I didn’t need this stuff and I couldn’t take it with me, I remember thinking, as I gathered my UK life into numerous black bin bags and poorly formed cardboard boxes.
This ‘stuff’ would shortly be sold at a local market in town. A hoarder by nature, I didn’t exactly want to dispose of my early childhood possessions and used household goods but the upcoming journey overseas dictated that I travel with the bare minimum – and I was in no position to bring along any of this excess stuff. My stuff would therefore become someone else’s stuff.
On a grey and overcast morning, I farewelled what I believed was a large part of my English identity steadily accumulated through the years of life on this island of mine but which, in reality, was not far off being junk.
I detached myself from the process and proceeded to de-clutter my very self. The riddance of these familiar items was a blow to my parents and one in a series of events that crystallised the harsh reality of us leaving on a one-way voyage overseas. Inwardly, I’m sure my parents grieved for the loss of these ‘things’ that represented my established life in England. Outwardly, they put on a brave face and watched silently as my worldly goods sold for mere pounds and pence in a nondescript school playground in an indistinctive southern town.
I have no doubt that I left a part of me behind on that day in that playground.
I sold broken bookshelves, faulty cabinets and wonky chairs, as I moved forward with my life taking a brave step into the unknown. In my mind, I was not simply giving up physical belongings, but unnecessary baggage. The part of me left behind at that marketplace was the part that refused to let go, that wanted to remain in a safe place, that needed to sit tight in its comfort zone. I left the market emotionally fatigued but all the lighter for releasing myself of this stuff. Because that was all it was.
In time, I grew better at purging myself of these seemingly unnecessary things. In fact, I became almost obsessed. In the lead-up to a big move, I would become maniacal in my efforts to clear every room of any effects that could hold up progress or add expense to the upcoming journey. I would discard these obstructive annoyances with relish and a lack of regard for their worth or significance, only to be reigned in by my wife when the cupboards lay bare and the packing boxes still empty.
There was one treasured possession that I could not face parting with, that I clung to with the stubbornness of a spoilt child. When the flat pack boxes arrived and we had armed ourselves with brown tape and bold marker pens, I would head straight for my beloved collection of 12-inch records. This army of battered vinyl warriors, this organised mass of plastic and paper and memories waited patiently for a touch or a dust down, as perfect in my eyes as the day they were made.
My records were meticulously lined up in rows on the shelves of my spare bedroom. I would carefully take one by its spine, smell the damp and musty aroma as it came free, feel the well-worn edges and dog-eared corners, and flip the delicate ageing cover over in my hands as I remembered the beat, the tempo, the vocals, that baseline, the last time I’d soaked up its precious musical cargo.
This thing, mere stuff, had a bewitching power over me.
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