Lost notebook

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An event of this magnitude

Overshadows the destruction of the Berlin Wall
And the troubles in the Caucasus.

Robert Rehder, ‘Hidden Agenda’

To lose a passport was the least of one’s worries. To lose a notebook was a catastrophe.

-Bruce Chatwin

A calamity happened this week. I lost my notebook. Never mind the woeful form of Chelsea, or the England Rugby World Cup debacle/batting collapse. This was a crisis.

I searched my rucksack, the kitchen, and my desk. It wasn’t there. I searched them again. I even looked in my desk. Discombobulation flooded my mind. Only two days previously I had flashed my notebook before a lecture theatre of students, proclaiming my belief in the importance of carrying it everywhere I went. ‘You will notice more phenomena, and have more ideas, plus you will get into the habit of capturing them so they can be used at another time.’ ‘The secret to creativity’, my lecture slides had said.

And now I was without it. I thought: do as I say, not as I do. What a fantastic role model. Right after that lecture I had used it to note down the salient points from a meeting I had had. Now I remembered none of it. I began to feel short of breath. Not just at the thought of losing it, but the thought that someone else had found it and not used my email address scribbled on the inside cover. Added to my own self-doubt, the entirety of my faith in humanity began to ebb away. It could not, could never have been my own mistake. The universe was somehow conspiring against me.

I ransacked my house again. I went in to work, more out of duty than expectation. As I walked I noticed the colours of the trees, the puddles, the waif-like spray of the drizzle leaking from amber-grey clouds. And the strangest thing happened. I felt oddly happy. I realised I was walking as thought I still had my notebook with me. A minor miracle.

Emboldened by this mood, I retraced my steps, searching the seminar rooms and meeting spaces where I had sat. I even dragged in the services of colleagues to keep an eye out for me. One of them said cheerily that when his son used to lose things as a child they would explain it away by saying ‘the badgers had probably got it. It helped us let go and move on,’ he said. I know he meant it kindly. But my notebook was nowhere.

Just as I was on the point of giving up and going online to buy a new one, I found it, squatting in prim, folded silence next to the phone in my office at work. My notebook, with all my notes in it.

I spent the rest of the day in its company, making notes, copying quotes, jotting ideas and pondering things out loud in bad handwriting. As if to prove to myself how much I had missed it, as if to prove to myself how happy it had made me, realising as I wrote that I already was, and would be again.

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