Like corkscrews and matches and rubberbands, tin openers wash around the world in a never-ending ownerless wave of usefulness – at least, I thought so until last Thursday, when I arrived home at midnight, grabbed a tin of beans, and found the tin opener had vanished.

Having ransacked the kitchen I realised the strange truth. My husband – who’d gone not on a camping trip, as you might assume, but simply to Sweden – had taken the tin opener with him.

For long dangerous minutes, I hacked at the tin with various sharp objects: knives, corkscrews, scissors. The only damage was to my hand, and I needed that to write with the next day. So I put away the undented beans and took my bleeding hand to bed.

I’ve always been a supporter of inner-city living. I dislike what suburban sprawl has done to our lifestyles: the need to get in a car to buy food, the dwindling of public transport systems, the fearsome emptiness of low-density residential areas where street corners are nothing but bleak and windy bends in the road. But on Thursday, as I hurried around my inner-city neighbourhood hunting for a tin opener, I was forced to acknowledge that mundane essentials are not always found in small inner-city shops like my Asian supermarket (plenty of chopsticks, no tin openers), my dirty, cheap and cosy superette (plenty of tins, no tin openers), and the late-night drugstore (fly swats, coat hangers – hell, even eggshell-removers! – but nothing with which to release beans from a tin).

In my protein-deprived state, I fell quickly into despair. My options seemed few and unappealing. A) Buy a car and start shopping at the sort of superstores I despise. B) Change my nature and become the sort of person who soaks beans for 24 hours and slow-cooks them with garlic rather than a person who runs in the door at midnight and is eating within five minutes. C) Wait three weeks for my husband and the tin opener to return.

Trudging homewards, minus a tin opener but well stocked with easily rippable packets of biscuits, sweets, and chips, I consoled myself with positive thinking. On the bright side, I had learnt a new German word, Dosenöffner – even if I didn’t possess one.

It was a warm night and outside my local bar several of my friends were leaning on the electrical cable box that doubles as a table. We drank beer and ate all my chips. I told tales of Dosenöffner Despondency. The barman searched for a tin opener in the grimy kitchen and came up empty-handed.

On Friday I caught a tram to a huge shopping mall in a suburb, entered the sort of gleaming shop I normally avoid, found a plethora of tin openers, and bought one. When I got home I opened the mailbox and found two more tin openers: one posted from Sweden, one hand-delivered by a friend from last night’s bar session. Suddenly life sprang open. I was Ali Baba armed with three Open Sesames, and I would have a banquet of beans to celebrate.