5 December 2020

December

 

Above - the view through our kitchen door at midday yesterday. A glum December day with flurries of rain and sleet and gobs of snow as large as oak leaves. Not a day for walking. A day for hunkering down as we edge ever closer to the winter solstice.

Shirley has been in cleaning and clearing out mode. This is a hangover from our recent decorating project  - making over our dining room. We are trying to reduce the amount of clutter that surrounds us even though every item has some meaning for us.

One of the things we have cast out is this picture of a cat that came with us in 1989 when we moved from our first house in the Crookes area of the city. We bought the cat picture because it reminded us of Blizzard - our first cat who was also black and white. The picture faded over time and now it has gone but at least I snapped this photo of it before it was assigned to the wheelie bin.:-

It can be so hard to let go of things. I am of the opinion that is natural for human beings to surround themselves with things that echo past times or symbolise ourselves in subtle, unarticulated ways. Homes that are minimalist as if copied from some style magazine make me shudder slightly. It's unnatural to live like that. You need to strike a balance.

At 9pm I visited the Lidl store on Chesterfield Road. There were  more members of staff there than customers. I like it that way - especially during this never-ending pandemic. If I visit a supermarket in the daytime I get anxious about other shoppers entering my personal space.

Thinking about the pandemic, it is frankly outrageous that Trump continues to tweet furiously about  his election defeat - pathetically turning a blind eye to  his country's COVID fatalities - 2873 passed away on Wednesday, 2923 on Thursday and so far 2555 on Friday. Is his apparent ignorance really the way to "make America great again"?  He has less compassion in his bones than a wild Texan hog.

December can be such a grim month in the northern hemisphere and as we keep soldiering on through this coronavirus nightmare, it feels more gloomy than usual. Even Christmastime will bring little relief, curtailed and constrained as it must be. Thank heavens there can be occasional days like Tuesday when I walked in the countryside twenty miles east of Sheffield. On days like that you can almost forget the twin horrors - COVID and Brexit - at least for a little while...

The Chesterfield Canal on Tuesday

46 comments:

  1. Things let US go. Then we vanish, like snowflakes.

    In a V.S. Naipaul story there's an immigrant whose landlord dies in London.
    The guy goes into his landlord's room. It's at the top of the house in Kensington.
    And the room is empty. No memories. No mementoes of a life lived. Not even a photo.

    The landlord is also a Third World immigrant.
    Naipaul's hero thinks, *Please let it not happen to me.*

    The opening chapter of The Mimic Men.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I am glad I am not the only one who thinks that way.

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    2. In his 1995 memoir *Dreams From My Father*, Barack Obama described the death of an elderly man in the rooming house where Barack was staying.
      One morning the old man's door was slightly ajar. Barack ventured inside only to find the man had passed away.
      His room was full of memories, framed photographs of his late wife. The old man was an immigrant, from central Europe. His life had been blessed.

      I read President Obama's memoir before he was a presidential candidate.

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    3. Mr Obama's humanity is palpable - so very different from his successor.

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    4. You know what Noam Chomsky said of him?
      *A master of illusion.*

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    5. Obama,"A master of illusion".

      Hamel(d), that made me smile. The Angel's exact words. With loads of not so palatable reasoning behind it. As much as it pains me, facts are facts. Just came across a quote to the effect that we can't make the truth go away just because it [the truth] is inconvenient and not to our liking.

      U

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  2. I can let things go. I can travel light. I get that from my Dad. I have one hitch for throwing things out. The Micro manager is a pack rat.

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  3. As I get older, I'm getting better about divesting myself of my worldly goods. Unfortunately, when I drop stuff off at the charity shop, something else always tends to catch my eye.

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    1. It's a never-ending struggle.

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    2. *Divesting myself of my worldy goods*: Now there is a phrase to ponder.

      I remember reading an account of Pere Teilhard de Chardin's death in the Jesuit house in New York.
      It was a small room, just a bed and a table containing his Bible and Breviary, a crucifix on the bare walls. Nothing of his long travels in China or his childhood and youth in France. He died on Easter Sunday.

