Clearing the Clutter
“He’s driving me mad,” Maggie said to her friend Gladys as they sat in the coffee shop on Saturday morning. “He won’t throw anything away. Old toys, books, records, videos, you name it – he collect it. Years and years of accumulated clutter – honest it’s enough to try the patience of a saint.”
Gladys chuckled. “I wouldn’t describe you as any sort of a saint,” she said. “But I know what you mean. It starts with their marbles you know.”
“Their marbles? What does?”
“The passion for collecting things. Who’s got the biggest, the best, the most? They never grow up do they? Men – like little boys they are.”
Maggie nodded her agreement.
Gladys sighed. “My Gerald was the same, always trying to cling on to the past. I’d have to sneak his stuff out and pretend it had got lost. He never missed it.”
“Harry would miss it,” Maggie said. I did take an old jacket and trousers to the charity shop once and blow me if he didn’t go out and buy them back.” She tutted and took a sip of coffee. “I wouldn’t mind but it’s like living in a museum. If I could get rid of it we could go all modern, with white walls and chrome. No dust-collecting memorabilia cluttering up the place.” Maggie’s eyes misted over at the vision in her head.
“Sounds boring,” Gladys said. “Like a hospital.”
Maggie huffed. “No not like that, just modern, clean and bright. Honest, sometime I feel as though I’m living in the junk yard that time forgot.” She took another sip of coffee. “The way Harry’s carrying on you’d think I wanted to throw out his most prized possessions.”
“Perhaps to Harry you are,” Gladys said.
Harry sighed as he sat over his second cup of tea of the day. The conversation with Maggie had unsettled him. She was having one of her “let’s throw everything out and start again” forays amongst his stuff. Stuff he’d kept for years; his toy car collection, his train set, his Roy of the Rovers and Beano Annuals, to Maggie they were all junk, no longer of any use – a bit like him.
He wandered from room to room gazing at his various collections. Every time she got into one of her tizzies about what she called “clearing the clutter” he’d fight back. “They’ll be worth something one day,” he’d tell her. It was the only thing that made her think twice and let him keep them, but even that excuse was wearing a bit thin.She’d got into a right old huff this time and even slammed the door on him. Now he supposed he’d be treated to a week of tight lips and cold shoulder. True the books, videos and tapes were outdated. He wouldn’t mind but he’d bought most of them for her. Her favourite songs and movies. Not his taste at all. Now she wanted rid of them. There was no understanding women.
He smiled as he opened a box of tapes. These were his favourites, the background music to their teenage years: The Batchelors, Jim Reeves, Frank Ifield, Leapy Lee, every one evoked a memory: their first dance, first date, first kiss, falling in love. How could he throw those out?
He was going through the tapes when Maggie walked in.
“Having a sort out?” she said. “About time too.” She picked up one of the tapes he’d put to one side. “Oh,” she said, turning it over in her hands. “I remember this. It’s the one you recorded specially for me just before we got married.” Her face lit up into a smile. “All my favourite songs,” She read through the titles in Harry’s scribbled handwriting on the label and a host of memories crowded her brain.
Harry grinned. “Took me ages to do it, but it was worth it to see the look on your face. You were mad on Rod Stewart– remember?”
He rummaged through the stack of LPs on the chair. “I’ve got one of his albums here somewhere,” he said. He found what he was looking for and handed it to Maggie.
She gazed at it and ran her hand over the glossy picture. “It’s lovely,” she said, “but not much good when we’ve nothing to play it on.”
“Well, there’s the old record player.” Harry glanced around trying to find it.
“Yes, but the stylus went. You remember, you were going to replace it but never did.”
“Oh, that’s right.” Harry said quietly, as though lost in memory.
“Rod Stewart! I had a picture of him on my wall.” Maggie laughed. “I travelled all over the country just to see him in concert,” she said.
Harry chuckled as he said, “Remember that time I drove you to Brighton and the car broke down…?”
“And I didn’t believe you when you said we’d have to stay the night as the car was in the garage…?”
“So I bought you a train ticket and rang your mum to make sure you got home safe…”
“And I loved you all the more for it…”
“It took me every penny I had and I had to sleep on the garage mechanic’s sofa…” Harry grinned. “Happy days eh?”
Maggie’s face softened. Tears filled her eyes. “Happy days,” she said.
Later in the week Maggie was amazed to see Harry boxing up some of the videos and tapes.
“What on earth?” she said.
Harry smiled. “Well, you wanted rid of them.”
“Yes, I do, but what brought this on? Not that I’m not delighted of course but why the change of heart?”
Harry chuckled. “It’s not really. I ran into Billy Brown in town. We stopped for a pint and he was telling me about his dad, old Frank. He runs an afternoon club for Seniors where he plays old songs and movie videos.”
Harry put the last of the tapes and videos he’d selected into the box. “They love these old movies. Apparently they bring back memories of when they were young. I’m taking a box over this afternoon. I thought you’d be pleased.”
Maggie grinned. “I am. Tell them they can keep them as long as they like and we’ve plenty more.”
When Harry returned he was almost bursting with excitement. He called Maggie to help him climb up into the loft. “You hold the ladder and I’ll get up there.”
“Up in the loft? Are you mad? Climbing ladders at your age, whatever for?”
“Hold the ladder. You’ll see.”
After about twenty minutes rummaging around Harry handed a heavy box down to Maggie.
“What’s this?” she asked.
“Films. You remember that old cine camera we had? There’ll be films in here of the town in the old days, me and Billy fishing on the canal with Frank, and the kids when they were tiny. Look, I’ve even found the projector.” He stepped off the bottom of the ladder. “See, I told you they’d be worth something one day.”
“Worth something?” Maggie’s eyes sprang wide.
“Yes. What could be more precious than old folks’ memories? You can’t put a price on them can you? No more than you can put a price on our memories.” He handed Maggie the CD he’d bought in the market.
“What’s this” Maggie took it out of the bag and gasped. “Rod Stewart,” she said. A broad smile lit up her face. She rushed to put the CD on the stereo. Hearing it would certainly whisk her back to the heady days of her youth. He was right, memories were precious and worth preserving. She sighed. Perhaps Harry’s clutter wasn’t so bad after all.
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