| 13.3°C Dublin

It was all going so well. Swear it was

MY wife is still away on a short holiday with the family to see relatives in England when an email from a stranger comes in with a ping.

It's been an otherwise uneventful few days, during which my usual cock-ups have been few. I haven't locked myself out of the car, house or office and I am still, incredibly, in possession of a bank debit card with my name on it. Sure, a number of household appliances threatened self-destruction but, mercifully, didn't follow through.

I click on the email. "Have you lost a camera?" it says. "Found one with your business card in the bag."

My throat clicks. If I did lose the family camera, and I sincerely hope I did not, then the upside is that someone found it. The downside is, to figure out if it's ours, I have to call my wife, tantamount to admitting that I can't be left in charge of anything valuable.

So I text. "Hi babe, hope all's well. Oh, by the way, how's the camera doing?"

I consider this for a 
moment, then re-type: "Hey! Miss you all, especially the camera. You have it, right?"

My thumb hovers over "send". I look at the dogs, who are both looking at me with the sort of quizzical expressions you might expect if they were watching a chimpanzee make tea.

"You're right," I say, quickly deleting and sending the words: "Do you have camera?"

The reply comes back so quickly it makes me jump: "No. Why?"

"Oh, no reason," I type back. "See you Thurs."

The person who, as it turns out, does in fact have our camera lives in the city and found it on a day trip to our town.

"Um, yes," I email. "Can't seem to find ours, so think that's it."

Ping. "Can you identify it?" Bloody hell. It has a lens and a button you push to make pictures. I don't even know what sort of car we've been driving for 10 years, let alone the brand of camera we have. I try Fuji. "Yup," she says. "That's it. Please advise on collection."

As this is not an adventure I want to get into right now, I do what any responsible, grown man would do under the circumstances. I turn off the computer and go and make a cup of tea.

The dogs look on and I can't help thinking that if they could do so without falling over, they'd raise their front paws and give me some slow, ironic applause.

"Just . . . go outside and sniff something," I mutter.

It's with some relief that I collect the family from the 
airport, eventually broaching the issue of the lost camera, only after nonchalantly recounting all the things that could have gone wrong but didn't.

"You're sure you don't have it?" I ask my wife sheepishly. She gives me a look.

Resigned to my fate, I arrange to meet our Samaritan next morning, which is how I find myself hurtling along the motorway on what suddenly appears to be an almost entirely empty tank. I pull into a petrol station and go to pre-pay but my card is declined. "And so it begins," I mutter to the attendant.

I now have the choice of returning home, tail between my legs, on what little remaining fuel I have and missing the handover or calling home to ask my wife to transfer money into my account when the banks open, meanwhile charging off into the early-morning traffic and hoping for the best, the "best" being to not trundle to a halt amid honking, cursing commuters as I try to push my car to the side of the road.

Of course, I choose the latter. "Oh, God," says my wife when I tell her, just before the battery indicator on my phone registers "5pc remaining".

After an angst-ridden half-hour, I coast up to the arranged meeting point just as the young woman with our camera is about to turn on her heels and depart. "Thank you, thank you," I tell her, sweat dripping off my nose.

The nearest petrol station is miles back and I'm so afraid that if I stop for any reason the car will conk out, so I plough on, fancying in a fleeting moment that I'm Sandra Bullock in the movie Speed, only with more screen presence. If I slow below 60, everything goes boom.

In fact, the whole situation is far more the Father Ted parody. I'm Dougal, stuck in a milk float, going around in pitifully slow circles as Ted tries to get him to wedge a brick into the accelerator.

Incredibly, the car only threatens to conk just as I finally screech up to the pump. My phone even manages to receive one last call. It's Ted, about the brick.

"What are you babbling about," says my wife. "That money's there for you. Did you get the camera?"

"Of course I did," I wheeze, deflating with relief and flopping over the steering wheel so that my sweaty face slides down the side of it and on to the dashboard. "What," I manage to add, "could possibly have gone wrong?"


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