A couple of weeks ago I presented a bit of a problem I was facing in the office, from where a pair of Nike sneakers had gone missing at roughly the same time as an identical pair turned up on the feet of our cleaner.
I would like to thank all those who offered comments and advice, even those that were either a direct piss-take, or totally unhelpful. I did not in the end decide to challenge the cleaner to a race down the corridor to determine the ownership status of the shoes, entertaining though that might have been; nor did I think it a good idea to try the Cinderella test with the shoes.
Something I have learned from this whole business is that if I need advice on a "dilly of a pickle" as one correspondent put it, paraphrasing the great Ned Flanders, I am better off turning to total strangers on the internet than friends and family.
The quality of advice and general level of helpfulness received from people I share nothing more with than a deranged loyalty to a sports team - such as that here in this thread on Patsfans.com - was higher than people I have shared a house, office, school or college with.
The dilemma also found its way into the FT, courtesy of business agony aunt and star columnist Lucy Kellaway. Lucy published her advice in the newspaper this morning, and very good it is too. Unfortunately her advice is not available online, but the advice of her correspondents is.
Some of the comments and advice I received in return helped to clarify some of the issues in my mind, other pieces raised some interesting thoughts that hadn't crossed my mind at all.
Ultimately I have chosen to take the one course of action I originally described as not an option: Do nothing. And the reason for this is that I have no evidence whatsoever that the cleaner took the shoes, although I am 99 per cent sure he did. And if he did, I don't know the circumstances - perhaps I did leave them by my bin. I do not want to take the risk of the guy getting fired if there is even the slightest doubt in my mind.
Lucy Kellaway puts it best: "Do nothing at all. This is the best option, though the problem then becomes what to do with your nasty, lurking suspicion. I suggest you simply squash it and let your inner liberal (who doesn't want to get the guy in trouble) have free rein."
I never leave my iPod or laptop here, although the RM Williams boots that caused me to buy the comfortable sneakers in the first place are still under the desk, from where I'm hoping somebody relieves me of them.
It seemed sadly inevitable that on about day two of the coverage of the Virginia Tech shootings, the murderer would be labelled a "loner". And so it comes to pass. Only loners, it seems, commit such crimes. Perhaps in the overwhelming numbers of cases, they do. But whenever I hear that phrase rolled out, I suspect it heralds a review of events that allows us to come to the comforting conclusion that there is nothing wrong with society at large, it is merely the work of a deranged individual. And consequently no action is taken.
I love Donna Leon
There are few writers who can get away with writing a crime novel in which there is no apparent crime until the 170th page of a 330 page book. But Donna Leon succeeds magnificently in Through a Glass Darkly, her most recent release in paperback.
Her detective, the wonderfully unhurried Commissario Guido Brunetti, gets round to nothing much of anything in the opening chapters of this book, but it is of no consequence. What we get is a guided tour of Venice in spring, an introduction to the inner workings of the "fornaces", the famous glass-making factories of Murano as well as the usual gastronomic tour de force from Brunetti's wife, Paola.
It is charming, delightful stuff, as smooth as a good Brunello and every bit as enjoyable. Eventually Leon tuns the heat up and we are presented with a superb tale of greed, corruption and tragedy which foretells of an ecological catastrophe for Venice and its Laguna and builds beautifully to its uniquely Italian crescendo.
If you haven't tried Donna Leon before, give her a go. I cannot recommend her books highly enough.