Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Bored Games (or How Not to Go Minimalist in One Day)

A friend who has an admittedly small collection of books on how to declutter tells me that in order to do it properly you have to completely empty the room.
Easy peasy.
I did that the other day, after Mr T. the Decorator arrived on the doorstep asking if he could bring forward the proposed work on my sitting room. Bring it forward to the next day, he thought, whereas I had been thinking about it sometime in a couple of months, maybe when it was warmer, when the light was stronger, when I could possibly face the upheaval.

So, of course, I said 'Yes'.
And promptly broke all my New Year Non-Resolutions by climbing on a ladder to empty the top shelves of a high ceilinged room.
Down came the board games, the jigsaws deemed impossible, the big old art books of Flemish painters, the catalogues of exhibitions long past, the tattered story-book relics of my childhood with illustrations that I may want to look at again, my father's collection of books on wine (one of my sons might want them) and countless other treasures I haven't seen for years.
The room was emptied in a few hours. Decluttering is easy.

Stuff is dumped on the kitchen table, on the stairs, in the hall, in the study. On the kitchen table sit several clocks, a Victorian desk-set, a collection of cast-iron money boxes, a couple of tea-caddies, a big brass candle-stick, an Edwardian writing cabinet and a box my father made in order to impress my mother when they became engaged.
Do I want to keep them?
Yes. Of course I do, even if the clocks keep different times and chime throughout the night. The brass candlestick was a Christening present, the iron money boxes came from a family foundry.
Important stuff.

In the study is a great cardboard carton of board games, some probably missing essential playing pieces. I will have to check them all.
There's Monopoly.
My experience of Monopoly is that it goes on far too long and brings out the worst in competitive people. A board game that very quickly becomes a bored game for me. Monopoly can go to a charity shop, and so can many of the others, except for Pictionary, which is funny and fast and not very competitive unless you really want it to be.
I look at Escape From Atlantis, complete with its Atlantean Swirler, six each of sharks, sea-monsters, octopuses and dolphins, twelve boats with sails, 37 different plastic sections to build an island, and no less than 48 Atlantean tribesmen in four different colours. The little tribesmen must escape the sinking island and get to the safety of the coral reef, through a sea laced with danger.
Ah, the memories.... of wet afternoons in the caravan when it took half an hour just to set up the board, and less than a second for a frustrated loser to kick the table and collapse the lot.
Atlantis must stay, and Jenga and Scrabble even though I now play Scrabble on-line (anyone want to play?). There are a few other interesting things, when I look again. Othello is good, and someone might fancy Trivial Pursuit again one day.

The carton becomes marginally lighter,
The books, of course, are a different matter. What I will do is look at each one before I decide if it goes back on a shelf in the freshly decorated room or, possibly, to a charity shop.

Then there are the jigsaws. There are a couple by Thomas Kincade, Painter of Light with fiendishly complex villages and harbours full of twinkly lamplight. I do not like to be defeated by a jigsaw, so I might keep them for when the weather is too bad for me to get into the garden.......

Friday, 6 January 2012

All Change

The earth has tilted back towards light, there are snowdrops in the churchyard and the indoor jungle that is my porch bursts into abundant life.
Blackbirds are fighting in the garden about food and potential nesting sites and, presumably, sex. The place is full of birdsong in the mild air. Even in the darkness of evening there is a robin proclaiming his rights.
It feels like a fresh start, this year more than any other I can remember.

I do not do New Year Resolutions, knowing perfectly well that in my own case they don't last until Epiphany. This year there are things I will not do, which include not clambering unaided and unsupervised on the pergola and the shed roof, not treating myself to a chain-saw, not even a small lady-sized one, and (hopefully) not trapping myself in the attic in an otherwise empty house.
Additionally, I will try not to work until I'm dotty with exhaustion, not to watch day-time television, and not to eat anything made of wheat.

There are reasons for this.
In a wonderful coming-together of events coinciding with a new year, all of us, both sons, both their partners and even I have new jobs. Mine is modest but important to me, theirs are exciting and important to other people.
We don't read horoscopes. My older son tells me it's bad luck to do so, but if we had done we would probably have seen the stars lining up in auspicious patterns in the last few weeks. I hope all other Capricorns have had a similarly cheerful start to the year.

Fresh starts are invigorating.
In the depths of the old year I had a rather frightening health scare. It pulled me up very short indeed and made me take stock of many aspects of my life. It made me sort out the paperwork and tidy my knicker drawer.
It makes me appreciate who is really important to me, and to make sure I tell them so - one way or other. It's not easy, in a very English way, to tell people that you love them, so sometimes the approach in oblique and laced with humour - but I think they know.
It makes me appreciate more than ever my home and garden, and the peace and freedom that are there as well as the hard work that both take to maintain. The balance of peace and work is important and the danger is in overdoing the work so that it's hard to appreciate the peace. I must do better, but that is a vague sort of ambition and not a Resolution.
I value the ability to think and work from silence, and this becomes more powerful with time. What, in the early stages of widowhood, could seem like emptiness, now feels full of potential. I never know what I'm going to think or write next!

It makes me appreciate those who read here, and who are kind enough to leave a comments.
So, somewhat belated Happy New Year to you all.