“Losing my passport was the least of my worries; losing a notebook was a catastrophe.”—Bruce Chatwin

My Moleskine notebook disappeared in Lima the other night, in a series of events too dismal to tell here. I had given up on it, mourned its loss and the loss of the cards and notes from friends it contained, and added a call to the American Express office to my to-do list (it held my emergency travelers’ checks, too).

Moping around Miraflores, I decided to see who I could complain to on Instant Messenger. And there was a note from PAUL LANDON—the name in all capitals, and already checked as spam before I noticed the subject line was ‘book’. A publisher?


   ‘You don’t know me, but I’m a schoolteacher in Peru, ‘ he wrote. ‘I have your travel book (just re-read all that and it sounds like a ransom note!)’

Paul had found my email address, and noticed that I’d written about the Cafe Z in Miraflores. He would be there at four o’clock exactly, on his motorbike, to hand-deliver my precious notebook on his way to soccer practice. And he was, and he handed it over before zooming off.

Leaving me dying of embarrassment that in order to find me he had to read through the most appalling, revealing, self-indulgent fretting since Bridget Jones. The stuff that doesn’t make the cut here. This stranger, I realized, knows me better than my best friend. When I wrote to thank him, he sent a gentle quote in answer to all the scribbled literary quotes in my book, this time Polonius’s advice to Hamlet:

‘Above all this, to thine own self be true,
and it will follow as the night the day
that thou cans’t be false to any man’

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Thanks, Paul.

One thought on ““Losing my passport was the least of my worries; losing a notebook was a catastrophe.”—Bruce Chatwin”

  1. Hi Dervala,

    Idling marking exam papers here and decided to see what you’re up to. Really tickles me to read about the Handing Over of The Moleskin Book – didn’t quite realise you were dying of embarrassment, but as ever your secrets are safe with Paul! Enjoyed browsing your site – take care and keep travelling…



Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: