Monday, June 02, 2008


What happens when you suddenly change location? Standard Imperial procedure is to dump garbage before going to lightspeed. In practice, it can be more difficult than that. What's the point of flogging or dumping all your stuff if there's even a slight risk that you'll hate the new place and need to revert to the old?

In my case it was the summer of 1996 when I suddenly relocated to Doha, Qatar from Redditch, UK. I pretty much packed a suitcase, turned out the lights, cancelled the milk and left.

Four years later I sold the house. This was mere nanoseconds before UK property prices rocketed after a decade of slump, but that's another story. The new owner packed up all my personal stuff and stacked it in the shed, and I rented a large white van on my subsequent visit to Blighty and took it all away. The motorbike was sold. I'd had plans to get the odometer right round the clock and then to sell it as 'low mileage but a bit tatty', but eight hundred quid for a sixteen year old Kawasaki (ZG1000-A1 if anyone's interested, and yes I do know the picture is of a later model) with about 90,000 miles and that hadn't run at all for several years was an offer I couldn't sensibly pass up.

My father agreed to store my stuff ad infinitum, but after he died in 2004 I was instructed by his widow to clear it away lest it have an unfortunate accident with some matches. So I turned up to the funeral in another white van and moved all my worldly goods to Plymouth.

Circumstances change. In six years I'd built up a second houseful of stuff in Qatar and then moved to the Emirates. Standard Imperial procedure again. Most of my possessions got sold for a pittance, thrown away or broken by the shipping contractor, and I stated to accumulate new stuff again. And then last summer Beloved became Beloved Wife, and we combined our two households into one. An exercise involving quarts and pint pots required yet another session of disposing of possessions. We kept both fridges, and still have far too many televisions and too much kitchen equipment.

It has become increasingly apparent that I'm becoming less likely to return to a life in England. Last March I spent a week there, sorting out my stored stuff. Air tickets cost nothing, thanks to Virgin Atlantic's compensation, and I took the opportunity to go through all my gear that had pretty much filled Nanny Goat's garage for some time. I had been putting off doing this for ages. Although it had virtually no monetary value, my stuff represented over three decades of my life. But I have a new life now, and it was time to bite the proverbial bullet and deal with it.

The experience is slightly surreal. It's rather like going through a deceased relative's effects. As the effects were all mine, it was something of an out-of-body experience. College notes went to the tip, along with old correspondence. I considered the possibility of identity theft, but concluded that bank statements with defunct addresses for accounts that no longer exist are probably useless except as firelighters. Books and magazines all went to the local charity shops, as did Lemmings and Populous on 5 1/4" floppy disks, curtains, bed linen, pots and pans, tools, and clothes that would now not encompass my middle-aged spread.

No-one wanted my electronics. Apparently British charity shops aren't allowed to sell electrical appliances, so the scrap-metal brigade at the local municipal dump recycling centre ended up with a couple of what used to be high-end video recorders and a set of HiFi separates. Lucky scrappies. I begrudge throwing away a broken printer because I lack the know-how to mend it and a better new one is Dh200. But this is as nothing compared with the gall of destroying something that's in perfect working order.

Dozens of trips in Nanny Goat's minuscule car to and from Chelston Meadow later, and the garage was finally empty.

Nanny Goat is as much of a hoarder as her offspring, and we inevitably couldn't bear to part with a few mementoes. One ancient suitcase of Stuff ended up in the attic, and a lead-crystal decanter full of Produce of Scotland found its way into the cocktail cabinet. My sword, eighteenth-century wig and other items from my previous life as a historical re-enactor went to friends who still do re-enacting. Some of it may appear on eBay in due course.

I gave my motorbike helmets to the local Fire Brigade. A nice shiny fibreglass helmet in a charity shop might look like a bargain, but it may be a potential death-trap. I don't want to be responsible for it falling to bits under impact because it's old. The chief paramedic instructor appreciated the opportunity to use a proper helmet for training or cutting-into-little-pieces practice. I don't know what became of my motorcycle leathers. They had been stored, but when it was time for their trip to the charity shop they'd vanished. Like an old oak table.

Meanwhile, my old oak table, chairs and a couple of particularly large furniture items never made it out of Redditch.



dubaibilly said...

The thing is, GG, that it has to be done - we accumulate too much crap over the years. I've done the same thing on a few occasions. In the end, you don't need the stuff and you still have your memories!



Jayne said...

I've moved house some 34 times since 1974 & up until 8yrs ago, hoarded so much rubbish it was unreal. I still had my wedding dress, still had my sons baby books etc & I just got to the point of NO MORE! I had a massive turnout & for stuff that I didn't sell, I left on the verge outside my house, in the knowledge that it would be gone by the following morning.

El Casareño Inglés said...

A real shame about the bike and accessories.

I may have to repeat the exercise myself in a few weeks, but I'll leave that explanation for a proper post.

Mars said...

i hoard too...:(

Gnomad said...

the Gnomads will be going through the same very shortly, we have two homes to pack and ship into one new one. Fortunately we haven't had too much time to hoard in either of these houses.

Mme Cyn said...

Jayne --

Wanna come over and purge my stuff? GG might have a little more room for his stuff if he hadn't married a total packrat. (example: I own 4 sets of dishes on this continent alone).

BTW -- I pay in Lasagna!

Anonymous said...

Grumpy Goat isn't nearly as pampered as his Beloved Wife -- who has yet another set of "heirloom" dishes in the States. Guess who has to find a new home for these? TM

Jayne said...

mme cyn, I'd love to, but I can we change the lasagne for cod 'n chips? :-)


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