Long, long ago, in the days before computers,
My daughter gave me a briefcase.
A special briefcase,
An attaché case,
A large, black, square box,
With locks outside and divisions inside,
Big enough to hold files and dictionaries, notebooks and pens.
For years this briefcase was my constant companion
On travels between home, work, libraries, meetings;
Underground and overground;
Getting scuffed and scratched, scraped and scarred
In my service.
It travelled in overhead lockers,
And, in comfort, on my lap.
Sometimes it became a suitcase,
holding a change of clothing,
A sponge bag,
And a bar of chocolate for emergencies.
It has travelled in style, in chauffeur driven limousines,
And precariously balanced on the seat of a rickshaw
Propelled by a bicycle.
It has seen the world from the top of the highest towers
In London and Stockholm;
It has opened its jaws inside the Houses of Parliament,
And the Works Councils’ pre-fabricated sheds.
It has dined in the finest restaurants,
Road side cafés,
And factory canteens.
It has seen a bullfight in Madrid,
And the Taj Mahal by moonlight.
High days and holidays,
To my briefcase they were all the same,
All part of the service.
Nothing out of the ordinary.
But even a briefcase needs to feel special sometimes.
Once it came with me to a hospital,
Carrying neither files nor dictionaries,
But books and notepads,
Pens, photographs, music.
It stood on the floor by my bed,
Waiting patiently for the day when I would notice it,
And extract from its capacious belly
All the things which would bring me back to life,
Books and notepads, pens, photographs and music.
On a quiet afternoon, with a million dust motes dancing in the slanting rays of the summer sun,
The briefcase opened its jaws on the bedside trolley.
And I sat, dangling my legs over the edge of the bed,
Headphones clamped over my ears,
The other patients dozing,
When Matron called over from her desk
at the end of the ward.
“And I thought you were working”,
She had heard me humming along to the heavenly strains
Of Nadir the Fisherman remembering his lost love Leila,
The virgin protectress and Brahma’s priestess
In the far off Ceylon of antiquity.
My briefcase had come up trumps,
Giving me the means to escape from my bed of pain
In the dusty ward of a Victorian Hospital
To a world full of colour and beauty.
Je crois entendre . . . . .