A Christmas miracle

Boring, but true: two Saturdays ago, I lost my 2011 diary. It was my favoured model, the really tiny WHSmith “Week to View” with a little pencil in the spine, in black. (One year I went nuts and opted for the silver one.) It costs £4.49. It is not through abject Luddism that I choose to enter my appointments in a book, made of paper, which you cannot “tether” or “sync” without laboriously copying information from it into another document using the pencil. It was Saturday 19 November.

I had noted down a couple of online booking references in my diary, with the pencil, and for that reason I took it out of my bag when I was picking the tickets up at the Curzon in Soho, on my way home from 6 Music. I know I put the diary back in my bag, in a zip-up compartment, but that was the last time I could swear that I still had it.

I noticed on the following Monday morning that my diary was not in its normal pocket. I panicked. I don’t lose things very often, and I know where all my things are. I don’t much like the shoulder bag I am using currently. The strap broke on my last one, which was a promotional item given to me by the kind people at FX, so, rather than fork out for a new one, I put an old one given to me many years ago by the kind people at record label V2 back into service. It’s a bit bulky and badly designed, and I can’t say I like the zip-up pockets on it. I occasionally think to myself, “I’m going to lose something out of the bag at some stage.” Well, it had happened.

Here’s the weird part about losing a diary – that is, a physical diary, and one that is not backed up electronically – even one that only has about five weeks left to run on it: you suddenly become insecure about your life. I had a lot of fairly detailed appointments and reminders pencilled into it – Radio Times schedule changes in the run-up to Christmas, some moved Guardian recording dates, one Christmas lunch and a number of cinema bookings. By checking back through emails, I was able to recover most of them but, for instance, on Thursday, which I spent all day in the British Library, writing Mr Blue Sky, I could have sworn I had something in the diary. All day I imagined my phone vibrating and somebody asking those dread words, “Where are you?”

Thankfully, I survived the week. Last Saturday I bought a brand new diary for 2012 – yes, a tiny black one from WHSmith for £4.49, “Week to View” – and planned to use the frankly lumpy iCal program on my MacBook to see me through to the end of 2011. I don’t much like it, I’ll be honest. I like to write things down. In pencil. In a book. And carry the book around with me at all times. And lose it. I knew all this already, and I didn’t need to lose a diary to discover these self-evident truths about myself. I felt stupid and careless for losing it. I’d had a pretty grumpy week, and this simple material loss seemed to sum up my self-pity.

And then …

On Sunday – that’s eight days after losing my diary – I found it. Where? In another pocket of my bag? No. Under my bedside table? No. Beneath something on my desk at Radio Times? No. I was walking down my street on Sunday afternoon, and, by glancing down at precisely the right moment, I caught sight of a small black book just sitting on the pavement, in the shadow of a wall, in a patch of moss. It’s black. It hides in shadows. But I saw the “2011” picked out in traditional silver. For a split second, I thought it was somebody else’s diary, and then, in the next split second, it dawned on me that I was a very lucky man.

Oddly, my street had been swept by the council only last week, but they had missed this little black book in the mossy shadows. And I got it back. It sort of doesn’t matter in the broader scheme of things, but, you know, in the current economic gloom, it’s good to find something that you lost. It’s uplifting to experience some good fortune. I could easily have walked past the diary and never seen it. It was a tiny bit damp but I’ve dried it out and it’s back in service until the end of 2011. Hooray.

I don’t believe in miracles. But this was one.

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11 thoughts on “A Christmas miracle

  1. Enjoyed reading that. I can understand wanting to use a physical diary over a digital one. Although Using a digital diary on my phone is the only way I’ve managed to organise my life (never got to grips with carrying around a physical one). It’s slightly different but I feel very much attached to things like CDs and DVDs. CD’s especially. I love owning the physical album. I have friends who haven’t bought a CD for years, but I can’t let them go. I can’t ever imagine not buying them, even if the first thing I do after purchase is copy them to my computer!

  2. Phew, thanks for that – a gentle, pleasant tale with a low-key happy ending. Feeling (along with many others) that I am currently getting psychologically bludgeoned several times a day by the news, it did me the power of good to read that.

    Now for a cup of tea and a croissant.

  3. This reminds me of my miracle. My son loves Warhammer, sad but true, he had just bought him self enough figures to play in a match and he had won his first ever game. We came home on the train from Manchester, once off the train we realised we no longer had his box of figures. The last time we saw the box was at the train station. He was very upset . I said do not worry some one may hand it in. However this was just me being kind I thought we did not have a hope of finding it … so I promised I would Buy him more figures … there was at least £60.00 worth if not more in the box. We went home dejected then i said lets just nip back to Manchester Piccadilly and see if someone had handed it. We jumped on the next train back I sat down turned around and it was there under a seat!!!!!! We jumped straight back off the train before the doors had shut. It felt fantastic as I was convinced we would never see them again. So glad you found your diary.

  4. I love those diaries. My wife buys me one every Christmas. It has to have the little pencil though, or it just won’t do. It always reminds me of my Granny, as she used to have them. Happy memories! :-)

  5. I have all my diaries going back to 1991 (except 1992, which I lost when I was in the Navy. I actually think it was stolen but that’s another story) and have just purchased not one but two 2012 diaries. I bought a second one because the first was slightly too small and didn’t give enough room for the weekend and had too few pages for addresses. I even went through a phase of using Academic year diaries, even though I wasn’t at College or uni.

    I’ve tried electronic organisers and even my iPhone but pen and paper still works best for me.

    So glad you got it back.

  6. Have to say I did not see that ending coming! I can’t imagine not having a physical diary and it’s never entered my head to use an electronic one because a) I too like the physicality of writing something down and b) I know I’m far more likely to break or lose my phone. Also, as I discovered last week, there’s something rather nice about having a little book you can flip through and see what you were up to one year. Not that this is something I make a habit of doing but whilst having to figure out a medical timeline ahead of a consultation I dug out my 2007 diary last week and it was really lovely to see what I’d been up to: on reflection it was a wonderful year and it made me feel all warm and grateful. Long live the diary.

  7. Eight days is pretty amazing, probably no one saw it but I guess it’s possible that a thoughtful sweeper saw it, flicked through, and left it there. I think most people would leave a diary where it was to give the owner a chance of finding it. Sorry about this but I’m reminded now of leaving my big diary which I’d used as an all-purpose note/sketch book for years, in a holiday bungalow in Saundersfoot at the age of 11. I was so embarrassed by the content that I never mentioned leaving it. Did the owners of the bungalow get in touch, my name being in it and all? No. It wouldn’t be too late though… There is something uniquely uplifting about regaining something you thought was lost. You’d have thought they’d have realised that. Anyway.

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