Do You Have a Motley Collection?
My Miscellaneous Marvels
'Cash In the Attic'? Trash More Like!
"What do you collect?" A friend asked me recently.
"Not a lot," was the rather uninteresting reply I came up with but after she'd gone I realised how wrong I was...
My house is a cornucopia of clutter. There's no cash in my attic but there's a glut of garbage in my garage There are no Ming vases or precious heirlooms or anything of significant value - which is good in some respects as the kids would have broken it all by now - but I possess an unenviable collection of things, animals - and even people - that no-one else wants. If burglars broke in, I'd never notice and I might even hand them a few black bags to fill with useless items I've collected over the years.
I haven't moved house for over two decades and feel that moving might be the only circumstance that would prompt me into being ruthless enough to part with any of my bizarre curiosities.
I think my motley collection started when I frequented the local Sunday car boot sale. I discovered to my horror that most vendors remorselessly threw perfectly serviceable items in the skip, if they didn't sell, rather than go to the trouble of packing them up and lugging them home again. You could furnish a house with all the discarded stuff. I'd take pity on those things; the homeless dolls and teddies with huge, pleading eyes were just too much. "Don't abandon us to fester on some landfill site!" they seemed to cry out to me. There's a big, long word for this sentiment: anthropomorphism. So I carted the hapless toys home where I'd deposit them in the garage - and there they've stayed ever since. There are Barbie dolls and stacks of bright orange Tupperware, a battered suitcase full of Mills and Boons and an army of cuddly cats. I stopped going to the boot sale over five years ago and still haven't sorted through most of my "junk mountain" as I fondly call it.
Perhaps I should have collected things that take up a lot less space - stamps for instance. I have some somewhere but ran out of hinges a while ago and never bothered to buy more. And I have an interesting collection of postcards sent to me by myself as a record of all the places I've visited. People laugh when I say I'm sending a card to myself but I find they're an invaluable source of information when I can't quite remember the name of the resort I stayed at, or the friends and relatives who accompanied me.
I used to collect brassware but stopped at about two hundred pieces, all of which have never once been as bright and shiny as the day they were bought because of my allergy to brass polish (well, that's my excuse). I began my collection when an uncle gave me a brass key for my twenty-first birthday, then someone bought me a cat to sit on the fireplace as the RSPCA wouldn't let me have a real kitten for Christmas back in 1983. Along came a brass dog to sit opposite and they were soon joined by various plates and planters and a warming-pan which is now as old and battered as I am after being used as a murder weapon by all four of my kids. I thought brass was a wise choice because no one would ever break it, but no one ever polishes it either. I have oak beams and a Delft rack and often persuade myself that the tarnished appearance of the brass adds to the "olde worlde" feel of my lounge (complete with its unique collection of "genuine" Elizabethan cobwebs in all four corners). The cobwebs hold pride of place on one day a year at least - Halloween.
I have a fine collection of books, and several "skyscrapers" of Readers Digests dating back to sixties, which I convince myself are necessary for research because I'm a writer (I often experience avalanches of articles because of this). I could swap my dusty volumes for the Internet and save myself both the space and the bother of dusting them. A wall-to-wall bookcase would look grand though, and one day I'm hoping that at least one book in my collection will have been written by me.
I don't consciously collect anything nowadays; I don't have to - it just happens. Things, animals and people appear on my doorstep in need of a good home or at least an hour or so of my valuable time. I'm too hospitable, even to Jehovah's Witnesses, Better-ware men and Mormons (who I always ask in for a cup of tea). A double-glazing salesman stayed for two hours once, while the dinner burned before I eventually lost my temper. Ringtons men, Avon ladies, you name it - I've rarely turned anyone away apart from the man who wanted to read my gas meter when I'm all electric. I like to think that I'm one of those kindly folks who have entertained angels unawares and will get my reward in heaven. Or maybe I'm just plain gullible.
As I'm writing this, I have half a dozen kids in the house (two of them belong to someone else but always turn up at tea time), two men and a couple of stray, gay cats (and yes it does occur naturally in the animal kingdom despite what people like Baroness Young, now deceased, have said on the subject). One of the cats is not technically a stray; it is a beautiful, seal-point Siamese. A neighbour told me the hapless moggy is no longer welcome in its own home due to the arrival of a new baby. It seems the cat is worth several hundred pounds so I hope the rightful owners don't think I've catnapped it. It just goes to prove that pedigree pussies don't necessarily get the love and attention they crave and deserve. As for the two men, one is my estranged husband who I tried to divorce but he refused point blank to move out and the other is an impoverished poet who has inveigled his way into my affections. It all sounds a bit incredible I know, but he tells me he is a lottery winner who has spent, spent, spent his way through the £150,000 he won eight years back - and now I'm paying his bus fare!
Over the years, I've had wasps in the chimney, mice in the garage (that I couldn't bear to trap) a pigeon which took up residence on the bathroom window ledge for six months and a farmyard cockerel who made himself at home in my bottle bank. Thankfully I don't have bats in the belfry just yet, although certain family members might dispute this. You see, I really don't like to turn anyone or anything away and wouldn't dream of telling someone never to darken my doorstep again. It seems like I'm the ultimate altruist, I'm far too good to everyone and my house is fast turning into a menagerie, a sort of latter-day Noah's Ark, a refuge for waifs and strays who have been cast adrift on the ocean of life.Someday, when the kids have grown, I'll gladly part with everything and announce that I'm going to become a minimalist and move to a one-bedroomed property in sunny Spain, but until then I suppose I'll just muddle along collecting the things, animals and people that no one else wants.