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Journal of nicholas (3034)

Sunday February 12, 2006
05:22 PM

Time travel in my bedroom

[ #28657 ]

My parents are away currently, so I've been round cleaning up my room there. This is quite an open arrangement - when they're not there, they don't pop in randomly and ask awkward questions about why I can't throw away X, Y or Z that they hadn't realised I had been safely storing under the bed, at the back of the cupboard, or somewhere else buried.

This is all brought about by the fact that it's possible that they might move out soon, and made more urgent because they want my (old) bed back, to convert it back into a sofa. Potential disaster to avert here, given the amount of stuff one can successfully conceal under a bed.

We moved there in 1976, and they haven't moved since. We took our phone number with us, and only moved round the corner from the house they bought when they got married, and I pass the old house (69 Portland Road) whenever I walk from my place to theirs. Add to this the fact that my father's parents lived in the same house from 1938 until when they died, my mother's parents last move was in 1966 or so, and both sets of grandparents lived within walking distance of here, and I'm not surprised that I'm not totally at ease with the idea of my parents moving at all.

In fact, it's all rather strange and unsettling being there without them, because I guess my subconscious is comparing it to how I last saw both grandparents' houses, after they died, after they were cleared(*), and after what the new owners did to them. (Particularly my mother's parents house, which had an attach of neauveu riche, with a loft conversion, one garage converted to a room with a lantern roof, a conservatory the full width of the back of the house, the sloping lawn that I used to roll down as a child converted to a terrace with a retaining wall, a direct path to the front door laid across the lawn, and the bush in the lawn that I nicknamed "the jungle" grubbed out.)

So priority one was to "destroy the evidence" beneath the bed. Fortunately it turns out that there is much paper than can now be reused or recycled, so I can demonstrate a big heap of things that are disposed of, which should distract from the amount of stuff that I spirit away. Some of the paper was filed in various plastic bags. Not quite "history of the world in carrier bags", but definitely some extinct examples there. "I travel on Network Southeast" reflects a restructuring of British Rail several iterations old, whereas "Allders" is a bit more recent, only going bust last year. Some things never change ("Robert Dyas the ironmonger" still has the same logo), but others... There was a bag with a first generation Abbeylink logo. Predates Banco Santander taking over the Abbey National ("Nobody expects the Spanish Acquisition" **). Predates "Lucky" rebranding the Abbey National as "Abbey" in invisible pastel colours and can't-afford-all-the-ink typeface. Predates the "yes, red does go with green" corporate make-over(***). Must be about 15 years old. Still, got to be ruthless - I'm going to throw it away as it's half not there now.

I found other strange stuff. I have a copy of the Times from May 29th 1953. I have no idea why. It's 3 days before the coronation, so seems a strange one to keep. My father thinks that it came from his father, but we've no idea why he kept it. I found stuff I'd lost, specifically a copy of a single piano score of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue which I'd been looking for years ago. I found more personal stuff - my mother's father's accountancy certificate from 1933, my mother's mother's teaching qualification and several references, and a copy of their marriage certificate. I also found colour 3 photos, probably 15 years old, of my father, my mother's mother and my mother's father. Each sitting, smiling, probably taken in my mother's parents' garden. I can look at the picture of my mother's mother no problem. But for some reason I don't understand looking at the picture of my grandfather upsets me considerably. He was the last of my grandparents to die, almost 10 years ago, but the only one not to die suddenly. In fact, he'd been going downhill for a long time, having had a stroke 7 or 8 years earlier, before the first of my grandparents died. I suspect that that was part of it - watching him going downhill, watching him struggling to remember things that he knew he once knew, and worst of all watching him frustrated each day, because as far as he could remember he "knew" he'd been fine only the day before. And the futility of his last few years - he didn't feel up to attending his wife's funeral, visiting him in a care home, effectively incarcerated until dead, and little things like knowing that when the house was cleared, selling something as significant as his piano, which I remember him improvising on, equated to just 2 weeks of care home fees.

* Therein lies another story and a half. "Hunt the deed box", "interesting" second world war artifacts, and bonfires that caused a magnolia tree to start to bloom in January.

** Genuinely it was a surprise to all.

*** Apparently people pay marketing consultants for this! Real money!! Positive amounts of it!!!

Problem between chair and keyboard now solved - should read "Allders" not "Argos"

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