[ 23:57 tuesday 12 february – haggerston road, london ]
a few weekends ago i rented a van and drove with my aunt clare to my grandparents’ house near hampton court, on the thames south west of london. it was a bright chilly day. i hadn’t been in the house since mary’s funeral in august and it was much changed. most of the furniture and chattels had already been removed. all that was left was a forlorn shell populated with emotional phantoms. everywhere i looked i saw the objects that had stood there, events that had happened there, associations stretching back across the long years.
the reason for our visit was to pick up the bits and pieces apportioned to us when everything was divided amongst the family. in my case this consisted of a mahogany bureau, a wrought iron standard lamp, four folding wood and canvas garden chairs, a 1940s pye wireless and gramophone, a tattered persian rug, two wooden salad bowls, a yellow and white porcelain tea service, photos of grandpa from prep school and cambridge, several sets of silver cutlery (including a fish service, a fruit service and a beautifully engraved cake knife), eight champagne saucers, a port decanter, a georgian silver tea pot and milk jug, a stone from the houses of parliament damaged during air raids in 1941, a woven woolen blanket and about forty books spanning the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
it took just a few days for everything to find its place in my flat. the effect of having these things here with me is marvelous. each item is saturated with memories. whenever i look at them or touch them i feel the presence of lloyd my grandfather and mary his beloved second wife, then a little more distantly monica my grandmother who died when i was twelve. beyond that many of the items belonged to my great- grandfathers ernest armstrong and walter scott hill so they too make their presence felt. stretching further back the names and lives are less familiar to me so the ghosts are less distinct.
i now feel despair at all the things i left behind. piles of books, grandpa’s canvas kit bag from the navy, more photographs. the thought of these treasures being dumped in a skip or sent to a charity shop appalls me. i must return and gather them all.
: c :