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22 May 2024

I’m good in a crisis, but not if that crisis is a lost passport

I am off on a travel-writing gig to e-bike in Lower Silesia, or at least I am meant to be…

By Nicholas Lezard

In a few days’ time I am off to Poland, to write a travel piece. Getting there is going to be a bore. It will involve going from Brighton to the Stansted Radisson Blu on a Sunday evening, then arriving at the airport at 4am for a 6am flight. After a brief airborne respite I will then be going up and down the hills of Lower Silesia on an e-bike, among a group. I hope the e-bike is a forgiving mode of transport, for I am not fit. As I type these words I am panting a little because I sat down too quickly. “Healthy but not fit” was the option I ticked in the questionnaire the tour company sent me. As long as I don’t do anything, I am fine.

Many things about this trip are causing me anxiety. One is sorting out travel insurance. The other is what to wear. I take a pride in travelling light, but although this trip is only for a few days they are largely going to be spent outside and I cannot foretell the weather. I don’t even know what shoes to bring. Not my posh Barker’s brogues: I want to keep them smart, and besides, their leather soles may not be good for the countryside. Not my Loake’s Chelsea boots: they’re falling apart. Not my camp Brighton Converse: I’ll get beaten up because of the purple toecaps and they’re a little flimsy. My fake Timberlands? They’re sturdy but are they suitable for an e-bike?

Right now all these questions are academic, as I cannot find my passport. This is very vexing because I am normally very good about Keeping My Passport In A Special Place. It is about the only thing I am good at, apart from omelettes and, some weeks, this column. But now I am no longer even good at looking after my passport.

People say the silliest things when you tell them you’ve lost stuff. It then becomes a matter not just of trying to find what you’ve lost but of not mislaying your temper as well while they enquire where you saw it last/have you checked your pockets etc. Naturally, not being able to find my passport has prevented me from doing anything else at all either. I discovered it was lost last night and decided not to search for it because the light wasn’t too good. (By the way, it helps if you bear in mind that desk and living room are in chaos.) Never mind, I thought, I’ll look for it tomorrow. Here is how tomorrow, ie today, went.

6.30hrs: wake up. Looks like nice day outside. Get up, have a pee, go back to bed, because it’s 6.30.

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8:30hrs: wake up again, still looks like a nice day, remember soul-crushing prospect of turning the Hove-l upside down to look for passport, get up, have another pee, go back to bed.

12.30hrs: after four hours of troubled dreams, the kind that you suspect Gregor Samsa had before turning into an enormous cockroach or whatever it was, get up again, have another pee, think about making a cup of tea, decide against it, go back to bed. Read a few pages of book for review.

12.37-15.30hrs: get lost down internet rabbit hole. Look at reactions to new portrait of King Charles, then realise the strange red colour reminds me vaguely of the colour of my passport. Fall into depression.

15:45hrs: get up, have another pee, make five-minute half-hearted search in Sector 1 of living room, a 2-foot-square area of detritus by left side of desk. My reasoning is that the passport has been pushed, like a coin in the penny falls in an amusement arcade, off the desk and on to the floor. Discover half a packet of Cutters Choice tobacco, amazingly not dried out, tablespoon I’d been looking for for months, pair of spectacles in their case ditto, phone charger, second tablespoon, phone charger, 2022 MCC membership pass.

15:50hrs: remember deadline for this column. What was that story about the donkey who starved to death because it was equidistant between two bales
of hay? It’s a bit like that. Do I procrastinate by not writing this column or do I procrastinate by not looking for my passport? I have, I realise, entered some kind of vortex where by worrying about both I have somehow done neither.

I remember once when I started going out with H—, her best friend asked her: “Is he any good in a crisis?” And I was quite relieved this was being asked because as it happens, I am fairly good, or like to think I am. But in this instance I am not being very good at all – if this is actually a crisis. My idea of crises involves runaway prams in traffic, planes being hijacked, helping old ladies out of burning buildings, that kind of thing. But it turns out that “crisis” also involves the most boring and basic kind of admin. Like sorting out your council tax or water bill. (I have still not got round to telling EDF that they can jump in a lake because I’m switching to another energy company, like I promised I would in this column several months ago.)

Well, I managed to write this column, as you can tell because you’re reading it. I’m exhausted now, so I’ll look for the passport tomorrow. I’ve got plenty of time. One way or another, I’m not going anywhere.

[See also: Not all memorable meals should be photographed]

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This article appears in the 22 May 2024 issue of the New Statesman, Spring Special 2024