They have taken me from a place where there was gin to a place where there is no gin

From Sarah Caudwell‘s Thus Was Adonis Murdered, the first of her four Hilary Tamar mysteries. This post’s title phrase has echoed in me for years as a means of capturing declined situations.

Heathrow Airport.
Thursday afternoon.

Dearest Selena,

“Twelve adulteries, nine liaisons, sixty-four fornications and something approaching a rape” are required of me for your innocent entertainment. Well, you will have to be patient—the aeroplane is not designed to accommodate such adventures. I am beginning, however, as I mean to go on, and in accordance with your own instructions—that is to say, with an exactly contemporaneous account of everything that happens.

It occurs to me that to abide literally by this resolution may have a slightly inhibiting effect on the adulteries, liaisons, etc. In certain circumstances, therefore, I shall hope, as regards precise contemporaneity, for a measure of indulgence—which, since you are the most reasonable of women, I do not doubt to receive.

It is about an hour and a half since you left me at the airport. Things, since you left, have not gone well with me: they have taken me from a place where there was gin to a place where there is no gin, and from a place where I could smoke to a place where I cannot smoke. That is to say, from the departure lounge to the aeroplane. They have also taken my passport.


And it’s no use your saying, Selena, that I am a British subject and they can’t do that to me. They have done. It began with a difference of opinion about my suitcase; I had thought it was hand luggage, which I could keep with me; the stewardess, at the last moment, decided that it was not. Deferring to the expert view, I handed it over, and she pushed it down a sort of chute. Only as it slid, with irreversible momentum, into the bowels of the aircraft, did I remember that my passport is in the side pocket. I shall not see my passport again until I get my luggage back: which will be, if my memory of airport procedure is not at fault, on the other side of the Passport Control Barrier. We have the makings of an impasse.

Too late, too late, Selena, I recall your as always excellent advice, to keep my passport at all times in my handbag. Together with such other essential documents as my ticket, my traveller’s cheques, my Italian phrasebook, Ragwort’s Guide to Venice and my copy of this year’s Finance Act. Will any of these, do you think, be accepted as proof of my identity? Or am I doomed to be shuffled for ever between Venice and London, with occasional diversions, on account of administrative error, to Ankara and Bangkok?

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