The things we leave behind

“We are outlasted by our telephone bills…”

Funny to think so. But I know it now. From my uncle. From my mum. There’s still things of dad’s to be sorted as I’m so rarely in The Isle of Man.

This morning I took myself over the river to Battersea on the request of one of my oldest friends. His mother died recently. She had been ill for some time.

I remember her well. I remember her imperious and poised, baffling the other adults with her perfect manners. I never saw her through the course of the long illness that eventually helped her off, so I will always remember her as that. Vigorous. Beautiful. Tough. And kind to me. She always supported my friendship with her son.

He lives far away, but the probate office needs certain documents. I had to look for them. “While you’re there, have a look for things that we might be able to take to Lots Road Auctions.” “One thing at a time,” I tell him. I can’t be flooded in this sort of thing. Looking through documents is a very intimate thing, and no matter how close we were in life she would never have imagined it would be me in there doing it.

I have a very quick eye in reading. Despite trying to switch off my curiosity, I knew one of the documents was handwritten so I was having to cast my eye over much of her correspondence. All this life. All these conflicts and victories. Much of it so carefully stored, but now with no real purpose – with no hand at the tiller. Stories with a vanished hero. Artifacts connected to a lost culture that I was part of.

A wax impression of a key in an envelope. Letters to loved ones and ones not so loved anymore. I’ve done this enough now that I’m better at it, but all the triggers still fire and I think of the inevitable march of time and the ones that are gone from my life. And I worry about the state of my flat if I were to vanish tomorrow. Somebody would have a hell of a job. I don’t even really know what’s in here myself and I’m the one that orchestrated this bazaar.

I was careful and thoughtful, and inevitably happened on some items that might fetch a price as I rummaged. I restrained myself from photographing things though, or starting on the route that often leads to disappointment. Value shifts with the generations and your grandparents best crockery is usually only good for a Greek wedding. But on a first visit it was enough – too much – to confront the reality of yet another death of an energy I coincided with. Fare forward, brittle bright forthright light.

The morning having been spent in contemplative rummaging for my old friend, I rushed to the Southbank for a production meeting near Blackfriars. A little story we are making. A new creative partnership and one that I think might bear fruit. A few hours were spent in bandying ideas and remembering that I also make theatre. Then I picked up a van in New Cross. While I’m in this life thing I’m gonna keep it varied. Off to Stratford tomorrow. I’m sure I’ll be back at that sad flat again before long, as there’s much to do and I might just be the correct energy to do it honestly and kindly. I took a photo of her empty chair, address book next to it of course and an unopened delivery box of flowers. I’m sad. We don’t get long.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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