Editor's LetterIssue 14

Last weekend I returned to my apartment on Ile Saint Louis in Paris at 4:30am on Saturday morning after, of course, a heavy evening – since both the book club and the over-60s crochet society (honorary member) had events – to find my laptop gone, my mouse hurled across the floor, and the sheer curtains billowing ominously – and filmically – in the open window. Had I been burgled? Or had I, after book club and before crochet, come home in a moment of drunken sincerity regarding my own writing and hurled my computer from the window? I looked down to the street below; no smithereens were apparent. I had been robbed.

I almost forgive the man, who must have literally shimmied up the drainpipe (does anyone ever “shimmy up” anything else?) and climbed in through the open window, as long as he (presumably he) had moustachios, wore a top hat and a tailcoat, and called himself ‘Prince von Otto, the Demon Cat Burglar of Paris’. I didn’t know there was still a calling for cat burglars. Don’t people do cyber-crime nowadays? Perhaps they only persist on the Ile Saint Louis, the secrets of apprenticeship transmitted from father to son from days when the island was used for pasture and they milked their neighbours’ cows at night.

If this chap is anything to go by, they must be a dying breed. He risked freedom, life and (a fortiori – it’s rather a stupid expression, when you think about it) limb to steal a laptop that cost £250 when I bought it two years ago. He rashly discarded the mouse and the adapter, since neither trackpad nor battery work. Hanging next to it, moreover, was a pristine Calvin Klein jacket worth significantly more than the computer at purchase, which I’d worn exactly once, and which one would have thought significantly more fungible.

He neglected to take it. One can only conclude that what he really wanted to gain access to were the complete back catalogues of the Soho Revue and the pictures I took of myself with my webcam to see what I look like from the side. He needn’t have bothered – both are online.

Thereupon followed a traumatic, Kafka-esque experience of the deadly interaction between Amazon’s ‘One-Day Delivery’ and French UPS. Due by Wednesday evening, By Thursday the tracking page insistently declared “Expected 22nd June. This seemed particularly unlikely since Thursday was the 23rd.” At 04:41 on Thursday morning it stated a “Delay in delivery due to external factors KOELN (COLOGNE) DE”. At 04:44 “Parcel left the carrier facility KOELN (COLOGNE) DE”; at 04:48 “Parcel arrived at a carrier facility ROISSY PARIS FR”. On Friday, at 00:22, “Parcel left the carrier facility KOELN (COLOGNE) DE”; at 05:06 “Parcel arrived at a carrier facility ROISSY, PARIS, FR”; at 05:59 “Parcel left the carrier facility KOELN (COLOGNE), DE” Evidently this package was now moving too fast for Amazon to track; the Heisenberg uncertainty principle ensuring that it was probably impossible to monitor simultaneously where it was and how fast it was moving. How did it get from Cologne to Roissy in four minutes? How did it leave Cologne again without having been there? What were the “external factors” in its delay…and what would count as factors “internal” to the delivery of a laptop? Someone, somewhere, was operating on a very loose grasp of causality, and probably eating cheese when they should have been delivering my computer.

On Friday, four days after I had ordered One Day Delivery, I decided to brave leaving my apartment, and potentially being – God forbid – ‘out’ when it arrived. As an extra precaution I phoned up French UPS beforehand, and was greeted by an extremely irate Frenchwoman who took personal offence to my call. She could not give me any more information on the package; instructed me, in the imperative, to continue to track it, as the most constructive use of my time; all she could assure me, for certain, was that it was not yet in the centre of Paris. Foolishly I assumed it was safe to go out for two hours. You can imagine when it arrived.

The Soho Revue has higher standards. The only thing criminal here is the excellence of the writing, and we deliver when we say we will – now.