I thought it through before I started.
Over my coffee I decided what had to be done. More than doers we are deciders, once the decision is made the doing is easy.
So I climbed the stairs to the attic and so begun the big cull.
Emptied out the electric blanket and wooly throws from inside the chest; which also serves as a kind of alter to my creativity. On top of the pine trunk are feathers and crystals, a lamp and a huge Begonia Rex, propagated from one plant that belonged to the mother of a friend who was one of the first female voices on Radio 4 when it was the Home Service. There’s a little green bean bag frog that was given to me when I was 16 by my first boyfriend. He also bought me a copper saucepan and a wooden ladder back chair which sits next to the wooden chest. As well as gifts from dead people there are candles, stones, a torn £5 note and a free standing angel with a 65th birthday badge pinned to her lacy frock.
Next to the cupboard which was heaving with hand made leather dresses, velvet tops, embroidered ponchos and fanciful dungarees, one in blue velvet, one with chains and a purple velvet tube that is strapless, shapeless and merely stepped into then tied round the top, all outfits from my days as a working girl. Shakeel, the most divine dressmaker, stitched them with love so I don’t want to get rid. Those days, however, are long gone – not because I decided they were to come to an end – but because even though age hasn’t withered me or custom cloyed my infinite variety – the powers that be disagreed and unanimously decreed that my infinite variety was most certainly withered. Those garments are not for day wear, they were fashioned for cameras and functions, ceremonies and ‘do’s’ so I gently folded each sequinned confection and laid them gently into the trunk in the event that I may need them when I’m wheeled out sometime in my 80’s.
There are now piles of clothes for selling, a bag of clothes to help the aged, and 38 thousand hangers. There’s one leather glove waiting to find it’s partner. It belonged to a Swedish woman called Monica Skottkärra, which literally means Wheelbarrow. Ms wheelbarrow married our oldest friend. She worked as an air traffic controller for the Swedish military. They met, and after a night of spirited ‘samlag’, they overslept. The whole of the Swedish airforce was grounded until said Wheelbarrow got to the airport. Had the Swedish airforce known that Wheelbarrow’s new husband had gone to prison rather than do military service, they may have thought twice before performing a fly past over the town hall as they tied the knot. Monica Engström neé Wheelbarrow gave me her Swedish airforce gloves on a cold frosty day in Malmö, they fit beautifully I just need to find the other one.
That lone leather glove may be amongst the shoes. Given that my weight oscillated from size ‘Oh! to Oh!bese, the two constants were my dainty size 4 feet. So I have purple shoes, red shoes, green shoes and pink. Brown sequinned shoes, black patent leather boots, orange brocade bootees and a pair of baby blue peep-toe patent leather stilettos with hearts punched into the souls. They were designed by a Royal College of Art graduate, I bought them from a sex shop in Soho, they were standing on the counter next to a box of transparent g-strings. Of course I’ll never, ever wear any of them again, that’s the shoes not the g-strings, but how can I get rid of beaded winkle-picker sling backs or red cowboy boots that I bought from the horses mouth in Spain?
The shoes have now been moved to the cupboard with the coats. Amongst too many there’s a hand made brown leather coat – held together with silver duct tape – with horn buttons which my father nicked for my mother in 1940. Two leather coats from the 60’s that my father sold on his stall in Walthamstow market, a purple corduroy coat that the ‘oosbind bought me in Edinburgh, Aunty Becky’s lambswool fur coat which is now outlawed, and a soft yellow leather coat made by Yves Saint Laurent – it’s the colour of his house in Marrakech – I bought it from The Red Cross charity shop on the Kings Road. The old shoe cupboard is now filled with 50 years of diaries and journals. I’m not sure why I keep them, when I die maybe the dawter will want to know exactly what happened on her birthday in 1987. I write a journal everyday and keep valentine cards, photos, pressed flowers. I have tickets from Soller railway in Mallorca, programmes from my the dawters’ concerts, reviews of the old git, food bills from restaurants in Venice, and various faded memories which are of no use to anybody.
Love letters from the old git, tiny baby cardigans, our wedding cards, a selection of certificates, leather wallets, bus tickets, a box of old spectacles, moments in a life. The passing of time packed in a blue suitcase. Who knew that bagging up the past could make the present so much clearer, for as Covid lingers new memories have to be made differently, homespun, on your very own doorstep, treasured moments that will eventually get bagged up to make space for more that will eventually get bagged up to make space…..
‘Nostalgia is not what it used to be.’