Monday, August 08, 2005

lost and found

An hour after we were kicked out of Vine Lodge, I started recalling all the things I left inside by mistake. And then I started to think of all things I left behind in 8 house moves in three years. Some items were left by mistake, while others were too much to carry. An incomplete and annotated list:

0. The Funeral Parlour:

The coffin in the front room. Served as a dress-up cabinet. Stuart tried to sell it before the eviction - without success.

1. Arlingford Road:

a leather belt. Purchased in 1993, with A. A told me you had to wear a belt if you want to wear nice shirts. This was the end of the Flannel years.

2. Vauxhall:

blue velvet jacket. Forgot it behind the kitchen door. Originally purchased in a Norfolk charity shop post-Christmas sale.

4. Poplar:

a rusty old ship key I found on the river bank.

Many words on the walls.

Some atmospheric lights

5. Limehouse:

a big BREAD pot, useful for winter soups.

Amy’s pockadots buttons, which I spread on the roof-balcony.

My moneytree plant . Origianlly skipped off Tottenham court road.

Shower curtain. Later retrieved by G who went back into the house.

6. Hallelujah Villas:

three wooden plains, which I used as coat hangers.

Many Ethernet cables, originally skipped by Michael.

A washing machine.

A pet-coconut

7. Vine Lodge:

two packs of phillo pastry, left in the freezer.

Frequent house moves require one to be organized and economical about one’s possessions. Theoretically, it should teach you the ephemarilty of objects, and the absurdity of the very notion of possession. All the more because many of these objects were found on the streets and in the skips of this great city of affluence. Squatting is a daily lesson teaching you how stupid it is to be greedy. If only it was so simple to learn…

When I first moved to the Villas, EdB told me he had no attachment to the many things he collected – clothes, books and furniture. “When the time comes, I will leave this house, and forsake all my belongings… I will shed my skin and start afresh” he declared in his melodramatic manner. Soon afterwards EdB (one of the more difficult people I ever lived with) moved out of the Villas, with little more than his clothes; he announced his plans “to spend the summer sleeping in London parks.” However, it was not long before EdB started sneaking into the house – in all hours of the day, with no warning – and was seen rummaging through cupboards full of junk and leaving piles of tat behind him. He came to take ‘his stuff’. On his last visit he even took out the light bulb from the lamp in the stairway.

Yes, shedding your skin is not so easy. To quote Madonna, this is a material world, and we are all material girls. But attachment to objects is not necessarily bad. In today’s disposable culture, we are constantly tempted to buy today and throw away tomorrow; pay little for crappy-plastic-thingies which break in three months, never repair and always buy new. I believe that it’s good to retain attachment to well-made useful objects. It’s important to appreciate beauty in fruits of human labour. It gives meaning to the world around us. I know I always find myself in the objects which I carry with me; even now, in this empty flat: my bicycle, my sleeping bag, three books, a small coffee-maker… these objects are my real home, they are my anchor in the rough London seas; when everything around me shifts and changes, these object are reassuring signs of continuity. Perhaps the best would be if this emotional attachment was not connected to a sense of possession. If I could give them up with no pain: not to throw away but to give away, when I am ready to let go.

No doubt, the hardest would be to let go of my books.

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