• Tamar Broadbent

A Secret in the Cul-de-Sac

In a leafy cul-de-sac at the North edge of Surrey, a recently-moved in couple purchased a special doorbell security camera system for their house. They were enticed by the modernity of the doorbell ringing through their phones, and quickly ordered one off Amazon. Little did they know this new technology would hurtle them into the heart of a local mystery, filled with deception and high-stakes subterfuge. A mystery from which they were lucky to emerge unscathed.



This couple is, of course, myself and my husband. The house is, of course, ours. The doorbell alarm system is ring. It comes with a special app where it records everyone who rings your bell. Saucy, right?


Security is very important to me. I don’t ever want to be robbed. (I realise that nobody wants this. Like nobody wants measles or Japanese knot weed). But I think about home security often. I enjoy feeling safe. So a doorbell security camera seemed to me a wonderful idea: if anyone so much as stands in front of my house, looking at it and thinking about breaking into it, I’ll see it on my ring app! It’ll notify me on my phone immediately! I can call the police and say, “there is a man wearing black and white stripes and an eye mask on my driveway, with a sheet of paper that says ‘BURGLARY PLAN’ at the top. I’m watching him on my phone! Come get him!” I was 100% on board.


However, in practice, I’ve learned it’s unlikely someone dressed as a cartoon robber would stand in front of your house and alert you of their upcoming crime. What’s more likely is that your phone will tinkle multiple times an hour with harmless movements: a car pulling out of a distant driveway, the Gousto man come with your weekly box, or (it genuinely picked this up) a far-off fox sauntering idly into a shrubbery.


I quickly realised that most of the movements my front door camera records are inconsequential. And yet… I could not stop looking at them. Each time the notification rang, slave as I am to other such sounds, like the bubbly Android Whatsapp noise, I would grab my phone immediately, feel the hairs stand up on the back of my neck, and watch with full attention as that fox popped his head back out of the bush.


I accepted that this was just my life now. Constantly watching meaningless movements on my phone and somehow not being able to stop.


But then one day, it started to get a bit weird.


One October night, I heard the twinkle of the notification and swiped open my phone to see a woman going across my drive and towards the neighbour’s house. A woman who, alas, was not my neighbour. I turned it off immediately – not my business! But moments later, the notification rang out again. Now, the women was gently lifting up the lid of my neighbour’s bin. Curiously, analytically, she peered into it like a dentist into the depths of a mouth during a check-up.


Of course, this was still none of my business. But because our houses are attached, my neighbour’s bin happens to reside within the circumference of the area picked up by my brand-new front door bell ring camera. And so, when it happened the second night in a row, I was notified once again.


This time, the woman arrived at the bin, looked around, as if to check no one was watching, then lifted the lid of the neighbour’s bin and placed inside it a large Deliveroo bag. The camera cut out and moments later there was a new recording of the bin on its side, the woman frantically stuffing all the fallen rubbish back in, shoving it upright and then running off into the darkness of the cul-de-sac.


This all seemed very, very suspicious.


A few days went by, life continuing as normal: work, trips to the shop, the doorbell alarm showing us nothing more than Amazon packages being delivered and that same crafty fox hanging around at the end of the drive.


But naturally, as the human mind is wont to do, my brain started to form stories. What was that lady doing? Was she a friend of the neighbour’s? Or a chancer? My husband noted that our neighbour seemed to have been absent for a while – perhaps this lady was looking after her house whilst she was on holiday? Taking care of her rubbish? We resolved to think no harm was being done.


But then, two days later, my husband came rushing into the room. He held up his phone screen to me (I had finally put mine on silent by this point), his face alight with intrigue. What I saw left me breathless. The bin was being targeted again. This time… by someone else!


We watched the full clip together. There, emerging out of the darkness, was a man with a hoodie on. He arrived at the bin, looked around and, presumably thinking he was under cover of darkness and alone on the street, that there wasn’t a doorbell ring camera picking up his exact movements, he lifted the lid of my neighbour’s bin and put inside a large chunk of collated Amazon cardboard.


We couldn’t believe it. We watched on our phone as the man turned around and ran off into the darkness, leaving the scene of the… (crime?)


For a while, my husband and I discussed what our obligations might be upon witnessing such a… (crime?). This wasn’t their bin. It was our neighbour’s bin. Based on their behaviour, it seemed unlikely they had her permission. It was a heavy burden for us to bear, but after careful consideration (aka, a quick chat), we decided, as it was not our bin, it was not our business. (Binsness).


Life continued once more, with work, more Gusto boxes, a stand-off between the fox and a local dog, and before we knew it, our neighbour returned from holiday. I learned this, of course, from my doorbell app. But I was once again disturbed by what I saw.


Back home again, the neighbour looked inside her bin. She was visibly outraged. She had noticed! People had been using her bin! But then, I saw her walk over to OUR bin, slowly lift the lid and peer inside, like a dentist again but this time an angry dentist.


I could practically hear her thoughts. She suspected us! She thought that we were putting Deliveroo bags in her bin! She spent the next ten minutes chatting with someone at the end of our drive and pointing animatedly at our house.


She’d gotten it wrong! I couldn’t let this happen… I knew the truth. I was innocent! I knew who really committed the bin crimes! I saw the culprits! In fact, I have it saved on my doorbell camera! I could show her exactly what happened…


Just as I was about to go downstairs and tell her everything… it occurred to me that I might possibly have gone totally and utterly mad.


Oops.

Yep.

Went insane.


Just went very mad for a little moment.


If I didn’t have that doorbell security camera, I wouldn’t have seen any of this. I wouldn’t be privy to the bin crimes. They would continue being, as they rightly should, none of my binsness.


Did I really want to get involved? Did I want my life to become one of court rooms and bin witness statements, being dragged into a criminal underworld that had nothing to do with me, like those innocent bystanders who happen to be in a bar where a Mafia deal takes place and then end up having their cat get murdered!!!


I don’t have a cat, but I’m still not taking that chance.


No. Thank. You.


Let her think what she wants. I have my binnocence. (Bin innocence).


Let those bin thieves continuing doing what they will. They’re the ones who will have to answer to the bin god. And if they try anything with my bin… Bin God knows I’ll see them coming! And then they’ll have to answer to me.


But until then, as well as the smart decision to turn off the noise of the notifications on my phone, we also decided to adjust the doorbell camera, so that it still records burglars, but no longer ventures its circumference near the neighbour’s bin.


It’s for the safety and the sanity of us all.

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