So, there we were, looking out over the Bristol Channel in the late morning of a beautiful summer’s day from the patio of the largest hotel in Wales situated halfway up a steep mountains. The view was glorious, to the left we could see the two Severn Bridges, below us was the town and docks of Newport and to the right, surrounded by sparkling sea stood Cardiff and its docks.
I had just finished a two-hour meeting with Dilys who is organising the Conference that takes place in December. We had met in Newport as it was half way between where she lives and Bridgend. Much had been discussed and she had a long list of ‘things to do’ in order to ensure a successful conference. We were on the patio waiting for her husband to finish a telephone call. The tranquility of the scene was shattered when my phone rang.
It was the Landlord of the office block where our offices are situated.
“Martyn – I have some bad news. I’ve just been called by one of the other offices to tell me that your office has been broken into”.
My heart sank.
Four years ago somebody had tried to force entry into our office using a crowbar but they hadn’t been successful – just as they had been unsuccessful in gaining entry to the other office suites. This time it seemed they had been successful. I left Dilys in a hurry and 40 minutes later I was standing outside our office door looking at the shattered glass panel to the side of the door. Inside the Caretaker was on the phone.
While driving to Bridgend I imagined that if anything would be stolen it would be the two laptops that are used by volunteers. And my hunch was right. There were two neat empty spaces where the laptops should have been. They had forced entry by using a fire extinguisher to smash the glass and then put their hand in and unlock the door. Rather bizarrely the extinguisher had been placed neatly back on its holder. I called the police and ten minutes later a constable from South Wales Police was taking details.
Two hours later, just as I was beginning to experience that awful afternoon tiredness that I still suffer from, a Scenes of Crime Officer was searching for fingerprints. The caretaker had already arranged for the glass panel to be boarded up later on in the afternoon and so I locked the office and returned home. And that’s when I realised that although the computers were password protected it might still be possible for the security of the society to be compromised. I contacted Artemis Websites and told them the bad news and they immediately set about changing all the passwords for the potentially vulnerable sites including the database, bank other gateways including this blog. This morning all appears to be calm.
The laptops were of no value – they are over five years old, and all of the data was backed up. It’s not going to be worth making an insurance claim as it would mean that our premiums would increase – probably significantly. The Police made enquiries to the other offices in the block but nobody had heard anything. I had left the office to meet Dilys at 8:30 and the break in was noted at 10:30. My suspicion is that somebody was waiting for me to leave. I also suspect that this would be the work of one ‘man’. And now, I have the problem of trying to resurrect some old desktop machines in order that the volunteers who come in on Saturday morning will have something to do. All because some person who is lower than a snake’s belly decided that he or she would help themselves to some technology that didn’t belong to them. I hope he or she sleeps easy with themselves, though of course I hope they never know peace in their lives.
He or she or they may have gotten away with two old laptops but they didn’t escape with the most valuable item in the office. On a table, overlooking the main London to Swansea main train line, stands a small white freezer. And that freezer contains forty or so priceless items, items that money couldn’t buy, personal donations that have been given freely and generously. You see, the freezer contains forty plus samples of urine donated by members taking part in Prof Hunter’s Research programme that aims to make the lives of patients suffering from Pernicious Anaemia better.
The laptops may have monetary value, and their theft is certainly an inconvenience and has caused a flurry of activity; but the fact is that the core values of the Pernicious Anaemia Society have not been compromised – we shall still continue to provide help and support for patients and their families and friends despite the work of thieves who have no conscience and setbacks such as what happened yesterday. We’ll keep going until we bring about much needed change.
It’s a shame that the day ended as it did. The meeting was a good one and things are really taking shape for the conference. And that view was one to die for.