It’s funny how you can walk around Bath and get the feeling you’re in a parallel universe.
Whenever you step outside your front door, a bizarre distortion field catches you unawares and makes you start to question what is real and what isn’t.
Hordes of Jane Austen fans stroll elegantly down Milsom Street in their Regency costumes, making the casual visitor think for a moment that they’ve been spirited back 200 years to a simpler and more graceful age.
The illusion is broken, though, when the assembled Janeites start glugging bottled water and nattering into mobile phones.
“I have missed the post chaise and shall not be home for luncheon,” they say to whoever it is they’re talking to. “Pray keep the roast goose a-warming until my return.”
Things get even weirder as you go further out from the city centre. For reasons too complicated to go into here, you’re waiting to get into town from the far pavilions of Kelston Road when a ghastly realisation creeps up on you – you’ve entered an alternative reality in which they’ve invented bus stops, but not the buses to stop at them. No wonder everyone else is driving.
And even in the safety of your own home, things are not quite what they seem. Instead of birthday presents, you get cards from DHL telling you to collect your goodies from an industrial estate on the other side of Almondsbury.
Is Almondsbury even a real place? Given its close proximity to another purportedly real place called Catbrain, we venture to suggest not.
At the centre of this whirlpool of unreality, though, is a force of nature so disruptive to the peace and tranquility of normal life that we shudder to mention it within the pages of a family newspaper.
Yes, dear reader, we are talking about the Man Drawer.
What, you may ask, is one of them? Well, in a bygone age, young ladies had Bottom Drawers in which to collect necessities for their future married life. Maybe they still do.
In a similar way, us middle-aged chaps have Man Drawers, in which we gather all we need to cope with our current life.
The trouble is, though, that Man Drawers tend to be affected by the reality distortion field we were discussing earlier. Yes, we were.
When you consider things from a rational perspective, you do not actually need a diary (unused) from 2010. Or one from 2009. Or indeed one from 2007. But there they are, clogging up the Man Drawer.
Even less do you need the headphones from a mobile phone you recycled two years ago. But there they are in the Man Drawer, entwined with the USB cable from the iPod that stopped working just before you happened to buy a brand new one (convenient or what?)
Clamps from the garage; old bars of chocolate; six kinds of propelling pencil lead; a bulging tube of glue: all are there because you thought they Might Come In Useful.
None of them ever will. But the Man Drawer takes them and twists them into a new and frightening reality. Ignore it at your peril.