The location of my sister’s holiday house was unclear. It could have been North Northumberland, London or Birmingham. Whatever its location, it was much bigger than I imagined.
My school friend Phil soon lost count of how many beds had been fitted into all the nooks and crannies: a feat of Ikea-inspired white laminate flat-pack design. I explained that sleeping space was important to the family for the occasions when the cousins all came to stay at the same time.
Then we stumbled across a secret door in the hallway. It opened onto a staircase that led down to a luxurious dark wood-panelled basement that was furnished with antiques – I recognised a huge burgundy velvet wingback armchair from my childhood home – with deep red and blue patterned hand-crafted Victorian rugs strewn across the floor. Beyond it was a bedroom complete with a glorious four-poster bed. I guessed that this secret basement conversion must have been created as a private refuge by my uncle before he died.
We returned upstairs to the kitchen where my sister told us that she would later use her secret telephone to text us the location of dinner. (Her phone was secret because she banned everyone else from taking their mobiles on holiday. This was meant to give everyone a proper break from everyday super-connectivity.)
The message about dinner came through when Phil and I were in the shopping mall at Birmingham New Street station (having just bumped into small two men who reminded us that they had been in our class at school when we were about eleven). My sister summoned us to a restaurant somewhere in Cheshire. I asked the people standing next to us what they thought of the dinner location. They agreed with me: it would be a long and complicated journey to reach this venue by train.
Then I noticed that the screen of my iPhone was cracked, that its blue protective missing, and that it was a much earlier model than mine (2, or possibly even 1?)… Someone had stolen my iPhone6 from my handbag and replaced it with this ancient piece of junk! I also noticed that my passport had disappeared.
I jostled with a couple of prostitutes to get into a filthy public phone box from where I tried to ring my parents to ask them how to get out of this mess. I was in such a panic that I mixed up their current and previous telephone numbers. I eventually remembered the whole ‘new’ number. However, this made little difference to my plight because nobody was there to answer my call.