      Delete
    3. I find things that I love. Tim is the same way. I once made the statement to my children about the things that I thought they would love. Turns out that none of them want 'my shit'.

      Both sets of our parents are gone now. Sorting through their things was a humbling series of days. If I had a nickel for every time that I heard words to the effect of 'why on earth do you suppose they kept THIS?' I would be a rich woman.

      We have a houseful of very nice furniture, most of it antique. We are the parents of children who can't abide antiques.

      Best to find people who will love those things instead of letting them become a burden to people who will not love them at all. We will be downsizing from a seven bedroom house to a 3 bedroom retirement home over the next couple years. I need to begin to invest myself in divesting my stuff.

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    4. Remember Citizen Kane?
      The vast house of treasures, Xanadu?
      The one thing they overlooked was Kane's sled or sledge, *Rosebud*.

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  4. I ridden myself of so many things that have some sentimental value, but not quite everything.

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    Replies
    1. Some of us have more stuff than others but reaching equilibrium is a constant battle.

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  5. You said it - it's all about balance. Yes, it is a very human thing to be attached to things that have special meaning to us, be it for personal memories, religious symbols or anything else. But when these things start weighing us down, it is definitely time to get rid of at least some of them. Also, when someone's life becomes more about things than about life itself (of course I am not suggesting that's the case with you!), and one does not feel a full human being without surrounding themselves by "stuff", the balance is clearly off.
    A glum December day is what I like best for work - on such days, I don't mind having to sit at my desk all day, being stuck in a series of phone calls and video conferences. And when such a day happens on a weekend, I make use of it by working on the tasks on my pre-Christmas to-do list.

    Wonderful picture of the canal!

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  6. I agree that we (in general) like having 'things' around us that remind us of who we are (or were). Just think of the millions around us who have no reminders of their past because of wars and displacement. I know a few people for whom as Meike said "life becomes more about things than about life itself". I suspect that applies to more people that we might think.

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    1. Our relationship with the things we gather around us is often deeply psychological and difficult to unravel. In extremity, I think about hoarders.

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  7. Not forgetting holidays so we can collect anecdotes YP. Great canal photo too.

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    Replies
    1. Anecdotes and nick-nacks and little souvenirs that help us to remember happy times.

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  8. Fridge magnets even?

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    Replies
    1. How many fridges are plastered with the things? And all £2.50 each.

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  9. Your post struck a chord with me as I am going through a process of decluttering at the moment. We have already disposed of bags full of "stuff" but there are still some things I am reluctant to get rid of. I have a 1950s porcelain teaset in my cabinet that holds strong sentimental memories of my dad. He bought it for his mother whilst in Kowloon doing his National Service stint. The teaset passed back to him on her death and when Dad died my sister asked me if I would take it as she had no room for it. It is too delicate to use and one of the cups is chipped so it just sits in the glass fronted cabinet, doing nothing useful. I just can't bear to part with it though.

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    1. Could you perhaps just keep one setting and give the rest to a charity shop?

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    2. That's a sensible idea. It takes a male, no nonsense approach sometimes. Thanks YP.

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    3. Keeping just one setting might be giving out the wrong message.

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    4. JayCee, "it takes a male, no nonsense approach". That's why it's the male of the species which builds destroyers. Whatever stands in their way, a shot of testosterone and a Kalashnikov will do.

      One example in your vein that springs to mind was when FOS (father-of-son) asked me to "drop" (accidentally) a particular wedding present (piece of crockery) he didn't like. Do your own dirty work, I thought to myself. I smiled at him. Not my normal smile; but the smile that speaks a thousand words without one ever being uttered. I put my sister's present back into the cupboard. Later elevated to plant pot. Till it broke. By accident.

      Still, I am with YP's suggestion. One set for display purposes will suffice.

      U

      PS Your sister sure is crafty.

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    5. *I smiled at him. Not my normal smile.*
      This is worthy of an old Bette Davis movie.

