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.