Metro 53

Richard Herring: The terrible night I witnessed the end of the affair

Friday 22 Feb 2013

Woken up by screaming, Richard Herring bears witness to one of lifeÂ’s everyday tragedies, the end of loveÂ…

Last weekÂ’s tale of Ferrero Rocher-based romantic foolishness reminded me of a slightly sadder story of love gone wrong, which I bore accidental witness to a few years ago.

Late one night, I was getting ready for bed when I was distracted by shouting and banging in the street outside. I tried to ignore it, not wanting to be a curtain-twitching neighbour but the noise became louder and more
threatening. I looked out of my window to see the shadowy figure of a man outside one of the houses opposite. He was kicking at the front door, drunkenly yelling: ‘Give me the sound system, Helen. I just want the sound system. Give me the sound system and I’ll go.’

He shouted the same thing over and over again. After a few minutes, I was tempted to open the window and shout: ‘Just give him the bloody sound system, Helen, and let us get some sleep.’
But the situation was too highly charged for comedy.

It was a strangely fascinating, though tragic spectacle. I think it would be safe to assume that Helen and the drunken man were once in love and had lived together, probably in that house but now all affection had expired. She wouldn’t even let him into their home and all that they had once had was reduced to six words: ‘Give me the sound system, Helen.’

‘Give me the sound system,’ he threatened, ‘or I’ll kick this f***ing door in.’ Then with drunken self-pity he softly pleaded: ‘Don’t make me do this, Helen.’

A police car pulled up and two officers got out. Their nonchalant demeanour suggested that they had dealt with such scenarios on a regular basis. The man sat on a wall, his power and threats now gone. Helen opened the door, wearily asking if they could just make all this stop. Two more police cars arrived. Six policeman were now on the scene, which seemed like a lot, but I was glad to see it was being treated so seriously.

Then, another man came out of the house, wearing nothing but shorts. The full tragedy of the drunken manÂ’s despair became apparent. There was no way back for him. I thought I spotted a small hand-held CD player being handed over. He had got what he wanted. Or at least what he said he wanted.

It started to rain and this seemed to be a sign for the police that their work here was done. Certainly the tension in the air had gone. The aggrieved man leftÂ…

Five minutes later, the banging and shouting recommenced. ‘Give me the ring, Helen. I just want the ring.’ It didn’t matter what she gave him. He wasn’t after a stereo or jewellery but something less tangible. Something he was never going to get. ‘Just tell her to give me the ring before she calls the police again,’ he whined through the door to his rival.

Drunk as he was, he knew that if the police returned then they would be taking him with them, so he didnÂ’t persist. He walked off, up the middle of the road, his path illuminated by the street lamps. He was middle-aged, dignified, wearing a jacket and a fedora, holding a cane. Not what I had imagined from the shouts and the shadows. It was a perfect exit but I suspected he would return another day.

Which is a shame, because in these circumstances, we need to leave behind the rings, the sound systems, the house and the person we once loved (and who once loved us) and start again.

See Richard HerringÂ’s smash-hit show, Talking Cock: The Second Coming, on his nationwide tour. Visit for tickets.