I’ve been driving a lot recently, hundreds of miles each week from London to Glasgow and back
as I used some days off work to go home to Scotland and help my brothers and sister clear out mum and dad’s house before we put it on the market.
I don’t know if any of you have done this before but it is an emotional rollercoaster. Boxes of old photos take ages to sort through as each brings back a memory from childhood, a reminder of deceased relatives long gone, or perhaps just a feeling of happiness during a care free period of life. Then there’s mum’s wedding dress, dad’s army tunic buttons and insignia, their love letters to one another, Christmas and birthday cards kept, and lousy presents I’d given them lying unopened but still kept affectionately.
I found my old school blazer, which I haven’t seen since the day I left for University, and it must have shrunk because I couldn’t get it buttoned up. Some unkind readers might suggest that perhaps I’ve put on a few pounds since then, so perhaps they could leave their address and I’ll come round and sort them out. Me too large? I’d kick your butt if I could see my feet.
In the top pocket of my blazer was a piece of laminated card which said I DON’T BELIEVE IN LOVE. Why on earth I had that I have no idea. Perhaps it was my way of saying I was going to be an eternal bachelor, free, unhindered, doing as I wanted, not being told by anyone else how to live. Well that didn’t exactly work out, did it?
Beside the card was a piece of paper containing a list of about half a dozen girls’ names and their ‘phone numbers. Â I recognised all but one of the names but couldn’t put a face to many of them, and I have no idea why I had them. To the casual onlooker it must look like I was a great success with women, collecting ‘phone numbers like I did Aerfix kits or Scalextric cars. But it’s not true. I was absolutely hopeless with the opposite sex, tongue tied, not knowing what they wanted to talk about and wondering which one of us would run away first. I did eventually ask one of the girls on the list to the movies one Saturday afternoon, but I took a mate along too in case I ran out of things to talk about.
You see my problem? Just one little bit of paper and I spent half an hour reminiscing while the others bagged up old cutlery and crockery. I am a hopeless clearer outer. I even wondered whether to call the numbers and see if the girls' parents were still living there, ask after their daughters’ wellbeing. But of course the parents may be like mine, no longer with us. There might even be one or two of those girls doing what I was, deciding what memories were going in a skip, and which were going to be kept.
So we ploughed on for days, trying to clear the house we grew up in, a place full of happy memories, four walls that will soon be owned by someone else who will create their own lifelong special times. But finding the cards and letters, the written gift tags and inscribed books from my childhood made me realise all over again how lucky I have been to have had the parents I did.
Clearing the house proved beyond doubt that the Seventeen year old me was a clueless idiot. The schoolboy who carried a card inscribed I Don’t Believe In Love just didn't realise that he grew up surrounded by it.