Wednesday 22 September 2010


How are you about throwing stuff away? I thought so: just as bad as I am. In a day or so I shall be a year older. Somewhere, deep down in my inner world, I have realised that less is now more. I have started to look around me with new/old eyes and realised that sentiment, which I would really like to call nostalgia, has filled my cupboards and drawers with stuff. Stuff that I shall never use or need again. Ah, but there's the rub. I might use or need it again. In other words, my storage capacity and my inner world are stuffed (sorry) with 'in cases'. I have been without help in the house for a while - too long, since you ask - so have been in to corners normally left to the regard of others. For instance, in my living room, next to a china cupboard, stands a small, hand-held vacuum cleaner. ( I have difficulty carrying the grown-up one from its downstairs hideyhole so the little one is essential if it is I who must do the sweeping). For aeons, it has been lying in a corner, by day hidden partly by a curtain and hidden not at all when the curtains are closed. This morning, I looked for a way to put it inside the cupboard. The cupboard is filled with china. When I say china, I mean porcelain, old-fashioned, thin beautiful porcelain. There are cups and saucers and small matching plates, and big matching plates on which to serve thin bread and butter, and scones and home-made fruit cake. I don't serve those things. What to do? The china belonged to my Mother and some of it to her Mother. My young will be about as interested in having it as they would be in inheriting a penny-farthing bicycle: less. At least the bicycle might be sold for a profit. While admitting the exquisite pleasure of drinking from fine porcelain, they would ask themselves - I having left the purlieu of answering questions - where on earth they would keep the damn stuff. But I cannot throw it, nor give it for that matter, away. It is part of who I am. It tells a story. It is a given, a proof of living. It is the history without which one would have to doubt one's existence.

By this time, since the bottom shelf was the one under contemplation, my poor back was aching. I could persevere, move the china out and push the cleaner in, or I could leave the status quo until some help was available again. The answer was to leave things as they were, in due course to re-assign the china without relinquishing it and then hide the vacuum cleaner. I have an outfit that is 27 years old. It consists of a short, straight grey skirt and a grey, long jacket with a faux waistcoat sewn in. (Nonsense, you can picture it perfectly well). The skirt won't go round my waist, even if my elderly ankles made wearing a skirt a good look. The jacket has had shoulder pads in, shoulder pads out and various other up-dating ruses. It still looks wrong and would not go over anything other than its own non-fitting skirt no matter how hard I closed my eyes. Throw it in to the charity box? I couldn't. It is actually part of the wall-paper. It would be like moving house to relegate it. Oh Dear!.. What to do. And if that were the only example..... I don't really live an evening life anymore. Why do I need all those going-out clothes? I don't. Oxfam? OK, one of these days, but not to-day. Yesterday, I needed my pressure cooker. Good Heavens, does anyone still use such a thing in this day and age? No; not even war-time brought -up me. that's why it was 'stuff' I had managed to get rid of, ages ago. But I wanted to make chicken soup quickly and, somehow, the microwave and chicken soup felt like an oxymoron. So a quiet simmer it was and no time to cool it and remove the fat before offering it to the invalid for whom it had been made. Why is it I/we throw away only those things for which we quickly find we do have an urgent need after all.? I am never going to need four black evening bags in varying degrees of loveliness. Why didnt I put them in the pressure cooker and throw them out together? Life is a conundrum. I am reminded of the wisdom of a dear departed friend of which I may have told before: on left-over food " Put it in the freezer until you don't feel guilty about throwing it out." It's the guilt which needs throwing out. C u b4 long

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Liz, I have been doing the concept of how the past affects the present with my Cultural Studies students and we have read several academic texts on the subject but one has captured the essence so beautifully as your sentence "It is the history without which one would have to doubt one's existence". I will quote you in our next class.