Saturday, September 26, 2015

Temps perdu

One summer, in the 1970s, we nearly moved to France. A friend of my parents, Paul Brown (catchphrase: "how extraordinary!"), had bought a ruined château, Château d'Usson, in the Pyrenees, and fancied - and it does seem fanciful - that he would restore the château and start an artists' community there, with my parents as the first artists.

We travelled to France in the car, with a clandestine £400 of Paul's money hidden in the glove compartment, it being forbidden at that time to take such large sums of money across borders. I'd just read The Silver Sword and this gave me terrifying visions of arrest and incarceration for breaking the law. Then we spent a hot, beautiful summer there, camping on the hillside, which was long enough for my parents to realise that the enterprise was doomed, and for us to learn about blueberries and lizards, and to meet the locals who must have regarded us with considerable suspicion, but who seemed friendly, especially an old man who drove an ox-cart; and to build, with Sije (Paul's girlfriend, an energetic Dutchwoman much younger than him), a house made of grass sods - which once built crawled with ants and was uninhabitable.

Paul's utopian dream never came together and not long after we left at the end of that summer, he split with Sije and moved back to the UK to a converted mill in Yorkshire near Aysgarth Falls. The château is still described as ruined: clearly nothing was ever built there. Even though this experience was, at the time, overlaid with a fear of the unknown and of the sheer recklessness of the idea of leaving everything behind to live in France, it remains in my memory as an idyllic, happy summer.

John Wyndham wrote a short story, Random Quest, about a parallel universe created by a science experiment where the world has diverged and certain things that happened in one universe never happened in the other. Remembering Château d' Usson, a place that looms large in my memories of my childhood,  I think of myself in the parallel universe where my parents stayed at the end of the summer and we went to local schools and became, essentially, French. I'm still living in the mountains with dozens of children and my skin is as brown and wrinkled as a walnut.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

We hear the playback and it seems so long ago

"They send the heart police to put you under cardiac arrest
 And as they drag you through the door they tell you that you've failed the test"

Max, who has very clear ideas about what he likes to listen to, asked for "Video Killed the Radio Star" and I was prompted by that to listen to the Buggles' first album, The Age of Plastic, and muse about Trevor Horn and what an unloved visionary he seems to have been. My sister and I bought this album together in 1980 and, as we did with every precious record we bought, listened to it repeatedly. Listening to it now the songs are prescient but also incredibly sad - particularly "Elstree", which was Claire's favourite and always makes me think of her. ("Video Killed the Radio Star" sounds a little trite to me now, but maybe I've just heard it once too often.)

Working for the BBC may actually be a pretty decent job - I know at least one person who works there and is considered highly successful by everyone else we know - but there is something elegiac about this song.

I think of Trevor Horn as being in the category of people whose fame and consequent wealth brought them strange tragedy, not least by changing their lifestyles and/or political views - Rik Mayall and his quad bike; Bryan Ferry and his terrible reactionary children - but Trevor's tragedy was stranger than most: his son shot Trevor's wife, Jill Sinclair, with an air gun in 1994 and she died 8 years later, without ever speaking again.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Whatever hope is yours

Courage was mine, and I had mystery
Wisdom was mine, and I had mastery
From Wilfred Owen, Strange Meeting (1918)

I thought of these words this morning as I cycled past the University of Melbourne campus – something about the open bay windows of the well-appointed Victorian buildings of whatever Faculty it was reminded me very strongly of Glasgow and my first year there as an undergraduate (shown above, the School of Law). The poem is about war and the pity of war, but those lines are about the power of youth, if you can only grasp it.

I didn’t get the most out of university by any stretch – I lacked the confidence which age, or background, or a certain type of school can give you – and I didn’t do any of the things that were open to me and that I actually longed to do: write for the university newspaper, join the History Society, take up fencing and rowing, because I didn't dare. I clearly remember the sense of being an outsider staring through a window at something I had  no right to be part of  – a feeling that returned to me for a moment, in distilled form, this morning.

