Standing at the kitchen sink in my gas mask and rubber gloves I’ve been thinking about the past. And about fire. The tranformational power of fire, for better or for worse. What it takes and what it leaves behind.
In my hands have been a selection of large Staffordshire figurines, cracked with heat and totally blacked out with soot. You’d be forgiven for thinking they were irredeemable until you discovered the cleansing power of chlorine and bleach mold spray. Slowly but surely these vast hideous Victorian decorative weirdnesses have been nurtured to a sort of mutant half-life – a state in which they are good enough to sell to someone who wants a load of vast Victorian tut by one of their fireplaces. I’ve pretty much got everything down from my attic, and with the clock ticking on getting it out of the flat, it’s time to stop being picky about absolute identification and cleaning to a high standard. It’s time to throw the lot in boxes, take it up north and tell them they can sell it in a job lot if they have to, just so long as it’s gone from here. They’ve been pulling at me too long, these things I have no real connection to.
Many of them have found new homes one by one. Scarf to Anne-May. Picture to Peter, resin to Emma, a few busts here and there and random gewgaws either given to or smashed by guests. Cows to Sandie. Piano to Gatsby. Plates to Christmas Carol. Scores of scores to Adrian at The Music Hall Theatre and Film Guild. A bunch of stuff to Phil Grainger left in the van. Patterns to Lou. Leopard to the NHM. Quite a lot of it is now in use around my flat for various decorative or ritualistic purposes…
In fact now I think about it I’ve achieved my initial aim of redistribution very well. My first instinct was just to save it from the tip, where it was being hurled by friendly Latvians.
I’ve also come to a much finer understanding of how to assess value across a wide spectrum of antiques. With confident forward progress now I can finish moving it on in less than a month, and get my space back. A year and a half after it came into my possession, sure. But better late than never. It took me time to find ways of taking the soot back, time to find the confidence, even time to find the right auctioneer.
It’s sad though, putting the collected bits of a life into boxes like this. It’s sad to think that this sort of thing will eventually happen to whatever nonsense we’ve accumulated. My altar is covered in things I’ve gathered together over decades that would be meaningless worthless junk to anybody but myself.
It’s doubly sad for me because, strewn among the boxes are sealed plastic bags which, when I open then, turn out to be redolent of my mother’s perfume and to be filled with, for instance, her jumpers. My dad’s stuff isn’t here, but here’s bits of mum, reminding me of the fleeting nature of the things – (to steal from my dyslexic friend) – of the things we “take for granite”. I’ll be wearing some lovely jumpers come winter.
The flat is chaos. Tomorrow I’ll load up the car. Then off to North again. It’ll be at least two trips to do the lot though. I’m trying to be organised and ordered about it. And I’m praying Kitcat doesn’t roll in at 3am, as there’s no floorspace left.