Sunday, October 28, 2007

I'll Pack Next Weekend, Honest

For someone who's meant to be packing up her flat ready for the Big Move, I'm having a lovely time merrily filling it with more stuff.

Here are some things that have found their way into the flat over the past few days:

1. A 1940s wardrobe that I bought ten years ago, and which has been in the possession of my brother and the lovely L for the past five years or so. Inside it's divided into wood and glass compartments with neat enamel labels reading 'Shirts', 'Hats', 'Ties', 'Pyjamas', and so on. 'There's one section that leads to Narnia,' said my brother, matter of factly, 'but I got bored of that one. I prefer the 'Hats' section now.'

2. Two office chairs, one orthopaedic, one not.

3. A large, old, seaman's chest (the wood and metal sort, not a torso, that would be horrible), of the sort that, if my life were a Susan Cooper novel, would probably yield up an ancient brass telescope case with a rolled up map inside with obscure instructions written in Old English, pointing to the location of the resting place of the Holy Grail. (I've checked though, and it only has air fresheners in it.)

4. Two more Pantone mugs. I already had the orange one, and now I have the lime green and the red one* as well. These are the greatest mugs ever, and I will not stop until I have them ALL.


5. A black silk 50s-style dress with a big bow on it, for the awards bash on Thursday. In my mind I look like Audrey Hepburn in it. Then I remember that Audrey Hepburn wasn't five feet tall with a scruffy blonde mop, and that I probably look more like a dwarf version of Jilly Goolden.

6. A second-hand copy of The Fields Beneath, by Gillian Tindall, which I had a copy of before and then lost**. It's the most engaging and beautifully written bit of social history you're ever likely to read. It's a very female take on history: eschewing dates and battles and timelines for a more organic view of how London's ancient past can still be sensed and detected and felt in the present.

(In fact if Tim is still on his mission to read more stuff by female writers, then I highly recommend this, and I'm sure Chuffy! will back me up.)

Here's an extract:
In this sense, the past can be said to be still there, not just existing in the minds of those who seek it, but actually, physically, still present. The town is a palimpsest: the statement it makes in each era is engraved over the only partially-effaced traces of previous statements.

Freud used the image of the ancient city as a metaphor for the Unconscious: he envisaged a city 'in which nothing that has once come into existence will have passed away and all of the earlier phases of development continue to exist alongside the latest ones.' He was talking about the Unconscious of one individual, but perhaps the city is a more obvious metaphor for Jung's Collective Unconscious of the race: we may know nothing about our nineteenth- or seventeenth- or fourteenth-century predecessors on the patch of territory we call ours, but their ideas and actions have shaped our habitat and hence our attitudes as well.

In Blake's poetic vision 'everything exists' for ever: experience is total and cumulative, nothing, not one hair, one particle of dust, can pass away. And in point of fact he was right. Matter is hard to destroy totally, even though it may be transformed by time and violence out of all recognition. In the pulverised rubble lying below modern buildings is the sediment of mediaeval and pre-mediaeval brick and stone [...] Many of our London gardens owe their rich topsoil to manure from long forgotten horses and cattle, and vegetable refuse from meals unimaginably remote in time. [...]

Seeing the past is not a matter of waving a magic wand. It is much more a matter of wielding a spade or pick, of tracing routes - and hence roots - on old maps, of reading the browned ink and even fainter pencil scrawl of preserved documents, whose own edges are often crumbling away into a powder, themselves joining the fur, flesh and faeces to which they testify.

I think it's probably because of this book, which is a social history of Kentish Town in London, that the four years I spent living there seem somehow more meaningful than any time I've ever spent elsewhere.

7. A green shield bug, which has been put out of the window twice, but somehow keeps finding its way back in. Which is amazingly tenacious, seeing as I live three floors up.

In other news, today Mr BC and I met Billy and Llewtrah in the street. Imagine that, eh, just running randomly into other bloggers in the real world! It was as though the very fabric of space and time had been rent, and creatures from the Otherworld had crossed into this one.

It was raining, though, so we didn't chat for long.


* I have been gently reminded that the red one is not in fact mine, and that I must curb my mug-lust lest in my delirious state I also falsely claim ownership of this one.

** It would have been very fitting if the one I bought yesterday in the Oxfam bookshop in Turnham Green Terrace had turned out to be my original, lost copy, but sadly this was not the case.

8 comments:

Annie said...

Tsk. West London cliquiness & favouritism... What have you got against East London bloggers?

I feel kind of sad that you are moving out of London, even though it makes no odds in blogland. Still, good luck with the move...

rach said...

Don't get me started on Pantone mugs, it took all my restraint to only buy one...

Tim Footman said...

Oh God... Pantone mugs... want several... but don't they just scream "I work in the meeja"?

And I have one of those labelled wardrobes. I think it may be a little older, because it has a tiny shelf labelled "STUDS" and I think integral collars were the norm by the '40s. Although fashion historians may overrule me.

Marsha Klein said...

Ooh, the Brunel blue plaque mug - the perfect Christmas present for the hard-to-buy-for civil engineer in my life! Thanks for the link.

Mugs are fab.

Billy said...

Hello again, it was a very pleasant surprise to bump into you. I'm actually surprised that hasn't happened before.

I also like the Pantone mugs and Turnham Green Oxfam.

Arabella said...

Is the bow on the dress detachable?
Mind how you go in the loo, if not.

rivergirlie said...

do you get green shield bugs with green shield stamps?

Jilly Goolden Fan Club said...

All Hail Jilly Goolden!