Funnily enough, my jewellery was never recovered

Share
Related Topics
IT COULD happen to anyone. You pack your bags in a hurry, flinging your jewellery into a holdall with your dirty washing, the dress you picked up at an incredible discount on Fifth Avenue and a present for your mum. When you get home, you notice something funny about your luggage. You rip the bag open in a panic to find - oh my God. Someone's nicked the necklace your mother-in-law gave you when you got married.

Not that you liked it much, but everyone knows how awkward mothers-in- law can be and this one isn't exactly overflowing with good will towards her sons' wives. The saving grace, however, is that you're travelling British Airways. You get on the phone and within minutes the FBI is on the case, hunting down the teenage baggage handler who supposedly sneaked the rocks out of your luggage.

There's a press conference, coincidentally generating more publicity for your Budgie the Helicopter books, and one of your aides issues a statement on your behalf. You are, it says, ''totally overwhelmed by the incredible effort of the security forces and British Airways in the UK and US". Everyone, except the alleged thief, goes away happy.

I HAVE a personal interest in this story because, three years ago, a virtually identical misfortune happened to me. I'd been to Florence for a weekend and I checked my luggage in at the British Airways desk at Pisa Airport; when I got home that evening, I discovered my bag had been opened and my jewellery was missing. Like the Duchess (or her staff) I leapt to the phone. The baggage handlers for the flight were probably still on duty. I told a British Airways security man at Heathrow who said he'd get on to his opposite number in Pisa at once.

I wasn't expecting British Airways to call in the carabinieri but I was startled when I called the following day for a progress report, to discover they'd done absolutely zilch. A female member of staff loftily informed me that, under the terms of the Warsaw Convention, the airline wasn't responsible for valuables placed in the hold. When I explained that we weren't talking diamond tiaras here her scorn knew no bounds. ''Oh well, if you buy your jewellery at Next...,'' she said with withering contempt.

I pointed out that the missing items actually came from a jeweller in Siena which makes inexpensive but beautiful copies of Etruscan ear-rings and it would cost me several hundred pounds to go back and replace them. She was unmoved and I eventually elicited from her the information that British Airways has a customer relations department whose phone number she wasn't prepared to give out, raising the intriguing question of how its staff actually relates to the airline's customers. Through sheer persistence I got its fax number and weeks later after sending a series of increasingly angry faxes I got a cheque from British Airways to the full value of the stolen jewellery.

I am not, of course, suggesting that the royal family gets special treatment. No doubt there is a clause in the Warsaw Convention covering thefts from people with titles and British Airways has no choice but to follow it to the letter, including ''hours of extensive interviews'' with staff who were on duty at the time. But if the problem arises again, I'm going to explain that while I usually travel incognita - wanting no fuss, you understand - I'm really the Countess of Chiswick. And if they don't get on the case pronto, my staff will have no alternative but to issue a strongly worded press statement on my behalf.

TITLED or not, everyone needs to be valued, as the Princess of Wales pointed out in her speech to the homeless this week. Especially, as she didn't go on to say, when they've married into a cold, dysfunctional family. It's a pity that Diana's one natural ally among the royals died in 1962, the year after she was born, and the two women were never able to compare notes. I'm thinking of the Duke of Edinburgh's fascinating aunt, Princess Marie Bonaparte, whose unhappy marriage to Prince George of Greece turned her into an enthusiastic follower of Freud.

Princess Marie was Napoleon's great-grandniece and an heiress in her own right. A suitable husband had to be found but her union with Prince George was disastrous. Reproaching him years later for the manner in which he consummated their marriage, Marie wrote, ''You took me that night in a short, brutal gesture, as if forcing yourself, and apologised, 'I hate it as much as you do but we must if you want children.' ''

Affairs with various men, including the French prime minister, Aristide Briand, failed to satisfy her and she became obsessed with the unusual notion that her frigidity had a physical cause, namely too great a distance between her clitoris and her vagina. Freud, who analysed her in Vienna, tried unsuccessfully to talk her out of having operations to cure this supposed defect. Princess Marie went on to develop this theme and others in an article Les deux frigidites de la femme and a book, Female Sexuality. I don't know if it's still in print but, given their shared interest in psychotherapy, perhaps someone should give the Princess of Wales a copy for Christmas.

I HESITATED in front of the meat counter at Marks & Spencerin the King's Road this week, vacillating for a few seconds over whether I should buy beef. Not that I think the link between BSE and CJD has been proved but it's hard to shake off the habit of not believing a word this government says. Ministers assure us British beef is safe, ergo it must be dodgy. In the end, I compromised. I'm still eating beef myself but I've stopped feeding it to my animals.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Peter Mandelson first resigned from the cabinet on 23 December 1998  

2015's dim-sum index has too many courses

John Rentoul
 

I'm just as merry without a drink, thank you

Fiona Sturges
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015