Between Christmas and New Year comes that special little gap in time when those with children attempt to amuse them as best they can while trouping between the in-laws. Those without either do what they like. I like to make lists. More comprehensive and vital lists than ever.
‘Do cellar/kitchen’ was probably the biggest single action on any list I’ve made since I wrote ‘Pack stuff and leave W9 forever’ somewhere back in May. The towering pile of packing cases in the kitchen had taken on not only Stonehenge-like prominence but permanence too it seemed. I am suffering from ‘cardboard boxes as furniture’ syndrome.
I began slowly and decided I needed to swim to relax sufficiently to scale this cardboard obstacle. The Lido was ‘women only’ this afternoon, so was forced to Hackney Baths, Clapton. Rumour had it on London Fields that only five people were in there, one was a Dad and another a male elite swimmer. Fuming . Indoor confined swimming is properly rubbish compared to the enormous outdoor Lido. There is a steam room and sauna however: Hot-swings and single-sex-roundabouts.
Eventually I began mining the endless boxed life-detritus in earnest. It took forever. Unpacking and looking at old gear brings back a lot of memories. Distant and not so distant.
I moved my Dad’s beloved Revolver record deck from a cardboard box, and for now wrapped it in packing and planted it in the new bit of uncovered cellar space, almost under the pavement outside. I’m pretty sure he would not have been madly keen on it going there. But such is life: You lose power to govern things that at one time seemed so almightily important.
Visiting Dad on Christmas Day, he was largely lost compared to who we knew. There was a moment of clarity however. I was making a joke to my sister about ordering some fish off menu for Christmas dinner at his care home. We were not even eating in reality. “Don’t take the piss.” Don instructed me quietly and firmly. Then added a “Fuck off!” for good measure. That rather told me.
Huge volumes of magazines and newspapers that I had written or styled some old drivel for could be addressed another day. For now, I lodged them underground. Then there was the vinyl: So poignant of one’s life and times and yet now so redundant. ‘Back to the Old House’ , I’d rather not go thanks. While unpacking boxes, I simultaneously had been clearing a path through the deep corridor-like cellar. Trudging back and forth up the darkened tunnel with mags and papers to deposit evoked a media version of the Great Escape. Sort of.
I broke for sea bass that I had bought locally. Inadvertently I watched part of I Am Legend. I got sucked in, foolishly, and found it quite gripping. Returning to the midnight cavern, now every creak of Victorian floor board or dusty crumbling from loose masonry felt as though something sudden, shocking and violent was about to happen. It was tense as I worked alone and in the ancient cobwebs. I dropped my Leatherman into the gloom, while erecting shelves bent double in the blackness..it pinged off into the recess of the coal hole. I felt like I’d fumbled my weapon at a crucial juncture and was about to be extinguished. Radio 3’s peculiar ‘Late Junction’ didnt help…Ensemble ‘Things I forgot’, Mance Lipscomb ‘Jack O’Diamonds’ and Dollboy Meets Sone Institute ‘Stay Lost’, were all quite dramatic there in the ground. (Click and go there yourself). NB. Ensure you’re down a cramped, darkened two hundred year old stone hole in tiny shorts for maximum effect.
I persevered into the night. By 3 a.m the kitchen was reborn. The cellar is in control and full of old gear. Space reigns in the kitchen and the cocktail bar stands, for now, in the corner, its Eighties bar stools ideal to observe the new expanses from. Ideal for new ambitious list writing too:
-Source brilliant kitchen table
-perfect modern Italian kitchen dining chairs
-monolith black Smeg..
..and guest list of dinner parties. Endless dinner parties.. Bring me ‘PLENTY’* by Yotam Ottolenghi, bring me my address book of burning leaf green.
This is the new era. Dinner party Clapton 2011… Stubbs style.
* thanks awfully for that Julie & Mac.