What is very clear to me is that background and schooling play an essential role in equipping children with confidence to go out into the world. Many of my classmates were from families of lawyers. They’d gone to certain Glasgow schools (out of 120, 15 from the same private school). While, after a couple of years, they may have begun to see this as a disadvantage of sorts, as those of us who came alone had to make friends and probably had a more interesting time of it in the end, at first it was a clear clique and another way for those of us with no connection to the law and to each other to feel excluded. I didn’t have any connections  to follow up for internships in my first summer break; I didn’t have the money to go away to Europe on holiday as many did; I didn’t even know how to write a CV (I cringe to remember that my very first CV was handwritten). I spent time with a tiny group of friends and my boyfriend. I moved in small circles.

My memories of this time are one reason why I’ve endowed a scholarship at the law school for a student from a disadvantaged background. A really important part of this is the offer of mentoring: on the assumption that without the patrician background, someone like me would be starting out with absolutely no knowledge of how to operate in the university environment. A wealthy background and an education that is paid for gift the recipient with much more than just education – there’s also a much better awareness of how to work the system. When people attack the idea of quotas for disadvantaged students they seem to be unaware of this: the real impact of “disadvantage” is not just measured in wealth but in confidence.

It took me at least 10 years from the day I started university to grow into confidence in myself. While that is what has made me who I am, and I don’t regret it, I do sometimes think of what I might have done then if I’d only had the courage.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

The really useful crew

When I first saw this video cruelly skewering the pretensions of underpass Goths, I was of course tempted to react with amused contempt. I hate Goths; who doesn't? People used to accuse me of being a Goth and I loathed that. Those po-faced, self-important, whey-faced losers! The style has remained amazingly unchanged for the last 30 years: the I-feel-so-sorry-for-myself pout, the over-egged black-is-how-I-feel-on-the-inside melodrama, the black lipstick, the stack heels ... Particularly in this clip, despite some decidedly non-canon outfits (neon? White?), the self-importance is quite overpowering. What's not to dislike? On the principle that the best way to attack someone is not to attack them, but to make fun of them, what better than a humiliating soundtrack comprising the theme fromThomas the Tank Engine to accompany their earnest, yet supremely self-conscious bopping?

But on reflection, I couldn't help feeling a bit sorry for them. A bunch of misfits, universally execrated wretches, chronically misunderstood, a cohort of loners and losers, having a bit of fun the only way they know how and expressing their feelings of angst under a bridge... Not really harming anyone, and maybe my contempt is just another version of the bullying they have experienced all their lives?

(Not you, Marilyn Manson - you saw all that and you wanted to make money out of pretending to be part of it.)

Maybe my contempt is just another manifestation of the epidemic of hate and polarisation that the Internet amplifies. So I have thought better of it. There are worse ways to spend your time - maybe "being in a gang called the Disciples, high on crack and toting a machine gun".

I've got to comment from a purely aesthetic point of view, however - that really is taking the concept of "dancing" and making it into something ugly.

(It is also an extremely funny video.)

Saturday, February 07, 2015

O whistle and I’ll come to you, my lad

The title of this post is one of the scariest ghost stories ever written, which was told to me as a child and which still haunts me. The content of this post is less elegant: the story of my encounter with a  thoroughly disagreeable person on my daily cycle to work.

I was reading yesterday about a troll’s response to someone whom he cruelly attacked by impersonating her dead father on Twitter (an act even more despicable than the foul remark that Julia Gillard’s father must have “died of shame”). He said that his reaction to her was not even about her feminist views; she just “seemed so happy in yourself, and I didn’t like that”.

My daily cycle route takes me along a cycle path for about 3km, then through a park for another 2km, on a very safe, wide road with a marked cycle path. Often I’m in a good mood: the sun is shining, the trees are green, I have a happy home life, and work is usually going well. On this occasion I was whistling to myself as I cycled along. At the lights, a cyclist in front of me (young-ish, dark haired, wearing one of those German infantry cycle helmets) turned around and gave me what I subsequently realized was a Hard Stare. I said “Good morning!” and thought no more of it. The lights changed, she cycled ahead and I continued to cycle along whistling to myself. At the next lights, however, she turned round and we had the following exchange:

Ms Malcontent (angrily): “Are you doing that deliberately just to be annoying? Because it’s really annoying”.

Me (surprised): “No – I was doing it because I was happy.”

Ms Malcontent (more angrily): “Well stop doing it because it’s really annoying”.

Me: “You must be very unhappy. I hope you don’t behave like this towards your work colleagues”.

Ms Malcontent (nastily): “Only the really annoying ones. Like YOU”.

Me: “When you get to work and tell your colleagues about this encounter, they’ll nod and smile and agree with you, but secretly they’ll be thinking ‘Oh My God, what’s wrong with her? She must be really unhappy.’ Because that’s what I think.”

Ms Malcontent: Nothing (already self-righteously cycling off).

I did examine my conscience after this encounter – was I whistling too loudly? Is it really annoying? But also asking myself: did this person have any right to say this to me so aggressively? I decided in the end not to take it personally; here I’d encountered someone very unhappy, with who knows what terrible things happening in her life, to the extent that she thought it was OK to be vilely rude to a stranger.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Waxing lyrical

When I lived in Hong Kong I had a long-standing relationship with a woman from Beijing called Sarah, to whom I entirely handed all responsibility for care of my eyebrows, as well as the waxing of my legs (if you are ill-acquainted with what this actually means, I won't offend delicate sensibilities by describing it; just imagine the sounds RRRIIPPPP and OUCH). I went to see Sarah once every six weeks or so over a period of 5 or 6 years; she came via recommendation from a colleague and was in turn recommended by me to countless friends. She worked in a rather odd beauty salon on the 9th floor of a commercial block in Central that had seen better days.

Considering its glossy rivals the salon itself was less than glamorous, with browning wallpaper decorated with random swatches of pot pourri, dinky ornaments strewn around the place and ancient peeling posters advertising long-unfashionable beauty treatments, owned by an eccentric  woman who took an uncomfortably prurient interest in the treatments, often barging in to talk to and inspect the work of her staff when, by complete coincidence, their clients were in various states of undress and/or arrayed in the awkward postures required by the waxing process. The unprepossessing surroundings and nosy owner were the price to be paid for being looked after by Sarah, a lovely, happy person who always seemed pleased to see her clients and chattered away in an endearing mix of English and Chinese. We developed a friendship and it was always a pleasure to see her. I used to advise her that if she collected all the hair she’d taken from my body over the years (and I probably went to see her at least 40 times), she would be able to make herself a little coat with it. (This is a truly revolting image, I know, but how we laughed!)

Since moving to Australia I’ve made some half-hearted attempts to find myself a new Sarah. It is a surprisingly intimate relationship however, and I’ve never felt comfortable with anyone else. Care of my eyebrows and the rest has, unfortunately, now passed to me and I look infinitely more shabby as a result.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Vicious cycle

There are some things you have to give up when you become a commuter cyclist, namely:

  •  Your dignity (especially when it rains): the words “high vis” and “elegance” would rarely appear in the same sentence;
  •  Any faith in the ability of car drivers to
a)      Drive;
b)      See anyone on a bike;
c)       Notice bike lanes; or
d)      Act sensibly when it’s raining.

Commuter drivers have already made a selfish decision, which is to take up space on the roads into the city in their cars with (in the overwhelming majority) only one person inside. Sitting inside their cars with the music on, in their own little self-satisfied micro-world, impatient at the lights, they seem to feel they are justified in taking any tiny shortcut that will cut down the length of their journey at the expense of others. This applies particularly to cyclists, against whom there seems to have been an increase in aggression, for which Australian shock jocks like Alan Jones must take some of the responsibility; but also, in their aggressive individualism, no driver likes to see cyclists sailing past them, which unfortunately is the norm in every city centre. My response to this is: every cyclist is one less car on the road, making your journey to work that bit shorter than if I had chosen to drive my car. You aren’t “stuck in traffic”, you ARE traffic. You are driving a vehicle that can kill me. And would you like to explain to my two year old son that you knocked me off my bike because you wanted to shave another two minutes off your journey? I’m looking at you, yes you, eg the driver of the car with the sticker on the back saying “DRIVE IT LIKE YOU STOLE IT”, who this morning went illegally into the left hand lane ahead of me and sat waiting at the lights, blocking the cycle path, in order to get an advantage over fellow drivers at the lights by accelerating past them into the micro-feeder lane (which certainly is not there for that purpose) at the other side of the junction. I hope you got the shock of your life when your car fishtailed alarmingly on the wet road. The cyclist in front of me, just a metre or so away from being hit, certainly did.
  • Sadly, some faith in fellow cyclists. I have to bite back a comment (“this is why drivers don’t respect us!”) when I see cyclists do all the things I know drivers hate:
a)      Riding through red lights;
b)      Riding on pavements; and generally
c)       Ignoring the road rules.

