The Encyclopaedia of Lost Things has an entry for Things You Already Know You Are Going To Lose: its metaphoric trees are dark, for instance, with flocks of gloves. (The trees themselves have a distinctly umbrella-iferous air, useful for obfuscatory shade.) I have a single woollen glove at the moment I simply swop from hand to hand as each gets cold, popping the exposed hand casually into a pocket. Its twin lives with that grey scarf I still don’t know how I lost, but a friend’s scarf hangs unworn on the back of my office door awaiting reunion with its forgetful master. My proper gloves, bought in the cold snap before Xmas, were lost on Xmas Eve on the Metro while I tried to catch up with present-buying.
But beneath certain roots in the Forest of Lost Trees are the truffles of lost black bunnets. My current black bunnet was temporarily lost earlier; in fact two bunnets went missing in a row: a brown one apparently speeding from a car like a spare wheel as Yang Lian and I alighted at Ustinov College to give a reading. But its black companion turned up, placed perkily on a bollard opposite our house by a helpful passerby. Once it had dried out it was fine, albeit slightly misshapen. As we speak, it and, oh the irony, my memory stick are both currently back in the limbo that isn’t quite the house or the car or the office but from which they will probably/hopefully turn up.
But it is the black bunnet’s predecessor, the Moscow bunnet, which I wish formally to lament here. This was left on a train to Oxford in the following circumstances: I placed it on the overhead shelf while intoning ‘You will forget that.’ Then I forgot that.
I phoned train companies and lost property offices immediately on leaving the train, but nothing. This last item wasn’t actually lost for a short period of time, just increasingly out of reach. Perhaps that’s it: our physical relation to our possessions is simply expanding, just not evenly, and, thankfully, not at the same rate as the expansion of the universe.
I happened to have been wearing exactly this bunnet when, at Andy Croft's suggestion, I went to see Ian McMillan launch Talking Myself Home at Newcastle's Live Theatre, and, after the event, went up to get my book signed. Now, Ian and I know each other from quite a few Verbs and other programmes, but I could see the bunnet was having an anonymising effect, so removed it, and was recognised. This phenomenon, You Are Not As You Were So Who Are You, I used to get a lot when people who'd known a curly-headed version of me met the later, grey, depleted model. So I'd written a piece to the tune of Mystery Train about the Bunnet Effect, and now, attending the Brasenose College Poetry Festival (at the poet Richard O'Brien's invitation), I was able to rapidly revise the last line as follows.
- Before it follows, I must just remark that the way my choice of tune matched the future circumstances would suggest that the poor Moscow bunnet was indeed a Thing I Already Knew (At Some Level) I Was Going To Lose. Ah, the mysteries of brain...
(for Ian McMillan)
Book-queue signin, sixteen readers long,
Book-queue signin, sixteen readers long –
well, this new black bunnet makes my face feel wrong.
Moscow bunnet, sittin on, on my head,
Moscow bunnet, sittin on, on my head –
well, it took my name away from my friend with the pen.
(What happened then?)
Moscow bunnet, lookin cool, cool as toast,
Moscow bunnet, like a black ole slice of toast,
please be bringin my name back, cause I’m like a g-ghost
(like a g-ghost).
Moscow bunnet, coverin up, up my brain (up my brain),
Moscow bunnet, coverin up, up my brain (up my brain) –
well I left it on a train so it never will again