Monday, 13 August 2012

De rerum magicae artis

Do you use magic? I find I do. You will not find me dancing naked in a field at the full moon, attending a seance or excising newts' eyes. There are some things I do that are irrational yet produce results. Yesterday I was filling out a form. I finished around lunchtime and left it on my desk. I did not put it anywhere else, nor did I tidy anything up. Today I needed that form. I saw it and got on with filling my bag with some other bits and pieces. My brain was a little distracted, so I assumed I had put the form in my bag along with some music, a book, a pen, some paper, an umbrella, some sunglasses and some sunscreen (the weather here is very mutable at the moment). After I had walked half a mile, I had one of those panicky little moments. "Did I pack the papers?!" Sure enough, on rifling through my bag the papers were not there.

Darn. Well, I shall just have to ring home and get Dad to find them for me. They're probably on my chest of drawers. I rang. He looked. He did not find. I returned home. The papers have gone. They are not on my desk, my chest of drawers, my bed, my floor, or anywhere. "Yeah, Pete, that's because you clearly put them somewhere else!" Nuh-uh! I shall run through the events, Mr Holmes, and let you solve this problem. I had the papers yesterday. I was working and finished with them around midday. I left them on my desk. I then did a little painting around the house. I did not take the papers with me. I have never tried taking a form with me when painting a window-frame. I did a few other things, none of which involved me removing the papers from the room.

I was distracted this morning by a problem with my laptop. It's new and so much better than the EeePC I had before. Funnily enough, it's another ASUS. The problem was that Rome: Total War is a little too old for it (vintage 2004, would you believe?). So I was in a bit of a hurry when it came time to leave. I knew the papers were just on my right, and must have thought I would grab them when I had got everything else together. I loaded my bag, and went downstairs where I put my boots on. I have retraced my steps from here to the front-door via the kitchen (an erstwhile fire-place in there is now a cupboard where my footwear lives). The papers are not in any of the rooms I passed through, nor on the staircase I descended. They are not in the hall or the porch. They are not commingled with the other papers I put in my bag. They are not scattered among the papers remnant in my room. Yesterday they were here and today they are gone.

The options I can see are these. 1) My papers fell out of my bag in the first nine minutes or so of my walk. This is unlikely. I habitually wedge them down among heavier items, and my bag, although not zipped shut, had a flap covering the contents. 2) The papers are still in my room and I have developed a selective psychosomatic blindness. That sounds a bit alarming. 3) I ate or otherwise destroyed the papers in my sleep. Nobody has ever mentioned to me that I sleep walk, so I doubt this. 4) My papers have disappeared somewhere and will only reappear when I perform the correct ritual. I am going with this as an explanation, as I have had success here.

Have you ever put something down, and reached for it only to find it had gone? Perhaps it reappeared on the other side of the room, perhaps to your left when it was on your right. Maybe it never came back. I do think you should have a proper look for stuff when you lose them. We are absent-minded creatures, and it is almost always the case that a few minutes' search will solve The Mystery of The Missing Pen. In fact, this is always the first part of my magical ritual. I search the area where I know something has gone missing. It is best to mumble the name of whatever you are looking for, say researchers. People may well think you are a bit mad when you do, especially if you cite an article in The Daily Mail as your back-up. Once I have searched the area, I start searching any areas where I might just perhaps have left what I have lost. If I have walked into a room since I last had the item, perhaps it is there. If I've lost a pen, maybe I really did just pop it down on the table while pouring a glass of water, only for someone to ask me a question and distract me from picking up the pen.

So far you might be shaking your head wryly, "Pete, where's this magic?" Well, that's it. I think of magic as doing something that doesn't make any sense. I know exactly where those papers were, where they could be, and should be. They are not there, so I am looking in a lot of places I know they are not. If they turn up, that is magic. But that is not the last stage on this ridiculous trip. Next I have a look in places where the missing items could not be. For instance, I know which rooms of the house I have been in since filling out the form yesterday. So if the piece of paper turns up in a room I have not been in, that is impossible. I have experienced that before. More normally the final result is that I search everywhere: the place I left the item, the places it could be, the places it isn't likely to be, the places it cannot be, and I come back, ritual complete, to find the missing item demurely in exactly the place I left it and searched so exactingly originally. I get the missing thing back. I like it. Not a lot, but I like it.

EDIT: The story has the expected ending. I filled out another form with as much detail as I could piece together, placed it very carefully and consciously in my bag, and went to bed. I got up the next day and stripped my bed to wash the bedlinen, which I would have done the day before if I had not been rushing about trying to find the missing papers. Underneath a pillow - where I'm sure we all secure our important papers! - were the missing documents.

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