Bag to book: a year-old week

NOTE: You know those times in life when everything goes crazy, and then they pass – or move on into a new kind of craziness – and you begin to forget what they were like? I was thinking about this dream lately, and just now when going through old unpublished draft blog posts I found this post. It’s from 13 July, 2012, and I can’t think why I didn’t publish, though maybe it all felt too visceral at the time; it’s just history now. Regular readers will know that my poor aunt is now in a care home, where she’s much better off. So here is my historical slide of life, recollected on a much calmer day.

Longchamp tote bag

13 JULY, 2012:

In the early hours of last-but-one Sunday morning I had a dream, in which somehow – like in the old Scorcese movie, After Hours – I’m in the back of some horrible van being driven by God-knows-whom, rattling around on the bare metal insides of it, and – because I’m me – desperately trying to look something up urgently on my laptop. Maybe the secret knowledge needed to escape, though at this stage it’s not really apparent that the situation is utterly outside my control, but there’s a sinister whiff in the air. The van goes round a corner or something – lurch – and my laptop goes skidding away from me. When I go to retrieve it, it’s gone. Vanished, even inside the van. My bag’s still there but no laptop. I try to search, but there aren’t that many places to look in a bare van, and the laptop’s gone.

Later in the dream – it’s all very picaresque – I’m in this taxi with a crooked taxi driver. My bag is in the boot. We’re in a place which is sort of, in that dream way, the bottom of Southampton St crossed with the bottom of Exeter St, down by the Strand, only there’s a newsagent on the corner. The cab driver gets out of the car and goes into the newsagent, telling me not to go anywhere. ‘Watch the car’. I say I won’t go anywhere, because my bag is in the boot and I’ve already lost my laptop, which is a complete disaster, so I’ll stay with the car. I ask if he can get my bag out but he just goes in.

The bag is very specific. It’s a large yellow bag with a leather handle, and flap at the top. In fact, it is this Longchamp bag pictured above. And no, I don’t own one. (Hint.) (It’s a strangely BCBG choice, I admit, but I do like a nice capacious bag, and these are a nice shape, and even the plainness appeals to me. In the dream it isn’t an aspirational item, it’s my old faithful trusty bag and is a little beat-up and misshapen from years of much-needed service. It’s true, I do sometimes look at them in the tube, but only the really big ones, and I’ve never seen it in yellow, which makes it even odder in the dream. Amazingly, when I looked it up online it’s even the right yellow.)

Anyway, you know what happens. I get out and I’m standing on the pavement, watching the cab, and these two or three skinny-looking kids come out. It’s like the Nouvelle Vague. They mill around, trying door handles and looking in the windows, and then they pick the locks of the cab while I’m standing there. I talk to them but no use (it’s a dream remember; I make no sound, particularly) and they drive off in the cab.

So then I’m really upset. My bag, my stuff, my phone. My laptop. No phone, no bag no papers no laptop – I can’t get over it. My yellow bag! I keep saying. My yellow bag, and my phone! And my laptop – literally, how will I work, how will I live??

There’s one further scene in which I’m being asked to account for what happened and I’m explaining again that I’ve lost everything. Everything’s lost.

And that’s when I woke up, and turned on my laptop, and within a few minutes it died.

Ar first it just turned itself off if you so much as changed position. I just thought, hm, that’s funny. But I had to reboot it about 20 times, more and more frequently, until an hour or so later, when it wouldn’t turn on again. I had two articles to write that day – no chance. Utter panic. Tears. Despair. The dream still very vivid. All alone in the flat. Days of it. More tears. No laptop.

Eventually I went next door and they lent me a keyboard so I could get on the big computer (known as ‘the non-computer’) and put a desperate plea for help up on Facebook. What else to do?? Two deadlines! Already late!