The fact is, although arguably drivers are collectively unreasonable anyway, and it makes no difference whether you follow the rules or disobey them, I see every cyclist who flouts the road rules as someone who is needlessly angering drivers and ultimately putting my life in danger. For the record, I always follow stop signs. I always try to use hand signals to show my intentions clearly in advance. I rarely go on the pavement unless I’m accompanying a child under 7 – and yes, it is legal then. I wear a bright white jacket and put my lights on. Yet I’ve been in situations where I’ve been beeped at by impatient drivers (I’m in front of you, wait to see what I am doing as you would with any vehicle) – or, frequently, almost side-swiped by someone coming past way too close (as Ken Lay says: if you can’t leave a metre between us, you are too close to pass).

Having said all that, my journey to work is mostly a delight: 30 minutes of cycling door to door, along a dedicated cycle path by the railway for almost half the journey, and then through Royal Park on a  wide road with plenty of space for everyone and usually enough time to get up some speed and freewheel down the road enjoying the green-ness of everything. Towards the end I have a few slightly hairy minutes at Flemington Roundabout (the bike lane goes one way and I want to go another) and some close encounters until I get to my office at the corner of Queen Street and Little Bourke; but it’s generally been a pretty good experience and to my knowledge it’s the fastest method door to door. If I’ve learned that the majority of drivers are fools, and many cyclists are too, these are things that might save my life one day.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Flat out

In the mid-1990s I was working at a small Scottish legal publisher in Edinburgh and struck up a friendship with the PA to the Managing Director. L was smart, funny and irreverent and we became close; I tried as much as I could to support her as she went through a few major life changes: buying a flat in Bruntsfield, splitting up with her boyfriend who had moved out, and finally losing her job with the company I worked for.

I was going through a few life changes of my own at the time: I’d split with my boyfriend of four years, G, which entailed moving out of the flat we shared, a very much un-mutual decision; I was trying to negotiate a move to the London office; a new relationship was in its very early stages. My life was in flux, too. L needed help with her mortgage and had room in her flat; somehow a plan quickly coalesced and I moved in with her.

The whole experience was an utter disaster. Perhaps understandably, L was a very angry and unhappy person at that time: she was upset about being made redundant, heartbroken about her boyfriend, anxious about finding a new job and worried about money. She made a disastrous pass at my ex when he came round to see me and I wasn’t there; he ended up effectively being blackmailed into building a platform bed for her (a baffling sequence of events that I never quite got to the bottom of). She railed against the company and her former boss. She hated having to have someone living with her under those circumstances, and I was about the worst person possible: I had split with G but there was a new man in the picture, who was phoning me late at night and sending me flowers, and I still worked for the company she’d just left; I was happy about my new relationship, had plans for the future, and was positive about getting there. The atmosphere within her flat was poisonous and I couldn’t wait to leave. I was stuck with paying the mortgage for my old flat with no rent coming in and beholden to decision making in London about when I could move to that office and what I would be doing there, so I had to stick it out. 

Weirdly, every time L and I bumped into each other outside that flat – even just down in the street – we got along as well as ever and she was a totally different person. Within the walls of her own flat, however, she was sullen, hostile, and aggressive.

We avoided each other as much as we could, but three particularly terrible episodes stick in my mind from my time there (a matter of months, perhaps four months at the most, but otherwise an eternity).

