Sunday, 14 October 2012

A narrow escape

The Golden Gate, San Francisco
A few days ago, I received a phone call delivering the piece of news we had been fearing: nothing of the data stored on our external hard drive could be recovered. Never mind the text files, the most important ones were safe elsewhere anyway, but losing the photos – especially the ones taken when travelling – felt such a disaster the thought almost brought tears into my eyes. Knowing I alone was to blame, I felt so vexed and miserable I was pleased my husband was out when I got the call. After a short moment of despair, I gathered myself and started to explore ways how to diminish the damage.

The Louis Vuitton building under renovation in Paris in May 2005
It goes without saying we are not the frivolous and careless kind. We do regularly make backups of the files we want to keep safe. However, as we have experienced at least three complete laptop crashes in the last five years or so, the latest less than a year ago, the hard drive we now lost happened to be at that moment the only device containing the complete set of our photo files since 2005 when we bought our first digital camera. Aren’t we pleased now we entered the digital photo era that late.

Notre Dame de Paris
Since the latest total crash, I continued to use the recovered laptop. He bought a new one for himself and a pocket-sized hard drive, both a few months ago. All the photo files since 2011 are safe on those. Nevertheless, I was crazy enough to insist I must be allowed the freedom to streamline our photo filing system and delete the duplicates, triplicates, etc, before uploading the older files on the new devices. The mishap took place while I was doing just that. I dropped the old hard drive when it was running, which is sure to have fatal consequences.

Unless otherwise stated, photos from Portoferraio, Island of Elba, Tuscan Archipelago:

Albergo l'Ape Elbana
We learnt at the recovery specialist’s you should never try to revive a hard drive that has stopped functioning to avoid further damage. Or I learnt, only too late, as he probably knew and wouldn’t have done my mistake. What was new to both of us was that in the current pocket-sized hard drives the arm is always resting away from the disk unlike in the older ones in which the read/write head may damage the disk if dropped even when the device is switched off.

Porto Azurro, Elba
Villa dei Mulini, Napoleon's residence in Portoferraio

I spent the rest of the day at my desk, which is not that uncommon. After all, what did I do all last winter but sit at my laptop (and knit a dozen pairs of socks). First, I hunted down all the USB memory sticks I might have used during recent years when transferring files from one place to another. By chance, photos of several family gatherings were still stored on those. This was because a couple of years ago I took some files to my sister whose computer had totally crashed.

Photos from Trastevere, Rome:

Then I checked the CDs. The most important of the oldest files – those of our wedding at home and honeymoon in Paris, a special holiday for nearly 20 of my closest ones in Tuscany when I turned 50 and his two-week trip to the USA with his son, all from seven years ago – were there, together with a few other folders of our oldest digital photos.

Photos from Tuscany:


View away from San Gimignano
My last hope for the rest of the travel files was his very old business laptop that has all these years served as a substitute every time a newer device of ours has crashed. It also kept me company in the evenings at my parents’ house during the nine months I stayed there practically every other week sitting the days at my mother’s bedside in the hospital, and later when I spent there every now and then a week or so sorting out the incredible amount of stuff accumulated at their place over the 40 years they lived there. Bingo, the dear little laptop contained more photo folders than I dared hope for!

Photos from Florence, Tuscany:

The Noah panel on the Gate of Paradise door, Battistero di San Giovanni (the Babtistry of St John)
Florentine coats of arms on the exterior of the Palazzo Vecchio
Practically all the family gatherings are now safe.  Those that aren’t can be recovered from a relative. Most of the travels abroad are also covered, at least partly. The only four holidays we have lost all photos of will be ‘repeated’ one fine day in the not too distant future, and with two better cameras than the one we had in those days. In fact, Madrid will be revisited both before and after the Rioja trip in about three weeks. Also, as we are so charmed with Italy, we are bound to travel to Siena and the Amalfi coast in future, too.

Photos from Siena, Tuscany:

As for the fourth one, I certainly hope my sister’s computer crashed earlier than we travelled together to Croatia a couple of years ago. If not, it is such a beautiful country full of great scenery and picturesque historical towns and villages – oh, I miss Trogir with the cutest little bell tower I ever saw – we’ll just have to make our next trip there a bit sooner to refresh the memories.

Photos from Pitigliano, Tuscany:

And what is the lesson of this narrow escape? As reluctant as I am to admit this, it must be that sometimes good enough would do. Surely, messed up files stored somewhere are far better than a perfect filing system in your head only. But most of all: never ever put all your eggs in one basket, not for a moment! Otherwise you might end up against a wall, a dead end with no way out or across. We very nearly did.

A very happy 50-year-old at her party in Tuscany.


  1. Thank you for your very informative comment on my TWA Flight Center post! And sorry to read about your laptop problems! Glad to hear though that you have recovered a lot of your photos elsewhere. It's a great opportunity to make new photo-memories :-)

    1. You're welcome Nellies. Proud to be a Finn, couldn't help it. I mentioned the Flight Center to my husband this morning and he reminded me he has actually travelled a few times through there when he used to visit the US on business. Thanks for having a look at my blog. I'll certainly continue popping on your.