Right… So find a comfy chair, have a warm cup of tea or coffee by your side and sit back to take this in.
It is a tangled tale, but possibly worth reading if your brain does not explode with bafflement.
My mobile phone rang in the morning,
It was one of those all-too-frequent phone calls – from Manchester – 0161 – and this lady with an indefinably non-British accent asked me was it correct I had had a car accident in the last six months that wasn’t my fault. I told her to Fuck off!
I find this is usually the best for both parties. It leaves little room for misunderstanding.
Then I blocked her number.
About ten minutes later, I got another call – this time from a mobile number – and it’s this different girl saying in an indefinably non-British accent: “John… Is that John?…” etc etc etc. I mess her around for a bit, saying “John… John?… Where is John?… You are John?” then ask her if she has had a car accident in the last six months that wasn’t her fault.
She says: “No.”
“Then you can fuck off,” I tell her and I block her number.
A couple of minutes later, my landline rings.
She explains she has found my iPad (and bag and contents), which were stolen the previous evening.
I am effusively apologetic about being rude to her.
My iPad was inside my bag and has my name, contact phone numbers and email address on it.
She says found it outside the house where I left it.
“The one with the Winkworth’s sign,” she says.
That’s the one – in West Hampstead. Winkworth’s are an estate agent. The house is for sale.
She lives nearby, she says.
Well, she explains, SHE doesn’t live nearby – her boyfriend does and she stayed with him last night.
Possibly too much information, I think to myself.
Her boyfriend is out so, quite reasonably, she doesn’t want me to come round to the flat where she is because I’m this stranger who just told her to Fuck Off and she’s a female on her own.
She didn’t say all that as such; but that’s what we are both, in effect, saying to each other.
Her boyfriend should be back soon, she says, so I arrange to meet her in about an hour and a half outside the house where she found the bag. I will phone her when I arrive at the Winkworth’s sign.
Along the way she mentions she is black – I have no idea why.
This, of course, to me, makes telling this Good Samaritan to Fuck Off MUCH worse. She also somehow mentions in passing, laughing – the slightest hint – that I might want to give her a reward.
I was going to give her £10 anyway for finding the bag but I mentally upped this to £40 for the verbal abuse I had unleashed on her.
As I’m walking up to Elstree station, on my way to meet her, she phones me back and tells me her boyfriend has not yet returned. She doesn’t have a key to the flat so, if she goes out to meet me, she has no way of getting back in again. So we arrange to delay it until her boyfriend gets back.
After an hour or so, she phones back to tell me the boyfriend has arrived and I go off to West Hampstead to meet her in a pub in what I think she says is Rensen or Renson Road, near where the bag was found.
When I check Google maps on the train there, I can’t find any Renson or Renson or Henson or Hensen Road. I phone her and get her to text me the actual road name – which is nothing like Rensen Road.
At the pub, I meet her and the boyfriend. Both very amiable. I give her £40. She is very modest. Neither wants a drink. Very honest, I think.
The bag she gives me is, bizarrely, mine but not mine.
My bag was a very interestingly-designed Ted Baker bag with a typewriter keyboard design on it. It cost me £35 many years ago. The bag she gives me is a purple canvas bag. It had been folded up into quarters inside the Ted Baker bag.
So the only logical conclusion I can think of is that a very design-conscious thief fancied the typewriter bag, took out the purple canvas bag inside, unfolded it and tipped the contents including the iPad into it, leaving it where he (or she) found it.
Not noticing the iPad inside.
Or maybe the genuinely charming couple who returned everything to me nicked the bag for aesthetic reasons but wanted to return the iPad to me as they did not consider themselves thieves. The boyfriend works in media.
I was fine with it either way, as I had got my iPad and iPhone charger back.
Let us do a quick flash-back here…
The previous night, I had been taking the 7-year-old daughter of a friend of mine from one side of London to the other to return her to her father. The parents are separated but share custody of their daughter.
Whenever I collect and drop-off the daughter, I text a photo of her to her mum just to reassure the mum that everything is hunky-dorey. And she likes photos of her daughter. Mum’s do.
The previous night it had been very dark in the street outside the father’s house. Neither I nor the 7-year-old had twigged that there was a power cut and the street lights were out on one side of the street – her father’s side.
The 7-year-old looked at the two photos I took and said: “They look creepy!”
They did, indeed, make her look like some combination of zombie-vampire in the gloom.
“I’ll take a selfie,” she said.
I was standing with two bags of hers between my feet, the phone in my hand and my typewriter bag under my arm.
I put the typewriter bag on the wall by the street. I handed her my iPhone, she took a selfie, handed the phone back to me and I texted the picture to her mum. She still looked a little zombie-like but it was, indeed, a much better photo.
I picked up the two bags between my feet, went to the front door, rang the bell, her dad came down, I handed him the two bags and he said to his daughter: “Have you got the guitar?”
She is learning the guitar at school and had taken it to her mother’s. Both she and I had forgotten about the guitar.
I said I would return to her mum’s, get the guitar and bring in back. She needed it for school the next day.
About half an hour later, on the train to her mum’s, I remembered I had left my typewriter case on the wall.
I phoned her dad. He went out to the wall. The case was not there.
When I returned with the guitar, I also looked around outside the house; the typewriter case was not there. It had, I assumed, been stolen.
Not an unreasonable assumption.
“Though round here,” suggested the father, “if you leave things on a wall outside a house, sometimes people think you are giving them away.”
I left the bag on the wall.
In the half hour between me leaving it and her dad searching for it, it had disappeared.
Yet the Good Samaritan who found it said she found it outside the house with the Winkworth’s sign – the only one in the street.
So the ‘thief’ must have stolen the bag, taken it away elsewhere, emptied the contents into the purple canvas bag and gone back to return it to the exact spot it had been stolen from, keeping the typewriter bag but not keeping the iPad.
While the ‘thief’ had the bag elsewhere, both the dad and I had searched outside the house where it was left and it was not there.
This struck me as very odd.
The next day, I realised that, although the iPad and everything else was in the purple canvas bag, the iPad cover was not there. The black iPad cover was pretty-much held together with black tape because it was starting to come apart and I had been thinking of getting a new one.
So someone had found the typewriter bag lying on a wall where there was a power cut, taken it away, looked inside, taken the purple bag out and unfolded it, taken the damaged cover off the iPad, put the iPad itself and all the other contents into the purple bag, gone back to the exact place they ‘stole’ the bag from and left the purple bag there.
So they stole the typewriter-designed bag and they stole the damaged iPad cover but left the iPad which they knew was there – because they had removed the magnetically-attached iPad cover.
They stole the damaged iPad cover but left the iPad.
I have decided not to think too much about this, because I think my brain might explode.
Oh – PS…
In case you wonder if I tried to get a replacement iPad cover and ‘typewriter’ bag – Yes, I did.
I bought a new iPad cover for £10.95.
As for the typewriter-designed bag…
Remember I bought it for £35?
I Googled and there was one on eBay priced at £172.43.
I did not buy it. Instead, I went to a Barnardo’s charity shop in Borehamwood and got a plain black iPad-sized bag for £2.50.
It’s not the same, though…