thanks. Slightly knocked sideways, it seemed all the more natural to strike up a conversation about our cats, while watching the policeman edging towards Datou. A few photos are collected on his official camera; and in mild disbelief I watch as he takes out his cell phone and adds a couple for himself. Are we looking for a cat burglar here?

Datou has a new friend.

More police begin arriving, and questions begin to be asked of the likely location of the other keys. Abe is out of contact, Natasha is on the way, and I don't even have the cell phone of the landlord. Raised eyebrows, inspection of ID card etc etc. This is getting a bit frustrating.

The CSI dude turns up, and he begins inspecting the main door lock. No joy. Then, his eye wanders over to the window opening into the living room; a brief flash of the light and it's clear that's where they came in. Bars block the windows of most houses in Taiwan, and ours is no exception. The only surprise is how easily they prised the bars - with an adjustable spanner, no less. So, let me ask you - if you can get through the bars with such a crude tool, and the bars themselves work as a ladder, what is the freaking point. Strike one for Taiwan. Not in our favour is the fact that we often leave that window open to allow air in, and it was unlikely that it was locked - lesson learnt.


Breaking and entering

Prints are taken on the window, and ... Hulk. Gloves. They came and went through the same place, which probably explains the scuffling sound when I arrived. We chat briefly about what to do, and his advice sounds like it is coming from a man that has seen this way, way too often. The adrenaline starts to fade as he leaves, and we assess the damage. Tasha arrives, slightly breathless.

Yes - Hulk. Please take him in for more questioning, by all means...

It's quite clear straight off the bat that we got away amazingly lightly. A few hundred dollars in American cash, and all the expensive equipment and travel documents are still intact, as far as we can see. But still one cat missing.

Tripod is timid cat at the best of times, but she was not to be found in any of her typical hiding places. I shine a light quickly outside, and nothing. I go and get my camera, and set the flash on, hoping to capture some reflective eyes; nothing. Did they really steal her?

Another shot with the torch, and the other guys hear a loud "meow". Tripod, except for Gizmo-like sound effects simply does not meow, ever, and I am in disbelief that it is her. Datou, on the other hand, makes a bolt for the window, clearly in distress - what a hero! Some more flash photographs taken down the alleyway, and sure enough it is her, lurking behind an air conditioning unit. I grab a torch, throw on some shoes and run out of the door, with Natasha in hot pursuit.


The rear of the apartment building is dark, dim, and not easy to access. I catch sight of her, and she scampers off (with three legs it's hard to do much else), and I worry that we are about to start a bizarre game of mouse and cat. But I corner her, and manage to pick her shivering body up. Safe. And I pass her up to Armando, manhandling herself up the bars and into the warm light of the apartment.

Covered in the muck of a million scooters, I head back to join Natasha and walk back around to the apartment entrance. Call Abe a dozen or more times. Talk at length about what the hell just happened, and wait for his arrival. And it was about this point that we realised just how hungry we were. The adrenalin surge comes to an abrupt stop.

We didn't need to wait to long for Abe to come back. Without wanting to get too dramatic, we walked him through the house, and it was clear that he was as shocked as the rest of us. Turns out his phone had run out of power. It's at times like this that I realise my daily Chinese skills have definite limits - vocabulary that Abe is talented and dedicated enough to learn. Still, we got through, and in the end what more is there to say? We were amazingly lucky.

We'll be lodging the full report with the police tomorrow, but until then I have rather an important gathering to attend - the departure of Nick Chaney from Taiwan. But I'll leave that for the next post.

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Fat Cat

DaTou ... "get me a beer"

DaTou , our wife-beating house cat, sits and watches TV

Update: Datou is renamed 'Fatou' and now sports extra artwork by Abe!


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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Hello Kitty

Sorry, some entirely gratuitous photos of our two house cats, DaTou and Tripod. I think this is the beginning of the end.

Tripod, who is simply a ball of delightful cuteness

... and then there is DaTou, dark lord of the cat underworld.

He displays rodent-like tendencies, including biting his way into boxes, creating almost perfectly circular holes along the way. Deeply strange.

And there he sits, plotting his revenge...

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Moving House

Hopefully, in the coming days, life can return to something resembling normal. As soon as I landed, the race was on to pack my stuff up and move the mile or so down to Abe's place near the Zhongxiao / Dunhua intersection. As ever, moving was a stress and had mutiple unforeseen hassles, so I cannot imagine how Jade did it. Twice.

Moving by itself is already quite a strain, but this pressure was exacerbated by the lack of foresight and consideration of my previous landlords. We told them that Saturday was the big day, so I was more than a little perturbed to arrive home one lunch time to find a team of betelnut munching workmen tearing the place apart, sanding walls and drilling holes. It almost goes without saying (except, clearly, to my landlord) that there was dust everywhere, and a disgusting, grimy layer of residue sat on all of my belongings, rendering my Mac, cameras, furniture, clothes, bed sheets and photographs all, well, disgusting. If they had only waited 48 hours - clearly too long - they would have had the place to themselves. But no. In their worldview turning the apartment into a tip is appropriate. Good riddance!

Anyway, I am now sitting drinking a victory beer in the venerable PS: Cafe and feeling rather better. There is still a load of setting up and wiping down of my stuff, but things are rather more manageable now - maybe it is just the beer kicking in.

And tonight, Jade and I head south to enjoy the long weekend (Mid-Autumn festival) and escape the bullshit. Can't wait.

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Our Apartment for Rent!

George and I are finally coming to the end of our two year affair, and the time has come to move out and go our separate ways. It's sad (in a way) but I am also looking forward to moving into my new place which is SUPER downtown - right at the intersection of Dunhua and Zhongxiao, for those that are interested.

So, if you fancy a nice rooftop (two careful designer owners) drop us a mail and we'll see what we can do!

... and it also gives me an excuse to post some photos of the place for my family, who have been bugging me for two years to do a proper job.


Our delightful garden

The expansive living room

... and again from the reverse angle

Our chef centre

Georg's master bedroom

The kids' room

The VIP room

The Thomas Crapper

Details here:
Taiwanted (Forumosa)


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Sunday, February 04, 2007


I awoke to the sounds of diggers in the street this morning. This is not an especially strange occurence here in Taipei, but I was still rather surprised to see that they had dug up the entire street, with zero warning and no pedestrian access to the street! My door is third on the left.

I looks like the boys just tied the cable onto the digger and pull backwards, peeling the cable out of the ground!

Even more surprising was returning a few hours later to discover they had glued it all back together again!

Am I on the same street? (about 10 hours later)

I also had a marvellous day enjoying the chilly, sunny weather - two weather types that are not commonly seen together here. I cruised through MOCA, and onto meet Jade at DiHua St. festive market - the equivalent of a Christmas market back in Europe. The street was totally packed and defined the word 'RiNao', which is the Chinese appreciation of busy, bustling places with lots of shouting, music, food and flashing things. My particular favourites were the ever more improbable piles of shredded squid and nuts with the sellers up on stools shouting at people to buy them.

"Get your lovely shredded squid here!"

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