As tonight is Burn’s night, it was no surprise that the OED chose something Scottish for its word of the day and I was very excited to open my inbox this morning and see nippy sweetie meaning: ‘A drink of spirits, esp. of whisky; whisky’ (OED). As I had the unusual luxury of a completely free day, I had all sorts of ideas for clever shots that could portray a sort of Rabbie Burns-AbFab fusion, including visiting various whisky emporia, as well as a well-known Knightsbridge department store and, of course, throwing in a bit of Bolly, Stoli and Christian LaCroix, sweetie. But as the great man said: ‘The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley’.
I began my day of indulgence with a visit to the Taylor-Wessing Exhibition, little knowing that I would be back there five hours later – and not to look at the portraits either. By the time I left, the sun had come out, and the crowds were descending on Trafalgar Square, so I joined them to take a few snaps of the bagpiper, which seemed appropriate for the date. Some moments later, as the tube pulled into the station, I realised that my i-Pad and I had been separated somewhere along the way.
After re-tracing my steps, summoning MisterMac and calling into the Apple store for an emergency tutorial on downloading and using the ‘Find-my-phone’ app, we start tracking my i-Pad. For two hours, we follow a blob around Soho and Leicester Square, and for two hours the tracking blob always seems to be just ahead of us. And then it stops. And remains stationary. And we have the chance to catch it up. As we approach St Martin’s Place, I am frantically pressing the sound button and can hear the distinctive sonic beep, but with all the traffic, can’t locate the source. Maybe it’s been dumped? MisterMac is now up to his elbows in coffee dregs and fag ash as he rummages through the bins, then all the potted plants and shrubs. I suddenly realise that the sound is coming from a couple sitting having coffee. Now here’s the tricky bit – not a policeman in sight and I have to accuse two total strangers of having my i-Pad. I politely ask them if the beeping sound is coming from their bag, but they mumble a denial and make a dash for the National Portrait Gallery, with MisterMac and I ‘following the suspects at a suitable distance’ (as MM later said in his statement), but we lose them in the crowds inside. I explain to the security guard what has happened, not really expecting any help, but oh my, they go into action before I can say Jack Bauer. The next hour is like an episode of CSI, with lots of dashing between galleries (including priority access to the TW), walkie-talkies crackling, phrases like ‘he’s on the move’ and even chasing the suspects to the tube station, where once again they vanish into the crowd. By this time, though, they know they’ve been rumbled and jettison the i-Pad into a bin – and there are witnesses …
But it was still some time before my i-Pad and I were re-united … we have ordinary litter bins in London, but we also have re-cycling bins, which require a special key (or as it transpired, a very handy NPG security guard with a widget) to open them. At one point, I did have visions of having to wait with the bin until the street cleaners re-appeared on Monday morning. However, I-Pad was retrieved, MM and self gave statements at the police-station, got caught in an atrocious thunder-storm and finally arrived home safe, sound and with I-Pad.
I cannot thank Kim and his team at the NPG enough – they were all completely and utterly brilliant. Their response was well and above the call of duty and they were all truly amazing. THANK YOU!!
But the weirdest thing was the suspects – a perfectly respectable middle aged couple. Was this a one-off, an opportunistic theft or are they the face of something much darker and more sinister …
Tonight, I think MisterMac and I have earned a very large nippy sweetie!