Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Goodbye, old friend

This morning, doing some admin, I took my credit card out of my wallet to type in the number and pay for something. Transaction complete, I put the card back and threw my wallet down onto my desk. Nothing unusual there, it's a scene that's played itself out so many times as to be completely unmemorable.


Later on in the day I had to go up and help my neighbour with an internet problem. It wasn't going to take long, and the dogs were all asleep, so I let them lie. When I returned it was to find this.


I think we can save it.


OK, so that's it after I've picked everything up off the floor, sorted the loose papers, made sure the cards haven't been chewed. And of course thrown the puppy outside with much shouting and swearing. It used to be my wallet. Now it's some useless metalwork, chewed leather and damp cardboard. And I am surprisingly upset.


No ordinary wallet this, it was a mini Filofax with just enough space in the front cover flap for a meagre amount of cash, and room in the back cover for a few credit cards. I bought it sometime at the end of the 1980s in a little craft shop in Thistle Street, in Aberdeen. For the life of me I can't remember what it was called, but it was a great place for getting gifts. I didn't often buy stuff for myself there. Something about this diminutive Filofax appealed, though. Perhaps because it was so small, and possibly because Filofaxes were considered rather naff at the time. Then again, this was back in the days when my normal attire was stripy shirts and baggy corduroy trousers. Long before the beard arrived. So I might have been being post-ironic. Most likely it was just a serious bargain and I needed a notebook. That it was small enough to fit in my pocket and become a wallet didn't occur to me until much later.


I can't remember what I used for a wallet before the Filofax. Probably some cheap leather billfold given as a minimal-thought Christmas present. I found a pile of these when I was going through my old desk as we emptied my parents' house. They're still around somewhere, but I can't bring myself to go back to them. They don't have the weight, or the sheets of paper for my random notes. Nor do they have the history.


Not long after I first got my Filofaxlette, I went down to London to see the Jazz Butcher playing at the Venue. My little brother* was staying with a friend in Woolwich when  he saw the concert advertised for the next evening, phoned me in Fife to tell me about it. This was back in the days when I did mad, impetuous things, so I jumped on a train and went to London just to see my favourite band.


It was a good concert, although unlike when I saw them in Edinburgh, I didn't get to speak to Mr Fish afterwards. I did buy T-shirts, which I still have, threadbare, misshapen and faded. On the way back from the gig, I realised that I'd lost my wallet. Pinched from a baggy corduroy trouser pocket in the crowd, no doubt. I was miffed, but not overly distraught. I'd not had more than a fiver left and this was long before I got my first credit card. I'd been proud of my little Filofax though, so I was sad that we'd had so short a time together.


Two weeks later, it arrived in the post. Someone had found it thrown into a front garden not far from the venue, dropped it in to the nearest branch of the bank whose cashline card was still in it. They had looked up my address and forwarded the whole thing on. We've been together now more than twenty years.


We've been around the world, my Filofax and me. Baked in the Australian Outback, soaked through in a Seattle downpour. Frozen on the ski slopes in a Glenshee blizzard, moulded and softened by the gentle heat of my body. It's helped me through good times and bad. Yes, the note pages had a tendency to tear at their ring-binder holes and fall out, but that was always part of the charm. And it never had a place for putting a pen, which I always thought was a bit of a design error. But we muddled through together. 


For a while I used to write down the mileage and fuel costs every time I filled up the car, back in the days when a tankful was less than ten pounds. I've still got the sheets somewhere - they make for scary reading. Petrol used to cost less than fifty pence a litre, believe it or not.


Hidden in the ragged pages are notes for stories I've never quite got around to writing, illegible drunken squiggles that may well be the most brilliant ideas a person has ever had, but which I can't for the life of me read. I have grown so used to the weight of it in my pocket - be it jacket, coat, trouser - that I instinctively know when it's not there. I feel uneasy at its lack of presence.


And now it will never be there again.


I've had a look at the Filofax website, but they don't do anything remotely like that model anymore. Given that it was probably an end-of-line run-out reduction when I bought it in a previous century, this is hardly surprising, but it's annoying nonetheless. There is something that might, at a pinch, do, but I had a look at it in Tesco this evening, and despite claiming to be exactly the same size, it's much bigger. And stiff, and new. 


Even going to the shops to look for something that might work as a replacement had me near paralysed with indecision. I needed to go out, but there was nothing to put my cash and credit cards in. Without a wallet, I couldn't go out, but I had to go out to get a new wallet. Just putting everything in my pocket was all kinds of wrong. The weight wasn't there and I couldn't shake that horrible sense of having forgotten something important. And there's something rather scandalous about carrying a credit card on its own. Naked. Like you've maybe just swiped it out of some poor bugger's pocket. 


Even now my hand strays to the pile of rendered leather and card, leafing through the debris with a tremendous and unnatural sense of loss. So many memories attached to one small inanimate object.


And yet, it's been with me almost half of my life, so why shouldn't I mourn its passing?


So farewell, old friend. You were a good and constant companion, even when you were empty. And when you weren't, you always stood your round. I won't miss you as much as I miss my cat, nor as much as I miss my parents. But I'll miss you nonetheless.






* of whom it has been said before, he is bigger than me.


UPDATE - I've remembered the shop. It was called Nova, and it was in Chapel Street, not Thistle Street. It's still there, and even has a website. Nice to see that some things never change.

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5 Comments:

Blogger Laurie said...

Oh no, this is a tragedy!!!!!! I bet you can find a similar style that you like, if not as much, nearly as much. There are several styles with soft black leather. The new Holborn comes to mind, the buffalo leather is supposed to be really soft. The Malden is a crowd favorite, you might have a look at those.

Thank you for sharing your wonderful Filofax memories with us!

October 29, 2011 5:42 am  
Blogger JamesO said...

Thanks Laurie. I've replaced it with a mini Chameleon in black (although I was tempted by the raspberry!) The new wallet has more pockets and can even hold a pen, but it doesn't have twenty plus years of history.

Needless to say I won't be leaving it on the desk.

October 29, 2011 12:03 pm  
Blogger Filofreak said...

Oh, James how sad! And, I know just how you feel as I've had dogs eat shoes and various other items. But, you have to think,,,,do you love the puppy or the wallet more. *Sigh* I know, it's tough when it's a Filofax. good luck finding a new one and thanks for sharing your story.
Erin

October 31, 2011 9:22 pm  
Blogger JamesO said...

Thanks for the comment, Erin. It wasn't so much the wallet itself as the memories it brought back as I looked at its chewed remains. We'd done so much together it was like losing an old friend.

Still, I have a shiny new filofax now. All I need is fresh adventures to embark upon.

October 31, 2011 10:17 pm  
Blogger J said...

So sorry to hear about the death (or murder, I suppose) of your Filo. Mine has been with me for under a year, and I don't quite know what I'd do without it.

I hope your new chameleon can fill the rather big shoes your old Filo has left!

November 01, 2011 9:41 pm  

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