Two friends shared my plea on their walls, and within half an hour one of them texted me to say she had a friend who had an old MacBook she didn’t need… Half an hour after that, I was Facebook friends with this angel of salvation, and had a plan to meet her in Clerkenwell later and pick up the computer.

A total miracle.

And she really really doesn’t use it. She said I can have it as long as I need it. Which is even more life-saving, because there’s exactly NIL money for a repair shop, so this means I can wait for my eldest progeny to come and have a look, when he gets some time one weekend – having just started his full-time job. (N.b., this is also a miracle, even though he is insanely talented and driven. But we’re filling the gap between student loan and pay, and although he was signing on, it never occurs to the Benefits Agency that when you start a new job you need money for a travelcard to get to work for the first month, or to eat till you’re paid. So I paid the travelcard and gave him some money till he could get an advance.)

Fortunately I recently bought the right set of screwdrivers, intended to get into my Alzheimers aunt’s computer to replace her hard drive; a slightly pointless fix, intended mainly to soothe nerves, and it hasn’t happened… So one weekend soon we will open up my little black MacBook and see what we see, and the chances are that he will know how to fix it. (N.b., this has never happened.)

This one is slow, as the lovely friend warned me. But it runs, and I wrote till about 1.30am two nights in a row and filed the two articles, and spent the rest of the week catching up with the other stuff…

About an hour after getting home with the laptop, I noticed pink pee on the guinea pig towel. I saw vet bills flashing before my eyes, and weak, sick guinea pigs, and disaster. But that seems to have cleared up,thank God. The pigs both appear chirpy as ever.  That was the weekend I was fielding the calls about rent money and tube money.

In Chiswick on Friday – after a long journey full of Ukrainian Olympics coaches in blue and yellow uniforms, tourists in Olympics T shirts with cameras slung round their necks, tourists with enormous wheelie suitcases, and families who would stop halfway down the stairs, dither among themselves, some go up and some go down, and generally try to get someone killed – I couldn’t persuade my aunt to get dressed and leave her house. She was tired and cross and rude and needed a wash and change more than I can really say here. But I needed her to come with me and get some money out of her bank on the way to the supermarket. I told her this and she said – ‘The bank! Ueghhh. That’s the last place I want to go.’ And shuffled back into her room and shut her door. So I had to go by myself, and buy her shopping also on my money, and I’m hoping my rent and bills will go through tomorrow, frankly.

Her hoover is also broken – the care agency is all over me to get it fixed – in truth, the dog hairs are building up. And something about the washing machine. There just wasn’t time or headspace for that on Friday.

After delivering the final bit of paperwork to her bank to get me a bank card (thank God), I selfishly decided not to hurry. It was just a bit of trudging really, but it was better than rushing back. That day I was also beginning another book review, typing on the laptop in the tube itself. I mean it’s a wonder I can even breathe.

And all of that is how I found myself in Superdrug, and that is where I found that I couldn’t go on without this turquoise nail polish. When I turned it over it was called ‘Vert Chloropylle’.

{ 3 comments }

Simon R. Gladdish September 18, 2013 at 9:33 am

Dear Katy

Interesting piece. Last night I dreamt that the third world war had finally broken out. People were using orange umbrellas to try to protect themselves from bombs raining down on them and Rusty and I were seeking refuge in a French TV studio. I hope to God that it was a dream of contrary!

Best wishes from Simon

Caroline September 18, 2013 at 11:59 am

I kind of miss the posts about your Aunt! I hope she’s doing well, all the best, Caroline

Simon R. Gladdish September 18, 2013 at 4:52 pm

Dear Katy

At the moment I am reading the Faber Book of Modern Verse. In her introduction to the second edition, Anne Ridler writes: ‘Michael Roberts began and ended his Introduction with a plea for sympathy towards contemporary poetry, It is no less necessary today, although the danger is indifference rather than hostility. if the sales of new books of verse are any proof.’ The date? 1951. Plus ca change, n’est-ce pas?

Best wishes from Simon

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