Monday, 21 May 2012

Out with the Old

We've been having a bit of a clear out at the little house on the prairie. This, let me tell you, was very long overdue. There is a saying, 'Nature abhors a vacuum' and we appeared to have lived by that adage for all our 28 year marriage. We have a number of outbuildings which are, effectively, stuffed with things that we can't quite bear to throw away but can't find a use for either. Add to this, the fact that my beloved's family (and a few friends and acquaintances along the way) also use our outbuildings for storage when they move. They say things like, "Just for a few weeks till we're sorted" and then leave their Christmas decorations, filing cabinets, African wooden heads and pots and pans with us for years.

When my beloved went on his annual trip to Las Vegas in January, this was a great opportunity for me to clean the kitchen cupboards out - yes, all of them, even the ones where you have to stand on a chair and you can still barely reach to the back. Because we both owned houses when we joined forces all those years ago, we had full sets of crockery, cutlery, pans etc, etc most of which we still own. So I piled it all up in my office whilst I decided on a plan of action.

Then granny decided that it was time I took ownership of various items from my teenage bedroom including some very nice china horses which I had saved up for as a child and some very much loved stuffed toys. All this I added to the pile in the office.

Then I started on the bedrooms of my own absent children, the ones who have flown the nest but left loads of stuff behind and seem equally reluctant to take it all with them (it would only be more stuff for my beloved to help them to move from time to time when they migrate from one flat to another). And, of course, the frightfully grown-up teenagers who have all sorts of things they have grown out of. Once I started looking at their favourite books (I can't get rid of Mog and Bunny because I read it so many times or The Queen's Knickers, come to that) it took me on so many sentimental journeys that progress ground almost completely to a halt. And the stuff under the stairs including several wetsuits, flippers, masks and snorkels. You can imagine it was by now a significant pile and that's not counting the books and clothes and CDs and vast amount of sporting equipment and, well, just stuff.

A couple of weeks ago, my beloved (very, very reluctantly) and I went to recce a car boot sale in a nearby town. After trundling round the stalls, my beloved pronounced: "Their tat is even worse than our tat!" so we decided to give it a go. Not the china horses which are selling quite nicely on Ebay at rather good prices, but pretty much all the rest. Joined by some like-minded friends who were, with us, raising money for a venture to Vietnam for some students from our school, we set off in a convoy on Sunday morning and lined up in a row in the appointed field.

Well, their tat might have been worse than our tat, but we probably had the wrong sort of tat for the most part. The eight-place setting china tea and dinner service (including vegetable dishes) from my beloved's first home generated no interest whatsoever. Likewise the very nice clothes from my various slender daughters (because slender was in short supply in the female form amongst the buyers). And no-one wanted the huge array of sports equipment we had amassed between us ("It's like Intersport!") covering football, cricket, swimming, hockey, tennis and a mile, end to end, of golf clubs. CDs, however, flew off the stall but clearly reading is not a popular pastime - I must have taken at least 100 books of which we sold about five. Shouting encouragingly, "Read a book! Expand your mind!" may not have helped, of course.

On a positive note, however, the African head has gone to a new home as has the old laundry basket, lots of electric cable and various knick-knacks and some dishes for snails (the sort you eat) which I successfully remarketed as egg dishes! And eventually, we packed up a ridiculous amount of stuff but not quite as much as we had started with and made our way home, in profit but not vastly and with a new perspective on selling. My beloved pointed out to me that I would have been fired on The Apprentice a few weeks ago when they did the 'selling tat' challenge. I am rubbish at it.

So this morning, remaining tat has been transferred out of the van and into the car and accepted gratefully by various charity shops apart from a few bits that we will sell online. And if you want to buy... old pans, golf clubs, wetsuits, complete eight-place setting dinner and tea service and the last remaining dishes for snails... er, eggs, I can tell you where I delivered them.

Friday, 4 May 2012

One of these Nights - Sixteen Years Ago

Sixteen years ago this week, I was in the Special Care Baby Unit at Leeds General Infirmary. Two babies, colour-coded by their blankets, were in cots next to my bed. One, the blue one, was the biggest baby on the ward by some margin whilst his sister, wearing an enormous hat to stop heat escaping from her very tiny head and with a tube up her nose to feed her, weighed only just over half what her brother weighed - a couple of bags of sugar, no more. They were our miracles.

Scroll on a few days and we arrived back at the little house on the prairie which had, for their arrival, been turned upside down - literally. Their first nursery was the dining room (now our sitting room) as we had been advised that there would be significantly less running up and down stairs if their world was contained on the ground floor. Two of everything babywise takes up a lot of space!

We were joined for the first few weeks by a maternity nurse, Sister R, who had once been the supremo of Harrogate's only maternity hospital and where number 1 child and I had spent a few formative days - formative for her, reformative for me whilst I started to shrink back to the old me. Anyway Sister R had a lovely, old-fashioned approach to babies and routine and she quickly licked us into shape. She used to stay for three or four nights a week giving us desperate parents a few much-needed nights off to recover - and yes, I know we were very lucky to have her. Once in residence, she would spend the evening in front of the television with us with the remote control gripped vice-like in her hand, insisting (as if we had the energy to argue) that we watch medical programmes (yes, me the most squeamish person in the world and these were 'the bloodier - the better' variety), nature programmes (nature programmes with blood even better) and football - the only sport we never watch in this house. Anyway aside from the television, she got bottle production on a mass scale organised and dealt with 3 and 4 in the middle of the night whilst my beloved and I slept on.

When she left, we were ready for her to go and for us to face up to the task ahead. This involved my beloved staying up till late to do the last feed at any sort of sociable hour, then me getting up in the wee small hours to feed the one that woke up first, then waking up the second one (whether he or she wanted to be woken or not) for their feed. Sometimes, in tiredness and confusion, I wasn't sure whether I had fed one or both or perhaps three of them but we and they survived. I watched, in chunks in no particular order, The Commitments and, towards the end, the Olympics in Atlanta, which featured all those sports which only true aficionados, people who work night shifts (me) and insomniacs watch - women's weightlifting and synchronised swimming to name but two. Incidentally, anyone who thinks synchronised swimming and synchronised diving are in the same skill-category are way off beam. Synchronised diving is brilliant, brave and exciting and the stuff in the pool with the make-up and weird nose things is not, in my view, any more a sport than dominoes!

What was most wonderful was how the older two fell immediately in love with the twins. They helped brilliantly, changed nappies enthusiastically and were generally the proudest parents - apart from their own! And that relationship is still magic today and when they are all at home together - the messiest, loudest and happiest times happen. When war breaks out in this house, as it sometimes does, we need to remember how we are all lights in each other's lives.

When the twins were born in the early and very antisocial hours on May 3rd 1996, the song on the radio in the delivery suite was played by the Eagles. One of These Nights might have been appropriate and Take It Easy would have been nice and I can't, sixteen years on, remember what it was but this one is my favourite so here's the link: