On the whole I look after my stuff pretty well. I water my houseplants regularly and my TV remote controls all have their battery flaps intact. But these are my own belongings; when it comes to borrowing things from other people I have an appalling track record, even though I try to apply the same amount of care.
If you were to lend me your bike and you became so concerned at my late return that you started looking out of the window for me, the chances are you would see me pushing it home because it had a puncture or the chain had snapped.
Or if you were to lend me a book, I’d read it in the garden in the mistaken belief that it would come to no harm. An overhead magpie, having partook of a hefty, high-fibre blowout at the neighbour’s bird table, would have a different idea though, and it would present me with something to help me find my page.
Memorable catastrophes I’ve had with other people’s stuff include:
- Dropping a lit match that had snapped on striking onto a brand new David Bowie LP as it turned, ruining The Bewlay Brothers
- A Newcastle shirt I had borrowed for the cup final that shrunk in the wash
- A cassette tape belonging to my mate of a rare album that my machine chewed to bits
- A foot pump loaned to me by my mother’s neighbour that tipped over and bent as I pumped
- The plastic pipe of a Vax that snapped at the elbow when I applied a little pressure (replacement, eight quid)
My latest encounter happened on this very laptop. After my eldest son’s PC died on me (I had borrowed it) I needed something to do my work on and my youngest son arranged the loan of this laptop from his place of work. It was a lifesaver.
The morning after I borrowed it I had eaten my corn flakes and was passing the laptop on my way to the kitchen. I paused to switch the laptop on so it would be booted up on my return, but as I leaned over, the plastic cereal bowl I was carrying inexplicably slipped from my fingers and landed on the keyboard, sending the 8/* key flying. I have all the bits but it will be an incredibly intricate job to reattatch it.
Now I reckon that if I dropped such an insubstantial item onto a keyboard 100 times with the deliberate intention of knocking off a single key, I would fail. But darker forces are at work here; the forces that conspire and compel me to say to friends and family, for the umpteenth time, ‘I’m sorry, but…’
So if you received a ghastly jumper at Christmas, or your partner repeatedly plays a CD that grates on you, lend them to me and there is a good chance that they will be unusable when you get them back.