Gasp

6

I still remember the shock I felt when I looked down and realised my bag wasn’t there.

They say you never appreciate the value of something until it is gone. What’s worse is appreciating something and having it stolen.

I’d just returned from a trip to Rome with my sister and decided to go to London for the weekend to visit friends.

Before I caught the bus back to Bristol I headed into Oxford St to look for the perfect pair of winter boots. In and out of each store I wandered until finding a pair I wanted to try on.

I took off my backpack and placed it on the floor next to me, then I undid the laces on my cherry Doc Martens and waited for the sales person to return with the boots.

It happened so quickly and still to this day I believe the sales people were involved. As I went to try on the boot I had 2 sales people approach me and one of them picked up my Docs and said they were really scuffed and needed to be polished and walked off with them. The other blocked my view of the doorway.

I thought it seemed suss to take someone’s shoes so I followed a few steps after him and retrieved them, I turned back to where I had left my backpack and it was gone. Disbelief rushed through me, I was a seasoned traveller and always so careful.

Straightaway I went to the counter and said someone had stolen my bag, I wanted them to look at the CCTV, they said I had to go to the police.

I filed a report at the station knowing a random bag theft in one of the busiest shopping districts in the world would not be investigated. I told the officer what was in my bag, clothes, makeup kit, camera, I thought losing the film from my trip to Rome was devastating.

Then back in Bristol that night I went to my room to find my diary to write about the weekend, I searched everywhere until the realisation dawned on me I had packed it in my bag intending to write on the bus.

Losing my diary still to this day was heartbreaking. It was 2003, pre-Facebook, so I had emails and contact details of the people I had met travelling. I had recently returned from a safari through Africa and had documented those adventures as well as collecting mementos that I had stored in the attached pouch for safe keeping.

I remember sitting on my bed and thinking there’s no point crying, I can’t rewind the past to go back and not pack my diary, whoever stole my bag probably threw it in the bin as it had no monetary value to them.

I had written my name and email address in the front and for a second I hoped maybe they might recognise its sentimental value and try to return it, then realised that was a futile thought, no honour among thieves etc.

The first Christmas with my husband he bought me a beautiful leather bound notebook from Camden Markets, on the last page he wrote an inscription telling me to pursue my passions, writing, asking questions, seeking the meaning…

I know that in life there will be setbacks and challenges, one thing I believe though is no matter what someone tries to take from you, they can never steal your words, your story can always be rewritten, more powerful than before.

A colourful canvas is always more interesting than a plain one. Experiences add texture, feelings add depth, awareness adds intrigue.

What is lost will be found in a thousand other ways.

You just have to pick up the pen

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