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In Bruges
by Michelle Walshe

An early morning in January, Charleroi train station, Belgium, in a brain fog induced by budget airline scheduling, bleary eyed, headachy, vaguely nauseous and freezing cold I paid for a train ticket and shoved my wallet back into the top of my handbag. I remember him bumping into me as I boarded the train. Then I noticed the open zip on the bag. My heart sank. I wasn’t carrying much cash. I know better. Despite my lapse of concentration, I am an experienced traveler. It was the wallet. It was red leather, from Paris. I had photos of my deceased father in it, of my nieces and nephews, my credit cards, loyalty cards, membership cards, all the cards it takes to live a modern life! It was soft, elegant and well…French! And it was gone.

I walked up and down the train hoping he had discarded it. I reported it, in halting French, to the conductor. And then I sat in disbelief as the Belgian countryside rolled by. My first stop in beautiful Bruges, the Venice of the North, was not the Clock Tower or the canals or the Chocolate Factory, but the police station. Paperwork, telephone calls, signatures. No sign of the wallet.

My mother, who has an instinct that fortune tellers would die for, reckoned the wallet would turn up. I scoffed the idea, it was gone. But, she was right. About a week after returning home I received an email from Frederique in Belgium who had found my wallet on the train, looked through it, found my business card and emailed me to get my postal address. One week later, my red wallet, photos, cards, everything – except the cash – arrived in the post! I sent her Irish chocolates, whiskey, and a big card to say thank you.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: The wallet featured in the story. I bought it in Paris in 2010.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michelle Walshe is a teacher in Dublin, on career break, traveling, reading, writing, playing tennis and eating! Basically, doing what she does on the weekends, only full time, for the moment! Find a recent article at irishtimes.com.