St Anthony used to be the ‘main man’ for finding things when I was a child. He was particularly reliable, it was said, if you paid him, and indeed, in most churches there was a box with his name on it where you could remit your donation or bribe.
I’m afraid I hadn’t much faith in the powers of this early M. Poirot. Firstly I was too broke – or perhaps too mean – to pay for things that were lost. When you’re young there are very few things important enough to worry about their loss for more than a few hours. At one stage I used sell raffle tickets for the holy detective, but that didn’t improve his willingness to search for free for things that I had been careless with – maybe my fecklessness put him off too.
With maturity I obviously treated my belongings with greater respect and it was rare enough that I had to trouble the dear man for any favours. Things didn’t seem to have the same propensity for disappearing when I was in the whole of my health and in the prime of life. Training myself to look for things where I had last seen them proved valuable, so the occasions when I scrabbled frantically for keys or rings or letters awaiting posting were few and far between. My formula was rather like one of those problems set in primary school. Add this and that and take your first thoughts from it.
With children flown the nest and consequently less 'important' matters needing urgent attention, I have discovered that my ability to locate mislaid minutiae is diminished. Often I have no idea where I last saw the missing object – because I don't bother thinking of anything at all most of the time......until I need to post that letter or take the car out. Mobile phones are the greatest offenders in the ‘going walkabout’ stakes, I’ve realized, especially when they have been carefully switched off to conserve energy so can't be called to heel by the tapping in of a few digits. I have also discovered that objects can be like chameleons – mutating into invisibility when missing, then reappearing in a place that I know I have already searched fruitlessly. My car keys do this regularly at noon on Sundays – just the time I am due to leave the house to go to Mass. The solution to that particular problem proved simple enough. Take off one’s coat, put the kettle on and make a cup of coffee. It was magic. The keys reappear right there on the table beside me just as I have completely abandoned hope (and thoughts of going to church) and am ready to enjoy the caffeine boost. Conscience, I am sad to say, doesn't always win as I make a choice between the two alternatives.
I have lost faith in St Anthony’s ability to find really difficult things. I mean, I know for a fact (and for many years) that he is no good for restoring lost virginity so why should I think he can find unimportant things like keys and phones? But I’m thinking of turning again to him for help. Because sometimes I think I am losing my mind. Tranquilizers would only make my situation worse, and medical science hasn’t yet progressed very far in the mental restoration field.
St Anthony might be the only one who can help me.