The Clearing is still going on. I think about a decade must have passed since I had a chuck-out on this scale, and it is of course amazing what you find (and what you lose again the moment you find it). If you haven’t heard from me for some years, it may because I have just unearthed the plastic bag containing scrips and scraps of addresses, which were waiting to be transferred to a new address-book, but which went walkabout a good while ago. Speaking of address-books, I have, in the process, found every address book I ever had. They are weird documents, address-books. It’s not just that they are a roll-call of the dead, although they all have that piquancy, it’s that there are so many names in there which ring absolutely no bells at all. None whatsoever. Perhaps there ought to be a rule that, when taking an address, one took a picture, and wrote on the back ‘This is the person I was talking to at (place) on (date)’ – with a couple of further clues thrown in for good measure. If I had time, I would be very tempted to write to all of them and say ‘I have found you in my address book. Who are you?’ and see if I got any replies. There again, that might offend some people, especially if they turned out to be relatives.
To systematise my life, using these gorgeous archive boxes, I have written on the outside of each one what lies within. In most cases, this is pretty easy. ‘Wuthering Heights’ means, fairly plainly, my teaching notes on the said novel, all duplicates of which I have bravely destroyed (duplicates of the notes, I mean, not the novel – I have a couple of odd editions, including one produced for teachers of English as a foreign language, from which everything the Yorkshire servant, Joseph, has been stripped).
However, you reach a stage where you are putting together unclassifiable stuff, the kind of stuff you might never need, and there again… (I wonder if there is an organisation called Hoarders Anonymous). I have called this box STUFF, but I have also written on the top what is inside. It contains:
staples, picture-wire, post-it notes, ink, bottle-pull (what the hell is that?), brush, knife/multi (eh?), watch, watchstraps, sellotape, masking tape, blu-tack, scissors, Pritt-stick, hard-drive for 50k disks, bottle-opener, dark glasses, markers, highlighters, French knife (what the?), leads, charger, telephone cable, wallet, toy teeth, mini-illegible, small Phillips screwdriver, phone connector, fan, ear-phones, square-to-round adaptor, illegible, glasses case, cigarette lighter, small pouch, illegible, cotton wool, paper CD sleeves, illegible, illegible, and illegible
I think that there is no doubt that this box will come in very handy. About its contents, I am less sure.
I also found a drawing of me, made by Lesley Kerman, when I was 21. Lesley doesn’t get out of bed for anything less than five-figure commissions these days. Maybe it has value. Anyway, this is what I looked like, and note that I appear, mysteriously, to be surrounded by Stuff: