The author Mark Twain wrote: Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.

A few weeks ago I came across a bizzare incident that reinforced my belief in this idea.

It all began when I was interrupted from my compulsory afternoon nap by my youngest daughter.” We have a serious water leak, dad”, she said. “Come and look at this.”

cracked tiles

There was an unusual urgency in her voice and I rushed out of bed cursing softly to find her examining a large wet patch on the carpet near the radiator by the bottom of the stairs. She moved aside allowing me to take a look and I felt the pipes, trying to discover the source of the leak. I bent down closer and was smacked by a cold hard drop of water right in the middle of my growing solar panel. Phap! I discovered it was coming from above. On looking up I let out a groan of despair. The ceiling above our heads was sagging with the weight of water and it seemed about to burst. What was the meaning of this? The room above us was the bathroom. Did we have leaking pipes in there? What damage had been done? How much would it cost to put right? I rushed upstairs fearing the wost. In a moment I realised what the problem was. A cracked wall tile was letting in water and this was going down the wall onto the ceiling of the floor below. The whole wall would need to be re tiled. The kind of job i personally hated.

I presented the problem to the lady of the house as soon as she got home from work. I was in hysterics at the time wondering what we would do etc. She, ever calm in a disaster reassured me that it was not the end of the world. I went out to work leaving her to deal with it all. Later that evening my wife called me at work to say that she had found a reliable plumber/carpenter to come and carry out the repairs. He was well experienced and actually worked for one of the colleges. He came highly recommended by my wife’s work colleague who happened to be his sister, he was reasonable and he could start work in the morning.

Next day I was half asleep when I answered the door to a well-turned out young man. He said his name was Mick and he had come about the bathroom. I showed him everything and in a few moments he got down to work. Someone must have mentioned that I worked the night shift because he worked ever so quietly. With the bathroom door closed you would not have known there was anyone in there. Also unlike most plumbers or fundis he did not have the loud Boom Box playing Radio One with opinionated djs causing a disturbance of the peace. I soon resumed my slumber just in time to catch the 3rd episode of sweet dreams. Mick finished tearing out the tiles and preparing the wall that afternoon. He said that would come the next morning to begin the retiling and all being well the entire job would be completed by early evening.

Next morning. No Mick. To say that I was angry would be an understatement. I was incandescent. I held my tongue and waited until 11.00. I called my wife. I wanted to know why the nice man had gone awol leaving the bathroom looking like a building site. What were we going to do now? She called his sister to find out if she knew anything and the news we got was not good. This is what she said.

Mick had gone to her place that very evening looking very happy. He had brought his little boy to play with her own son. They chatted as she prepared dinner for the kids. Mick told her that the woman he was doing the bathroom for had given him a small advance and he would nip down to the shops to get them a few cans. He left his son there and went off to the shops. When Mick had been gone nearly an hour she thought to call him on his mobile. He apologised for the delay and said that he was on his way. She was not amused that he had been gone for so long. She reminded him that his son was still with her. He was to come home immediately and take him home. An hour later, still no Mick. She tried his phone but it went straight to voice-mail. She put the kids to bed and went off to sleep.

The next morning she got a call from the intensive care unit at the JR hospital. Her brother, Mick had been admitted in the early hours. He had severe injuries and it looked like he had been the victim of a very serious assault. When she got there he was recording a statement with the police. He admitted to them that when he left his sister’s flat he had gone to buy some weed in Littlemore. He smoked some before heading back to his sister’s. He could not recall anything about the attack or how he got to hospital.

That afternoon my wife showed me a small article in the local paper about another victim of a serious assault. He had lost his phone, wallet and several teeth in the incident. Police believed that the attack was linked to other recent muggings in the area. Mick was lucky because when they sent him up for a scan it turned out that his injuries though painful were superficial. He was able to leave hospital and recuperate at home. He resumed work two days later and finished our bathroom as promised. When I spoke to him about the incident he said he was still unable to recall anything about the attack. We agreed that his attackers must have got him from behind giving him no chance. All is well that ends well. Except that in this case there was more to come.

Mick’s sister has an eighth floor flat in an Oxford estate. Two evenings ago she was coming in from work when she met Marge, their retired neighbour on the ground floor. Marge’s flat was the one nearest the entrace to the flats. She had just come back from a two weeks’ holiday in Corfu

“How is your brother now”, Marge asked.

“Oh, he is much better, thank goodness”, replied the sister

“Do you know, it was my Frank who sat by him as I went to call the ambulance”?

“Your Frank? What ambulance” Mick’s sister seemed confused. What on earth was Marge talking about?

Marge realised that she needed to explain. It was like this.

Marge and her husband Frank were going off to Corfu for their annual two week’s holiday that night. They had booked for a taxi to take them to the coach station in time to catch the 02.30 coach for Gatwick airport. Just after 0215 they heard an almighty crash coming from the top flats.

The crashing sound came down the stairs and stopped when whatever it was had got to the bottom. Frank went out to check. He found the limp body of a young man crushed beneath a smashed up bicycle. He called out to his wife and they both thought the young man was dead. They called an ambulance which arrived in a matter of minutes. The paramedics realised that there were signs of life and decided to get him to intensive care with minimum delay. Marge and Frank were left wondering what to do. Just then their taxi pulled up. The driver urged them to hurry saying that they would have to leave immeadiately due to some temporary traffic lights along the route that were causing delays. Like most neighbours Marge did not have a contact number for Mick’s sister to let her know what had transpired and ofcourse once they were aboard the coach to the airport they had put everything else behind them.