Mother: Alpha's favourite bike has been stolen.
While he was feeling so sick with a cold yesterday he left it out the front and forgot to secure it with a lock.
It's a shame so many people will steal something if they find the opportunity.
Older Daughter: I think some study showed that say 80% of people would steal something if they were sure that they wouldn't be caught.
I've also heard of a saying, in another language, about how people should always try to win, at other people's expense ...(although in doing so life would become a constant battle, with no compromising.)
Another saying I've heard, also in another language, is about how the person who has something stolen from them should not be pitied. If they were foolish enough to allow something to be stolen they deserved it!
Mother: With such attitudes of selfishness and lack of empathy it's no wonder there is so much injustice, conflict and suffering in the world.
I was reminded of Alpha this morning as I travelled here on the train, watching with fascination the young man sitting opposite me.
He was holding a bike, a stylish bike somewhat similar to the one stolen from Alpha, and he was giving it lots of attention.
First he checked the tightness of various joints. Then he began polishing the bike, rubbing it down all over with wads of newspaper, going over and over each section, and even spitting on the bike seat before polishing it.
I wondered why he was giving the bike so much attention, and if he was planning to try to sell it.
When he was preparing to get off the train he put on a hoody jacket, which enhanced his acceptable features, and gave him an air of introverted mysteriousness.
As our eyes met I felt a connection, which he responded to by folding and handing to me an intact copy of the Daily Telegraph.
I didn't really want it, but I took it graciously anyway, hoping that somehow I would find something of significance somewhere in the paper. I will read through it carefully, just in case.
Mother: I could see the man next door through his window, preparing food in his kitchen.
Just a glimpse, since he could see me, while I was noticing him.
He seems to have been working consistently on his house lately, banging wood around, sawing and hammering, maybe continuing to secure the new upstairs ceiling.
Some evenings I can hear loud sanding through the wall.
Daughter: One day he was doing some more noisy banging and demolition down stairs.
Then a few days ago he was loading up his truck outside, with the rubble of broken bricks, and a big, old leather lounge suite. The leather was so old and worn in places that the colour had changed from brown to red.
Mother: I wonder why the man next door's kitchen security door is off it's hinges, and just leaning against the door jamb.
Did it fall off, or did he have to force the door open one day, while it was locked with the chain that ran around some bars, then through two holes in the wooden back door?
A WEEK LATER.
Mother: Yesterday the day began with banging and sawing next door, but this soon ended.
The back door was open for a while, with the security door open, and leaning against the other side of the door jamb.
This morning the back door looked well locked up, with the security door "in place", held there by a piece of wood jambed in above it.
But this evening, after dark, with no lights visible in his house, I could hear the man next door moving around, and working, just through the fence.
It was only later that a light came on in his upstairs bedroom.
Mother: The man next door was outside at his truck when I walked past on the other side of the street.
Then when I was returning home I was able to glance inside through his open front door.
It was rather dark inside, because it was getting late, and a curtain hung roughly over the back window was reducing what light there was.
I could see that the front rooms and hallway now looked more opened up, and relatively empty, creating a pleasant-looking space.
Daughter: I'm starting to think that it won't be surprising if the man next door's house ends up being really lovely inside.
You can see through his kitchen door that he has even widened the doorway between the front rooms and the kitchen, so that all the downstairs rooms now flow together.
Daughter: I heard the usual racket on the roof this morning, with heavy galloping and the scratching of claws on roofing iron, and a fuss being made by excited Indian Mynas.
I managed to get to the window in time to see some of what was going on.
Instead of seeing a cat chasing birds on the roof, I saw a group of Indian Mynas harrassing a big Brushtail possum, snapping around it's head, as it ran heavily across the roof, struggling to get away from them.
It reached the man next door's kitchen chimney, and managed to climb up.
Then the possum's thick, bushy tail waved in the air as it disappeared down inside the chimney.
Mother: Alpha would make a good possum.
If you were a possum what would you do to the Indian Mynas?
Alpha: I'd grab one in my front paws, and pull it apart, tearing its head off.
Then I'd pull it's feathers out one at a time, until the bird was naked.
Mother (somewhat shocked at the savage expression Alpha was putting on his face): Is that the way you behaved when you were a soldier in Peru, fighting the Shining Path guerrillas?
Alpha: No! I treated everyone the same, man, woman or child.
Life as a soldier was very dangerous. Most soldiers in my unit ended up being killed.
You couldn't trust anyone, even the commander of your unit.
Everyone was afraid.
The Shining Path could be anywhere, behind any door, or hidden amongst the villagers.
It was worst for the villagers, who were afraid of both the soldiers and the guerrillas.
Mother: The guerrilla's actions seem to me to have been pointless, and unlikely to succeed.
It was just terrorism.
Daughter: They behaved the way they did because they were angry.
They just wanted to hurt people, to get back at the Government, and make their presence felt.
Alpha: Sometimes the guerrillas would even blow up important bridges and buildings.
Even police in Lima were targets.
Daughter: Police could be shot when they stepped out of their houses, or they would set out for work, and never return.
Mother: It was great when the Shining Path leader, Abimael Guzman, who had kept out of sight, was caught hiding in an apartment in Lima, and when he was shown to the public, even his followers could see how unimpressive and despicable he was, and that he didn't deserve to be followed.
There wasn't so much fighting after that.
But I guess the fighting will continue between the possum and the Indian Mynas.