Finding joy

I found Joy in the evening on the 26th of July, well, we found each other. She came down from the mountains wearing a bright orange cape. We stood admiring Lake Öschinensee.

“Magnifique”, I said.

“Beautiful”, replied Joy.

I have a poor ear for accents but even I could tell she was English, from Devon no less, and we got to chatting. Joy, in evidence perhaps of the power of nominative determinism, was very good fun to chat with and we could have stood there for hours talking about our travels, about unorthodox camping, or just marvelling at the view. Alas, it was getting into evening and Joy still needed to finish the descent and find somewhere to camp, and I still needed to climb a long way up to — and then descend from — The Hohtürli Pass (2778m, literally Little High Door).

We said our goodbyes but not before Joy gave me her number that we might keep in touch. As I set off upwards and she downwards I couldn’t suppress the urge to say “You’ve been a Joy!”. She’s probably heard the pun a million times but if so, she very kindly didn’t say so and laughed instead.

But Joy, or her phone number anyway, was lost when my (supposed-to-be-waterproof!) phone died a death not so many days later in the heaving rain, at night, in the dark. That was good fun. What can you do, but that’s all water under the screen now…

I went without a phone for a fair while, it was fun feeling my way through the Swiss Alps without an assistive gizmo — although navigating towns was more time consuming for sure. Eventually though, I found a second hand phone as I passed through Sargans on my way out of Switzerland. I was much relieved and very happy to discover that the dud phone had synced my new contacts (Joy + Jasmin) at some point before keeling over, so all was fine once more!

Alas, not. Clearly, when I took down Joy’s number I missed a digit and so I had an invalid number.

It’s a French number (+33). French numbers take the form 0x xx xx xx xx. The first digit is always 0, but that’s stripped when using the country code anyway. But wait, isn’t it a mobile number? I ’knew’ from my time in France the French mobile numbers begin 07, and there was no 7 at the beginning so maybe 7 is our missing digit. I very hopefully keyed that in but, no Joy. And apart from that I had no inkling where the missing digit belonged, nor what it was. Added to that, I’d also lost any confidence in whether it was a mobile number that Joy had been giving me and not perhaps a fixed line, so I was back to square one with the search. It could be any digit, anywhere, except for the first. I even started to doubt whether I’d gotten the country code right, had she said France?

Much time has passed since then and I’ve been much mournful about my lapse.

Walking along two days ago I had a eureka moment of a sort and had to stop and use a calculator to check, because I felt foolish for not thinking of it before. But of course! If one unknown digit is missing in a ten digit number there can only be 100 possible combinations. And it couldn’t be the first digit anyway because that would be a zero. So only 90 numbers to try. It would be a bit of an undertaking, I’d wait until I could make a list of the possible numbers and then try them one at a time, but at last I was pretty certain that I would be able to get in touch with Joy eventually.

Well, just today something completely obviated that effort. As I crossed the border into Italy at Brenner I overheard a French woman giving their number to someone, I guess my ears were primed for telephone number exchange events. They began with +33 but followed with a 6, strange I thought, are they giving out a landline? My curiosity got the better of me and in an idle moment I found my way to the very exciting Wikipedia page for the French telephone numbering plan.

Turns out ‘06’ numbers aren’t for fixed lines as I thought, that’s the 01-05 prefixes. ‘06’ and ‘07’ are both used for mobile numbers! So here we are, at last, today I was able to contact Joy.

Having found Joy again we got back up to speed right quick. She finished the green trail of the Swiss Via Alpina, it’s terminus is in Montreaux near Lac Laman, and she is now back home in France. Here’s a photo of us. (In which I missed focus slightly — clearly I was suffering from clumsy fingers on all fronts that day!)

So there, a little ode to Joy.

Incidentally, Ode to Joy is the only piece of music I’ve ever played on a piano. About four years ago Rose gave me a couple of very patient lessons on a piano left behind by the tenant we were replacing in a flat in Wellington, New Zealand. They had only left it behind temporarily though, so my lessons ended on that same ode.

And, as it turns out, Joy is a published author — (she kept that one quiet when we met! So next time you’re wandering what the heck I’m up to because I haven’t sent an update for two weeks, grab a copy of Invincible! by Joy Alway to tide you over. It’s just out, published by Pegasus. You can order it at most places that sell dead tree artefacts: Waterstones, Foyles, W.H. Smith, and direct from Pegasus.

Oh, and Joy reckons it was her error, that she didn’t say the 6, so I’m off the hook. Yippee!