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  10. A bit of an exaggeration about the size of your snowflakes. You sound like one yourself. It's hardly covering. Now if you lived at 750 feet in West Yorkshire ...

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    1. You have hurt my feelings you beast!

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  11. Don't be dreary, don't be glum.
    Your daughter's soon to be a Mum.
    Briony
    x

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  12. That cat looks neat. Neat as in suspiciously symmetrical (apart from the fact it's only got one tail). Thanks to you now in tatters.

    You don't understand Trump's strategical thinking. He will make America great again (wasn't it never thus) by killing off his countrymen. Decluttering by another name. And think what it'll do for pollution. Reducing carbon foot prints. Give the guy his due. Maybe his end game is to clone himself. Can you imagine a whole continent full of little Trumps and Trumpesses? Which reminds me of a rather debatable article on how, in the "olden" days, if you couldn't get rid of a head of state you'd just kill them off. Rome was particularly good that way. Efficient. Et tu, Brutus? Though with that swine (!) Caligula (same bloodline as Nero) the knives should have come out earlier by way of damage limitation.

    I am vaguely unsettled by how trim and straight your hedges are.

    U

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    1. I like our hedges to be symmetrical - as does our neighbour on the left. Our front hedge is a veritable rectangle and passers-by often comment on it when I am out there with my nail scissors and spirit level. Though you have proposed the idea, I very much doubt that there is any method in Trump's madness.

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  13. We humans do tend to assign emotional value to the strangest things, don't we? I know I do. I think I'm about ready to start stripping walls of pictures and shelves of items only to remember where each came from, what it "meant" or means, and I let the things stay where they are which is ridiculous.
    I always say that I spent the first part of my life acquiring stuff and the last part of my life getting rid of it. I am sure there is some biological explanation for this.

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  14. Every time we move house we trim down our possessions and off load 'stuff'. I have just a very few things that I want to hang on to (yes, Paul is one of them!).

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    1. A husband is not a "thing", he's a human being!

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    2. I can hear Zsa Zsa Gabor:
      *A husband is not a thing. He's not even an accessory. Why I have Hermes handbags I value more than any of my ex-husbands ... Mind you, they paid for those handbags ... not to mention my jewellery and mink stoles!*

      Delete
  15. We are overdue for a clear-out here. I'm waiting for the charity shops to open again so I'll have someplace to donate everything I want to get rid of!

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    1. I don't think that any charity shops accept music teachers. They just don't sell.

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  16. It's taken me over three years to clear out my late husband's "office" (spare bedroom) and each time I think I've finished I find more. He never, ever, threw anything away and we moved to Spain with not only all our own paperwork from goodness knows when, but his parent's too. When I started to find all the paperwork for his parents 1936 mortgage, plus his father's first job applications, (circa early 1930's) I knew I was in for a lot of shredding! I sometimes think I'll never be finished and will spend my remaining years decluttering.... I have my own things to throw out too!

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    1. When asked how they intend to pass their time in retirement, nobody ever says they would like to spend it sorting through old paperwork and shredding it.

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    2. Pig Husbandry is a growing pastime for us retirees.
      Boris Johnson is to pass a Bill allowing us seniors to keep pigs in the back garden.
      Alan Sillitoe's granddad kept pigs in his allotment.
      Soon we will all be able to enjoy pork scratchings whenever we like, rather good with a pint of Scrumpy or bitter.

      As your friend and confidante Yorky, may I refer you to an article in the Xmas edition of The Fortean Times?
      Vile Piggishness
      Alan Murdie sniffs out some rare stories of porcine possession and supernatural swine.

      I wish you pleasant dreams.

      Delete
  17. I'm thankful it's been sunny and warm here. 7C which is warm for us.

    My mother in law called yesterday to say they didn't want any company over Christmas. I told her we were doing the same. It's not forever. Both of my in law lived through WW11 as children so they're tough.

    I've been going through old stuff, I do every once in awhile, and found a bunch of old letters from Dad to Mum during the war. I'm keeping those and even bought polyester sleeves for them to keep them from further damage.

    Stay dry.

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