I have spent quite a lot of my life moving….from house to house, from country to country…
To be very honest I have lived in this house for a long time but my early years were spent packing and unpacking as we moved to a various parts of Durham County. Our mother became the absolute expert in tea-chest packing. I learnt early the value of only keeping a minimum of belongings…Mum was doing it way before we learnt in the West of the Buddhist ideal of non-attachment.
When Ann Gillson moved house she did it without fuss and had about her an air of determination…I don’t recall it being a trauma or an upset to her. I suspect now, with the wisdom of age, that it exhausted her and was never easy. By the time I was 13 years old I had lived in seven houses and I do remember that she was sad when we had to move from the lovely village of Lanchester to go to the new town of Newton Aycliffe.
I learnt from Mum the art of clearing and moving. Which is a damn good job. My 24th birthday was celebrated somewhere over the deserts of the Sudan as we flew to Kenya. We had with us two suitcases, a sewing machine, an accordion (best not to ask about that! Accordions don’t take easily to hot climes.) and following us were a couple of large boxes and a tea chest. Oh yes, we were moving to Kenya to live for two years and we thought we had the necessaries!!
We managed perfectly well, acquiring a variety of things a long the way. I entertained all manner of visitors as you do when living in the middle of Africa and fed, sometimes 30 people from non-matching plates and dishes. This is now in vogue but trust me, it was not the done thing when entertaining the last of the Empire….
We came back to the UK in 1983 and shortly after, I picked up a book about space-clearing. But surely, I and Mum had been doing that for years and here were people being paid to assist and encourage the getting rid of extraneous belongings!
So, now I have been here for a long time and I still clear out regularly.
If I have not worn, looked at, or used something in the previous twelve months I move it on. Surely there is some wonderful person out there who would really relish using that dish or really needs to feel the warmth of that perfectly lovely jumper….
I believe I am speaking truthfully when I say I have never regretted the letting go of anything.
I have nothing from school days and that feels grand because I really did not like school. I do have photographs from childhood and recently looked through photos of my mother and father from many years before my birth. Likewise we have wonderful slides of our time in Africa.
Clothes and shoes though are easy to move on for me. And last year when we had a new kitchen put in it was the ideal opportunity to really think about what we needed to put back in our lovely new space.
However, I do have something that I hang on to. It belonged to my Nana and was always in my bedroom wherever we went.
It is a tiny pot full of pot pourri. It has absolutely no monetary value but is so special to me. Our father died eight years ago and I cleared his house in my usual efficient way. I organised a variety of charities to collect the contents of his and our family home. My sister asked for nothing and between us we only kept a few items. However, I hung on to the pot.
It is now here in our kitchen and it still has the original pot pourri that I guess was put in pre-war. As a child I would poke my finger in and release a lovely soft flowery perfume.
I have just poked my finger in and can smell a faint perfume after all these years…how does that work? How has it lasted so long and how wonderfully evocative is the scent of those dried flowers and herbs. It immediately takes me back to days spent collecting leaves and flowers from the hedgerows over the fields behind Nana’s house.
When I was looking at my pot earlier this evening it made me realise how much we grow in our garden which is perfumed or aromatic; lavender, rosemary, bay, oregano, thyme, mint, roses and sage. I simply love the smell of herbs and spices and since childhood have adored perfume. I never am without a beautiful bottle of something which smells glorious and in my latter years I choose less well known perfumes and want to know the ingredients. And it seems that it all began so long ago with Nana who always smelt of lavender and rose petals but I’m pretty sure she did not wear perfume as we know it now.
I know that my pot is part of my history and has no relevance to anyone else but I do feel that we perhaps need such ‘precious’ objects as anchors. This tiny piece of my mother’s family gives me a sense of me somehow and I am delighted that it has survived all our family’s to and fro-ing. Thinking about it, moved me out into our garden to gather some of our lovely herbs, an activity that Nana did daily during the better weather.
May I wish you well and perhaps you too have a precious something that needs to be honoured!