Fordyce Maxwell: Trying to find something in a hurry I feel like Tommy Cooper’s hat routine

THERE was a time when I could leave the house for work, or play, with the minimum of worldly goods about my person – no spectacles, sunglasses, mobile phone, house keys or watch.

Now, I frequently have all five with me, and when insanity beckons, I add pen, notebook and binoculars.

When trying to switch hurriedly between spectacles and sunglasses, notebook and camera, pen and binoculars, receiving or sending texts from the mobile phone, not forgetting the bottle of water and bag of fruit, I feel like Tommy Cooper doing his hat routine.

Sign up to our Opinion newsletter

Sign up to our Opinion newsletter

You know the one – Cooper telling a story with the aid of a different hat, pulled in quick succession from a box, for each character. The sketch ends in confusion – as when I try to send a text from the camera or wonder why print is blurred when I’m wearing sunglasses instead of spectacles.

There probably are now cameras that can send text. Certainly almost every mobile phone can take photographs. I do have prescription sunglasses for reading, but would still need ordinary ones for the long view. I could do without pen and notebook, but would feel more exposed than going without a wallet or wristwatch. On holiday the rucksack also carries sweaters and/or anoraks – always be prepared to dress in layers – hats, tissues, sticking plasters, painkillers, maps and guidebook.

It has a few other things, such as compass and whistle. Not usually necessary in a city, but sometimes missed when converting the rucksack from hill walking to holiday mode. I had removed the survival bag and torch, but even so it is not easy to find precisely what I want to extract.

It’s the zip factor. It’s not a fancy rucksack, but has a number of compartments, each with a zip, some of which are close together. That’s how I missed the compass and whistle. That’s why when trying to find and extract something in a hurry the old “More haste, less speed” motto springs to mind.

As does the Rowan Atkinson TV sketch where our hero, in multi-zipped leather jacket and trousers, is trying to find the right zip to open to relieve himself. Finally, the one on a top jacket pocket works.

Finding the camera at the fifth zip opened I knew how Atkinson’s character felt. But by that time the photographic opportunity had long gone. «