I got into a strange spat last week that I didn't start and didn't entirely know how to end.
I was working from home because I had the two boys with me and I had set up in the front room with the laptop. However, as the evening sun shone in through the window, I noticed that the inside of the panes were covered in mini-sized handprints.
We have a guy who cleans the outside once a month but we're a little less attentive with our side so I decided to break out the Windowlene and give them a quick wipe.
Unfortunately, the timing could not have been worse. As I set to work, a gang of seven or eight teenagers walked past carrying armfuls of water balloons.
I could not believe my luck. I was suddenly the easiest mark in the world and the moment I made eye contact with one of the kids, a tall brown-haired boy who appeared to be the leader of the pack, I knew exactly how the story was about to play out.
The youth, with a malevolent grin, immediately feigned to throw a balloon and I did a quick calculation. I could either grin inanely as it splattered all over the pane, like George McFly, or I could tell him to move on. I could warn him not to.
I was conscious that he was no more than fifteen and a water balloon isn't the most serious weapon in the world but I was standing in the bay cleaning his target. What message would that send? What message would it send to my children?
So I gestured for him to move on. I suggested he keep walking, and, at least for a few yards, he did.
But as I continued cleaning the panes, I watched this bozo double-back and again threaten to throw a balloon. I once more indicated that he should carry on walking but I knew that it was too late. This kid had mentally committed to the attack and it was now just a matter of time. I also knew it would happen the moment I turned my back, and, predictably, the moment I turned away there was a loud splat! behind me.
This really fucked me off. It wasn't the water balloon that bothered me; you could throw water balloons at my house all day long and I wouldn't care less. But if I look you in the eye and ask you to stop and you carry on, we have a problem.
I made a move for the door, as if to make after this guy, and he and his cronies scarpered a short distance up the road. However, I wasn't going after anyone; I was on my own with two small children.
I think the gang interpreted this as a sign of impunity and, as I waited for my partner to get home, they took to casually sauntering back and forth outside the house.
I bristled and prowled the front room, waiting, until I heard the key in the lock. My partner had barely opened the door before I was past her on the doorstep with a perfunctory, 'I'll be back in a minute.'
I walked out into the pavement and saw the gang playing Knock-Down Ginger a few doors up. They were terrorising everyone...
Terrorise may be too strong a word. Water Balloons and Knock-Down Ginger. It wasn't even low-level crime. They were just being nuisances, and, as I turned to face them like some urban Clint Eastwood, I was aware that I was putting myself in a compromising legal position. This wasn't self-defence. This was retribution.
We stood eying each other while I considered the options on the table. With the matter finely-balanced, I recognised that I had a hand of cards that, played in a particular manner, would see me getting a knock on the door later that evening from a policeman. There was a Go Straight To Jail card there. Do Not Pass Go. It was therefore critical I had a clear plan.
With the clock ticking out, I began marching towards them without any sort of plan at all. I would just have to freestyle.
Fortunately, the gang members, having first turned to each other in bewilderment, decided to beat a hasty retreat down the road but they didn't go far enough and I carried on stomping after them. The teenagers retreated further, to no avail, until the guy who had thrown the water bomb suddenly realised I wasn't going to stop and took off at pace. The rest of the pack quickly followed.
All bar one. One member tried to extricate himself from the others by meandering along after them although he kept casting nervous glances over his shoulder and, as I closed in, he lost his nerve and ran off after his buddies.
However, his procrastination allowed me to see the side alley of a house he ran down. It was in the road next to mine and, as I approached the property, I saw a huddle of concerned teenage faces peering out at me from the back garden.
The curtains of the house were drawn and it looked to all the world like the parents weren't about. I stood there for a few seconds wondering whether I should knock then decided against it. The kids knew where I lived but I now knew where at least one of them lived and, content with that, I turned heel and walked home.
I don't know whether I did the right thing that day and I wasn't sure whether my reaction would provoke a campaign of water balloon attacks but I didn't think it would and, thus far, it hasn't.
It just struck me that the only other option was to do nothing, to cower or give way. But that would've eaten away at me and I didn't particularly want the gang taking up residence on my street. So I didn't do nothing and now they won't.
At least not outside my house. Ask the kids. A mad guy lives there.