On Thursday morning I traveled from Belfast to Dundee to take part in Dundee Book Festival. I’m not the best at writing stories or even rough drafts on paper so I pretty much always carry my laptop with me. Thursday was no exception. I had one small pull-on suitcase in my possession, a carrier bag of books and my laptop case. I wasn’t anticipating any issues. The whole journey went really smoothly until I arrived at Dundee train station, stood up and realised I no longer had my laptop with me. I did a quick search of the carriage, then had to disembark before the train traveled on to Aberdeen.
A lot of bad things have happened to me in the last thirty odd years but I can honestly say that standing on the platform in Dundee, knowing everything I’d ever written, (and the drive on which it was all backed up), were MIA somewhere in Scotland, was up there with the worst moments of my life. If it hadn’t been for Billy and Willy, (honestly, not making these names up), the lovely station attendants who offered sympathy, reassurance and a direct phone contact with their mate in Waverley Station I think I might have fainted in sheer panic. I was very wobbly and fairly teary.
For the next two and a half days I made frantic attempts to penetrate the automated voicemail service at Scotrail’s lost property department, launched a social media campaign and spent hours just staring at the Track my Mac function on my IPhone, wondering why my computer wasn’t showing up anywhere. Dundee Book Festival was a really lovely experience but it felt like it was all happening to someone else. It’s fair to say I was a little pre-occupied. As most of you now know, I found my laptop on Saturday morning. I still can’t believe how fortunate I am and I’m very very thankful for the, literally, thousands of friends, friends of friends, and complete strangers who retweeted, reposted and offered advice and help. As Hilary, (who spent most of her weekend trying to keep me from having a nervous breakdown), said just after the joyful reunion with my life work, “it takes a village/mid-sized Scottish city to find a lost laptop.” So true. For those of you who’ve been asking, here’s the story of how I got my laptop back.
Events of Saturday 22nd October 2016
Hilary and I catch an earlyish train up to Edinburgh from Dundee on Saturday morning. I am feeling pretty hopeless about the situation and am planning to lodge a police complaint so I’ll have a crime number for the insurance claim. then hotfoot it to duty free at the airport to buy a replacement laptop at 15% off. I have already gone forty eight hours without writing. Writer years are like dog years so two days is like a month of abstinence and I am beginning to feel the withdrawal symptoms kicking in. We arrive in Waverley Station and go straight to Lost Property where the following conversation takes place. ME: “Hello, I was wondering if you could help me. I’ve lost my….” BORED ATTENDANT GIRL: “MacBook Air. Yes, I know!!!!! Your friends have been in!!!!” ME: “Which friend?” B.A.G. “Reels off a number of names I don’t even recognise.” It then transpires that so many of you and your friends have tried to help locate my laptop, Lost Property has been plagued with people calling in and ringing up to see if anyone’s located a laptop. (Thank you. Thank you. Thank you). The laptop is not there. The Bored Attendant Girl does not seem to hold out much hope of it ever being found, neither does she seem overly concerned by this even when I say, (as I have been saying somewhat melodramatically to anyone who’ll listen all weekend), “I’ve lost everything.” She suggests contacting the transport police if we can find them, they sometimes hang around outside Marks and Spencer’s. This, I think to myself, is not a reliable way of locating a police officer.
We go directly to the transport police. John, our policeman is a lovely fella, not a reader himself, but clearly impressed by my ability to give a very detailed incident report, (drawn from my extensive knowledge of Inspector Morse), and Hilary’s assurances that I am on the cusp of great fame as a writer, and most likely there will one day be a film made of this very event, featuring PC John played by anyone he fancies, perhaps even an A-List actor. PC John chooses Denzil Washington though later, on the telephone, says he’s thought about it and would be just as happy playing himself. I make a statement, do my best not to correct the policeman’s spelling and punctuation, and am given an incident number for the insurers. PC John say he will be able to easily track my movements through the station on Thursday because I am wearing a distinctive red scarf. I am irrationally pleased with my self for unconsciously aiding the police with their enquiries by wearing this bright red scarf. PC John says we should retrace my steps through the building and check everywhere, even places I’m sure I didn’t leave my laptop, just in case. I express a desire to be involved in any future house raids etc related to the retrieval of my laptop. PC John says I can be in charge of tazering if I so wish. I think he is joking, but I can’t be sure.
We retrace our steps through the station. I call in to the Costa Coffee where, on Thursday morning, I stopped briefly to buy an Americano before catching my train. I say, “I don’t suppose anyone found a laptop?” “On Thursday morning?” asks the barista, “in a gray case. It’s been here beside our dishwasher all weekend.” I feel as if I am going to faint for the second time in three days. I start to cry. Good crying, but slightly hysterical. Now there are three baristas and they are staring at me like I am insane. I am trying to say thank you but it is coming out as a big jumble of “life work” and “lost Bob Dylan novel” and “thank you” and “don’t any of you ever look at Twitter? Half of Scotland is trying to find this bloody laptop” and “all those short stories, hundreds of them.” Hilary is doing a happy dance round Costa coffee. Other customers have stopped sipping their cappuccinos to stare at us. The baristas give us hugs and hi fives and coffee, (the worst/best coffee I have ever tasted in my life). It is like a little party beside the till. I am happier than I was when I bought my house.
Ten minutes later I phone PC John and before I can say, “good news, we’ve found the laptop,” he says, “on the CCTV footage it looks like you left it in Costa.” PC John is clearly an excellent police man. It takes Inspector Morse 120 minutes to solve a crime. He’s managed to get to the bottom of the problem in less than a quarter of an hour. I don’t want to push it, but I hope I will still be allowed to taser a criminal or two even though I have now found my laptop.
Twelve hours later, at around one in the morning, my computer and phone simultaneously begin making a strange ring tone. Track my Mac wants to inform me that my computer is now in East Belfast. I’m not even cross about being woken out of my sleep. I’m far, far too happy.