Rather annoyingly, it all seems to have happened again. Infuriatingly, actually. My father once, when Edinburgh last had trams, turned a corner in his sweet old car and the thin wheels got caught absolutely in the tramlines and he found himself shockingly going where he didn't want to. I think he learned a lesson, and has been gloriously, determinedly organised since that day in whenever, 1870, but I have regularly, three or four times a year, been substituting. Vigorously. Just when life's back on course, I hit the tramlines.
This time, it's just having to move flat again. But suddenly, suddenly. I learned about it yesterday; I have to have somehow done it within three days of this magazine coming out. It's not impossible, not tragic, it's not losing a limb or waking up every morning and remembering your job is to take minutes for the Olympic 'planning' committee. It's just, basically, such a whump of a big sigh, with so many interesting little mystery unhappinesses studded inside it, bearable but sore, like tearing off a hangnail which you know will rip to the knuckle, or deciding to phone a mad person to apologise for your one genuine if minor wrong.
Not even anyone's fault, this time. All I did was lose a letter. Weeks ago. It was in my bag, and I lost my bag, and did that desultory trail-around thing, asking Polish restaurant people to look in cupboards. But I didn't try, perhaps, hard enough. One of the many curses of the new electronic age is that when we lose something we think too easily we can find it again: if a mobile, we get a friend to call it, if an idea or word, we hit, on our keyboards, Apple-F, or if on a PC you... I don't know, fry some monkey sticks or something. But my bag didn't come back, to any kind of electronic whistle, and I didn't mind too much because all it really had, apart from a certain style, was a terribly nice new digital camera which I had used about three times because I hate it, when I take a picture I want to see what I'm taking, not guess, nor have to hold and wave it out way ahead of me as if trying to water divine with a turd on a stick.
And some letters. Unopened. I had been waiting for the right moment. Apparently there was one particular letter, unopened, all apologetic, saying there was a nasty big legal problem with the landlord letting it for residential and I have to be, so sorry, out. Now. And because I lost the bag, five weeks ago, and was then abroad, I have something like five days.
I don't mind, actually, the estate agents. Honest, honest liars, and there is a certain honest cast to their eyes when they show you something you can see in their hearts they know is mystifyingly even less appealing than their shoes.
It's the packing. I'm not sure how my heart can sink and hyperventilate at the same thought but off it goes. So, this time, I am going to throw things out. Strip myself bare. This time, I am going to have to pack as I do for any trip abroad, sparse and last-minute and utilitarian. Lose at least 80 shirts. Two hundred books. I will have one box for underwear and trousers, nothing at all for the kitchen, one for suits, two boxes for electric toothbrushes and rinsers and flossers and associated stave-off-the-hell necessities to keep the white-coated bastard dentist-wolf from my teeth. Twelve pictures. A desk. A computer. A grand sofa. A bed. The last three times I have moved my ironing board and, frankly, I have no idea why: goodbye rubbish ironing board. And then of course the 83 urgent boxes mentally marked 'Miscellany, Geegaws, Flim-flam', because I can't throw any of that out, it would take seven lifetimes.
Just by writing it, I've practically done it. The only remaining problem is the area I seek. This dilemma was made surprisingly complex this morning by a report that London's Hoxton is the part of Britain in which people are most likely to injure themselves by walking into lampposts while texting. An 'initiative' is to be begun whereby all street furniture is to be padded to stop people hurting themselves. So mad Hoxton's out. But perhaps you can see my dilemma. If Hoxton's out, so, perhaps, should be the whole of Britain, a country in which officials cannot now, quite literally, trust the public to walk in a straight line.
On the other hand, when I do, these two or three times a year, hit the tramlines, I suppose I secretly wish there was, just one day a year, half a day a year, someone out there ahead of me. Watching. Helping. Putting nappies on the lampposts.