Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Putting the House in Order



At the now sadly deleted Gatochy’s Blog, Marianna would occasionally post a photograph with the title ‘This is so spiritually me’. Well, this is So Spiritually Me, the kind of room I’ve fantasised about inhabiting since early childhood. It would ideally be deep in a cool forest, way up in the canopy, in perpetual rain. The rain drumming on the roof and sighing in the leaves outside the window highlights the warm, gold-lit cosiness within, where you curl your toes in unending delight at the sheer cuddlesome snuggliness of your life here.

- How do the fridge, cooker, shower and loo work under such circumstances?

- They just do, alright? Hear the ice tinkling in my scotch?

- Won’t you have the Devil’s own job to fight black mould, what with all that damp?

- I’m just dreaming, OK?

- How come the place doesn't just collapse into a festering swamp, if it never stops raining?

- Christ, can’t I have a bloody fantasy?

No, not for long. The practicalities keep intruding. The reality is that I live in a small flat where I am very pushed for space. Lots of time on my hands these days, so I'm tidying the place up. I can’t stand the sight of disorder at home. (Work’s different – I have no emotional investment in my desk.) I can’t relax unless every cushion is plumped and every bowl, plant and candlestick is standing just so in relation to every other bowl, plant and candlestick. However, the place is usually tidy to outward appearance only. Wherever I’ve lived, in every drawer and cupboard there has been shut away a thicket of old bills, receipts, USB cables, CD ROMS, candle stubs, board markers, nail clippers and dozens of those small, unnameable odds and sods that have fallen off other odds and sods, and that you don’t chuck because you think you might one day discover what they’re for. Yesterday I had a ruthless clear-out, filling two and a half bin-liners with old papers and junk. Now you can open the cupboards without unleashing an avalanche. As always after a clear-out, I’m worried in case I’ve pitched something of vital importance for my paltry savings or dreaded retirement, but it’s too late now.

Today I decided to get started on the book cases, as it had become almost impossible to locate anything easily. I’ve had to ditch dozens of books during dozens of moves over the last 30 years, and so now I am absolutely not going to part with a single one of the six hundred or so I’ve accumulated since I came back to England nearly seven years ago, despite the space they take up. Whilst trying to sort them into categories, I was amazed to find one hung onto but untouched since school; Molière’s Dom Juan, all sixth-formishly annotated in my huge insecure teenager’s writing, and one saved from Cambridge, von Kleist’s Die Marquise von O…, a tiny yellow bog-roll Reklam paperback. It’s in near mint condition thirty-five years after I bought it, and I assumed that must be because I had never read it – certainly I couldn’t tell you a thing about it. Flicking through, I saw I had put just one lone note in a margin: ‘all is not what it seems’. You could have had a rubber stamp made with that one on.

Why can't everybody be as clear as Russell?  
‘All is not what it seems’ Yeah, how true, I thought, looking at some of these volumes, bought with such good intentions. Someone glancing over my shelves might think, ‘cor, bet vis geezer en arf an egg ed’, but am I ever really going to read Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason? I’m not even tempted to open it, let alone absorb it. Certainly I don't have any intention of displaying such stuff to impress anybody - there’s never anybody here to impress, for a start. There’s so much I want to have read, but feel so bored when I actually start reading – you know, they’re just not funny... I’ll probably get more immediate benefit from Coping with a Mid-Life Crisis and Living with Your Hiatus Hernia than I will from Beyond Good and Evil. I always have at least three books in my briefcase to read on the train to work. My Alan Bennett books are wrinkled and fuzzy-edged, while Spinoza’s Ethics is crisp and sharp - in appearance, I mean - even though I‘ve had it longer. I just find it utterly unreadable, along with quite a lot else that sits ageing on these slowly buckling shelves.

Closer to home...
I live the life of a recluse these days, belatedly realising that I’m really much more gregarious than I want to admit. I’m also an addictive, ‘all-or-nothing’ person who has settled for ‘nothing’ since coming back to this country. I need to be able to talk with others about the stuff I read if it is to live for me, just as I argued, ate, breathed and slept language teaching in Greece for fifteen years.

Right, I’m starting on Coping with a Mid-Life Crisis straight away.

Stuff by the Godly and the Ungodly. And Karen Armstrong.


Realised too late that Homebase shelves are designed for nick-knacks, not books.
After a couple of years they start to sag. 



10 comments:

Bo said...

Come for a day in Oxford. I'm sure we'd get on: we appear to be the same person, after all. That opening fantasy is exactly---even down to the rain---one I've had since childhood.

Ikben said...

You must keep the OED on a different shelf.

Candy said...

I had the link to that house posted on Facebook for ages. The man who built it is a bit if as dork, but man I love that house. Could I pop over to yours and drop off "The Western Canon" (dear old 'arold Bloom - wot a larf!) "Shakespeare - The Interpretation of the Human" (Bloom as well, I declare)and a tome called "The Birth of the Modern"? Thanks ever so.....

Candy said...

PS http://greenbuildingelements.com/2008/12/01/hand-build-an-earth-sheltered-house-for-5000/

Candy said...

Or rather http://www.simondale.net/house/index.htm

Vilges Suola said...

@Mark, thanks a lot for the invite - I'm too stony to go anywhere at the moment other than the few trips I have already booked. Same person? I wish! I can't hold a candle to you intellectually. I reckon I'd be like your 'Olivia'...

@Ikben if I were given the complete OED in book form, I'd have to move out. My entire flat is smaller than most US teenagers' bedrooms.

@Candy - drop off a cannon??? Err, OK.

Candy said...

Only the Western Canon......

Cerdo said...

Thank you for following one of my 'blogs' a few weeks ago, I was about to follow yours but then you went on your hiatus, so I didn't want to start following if you hadn't planned to continue... which would have been a shame.

Fascinating view into your world and psyche here, and I enjoyed whetting and indulging my curiosity, and by seeing which books you had (much like when Mark showed us photos of his inner sanctum - though I have seen it for real now). I recognize a number of the titles and can see similarities between various titles in your collection and mine. Spooky !

Vilges Suola said...

@Cerdo, thank you very much for stopping by. Most impressed by your blog - I really enjoyed reading the stuff on Akhenaten. I think some of the better stuff on my blog is in the past, at least for the time being - hope you will check some of it out. S.

Cerdo said...

You're most welcome !

As for your blog, I'll have a peruse over the coming days. And yes, without a doubt there will be more articles on the 18th dynasty, in particular the Amarna era, to follow. Among the other assorted subjects that intrigue and inspire me...

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