Stop thief! NORMAN GILLER suffered a break-in last week and was backed up when he’d discovered that he hadn’t backed up months of work
Sports writers of a nervous disposition are advised to read the following with a stiff whisky close by, plus a copy of Computers for Dummies, with which to hit me over the head.
We are talking the middle of last week, just after midnight. For the 30th consecutive year I had finished compiling my Jumbo Sports Crossword for The Times, a Boxing Day fixture first ordered by then sports editor Tom Clarke back in 1984.
Satisfied with my three days’ work, I saved the 100-clue puzzle to my Apple MacBook and retired to bed a happy bunny. That’s the good part of this horror story.
At 7.30 the next morning I reached out for my mobile telephone on the bedside cabinet, and grasped empty air. I plodded downstairs still only half awake and searched for the phone. Nowhere to be found.
I used the landline phone to call my partner, Jackie, who lives 100 yards away here in ‘Appy ‘Ampshire. Her line was engaged. Finally, I got her 10 minutes later.
“Can you ring my mobile,” I asked, “so that I can use the ring tone to find it. Must have fallen behind the sofa or something.”
“I”ve just been on the phone to the police,” she said. “Somebody has broken into the garden shed here and next door. Nothing much missing, but I thought I’d better report it.”
Moments later she phoned back on the landline.
“No, silly,” I said, “phone me on my mobile.”
“I did, and it went straight to your answer service.”
“I must have left it in the car,” I reasoned, and went to the front door and was rather surprised to find my pink Micra in the middle of the drive, 10 yards from where I’d left it.
I went back to collect my car keys from the lounge coffee table. No keys. That meant my door keys had gone as well.
Now panic was setting in. I went out into the kitchen, wondering why my tea towels were in the middle of the floor. I made myself a cup of strong tea (no milk, two sugar substitutes, stirred 14 times anti-clockwise … yes, I am a creature of compulsive habit).
I took my cuppa (in my favourite Mr Grumpy mug) and sat down on the sofa where I do most of my writing, and tried to work out what was going on. “Check your emails,” I told myself.
I reached out to the coffee table on which I do much of my laptop typing and automatically stretched my fingers towards the keyboard. No laptop.
When you’re coming up 75, thought processes tend to come in instalments. It was at last sinking in that I had been burgled. Next I looked for my wallet. It was open on the sofa, all credit cards intact but a fistful of notes gone, 50 quid in all.
Now the mind was starting to work and worry all at the same time. The Jumbo crossword was the first thing that came to mind, followed by the relief that I had sent a copy to son Michael for checking.
Then it started to dawn on me like the drip-drip-drip of Chinese torture that gone with the laptop were months’ of research notes for my next book, No100, and my autobiography provisionally called The Kid from Cable Street.
But at this moment I felt more like the Cnut of Cable Street. Or words to that effect.
“Of course,” my know-all friends said, “you’ve backed everything up.”
I’ve been using Apple Macs since the very first one, the Lisa in the late 70s … followed by Apple II, then the magical MacPluses, through the Mac G3, Power Macs and up to the MacPros
“You think I’m an idiot?” I said. “Of course I backed up … on to my laptop.” Doh.
Somewhere there’s somebody with my laptop containing photos of every one of Muhammad Ali’s fights (for book No99, much of which is with the publisher), treasured family photos, thousands of words for books and TV projects, and every day I think of something else on the laptop that I should have transferred to iCloud but stupidly didn’t.
I have offered a reward for its return through my local paper. But what price do you put on hundreds of memories?
If any publisher is peeping in, my life story is celebrity-driven by personal, unpublished anecdotes about such diverse characters as Muhammad Ali and Eric Morecambe, Jimmy Savile and the Krays, Henry Cooper and Jimmy Greaves. If it is published under any other name, we’ll be able to identify the thief.
I would rather they had taken my car than the laptop. “I think they left it because of its distinctive colour and it’s personalised number plate,” said the local Sherlock Holmes when a team from forensics arrived.
GIL 4053. It used to look at home on my Jaguar in the days when people wanted my words, but I have to admit its a bit poncy on my pink Micra. Pretentious, moi?
The lesson to all journalists: Back up, back up, back up.
Also, insure, insure, insure. AXA Insurance were first class, and I had a replacement laptop and mobile , plus new locks front and back and car keys within 48 hours of reporting the loss.
What I don’t have are all the notes I had made about my life and times.
Now then, what was I doing yesterday …?
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