The millionaires, the thief, the nice man, and his dog

I had an interesting experience last night, when I was attending a fundraising dinner. Despite the fact I was probably one of the least wealthy people in the room, some useless thief decided my bag was indeed the one to steal. I can see how they got confused – tatty clutch bags from BHS probably yield riches, like, all the time. Millionaires, thieves – it was like something from the Pink Panther. So I did the normal things you do when your bag is stolen: sulk, argue with your phone provider, and worry about someone breaking into your house and using your name and taking over your life….you know.


The plot thickened today when I got a voicemail at work from ‘the dog handler’ (his superhero nom-de-plume of choice?). This one-man-and-his-dog crime-fighting team (TV show idea?) found items from my bag scattered down the street at 2am, and I’d randomly put some of my work business cards into it. Today ‘the dog handler’ plus dog brought my things round to my office. He told me it was a pity he’d been too late to set the dog on the villain and I had to concur.

The connection to writing here is it got me thinking about ideas and where they come from. In big cities we all live quite separate lives side by side, until incidents like this force us together in unexpected ways. I remember reading a book about writing where the author said that when something annoying or bad happened to her she tried to think how to make it into a story. You could make a good story out of the theft and the fact that some total stranger now has all my pictures and music (sob).

Most of my novel ideas come from dreams I have. It could even just be an image that I’m left with on waking, that somehow grows into a whole story. For my first novel, it was a dream about a young girl lying in bed in a holiday house, with shadows moving over the wall as someone came into the room. For the second it was a dream I had of a woman crying hysterically outside a courtroom because her boyfriend had just been sent to prison. These fragments are now finished novels, hundreds of scribbly, ink-stained pages stuffed into folders here and there. The next book I write is also based on a dream of people walking through an old shut-up house on a hot day. The way it develops is often surprising and I have no idea where the rest of the ideas come from!

My bag and keys have now been restored to me, and maybe I’ll one day write something about the situation – every cloud? But if you see a thief wearing Benefit pink lipgloss and singing along to Girls Aloud on an iPhone, it might be time to call…’the handler’.  

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