I’m well aware that, like most people, I manage to accumulate ‘stuff’ at an alarming rate. When I moved into my first house in London in 1994, we happily unpacked our lives, filling the loft with various boxes and items that we didn’t initially have an immediate home for but focus on that word; ‘initially’! Nineteen years later, when I sold up and moved to Dorchester, I realised that I had never, not once in nineteen years, ventured into that loft, nor had I removed a single item (though items had been added) during that period.
Knowing I was downsizing and that none of those ‘precious things’ had once been required, I ordered a skip and deposited every single box and bag into it, much to the consternation of my friends who came over to help me. Did I do the right thing? Well, I’ve never once, in the thirteen years since I’ve lived here, discovered that I trashed a family heirloom or wondered where a particular item is, so I have to assume that I did. If I’ve forgotten something, I’m clearly not missing it.
Moving here, I vowed that nothing would ever be stored in the loft! Firstly it’s a tiny hatch designed for a small, agile monkey who having ventured up a steep step ladder, squeezes through the ridiculously small space and as I’m neither small nor nimble of foot, it’s just not happening. Secondly, my experience has taught me that out of sight is out of mind and that if you are putting things up into a dark, spidery void of oblivion where things might roam about unseen, you don’t really need it.
That said, whilst I can pat myself on the back for maintaining an empty loft, I find myself, like most people, having accumulated things which I don’t really need. This means that I regularly (well, twice a year) perform a household cull. Though it’s entirely bloodless and involves no spears or shotguns, it is not without a sense of ruthless determination. I travel from room to room, sifting through items for charity shops, upcycling and the yearly jumble trail, which always provides me with some handy pocket money for hedgehog bedding and food, caring for the spiky friends who live in and pass through my garden.
Of course, I’m an absolute sucker for antique items or a bit of objet d’ art and get enormous pleasure from visiting antique centres and markets, finding gorgeous goodies, handling precious items that quietly sing to me of their past lives, their stories literally seeping into my skin as I hold them like precious jewels in my hands. Recently though, I appear to have discovered a secret fetish for parrots!
Now I should preface this by saying that I’ve always had a fear of birds. Not the kind of fear that means I can’t be reasonably close to them, but the moment they start flapping they give me the hebe-jeebies and I’m on my toes.
As a teacher, I was known for my reliability and conscientiousness and one day had put myself forward to cover a year ten class, so that when I didn’t turn up, the head teacher, surprised and worried, came looking for me. She found me trapped in a store cupboard, white-faced and sweating, peering pitifully through the glass panel of the door. A pigeon had somehow entered the building and got itself trapped inside my classroom. Having dived into the storeroom in fear, I was then held captive, completely unable to extricate myself as the pigeon flapped and careered about outside the door shedding feathers but I digress.
Last year, with eyesight getting more problematic, I needed to purchase a table lamp and surprised myself by falling in love with a sleek, matt black parrot lamp with a black linen shade and gold, reflective interior. He sits halfway up the stand, his head coquettishly turned to look over his shoulder, his beak open. Now I do have a penchant for mice (but that’s another story), so my being drawn to this lamp sporting our feathered friend was quite a surprise even to me and having purchased it, I haven’t for a single second regretted it.
Well, about four weeks before Christmas, a dear friend and I went out for lunch and, having eaten, chose to walk around the garden centre, which sported a wonderful Christmas display and a grotto full of fabulous shiny things. Knowing Christmas often delivers, I was intent on purchasing nothing, reasoning that as I had bought all my gifts for others, I should save my pennies but on entering one particular room, there in front of me, a spotlight shimmering down his sparkling, resplendent feathers, was a stunning golden parrot. ”Ohhhhh!” I exclaimed, rushing forward to admire him at close quarters, but as he wasn’t exactly cheap and I’d promised to be good, I listened to the sound advice of my friend and very reluctantly left him where he was. I did but almost immediately regretted it and so two days later returned, determined to bring him home but sadly, he was gone! I asked a sales assistant about him but was told that they had only had two and both had been sold. Crestfallen and kicking myself, I returned home, deeply disappointed that I hadn’t purchased him when I had first seen him.
In truth, I had a rotten Christmas as I was completely overtaken by a virus and hadn’t seen anyone at all until last week when I eventually met up with my friend again. Finally able to meet up, she gave me my Christmas presents and sitting opening them, I was both shocked and delighted when the wrapping paper peeled away, it revealed my beautiful golden parrot! She had raced back there after we had parted ways as, seeing my reaction to him, she knew he was the perfect gift. I couldn’t have been happier as what a lovely, kind thing to do, and now, I have my beautiful golden parrot. He sits quietly on my mantlepiece, looking down at me, his crest raised, his wings neatly folded at his sides, but I’m convinced that once the lights are out and Arthur and I have made our way up the stairs to bed, he comes down from his perch, takes flight around the sitting room, stretching his wings, spreading magical golden dust in his wake.
You can read more from The Dog Lady here