THE MISSING LINK

Breaking into cars, kayaking in the English Channel and a glamorous Palestinian hijacker – they are all linked. Curious? Read on.

I had parked the little yellow Mini in the only remaining spot, nose against the wall, at the gloriously English-named Hindleap Warren, site of an outdoor adventure camp. Joining the other kayakers in the minibus, we set off for the trip to Newhaven on the south coast. It was a bitterly cold winter’s day.

At the beach we put on wetsuits made from recycled inner tubes and paddled out into the ocean. With no fast-flowing rivers in south east England we had to go out to sea to get a white water thrill. This was achieved by riding the wash of the cross-Channel ferries. Occasionally if things got a bit too rough we would “raft up”, with three or four kayaks side by side and held together by our hands. This made an unsinkable raft. Our leader, Jay, an ex-London detective, told us of others who had used this technique to paddle from Scotland to Iceland.

Jay served up lunch on the beach – sandwiches prepared back at Hindleap Warren and still frozen. Then into the water before the trip back.

On arrival at Hindleap Warren, I went to depart in the Mini but found my exit blocked by a car which had parked immediately behind. No sign of the driver.

Jay turned up and asked me for my car keys. I protested they would be no use in getting into the blocking car. However, Jay insisted. He took my keys and with some rapid movements opened the car door, entered and started the engine with the key and moved the car. I watched carefully to try to work out his technique.

I was then able to move the Mini. Surprisingly, Jay then asked me for the keys again, whereupon he drove the offending vehicle back to where it had previously been parked. We did not stay to see the look of amazement on the face of the other driver when they returned to see the gap where the Mini had been and wonder how it had escaped.

Later, I tried Jay’s technique on other cars but could never manage to pull off his sleight of hand. However I found it worked when an office colleague had left her keys at home and could not get into her filing cabinet. I used my own keys to copy what I remembered of Jay’s technique (which I will keep secret!!) and hey presto the cabinet opened. After that I became the go-to-guy whenever someone could not get into their filing cabinet. I also fantasised about a midlife career to industrial espionage.

Oh, and the glamorous Palestinian hijacker. That was Leila Khaled who on 6th of September 1970 had tried to hihack an El Al plane en route from Amsterdam to New York. Overcome by sky marshals, she was arrested when the plane touched down at Heathrow. Jay was the arresting officer. During the three weeks between her arrest and her release in a hostage exchange (from another hijacking) on October 1st, Jay and Leila became friends. Years later they were still exchanging Christmas Cards.

– ROBIN SEN

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