[Forgive my posting a little late this morning: worries about Bink. I will update you when the news is more encouraging. It will be. The Shepherd never stops searching…]
Monday 8th December 1997, evening.
Around 7 o’clock that night Serena, and Shaun’s two sisters, arrived back at the Vicarage, escorted by the police. With the best present I’ve ever had... before, since or ever.
A (slightly sheepish) Bink. Not harmed. Not hurt. Not murdered or thrown in a ditch. Not even run away for ever.
Just dear, wonderful if slightly baffling Bink.
The police, in the way of the wonderful British Police, made a quiet and unobtrusive exit, leaving us to enjoy being together again: all six of us, now the boys had been brought home. Alas, the slightly less unobtrusive British press were still camped out, if not quite in our front garden, then certainly on the road beside it.
The police had smuggled Bink through the door of the church, a long way down the next road; through the unlit vestry; through what we called “the secret passage” – the little vestibule between vestry and Vicarage – into our house. But the press weren’t fooled, and were now ringing our doorbell incessantly.
Thank goodness for our neighbours beyond our garden wall!
Thank goodness, too, that we had left a gap in the trellis above for our children to scramble between our gardens. We all climbed through it that night, over the wall, leaving the press still leaning on our doorbell.
Never before had we ignored anyone calling at our door. Not on Shaun’s day off, nor at three in the morning. Not when the children were having supper, nor at nine o’clock on a Sunday night when we had at last finished for the week, poured a glass of wine and turned the telly on to watch an Agatha Christie and relax together at last.
Never did we ignore wayfarers at our door. So we had to get out of the house, to stop me feeling guilty...
When have we ever celebrated as much before or since?
This our child had been dead and was alive again: had been lost and was found.
(We had no idea that she might die to us and be lost again many times before today...)
When we got back some hours later, they were still camped on the street outside. With uncanny instinct, though we never turned on any lights, they knew we were back and starting ringing the doorbell again.
All we could do was go to bed and try not to take any notice. We had the advantage of being very tired. Some time in the night they gave up the game, and the last car drove off.
The didn’t give up for long, though.
The next day was when the onslaught really started. Bink had been lost and found all in one day, leaving the papers cheated of their story.
The last thing we wanted, now, was press attention. We just wanted to be left alone. To find out why Bink had disappeared.
But that didn’t seem fair. We had to give the papers what we could, to thank them for Bink’s homecoming. The rest of the week was spent on a gruelling round of press calls and photographs.
Had it helped?
I often wondered that afterwards. Wouldn’t she have come home anyway, without all that intrusion? Well, it was certainly how she was traced so quickly: a teacher saw the lunchtime news, saw Bink walking past, and rang the police.
No doubt she would have been found, and brought home again, eventually. Probably safely. But she might have spent another night on the streets... and who knows what danger that might have brought?
The irony was that she herself had walked past a news placard saying a West London schoolgirl was missing... and it never even crossed her mind that she was that lost child.
Still. That lost child.