the picture he was looking at (meanwhile Rog and Dave H had given up shouting at me
and were stumbling through from the bedroom to the sitting room). When John realised
that he could see the railings between him and me, he jumped up and ran for the balcony.
Realising the fun was over, I'd put both hands on the rails and started to swing a leg over,
but he more or less pulled me to safety anyway.
All good clean fun, really, though I did apologise to all concerned if I'd upset anybody
in any way. And there it might have ended, but for the fact that by a hideous coincid-
ence, almost at the same time as I was doing my traverse, a robbery was taking place next
door in an adjoining suite, one of those being used by the Con administration. Stuff was
nicked, the thief was seen briefly - thankfully the clean-shaven swine looked nothing like
me, or that might really have confused matters - the police were called, and I thought
I'd better wait and mention to the cop - who appeared to be about twelve - that I'd been
sort-of-climbing on the face of the hotel at the same time as the robbery had taken place.
Witnesses vouched for me not having taken a quick detour to any further-away balconies,
having a big bag with Swag written on it or wearing a stripy jumper and a black eye mask,
and so it went no further.
I went to bed, creeping in beside Ann without disturbing her. Plenty of time later in
the morning, I thought, for her to hear all the grisly details, roll her eyes and add a cast-
iron sub-clause to the no-climbing agreement covering so-called traverses involving what
I believe climbers airily term 'exposure'.
I got up before noon (Ann snoozed on), went for a breakfast Bloody Mary, as one
does on such occasions, and the first person I met as I turned away from the bar looked
surprised and asked, 'Oh! They let you out on bail, did they?'
A lesser man might have spluttered his drink. Having more respect for a healthy
breakfast, I managed to swallow quickly before saying, ' What ?'
I discovered over the next half hour or so just how quickly rumours mutate and
propagate. Only about six or seven hours had passed since the whole sordid balcony epis-
ode, and yet already it was common knowledge around the Con that, a) I was an inter-
national jewel thief and, b) I'd been seen by various extremely emphatic witnesses who
swore blind they'd seen me, dressed in a Spider Man outfit, climbing the hotel from the
ground up to the fourth floor … Or, c) I'd been clearly observed - by several people
of unimpeachable trustworthiness - dressed in distinctive SAS black coveralls abseiling
down from the roof of the hotel down to the offending balcony.
It wouldn't have mattered quite so much, but a lot of Americans were leaving the
Con for home that day and so took this travesty of the truth back with them. And then
Mike Harrison - heroic writer and rock climber - gave me a climbing lesson on one of
the low walls overlooking the pavement outside the bar (there were a lot of handholds
on the carved stone foliage decorating the plinths). I jumped off from about two feet up