Investigating an attic might be likened to a physical confrontation with the jumbled evidence of one's past. Something of a psychological unveiling even though you might not really know what it all means.
It was thirty years ago when I first crawled up into our roof space and planned to board half of it. I left the other half because of the practical difficulties caused by electrical wires, pipes and suchlike. I also installed an aluminium loft ladder.
Soon after this we began to put stuff up through the hatch. There were suitcases, children's cuddly toys, glove puppets, a cot for dolls, two guitars, a violin, boxes containing what our children had brought home from school - papers, paintings, exercise books, projects. There was a canvas windbreaker, a tent, two lamps, boxes containing old greetings cards noting birthdays and Christmases, overspill books that we didn't have room for in the rest of the house, Christmas decorations, an artificial Christmas tree, rolls of carpet, football boots, in-line skates, a box of sea shells, papers and books from my own schooldays.
Some of it remains up there but we brought two thirds of the stuff down. This evening I visited a recycling zone in a corner of a vast Sainsburys supermarket car park. There I slotted parts of my family's life into the paper and cardboard skips - never to be seen again. Some of the cards were from people who are no longer with us and I guess that a design historian might have found value in evidencing changing fashions in greeting cards over forty years.
Throwing it away did not feel good. It was kind of sad and I did not in anyway experience a sense of purification by letting go.
I kept some bits and pieces back for Ian and Frances. They can do what they wish to with their single plastic carrier bags filled with echoes of growing up and being children.
Shirley and I are determined to keep on top of the attic stuff now. None of the items we brought down in the last three days are ever going back up there. But here's the thing - below our house there's a subterranean room that I call "The Underhouse" and if anything that space is even more problematic than the attic. Phoebe calls it "Grandpa's Little Cave" but it is certainly not anything like Aladdin's Cave with its glittering jewels.
The top image was drawn by our son Ian a month before his baby sister was born in 1988. He was just four years old and for whatever reason he referred to her as "House Roof" in the weeks before she arrived.
The bottom image shows a silver plastic key in a presentation box. Shirley received it on the occasion of her twenty first birthday. It was her "key to the door". It was not the only one she got. I think this 21st birthday gift fashion died out some time ago now.