Am I being followed by a thief sucking things from my suitcase one by one​​? | Brigid Delaney’s diary

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After staying at a hotel in Montreal renowned for car theft, more possessions start to mysteriously disappear

Some hotels are so bad that you need to sit on the bed (being under the sheets could be a health risk) and read the hotel’s TripAdvisor reviews to feel like there is a community for you who are also confounded that some places – with their 1980s heavy furniture, rising damp bathrooms, drained swimming pool and discarded condoms – continue to operate.

This was the first review that popped up for the place where I am staying:

Rooms are filthy. I asked for a wakeup call to catch a plane. It never happened. I left my car there (park and fly). My car was stolen when I came back … They just said “Call the police. It happens often.” OFTEN!

The next morning not one but two guests are in the lobby speaking to police, doing a sad version of “Dude, where’s my car?”

It really is true, you really do get your car stolen here, I think, pleased that I did not have a car, for if I did it would surely go missing.

A few days before I had been confused, wandering around the homes of friends in New York asking: “Dude, where’s my noise-cancelling headphones?” and “Dude, where are my red boots?”

The noise-cancelling headphones, essential when you are travelling on long flights, were expensive, and the case was also where I stashed my travel Valium. But they had literally disappeared off the face of the earth.

Also my red boots – which were impossible to put on unless you angled your foot precisely at a 50 degrees and curled your toes on pointe – were missing. It usually takes a couple of people pulling to get them off. How could they just go missing? I had last worn them to a yoga class in SoHo but leaving them behind would have meant wandering around barefoot.

Dude, where are my boots?

I leave New York without these things and feel slightly unsettled, when after the black hole hotel, I arrive at a press trip in rural Quebec.

It is lovely. Quebec, a stunning place of mountains and lakes and maple. On the second day in Quebec, I unpack my suitcase and realise I have lost my pants, socks and other boots.

Dude, where are my pants?

Seriously, they were there last time I checked. I had only packed two pairs: the missing black ones and some lime-green yoga pants that I had bought online and are the most lairy things I own.

Where the hell are my pants, shoes and socks?

In Quebec I had no choice but to wear my lime-green yoga pants for five days in a row.

The pants were appropriate precisely ZERO per cent of the time. I did not do yoga in them but I went horse riding, jet skiing, I wore them to a formal six-course French-inspired dinner. I wore them out to a revolving restaurant. They are rank but they are all I had. The other journalists would greet me each day by looking at what I was wearing and asking: “Are your pants still missing?”

Then one day I went to check what day it was and my diary was missing.


My diary is the single most important possession I have. I do not know what I am doing tomorrow or what I did yesterday until I look at my diary. All deadlines, meetings, trips, events, birthdays – everything is there. I am old school, I do not use Outlook or my iPhone calendar or Notes. I also keep each year’s diary as a sort of memento mori.

There is a deep psychological aspect to my diary keeping. Time, slippery, ever-passing time, can be lassoed into some sort of shape in the pages of my diary. When reading it I can journey across time and around the world. I don’t ask myself, “What the hell did I do in 2014?” I know precisely to the day and sometimes hour what I did in 2014. And knowing is incredibly important to me because if I meticulously track time then I feel some control over it.

Realisation of the lost diary hits me like a punch. I am in a traditional Canadian sugar shack where we are being served an all-you-can-eat buffet of maple ham, maple beans, maple whiskey and maple pancakes.

Where is the diary? Where are the pants? Is it possible I left all these things in the black hole hotel, where all the cars go missing?

I cannot eat my maple food. On the sugar shack wifi, I email every hotel I’ve stayed in this week, asking them to search for my diary.

Later at a cafe in Quebec, wearing my wretched yoga pants, I record my feelings of loss, and also paranoia, in my journal. Am I being followed around by a thief who is sucking things from my suitcase one by one? Why were so many of my most important possessions going missing?

The next day I get on the bus with the other journalists. We are off for another visit to the old town and port when I realise my journal is missing.


I run back to my room and practically tear it apart. I believe I even screamed at one point. It’s a hotel run by First Nations people and is festooned – tastefully – with bear and beaver hides and furs.

When I am done it looks like a wildlife massacre – there is a beaver skin thrown around the room. But no journal.

Back on the bus – day six in my yoga pants – I accuse the other journalists, then the bus driver, of stealing from me. Why else would it go missing after so many days? They are messing with me, surely.

Around old Quebec town I go into shops I went into the day before in the hope that I left my journal on a counter. In the bookstore, when I ask with my bad French, “Ou est ma cahier?” the man looks around at a thousand cahiers and just looks confused. Much like me.

Meanwhile, messages come in from other hotels I have stayed at: no, we don’t have your pink cahier. My date diary. The pain of that loss is still fresh.

But my journal – it has my thoughts and feelings in it. The loss is unthinkable. The one consolation is that I have lost it in a town where English is a second language. Hopefully the person who finds it cannot read English and will just throw it away. Please god throw it away! It has all my CRAZY THOUGHTS in it – the ones that are too crazy to share!

Dude, ou est ma cahier?

Without pants, noise-cancelling headphones, boots (x2), the means of tracking time and the means of tracking thoughts, I descend in these last days in Quebec into a sort of deep sadness.

My grip on time loosens and I am adrift. I was always travelling with these journalists, always ordering the bison medium rare, while wearing my yoga pants. I am always, each day, getting up to walk or horseride or jetski. The leaves are always at the point of turning red, we are always on the road – with Joe our driver – and we always sit on the same seats on the bus. There is no past. There is no future. The only time that exists is now.

We stop by a church in rural Quebec where crutches and walking sticks are lining the door – proof, says our guide, of miracles. In an empty pew, I pray to the saint of hopeless causes like so many others come before. But this time the hopeless case – c’est moi.

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