Seek and ye shall find...

See? Lost things sometimes have a way of finding themselves when you least expect it. So take heart, Keith. Do not despair. Just remember the advice of a wise man who lived long ago (and whose birthday, coincidentally, is this very Wednesday): ‘Seek, and ye shall find’…

Following the news this week was a timely reminder of just how crap I would be, if I ever entered politics.

Take the story about how Keith Scembri ‘lost his mobile phone’, for instance. Why, that’s the sort of thing that happens to me all the time; with the difference that… well, in my case, it wouldn’t be such a laughably transparent ruse. I’d really misplace the damn thing; like I seem to constantly misplace all those other small-but-important items whose existence we always take for granted (until they’re just… not… there.)

You know: my keys, my wallet, my guitar pick, my patience – for some reason, been losing that a lot recently – and above all, dozens upon dozens of cups of coffee.

Speaking of which: I just reached out on my desk to make sure the one I made five minutes ago is still where I placed it, somewhere between all the piles of random assorted junk.

Phew, what a relief: it’s still there. Unlike so many others, it hasn’t just slipped through an invisible wormhole to another dimension, never to be seen by mortal eyes again. (At least, not in this universe: I sometimes wonder, though, whether there’s an alternate reality in which unfinished cups of coffee just randomly materialise out of nowhere for no reason. Who knows? Maybe there’s an entire planet full of them, just waiting to be discovered… or a community of Stone Age hunter-gatherers in a parallel universe, all hooked on the caffeine, and worshipping a giant stone Mug…)

Either way, few more than I can fully understand that panicky sensation when you lose something as important (nay, vital) as a mobile phone or a cup of coffee. It starts with a feeling of rational disbelief – ‘nah, I didn’t lose it… I just can’t remember where I put it, that’s all’ – which then sublimates into a growing sense of paranoid delusion – ‘Am I going mad? Did I just imagine that I made that coffee, and placed it exactly… here?’ – and all along, there’s that ghastly, sinking feeling of deprivation. ‘How will I ever cope without it? Will life ever be the same again?”, etc., etc.

So my heart immediately went out to Keith Schembri upon hearing that he had lost a possession as indispensable to contemporary existence as a mobile phone.

Not just any old phone belonging to you or me, either… in which case, the missing data might extend to a reminder from our mothers ‘not to be late for Christmas lunch’. No, this one belongs to the Prime Minister’s chief-of-staff, no less (well, it used to when he still occupied that position)… so can you just imagine the wealth of valuable data it must contain.

All the numbers and contacts Keith must have patiently collected and cultivated, over years of communication with all the country’s most important power-nodes: in politics, in business and in… um… other things; all the messages he would have incessantly sent and received (to the extent that he even had to charge that phone four times a day); and… Pouff! Just like that, all this priceless, irreplaceable information simply vanishes into thin air…

Poor old Keith. He must be positively frantic…

Then there’s the timing. Diabolical, as always. Let’s face it: there is never a good time to lose a mobile phone; but when you’re being investigated for ‘homicide and obstruction of justice’? And when the police are literally outside your door, with a warrant for your arrest in hand…?

See? Lost things sometimes have a way of finding themselves when you least expect it. So take heart, Keith. Do not despair. Just remember the advice of a wise man who lived long ago (and whose birthday, coincidentally, is this very Wednesday): ‘Seek, and ye shall find’…

It’s a calamity. For Schembri’s missing mobile would contain precise information of all his own movements, as well as all of his (non-encrypted) communications with third parties; and naturally, that information would help to clarify his own role in any alleged conspiracy to murder, or cover-up of any crime.

So, I can just imagine how reassured Schembri must have always felt, snug in the knowledge that his mobile data would almost certainly dispel all these absurd suspicions in his regard, once and for all.

But what do you know? With the police knocking at the door, he reaches into his pocket to retrieve the one thing that would no doubt clear his name forever… and… ‘Damn. Could have sworn it was there a minute ago. Maybe I was wearing another coat…?’

Then the panic begins to set in…

Ah well, that’s the way of it, I suppose. One of the great paradoxes of life: you always lose things at the precise moment when they become the most invaluable to you.

And meanwhile, to add injustice to injury: the police aren’t even helping him to look for it, either! Why, the poor man practically begged for their assistance when they turned up to arrest him a few weeks ago… yet they ignored his pleas, and simply accepted his word that it had been misplaced without bothering to investigate the matter further.

Honestly… how selfish of them. And how sharply their callousness contrasts with the sympathy and understanding they invariably show towards other, non-political people caught up in similar circumstances.

Like the three suspects they originally arrested back in December 2017, and charged with planting and detonating the bomb that killed Daphne Caruana Caruana Galizia three months earlier.

Remember? They had lost their mobile phones, too. But on that occasion (perhaps because the FBI were involved) the police were not immune to their tearful pleas for assistance. No, indeed: they took the entire warehouse apart in their efforts to locate the missing devices for them; and even jumped into the sea (at that time of year, too!) just to make sure they left no stone unturned on the sea-bed, either.

And hey presto! To those three men’s immense, undying relief and gratitude, their precious mobile phones were indeed retrieved from the murky depths of the Grand Harbour (where they must have sunk after accidentally slipping out of their owners’ pockets, as they were getting ready for a spot of pre-arrest fishing.)

But not only did the police go to such great lengths to help those people find their misplaced belongings… but they even volunteered to use their own state-of-the-art technology to retrieve what data they could from the waterlogged devices: you know, just to make damn sure that the owners got back as much of what they had lost as possible.

Now that’s what I call a police force to be proud of: not there just to arrest and prosecute; but also to go that extra mile, and help distressed citizens in their time of need…

No such zeal or determination was shown to Keith Schembri, however. And there’s no other word for that, but ‘discrimination’. No two ways about it: Keith Schembri was treated differently by the police, simply because – unlike us more privileged mortals – he happens to be involved in politics.

And it’s just… not… fair.

Nonetheless, this is no time to be losing heart. Let us not forget that the great paradoxes of life sometimes work in other directions, too; and that hope can also be found in the unlikeliest of places.

So, if it’s any consolation, I’d like to take the opportunity of the Festive Season to offer Keith Schembri my own humble advice on how to recover lost items. I have a certain experience in the field (though it is admittedly more in the ‘losing’ than the ‘finding’); and in my many years of misplacing various possessions, I have observed that there is a certain, shall we say, ‘pattern’ to how things tend to work out in the end.

Just as you lose things when you need them most; you also tend to find them the moment you stop actually looking for them.

Like the last cup of coffee that vanished, for instance. I hunted everywhere, in all the usual suspect locations: on the table by the toilet; between books on bookshelves; on every conceivable surface on the trajectory of my daily absent-minded pacings, coffee-cup in hand, up and down the hall (which conveniently also leave a trail of spilt coffee that can later be retraced)…

But nothing. I was eventually forced to conclude that it must really have been spirited off to another dimension; and shuffled along to the kitchen to make another.

Then, the inevitable: no sooner did I open the cupboard door to bring out a fresh mug… lo and behold! There it was, the original mug of coffee I had made earlier: steaming serenely away next to all the other empty cups, where I must have replaced it myself.

See? Lost things sometimes have a way of finding themselves when you least expect it. So take heart, Keith. Do not despair. Just remember the advice of a wise man who lived long ago (and whose birthday, coincidentally, is this very Wednesday): ‘Seek, and ye shall find’…

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