  • ·         Cats’ feet are so delicate. I broke a wine glass in L’s kitchen (plus ça change) and cleaned up as best as I could. Not well enough for L, however, who left me the following note next to a tissue containing a few remaining fragments she had managed to scrape up: “I found these. Be more careful, the cat’s feet are delicate and you could have seriously hurt her”.
  • ·         Spanish boys are all the same. In September I went on a wonderful holiday to Barcelona and Madrid with my then-best friend Rachael (about whom more some other time). My friend Campbell put me in touch with his sister Jill, who lives in Madrid, and we spent two weeks being escorted around by her friends; we stayed in Pablo’s flat in the centre of Madrid and Jill, Pablo and Jaime drove us on excursions to hidden restaurants and took us to their favourite tapas places. We gazed at Picassos and Miros in the Reina Sofia Museum and attended a packed house party where we learned to cook tortillas and got gloriously drunk on Cava. In Barcelona, we sat on the beach in the sunshine and ate morcilla and blue cheese rolls from a little hole in the wall cafe. Pablo gave us the keys to his flat as a parting gift. It was a perfect holiday. Back in rainy Edinburgh, when Lucy asked me how the holiday had been, I told her how kind the Spanish boys were to us and what a brilliant time we’d had. Her response? “Oh they probably just wanted to shag you. I lived in Spain, Spanish boys are all the same”. I went to work and cried.
  • ·         I’ve hurt my back. In an effort to ingratiate myself with L, I decided to help her get rid of the enormous, mouldering pile of old newspapers that sat in her hallway (at least 15 heavy bundles, most long pre-dating me). I had hired a terrible little car for J’s visit from London and after he had gone home, I humped every one of those bundles of newspapers from her second floor flat to the ground floor, into the back of the little car and off to the recycling centre at Bristo Square. L was at home while I was doing it and I’d thought we could do it together, perhaps even bonding over the task. But instead, she watched me coolly as I huffed and puffed and remarked “Oh, I would help, but I’ve hurt my back”. Did she thank me for completing this Herculean task? Did she hell.

Not long afterwards I got confirmation of my move to London. I left L’s flat at the earliest opportunity, departing for London and then Hong Kong. I’m still in touch with everyone else in this story bar one; but from that day to this I have never spoken to L again. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Laughter and forgetting

I met Ali when we were both 13, when I started at a new school. She was in my class and stood out almost straight away (in my memory she has different coloured eyes, like David Bowie, but that might be a flawed recollection). I always knew Ali was a good person, although she had a temper and an an unpredictable wildness about her too: shouting at Gay Ray Jackson, the art teacher, refusing to take off her parka indoors, cheeking him relentlessly until he lost his silly temper, silly man, and stupidly dragged her across the changing room and she fell and hit her head (I smugly advised him "Physical violence is not the answer", for which intolerable insubordination I was damn lucky not to be sideswiped myself). Ali had a gleam in her eye, and was the first girl to wear stretch jeans when they became fashionable in the early 1980s: she looked better in them than anyone. I thought she was beautiful, skinny but strong, and she never seemed to care what anyone thought. She wanted to know what other people were thinking, and she didn't really see barriers the way other people did; she was friendly towards me, although when I was excommunicated on a school trip to Switzerland by the two most popular girls in the class, the wave was too powerful to stand against and she was washed along like everyone else: she was a survivor as well. Never a great and steadfast friend of mine, then, but someone who I admired and who was funny and kind and probably, underneath, as confused as I was.

Ali left school earlier than the rest of us, because she could, and so she did, and drifted to the Highlands where she ended up marrying one of my brother's friends - someone who I still think of as a child, with no more recent memories to overlay the image; so perhaps that's why I find it almost impossible to visualise Ali's life during the 25 years since I last saw her, although I know she had one, with a marriage and children and a social circle.

My sister emailed me this morning to tell me that Ali died. I don't know how or why yet, but sitting at my desk at work properly thinking about her for the first time in years, and visualising her eyes and her smile and her slightly unkempt curls, I felt that sharp stab of loss which was, perhaps solipsistically, as much about me and my memories of the past as it was about her: the past remaking itself into a place where Ali will always be just as I remember her, beautiful and laughing.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Hearts and minds

When I first saw a picture from Marwencol I was so struck by it that I used it in a post. Incredibly, despite the attention it received and the awards it garnered, it never seemed to be available to rent or buy and it took almost three years since that post before it was available to download via Apple TV. We watched it last night and it was just as amazing as I had expected: a deeply personal and moving documentary about how someone recovering from severe brain injuries after a beating outside a pub creates his own little world based on 1940s Belgium, populates it with dolls and takes wonderful, naturalistic photographs of hundreds of little storylines he enacts with them., often apparently as a way of sublimating his feelings of anger, despair or lack of control. There is no ironic distance in his photographs: he is part of the world he has created and it is part of his. As a result the photographs he takes are like nothing else you've ever seen and a slightly sad story becomes meaningful and even beautiful.  Highly recommended.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

