Early on Monday morning, I returned home from a wonderful ski holiday, filled with pure Alpine air, pleasantly aching muscles and an intense feeling of resolve. The ridiculously long Christmas holidays were finally, officially, at an end and I was ready to ‘get going’. The first things on the agenda were to finish my blasted book, wrestle my shambolic house into total submission and address my appalling diet. I also toyed with the idea of solving the global economic crisis, bringing about world peace and concocting a story so plausible that when my friends returned from scuba diving in the Red Sea, I could keep their dog. I wasn’t, mind you, committing myself to those last three, but they were definitely on the list for further consideration. No point in rushing things. I had plenty of time.
And then it arrived, the email that changed everything.
Holly, the perpetually exhausted-looking ski rep, informed me that I had left my passport on the coach that had brought us back to London. Luckily, the driver had picked it up and the bus company was holding it. Contact details were supplied. My initial reaction, other than ‘Aaaargh, how could I have been so careless’ or words to that effect, was that it was annoying but not a disaster. After all, Victoria Station, where we had been dropped off, was only 15 minutes away. I could pop up, get it and be back to my book, house and diet in no time at all.
So, I called the number.
A very nice man named Scott answered. He listened, asked me to wait a minute, came back on the line and announced: ‘Yes, I have them’.
Turns out that I had left all of our passports on the bus. And the passport case. The one with the £100 tucked into a side pocket, alongside my insurance cards. And drivers license.
After taking a deep breath, I asked him if there was anything else. Apparently there was. In fact, there were quite a few other things, all nicely stored inside a white shopping bag. Scott figured that the bus driver had used the bag to collect everything that was left on the entire bus so he didn’t really know what was mine and what wasn’t. I did, starting with the white bag.
Sadly for me, but I suppose happily for the 47 other people on the bus, everything was mine. Yes, I was the only person to have left anything. I guess I was also the only person to have left everything. Anyway, the list went on: passports, passport case, car keys, gloves, goggles, scarf, my favourite hair brush, a phone charger, a flashlight that for some unknown reason I thought I might need, some chocolates and … Kimberly’s brand-new Ipad that her Uncle Jimmy had sent her for Christmas (sorry Jimmy).
Scott asked when I would like to go pick everything up.
‘Instantly’, I said. ‘If not sooner’, I mentally added, preferably before I had to confess to Kimberly (and my brother Jimmy) that I had temporarily misplaced the Ipad, and to Christopher that his planned night out at the pub might be a bit tricky without his passport, that being his only proof of age as it was.
My new best friend Scott said ‘Ok, do you know Folkestone or will you need directions?’
To those of you unfamiliar with British geography, Folkestone isn’t in London. It’s not even near London. In fact, it’s probably closer to France than it is to London. It is, in short, a very long way from here.
Scott, who must be a bright man as well as a very nice one, correctly interpreted the strangled sounds coming out of his phone as the anguished mutterings of someone no longer capable of speech, because he quickly said that the driver would be coming back to London and he would put my things in a box, on the bus, and I could pick them up then. Unfortunately, Adrian had a few other jobs on and wouldn’t be in town until Friday. I wasn’t to worry, though, because everything was going back in the safe, once he had rearranged a few things and made enough room.
And so, instead of giving a sigh of relief and getting immediately stuck back into my book, house and diet, I spent the rest of the week worrying. I worried about getting Kimberly’s Ipad and Christopher’s passport back. I worried about whether Scott would remember to give Adrian the box. I worried about if I could find the bus, which was apparently going to be parked for two hours on a small street, off a main road, in a section of southeast London that I had never previously even heard of, much less visited. And, I worried about the fact that my resolve had fled in the face of this setback, leaving me with an unfinished book, a messy house and a rubbish diet.
That’s when the freebie magazine popped through the letter box.
I picked it up and idly flipped through the pages while waiting for the kettle to boil. I have no idea what the article was about but for some reason it contained a quote by Winston Churchill, one of the few I hadn’t already heard:
‘Success is the ability to go from failure to failure with undiminished enthusiasm.’
That was it. I hadn’t failed to finish the book, clean the house, eat the broccoli, end the recession, bring peace to the Middle East or keep Rafa the dog. I hadn’t even failed to take my possessions off the bus.
Ok, granted, I hadn’t actually done any of those things, at least not yet. But I still could. There was no deadline (except for the book, of course. I do know that, Roger. Seriously). My only real failure was in letting a minor mishap so completely derail me.
I needed to change my attitude. Immediately.
And so I did. Enthusiastically.
In fact, the very next day I made my way to Camberwell, met Adrian and picked up my things. The fact that I got thoroughly, completely and repeatedly lost didn’t matter one little bit. Neither did I let it bother me that it took longer to find the Old Kent Road then it would have done to make the entire trip to Folkestone, and back.
No, those were mere details. I now know that the things that really matter are attitude and outlook.
And mine are great.
So, after finishing this, I am going to start on the book, clean up the house and make some homemade soup. And bread. Wholewheat bread. And maybe even churn some butter. Low-fat butter. Of course.
Hmmmm….I wonder how long I can keep this up? Or is that not the right attitude? Will think about that, enthusiastically, after I have a nice cup of tea. And feed the fish.
In the meantime, thanks Winston (and Scott, and Adrian).
Not Leo Tolstoy (aka Eileen Riley)