The House of Windsor is a crumbling relic.
The House of Representatives is 15 times as toxic as a septic tank.
The House of Fraser no longer has the cache it used to have.
The House of JB, however, is about to get a clear out. The cellar is so full of unwanted crockery, saucepans, a punch bag, a crinoline hoop, boxes of glasses, cake tins, and my old dungarees that looking for a light bulb could cause a serious injury. It’s not so much a dumping ground as a mausoleum to times past. A wooden coffee bean grinder my mother gave us for an anniversary present, a canteen of fake gold knives and forks my father gave us for an anniversary, two picnic baskets given for our wedding in 1988, champagne glasses that the old git used to make into a tower, Oh! how we squealed as the bubbles cascaded down, and a selection of scarves including my yellow and green woollen one from Cowley Hill junior school circa 1956.
How can I get rid of those?
There’s a set of old fashioned weighing scales, another wedding present, that were I to open up a greengrocers I could weigh a pound of potatoes and still have room for me brassicas. There are several coats on a hat stand including two anoraks from my BBC roving presenter days. A bag of bandages. And a bag of bags. The cellar speaks of our lives over forty five years. When we had the flat in Battersea we had juicers and the like, when we left Battersea those juicers and the like joined the other juicers next to the terracotta dishes we bought in Spain. There’s also a shopping trolley on wheels. When the Northerner bought it the dawter was young. She cried.
‘Why are you crying?’ he enquired of the snivelling child
‘It makes you look old.’
Now we don’t look old we are old.
On a wind up gramophone there are three beach blankets folded up . An orange one a yellow one and a sky blue one. They have pockets that filled with sand. They were spread on the beaches of Mallorca, The Amalfi Coast, Tunisia, they were laid out on the sands of Italy, Sardinia and Barnstable. How can I part with those?
In the right hand corner there’s a wooden drop leaf table. When the ‘oosbind and I first set up home we lived in a little flat in Wapping. On the Thames. A spit from Tower bridge. We bought thirties furniture and put up shelves. We had lots of vinyl and a fancy record player and a telly on a movable metal arm so we could change it’s orientation. Old Bill, an ex tar, lived on the ground floor. He cleaned and polished the little oak table until the grain shone. He put in new shiny hinges and we shipped it up the stairs to Number 82.
That table stood under the window where we would sit and watch The Queen Mother sail past on a big grey ship. We could here the bell clanging on the bouys on the river. That table held vases and a bowl of oranges to catch the sun. That table has been passed around various flats that the offspring have lived in. It was in the studio at the end of the garden, but now it stands on the step in the cellar with the big Christmas wreath, a dehydrator – which we never use – and a set of Swedish Christmas lights. It’s the corner where I iron so Old Bills’ table always has my back. How can I part with that?
But a new broom comes in to sweep away the old and if we dont clear the detritus of the past twenty years where will we put the next twenty?
In the attic, where I work, we have a biiiig table, made out of railway sleepers. It used to be down here but it was too big for the kitchen. It lived in Battersea for years, when we moved back I hired two men for £50 to take it up two flights of stairs to the top of the house. Thinking about the weight of it I should have given them twice that.
I got the man from the pine shop at the top of the town to come and have a look. He gave me £500 and I swapped it for a stove from Odense, a beautiful old Danish cylindrical stove that sits in the alcove we created. It heats us with eco coal and when I can be bothered it shines from a good polishing from old fashioned grate polish. As well as the stove I got the kitchen table on which I’m now writing. A pine table that has the ability to seat at least twelve. It’s a four legged Tardis. Ideally it sits 6 but over the years we have managed, with the help of piano stools and adjustable wooden stools, collapsable red chairs and a kick step to seat hoards of hungry eaters. Along with the stove and table I also got a hatstand. The one in the cellar. It’s a strange wooden piece with iron hooks and enough space to hang heavy coats, donkey jackets and my two anoraks from the BBC.
I mourned our big table so much I went into therapy and back to the pine shop.
‘I can’t imagine why you got rid of this?’ said the pine man.
So I gave him back his £500 and those railways sleepers returned to the cottage.
That blue and yellow anorak featured in the last film I did for dear old Aunty. Iceland was our location. I was interviewing a mystic who re-routed roads so that Elvin outcrops could be protected. The Icelanders embrace and protect their elementals. Wearing my blue and yellow anorak, a fur hat and pink skiing gloves we travelled over the frozen wastes to talk to the elves. I could neither see them or hear them but the mystic insisted I could. I saw little Icelandic ponies, and the hot springs, but I never saw an elf. I was given the keys to Hafnarfjördur, a beautiful fishing village and was on the front of the Icelandic newspaper, me in my bold blue and yellow anorak. My photographs were hung on the walls down the stairs to a fish restaurant that sold Icelandic fish dishes and healthy Schnapps. Years later my son-in-law took a sabbatical from the eldest daughter. He went as far away as he could. After a day out in the snow he was taken to a fish restaurant in a little village that sold lots of fishy titbits and healthy Schnapps. As he walked down the stairs he noticed a flash of blue on the walls And there, in all her glory, was his fucking
mother-in-law smiling into camera. How can I get rid of that coat?
But as the old git used to say when he played Dame in panto.
‘You can’t have everything after all where would you put it?’
To which I would cry
‘In the cellar.’ of course.
‘Oh! No you can’t.’
‘Oh!Yes I bloody can.’
Happy New Year