In paradisum

It's a truism I'm sure, but since having a baby and because my child is a boy, I have become much more sensitive to depictions of terrible things happening to boys - so much so that, although I used to love horror movies, D and I couldn't bring ourselves to watch the whole of the recent horror movie Sinister (and not, or not just, because Ethan Hawke's character is profoundly dislikeable), nor the documentary Paradise Lost (about a terrible miscarriage of justice following child murders in West Memphis), just because children were depicted as being hurt (in the latter case, of course, they actually were hurt). My sister had mentioned this in respect of her two boys and I think I was sceptical; no more though, and I am officially a marshmallow when it comes to this kind of pain.

This weakness, if that is what it is, also holds true when it comes to things of beauty, and the sound of the voices of boy choristers now not only brings intimations of my childhood, and the forever lovely memory of my mum in the kitchen making mince pies on Christmas Eve with the pristine sweet sound of the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols on the radio: it also makes me think of the innocence of my beautiful boy. This movement from Fauré's Requiem is so pure it brings tears to the eyes.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Portrait of the artist

Living, as I do, a very long way away from my family, I've become quite reliant on Skype to see them - Max has been getting to know his maternal grandparents mainly in pixels. My dad is something of a latecomer but has embraced it enthusiastically; so much so that he felt emboldened to remark to me recently "You look like you've been eating too many chocolates". It's purely by way of revenge for this, and for no other reason, that I now reveal that I was puzzled by his Skype photo which showed him from the side, looking into the near distance, and not particularly heroically.

When I asked him about it he said "Oh, it said 'put your profile photo here'". So he dutifully (and presumably with some difficulty) snapped a photo of his own profile and uploaded it.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Blackberry Picking

Late August, given heavy rain and sun
for a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it
leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
sent us out with milk-cans, pea-tins, jam-pots
where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
we trekked and picked until the cans were full,
until the tinkling bottom had been covered
with green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
with thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard's.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
the fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn't fair
that all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they'd keep, knew they would not.

Seamus Heaney, 1939-2013

Monday, August 12, 2013

As you lay in awe on the bedroom floor

I was very keen on the Smiths in my teens and bought every record. I plastered pictures of Morrissey, carefully cut from the NME, all over my bedroom door. I saw them live at the Edinburgh Playhouse in 1986, just before The Queen is Dead came out, and on the day of its release I went to Virgin in Princes Street, Edinburgh, to buy it. It had just been delivered and my copy came straight from the box – had it been unpacked they would have noticed it and claimed it for themselves because, as I realised when I examined it in Princes Street Gardens, heart bursting with excitement, my copy had been signed by Morrissey in gold pen. It’s hard to describe the elation I felt and this was my most treasured possession for a long time.

I left the UK for Hong Kong in January 2003 leaving behind the house I shared with J, which even then I instinctively knew I’d never enter again, although there was no set date on Hong Kong and I possibly thought we’d be back in the UK after two or three years. In the attic of that house in North London went all the books, clothes, records, personal papers and photographs for which there was no room in our two suitcases. From time to time I’d wake in the night and feel anxious about what was in the attic. What if the tenants raked through it? What if the house burnt down? 

But ultimately I clearly didn’t care enough about any of it to go back to retrieve it on any of my visits to the UK and so there it all lay for nearly 10 years until the house was sold last year. I asked the estate agent to arrange for the stuff in the attic to be cleared out and put in storage – something that was surprisingly difficult to do from so many miles away since they wanted me to be there in person to sign for the storage unit. The man with a van the estate agent found said there was “a lot of rubbish” in the attic so I blithely gave him carte blanche to throw out anything that met that description.  

What I should have done was specify what I did want to keep; because in a  small cold storage unit in West London, courtesy of the kind and wholly last-minute emergency assistance of my former father-in-law, I found a lot of books I will never read, some I will, and very little else. Amongst the things that I know I’ll miss: hundreds of photographs from the days before digital; an old jewellery box full of adolescent treasures; all of my teenage diaries (read ‘em and weep!); a first pressing of Tigermilk by Belle & Sebastian; and my signed copy of The Queen is Dead. And it’s nobody’s fault but my own.

Friday, August 09, 2013