People say that moving house is one of the top five stressful life-events, and I think they’re right. Unfortunately, quite soon after the move my 90 year old mother-in-law fell at home and broke two bones. One way and another I’m rather discombobulated so I hope you can forgive the long gap between posts. As an apology, here’s a totally irrelevant photo of something that amused me when I was in Oxford. How bizarre it is that the same world can contain war, poverty, oppression, natural disasters – and a knitted lamp-post cosy in Oxford.
Moving house provides so many opportunities for a control-freak to write endless lists. Things to pack, what to pack with what, what to leave out, what goes where at the other end, who to notify of change of address, even lists of lists. It helps me to feel that life isn’t spinning out of control. It goes something like this:
List Write List A Write List B Write List C Write List of lists…hang on a minute that’s what this one is…if I keep going round this loop then everything is under control…
My lists keep the world in orbit and remind the sun to come up in the morning. My in-tray normally has 3 tiers, which are ‘Urgent’, ‘Soon’, and ‘Manyana’. Unfortunately now they’re all muddled up in a heap labelled ‘Oh my God what’s in there?’ Worse, the to-do list went missing. Woe is me! The dark side threatens to engulf the world! How can the forces of chaos be held back without my list? Look, there it was on the desk. And then suddenly there it wasn’t.
There has been an ongoing debate for years as to what all the ‘stuff’ that filled our cupboards actually consists of, and I categorically denied that most of it was mine. However, packing and labelling all our combined worldly goods has officially confirmed that I am a hoarder. I’m not sure what the relative proportions of boxes says about me, except that when I say I’ve got nothing to wear I’m probably making an accurate statement of fact.
Clothes: One wardrobe rail, one box, two suitcases, one box of shoes. Walking, water-sports, travel, camping: 9 boxes Books: 21 boxes Art equipment and textile ‘stuff’: 20 boxes Noo-Noos: Undisclosed number (classified information).
Ah yes, I’ll tell you about Noo-noos. My brother and his family have a collective name for all those things that have no particular purpose in life except to be put on a shelf and gather dust. They call them Nicky-Nacky-Noo-Noos, or Noo-Noos for short. It came as quite a surprise to see how many boxes of Noo-Noos there were. For example I have a great weakness for ceramics – I love the feel of handling hand-made studio pottery, particularly stone-ware. Then there are all those pretty things, dangly things, brightly coloured things, childhood treasures and things that I’ll keep for ever because I love the person who gave them to me (like the little hand-made pottery fox that my God-mother made for my birthday when I was very small). And since childhood I’ve loved collections of things – coloured glass, little boxes, my mother’s antique porcelain, shells, antique ivory sewing things, old glass lace bobbins, and things that are just – tiny. All the stuff that my husband looks at and asks in a bewildered tone of voice: ‘What’s it for?’ In a parallel life I am a higher spiritual being who rises above attachment to material things. But in real life I have a hearty disrespect for people who tell you to de-clutter your life, and I love my ‘stuff’. I definitely don’t do ‘minimalism! Maybe you don’t know what I’m talking about? Perhaps you’re the kind of person who has wonderful half-empty cupboards with spare space? In which case I admire you but it puzzles me!
My father had a wonderful way of categorising things in his workshop at work. Four drawers in a filing cabinet were labelled in turn: ‘Bits, Bobs, Odds, Sods’. Noo-Noos are decorative, whereas Bits, Bobs, Odds and Sods are more functional. My paperwork on the other hand is filed in boxes labelled ‘Useful Things’, ‘Boring Things’, ‘Nice Things’ and ‘Nasty Things’. The great thing about this system is that I don’t accidentally stumble across a nasty thing like a will while I’m looking for a nice thing like an exhibition brochure. Things can be re-categorised – for example an insurance claim is ‘Nasty’ while it still has a sting to it, but becomes just ‘Boring’ once it is dealt with and forgotten. Roger sometimes says he thinks he’ll find himself neatly folded and filed, and asks whether he’d be classified as ‘Useful’ or ‘Nice’. I reassure him that it definitely wouldn’t be ‘Boring’ or ‘Nasty’! Some of the more urgent ‘Boring’ and ‘Useful’ things are beginning to get organised in the new house, but sadly most of the Noo-noos and books are still packed. I hear them tapping on the boxes with little cries of ‘let us out’ but I have to ignore them for now.
If you were wondering why there’s no art to show you in this post, then this photo may help explain it. I’m looking forward to a time when I can start decorating, get the Noo-noos and books out of boxes, start designing the garden, dig some flower-beds, and get into the boxes of art stuff. Last weekend I had a lovely day with textile friends and we are starting to think about a joint exhibition, probably now in Spring 2016. Some time between now and then I look forward to being reunited with my art and textile stuff and getting back into the creative process. As a child I was fully trained in the art of bread-and-butter-before-cake. The cake is in front of me on the plate now, so I’m looking forward to being allowed to eat it.