I made myself a promise yesterday and almost wrote it on a pink sticky so I wouldn’t forget. After work I promised myself to visit the police station. I wasn’t going to confess to some horrible crime, but to ask if someone, a taxi driver, had handed in a walking stick in the last month or so.
There might have been a flicker of de javu in the eyes of the woman behind the counter. I’d asked her the same question a couple of years ago – a different walking stick, but just as lost. Her reply gave me hope when I was asked to describe the stick. It would have been nice if she had done a line-up of recently handed in walking sticks and asked me if I recognised any. It would have been nice to say “The second one from the end,” but the conversation didn’t go that way. My description didn’t match the one stick she had in the locker room. Red, metal and folding was not my stick. There was another ray of hope when she said that things not claimed after six weeks are given to the Highland Hospice charity shop.
I had a parking ticket to see me through the next couple of hours so I decided to stroll along to the shop to see if the walking stick, not the current lost one, but the previous lost one, was there somewhere. The door was in the process of being locked and the bolts drawn when I got there, but pulling a sad face seemed to do the trick. I was informed that there were no walking sticks.
I have done this charity shop crawl before looking for walking sticks, but the Highland Hospice had slipped through the net. I navigated a route around the town taking in the rest of the charity shops, trying to make sure I didn’t cross my path, or walk down the same street twice – quite a feat after a long day and trying to reach the shops before they closed.
• PDSA - new ones, black, metal and folding with pretty red flowers.
• Care in the Community – no sticks.
• Heart Foundation – no sticks.
• Oxfam – there were a couple of ski sticks, white with red flames on them
• Barnardos – no sticks, but directions to the mobility shop who sold new ones.
• Children First – “Yes”, said the woman confidently, “We have a stick!” She scoured the shelves and had to admit that they must have sold it.
As I was leaving the shop, I saw something in the window. It was a hybrid of sorts – a walking stick/umbrella combination. My husband’s friend had lent him something similar on the day of the Unions’ Day of Protest last month. There was no way Joe would have made it through the picketing and marching without something to lean on. He showed it me. It was a little smaller that was comfortable but better than nothing.
I picked it from the window display. It was just like the one his friend had lent him. Smaller than was comfortable but it was better than nothing. The price tag seemed a little steep for a charity shop and I swithered.
“Are you going to buy that?”
I turned to find a small aged gentleman standing beside me. I’m usually the smallest person in any meeting of two people over the age of ten.
He looked longingly at the object I was swithering about.
I surrendered it to him to try out, hoping that he didn’t really want it. They were obviously meant for each other. They matched size-wise and the umbrella part of it was even colour co-ordinated to match his dark coat.
“If you want to buy it…I mean, you did see it first…”
I did want to buy it, but it would have felt like some kind of robbery to deny him his prize.
“You take it,” I said.
I confess that I walked around the block, back around to the shop just in case he decided not the buy it, but it was gone.
A final stop on the way back to the car was in order. My parking ticket may have been good for another hour but the charity shops were closing quicker than I could get to them, and my boots were not made for walking. I decided to stop off at the railway station. We had checked the lost property office just day after the loss of the stick. I could picture it then lounging in the overhead luggage rack on the train from Glasgow to Inverness, blending in with the surroundings, ignored by the cleaners. It could have gone unnoticed for weeks.
“Any walking sticks handed in over the last few weeks?”
“Not recently…but…” The man went on to say that they had lots of lost property including lots of walking sticks. What kind of stick was I looking for? So high, dark wood with a curved handle I told him. He disappeared for a while and returned some time later with two sticks that fitted the bill, except that one was white and obviously used to belong to a blind person. The other wasn’t my lost stick either. It was black metal and folding but without the pretty red flowers. It was very sturdy looking and just the right height.
It had been rattling around the lost luggage locker for a long time unclaimed.
As I jauntily walked back to the car, imagining myself wielding the stick to defend myself against muggers in a poorly lit alley way on the way to the car park, I wondered whether to wrap it up and make my husband wait until Christmas, or just hand it over.
I handed it over. I couldn’t wait for Christmas to see his delight!