So, we have been clearing out the loft, cupboards and garage and thought we would have a garage sale. Now it turns out this is a good way to engage with your neighbours both near and far. We are quite fortunate as we have a drive in front of the garage and front on one side of the house a main road into town. Ours is a small town. So we have what they call in the retail trade...good footfall. In two days we took about £400, not bad. But what made it really interesting is the folk you meet and as they say there is nought as strange as folk, certainly in our little town from my weekend experience. Over the years I have both witnessed the strangeness and idiosyncrasies of some of our town folk at a distance and up close (as a Chair of a local Mental Health Charity). However, the garage sale brought new dimensions to this experience.
As Ian approached, my wife noted that he had a object under his arm, not the usual dolly that he will be often seen with around town , drooped over his arm. This was some kind of large bowl. On inquiring what had he been up to he said he was at the pet store. So later my wife toyed with me as to what I thought Ian had go that day. 'no, don't tell me he got some fish', 'no' says my wife. 'a rabbit', 'no' 'oh...a hamster!'. She nodded no. So I am racking my brains, its a small bowl held under his arm...' stick insect!!" . She smiled ' no but thats quite close' . ' you going to have to tell me', I said. Dramatic pause from Rachel ' a tarantula " . ' No ! You have got to be kidding!!' . So Ian, who is a sweet man but as some might say not the full shilling and clearly quite eccentric visited our little stall in out little town with his newly acquired tarantula. I am just happy I do not live above him.
(Ian is not his real name)
We were blessed with many other stories from our garage sale but I will save those for another time. Except maybe one and a more sobering one.
As the day went on the visitors slowed and I begun to clear away. Rachel had taken Fred and a friend to the tennis courts. A man approached who was out walking his dog. We are also on the route to the cemetery (its next door) and its is a popular walk for dog owners as at the end of it there are open fields and a slip through to a walk down the old rail way bridal ways and a small fishing lake. The dog was lively, pulling on his lead and barking. ' he seen that bit of bread on the floor there' . He indicates with a flick of his head. So he then lets the dog approach it and eats it, which calms him. ' if he sees anything he just barks until he can have it, eat anything. If I have chips I have to share them'. He had a friendly face, a warm smile and maybe a little bit of a...I'd like to chat. So I stopped putting stuff away and asked if he was interested in the wooden toys he had stopped by. 'you can always be interested' slight pause, 'I would like this push along ' . This was one of those little wooden boxes on four wheels with a handle that children can push but also put things in. If its my grandchild Buddy then he will usually end up sitting in it or putting all my pots and pans in it. ' so is that for a grandchild 'I inquired. ' No its for my niece ' . So I said it would be a £1 and he riffled through his pockets. He was quite round in the waste and not the best kept in his attire. He produced the pound. I said was there anything else he might like. He asked if I had any Royal Air Force things. ' well I don't think I have. I have some military books '. Then I remembered. ' I do have a book about the dam busters' ( now this was a famous air crew from the 2nd world war that launched a wave of daring attacks with round bouncing bomb balls on dams in Germany - a popular film was made of it after the war). 'its a recent book and my son was interested in the story. It has replica maps and flying instructions'. I guess I was bigging it up, not for the sale but I wanted him to have something that might be a genuine interest of his. He was not overwhelmed by my pitch but it sparked a story about the Lancaster bomber , more of an admiration that he had for the crew. 'they would be all cramped up and it was really cold in the tail of those bombers'. I momentarily had a curiosity about why the fascination. With hindsight I wish I had prompted more. I told him how I had gone with my son to see a fully rebuilt one at a local air base and a famous tale about a gunner who bailed out at many thousand feet when his bomber caught fire. He had no time to get his parachute. It was either burn or jump. Remarkably he survived as some trees broke his fall and the snow had built in large drifts and that eventually cushioned him as his descent was slowed by the tree branches. So we casually passed a bit of time and eventually he got out his wallet and duly paid me another pound. He seemed pleased and I got him a bag as he was still going off for his walk.
(The Lancaster bomber was a British icon of the skies and the 2nd world war)
Not long after my wife returned and as we cleared the last table together we noticed a wallet had been left behind. She opened to see if we could find an address. I only needed one look. The wallet could best be described as well worn, crusty and rather packed with what mostly looked like old receipts and bits of paper. I said I think this is the man with the dog. A slightly unkept man and little bit unruly dog has a wallet like this. She found a driving licence with an address, it was five minutes away. So she set off. After a short while I notice the man with the dog from the window of my kitchen so I rushed out. I explained we had found his wallet. He looked in his pocket and produced a wallet but said that he had two wallets so it must be the other one. I told him that my wife had gone to the house and he said he would wait here as his wife was deaf and would probably not open the door. I bid him goodbye and said I hoped he enjoyed the book and his niece would like the toy. I returned into the house, waiting with him to my wife came back felt like it would make him unnecessary uncomfortable at maybe the thought he had put us out - which he had not.
Anyway, you're now thinking is there a punch line. Well not really. My wife returned and I told her he was worried his wife might not hear the knocking. ' I don't think she was deaf, looked like maybe an agra phobic (someone who does not leave the house). She peered around the door and the house looked quite a mess, she had a wispy beard'.
Moments like those make you realise how privileged we are and make me muse over what meaning do people manage to extract from the daily moments and events they encounter. The man with his dog and the wife imprisoned by whatever woes the world bestowed upon her over how many years ago and he buys a toy for his niece and a book about the dam busters from a man who he has never known and who tells him a story about a rear gunner and never inquired ' was you in the air force then ?'.
So when you reach your mid fifties and you have a 56th birthday party, how should you celebrate. Well, planning to go away around the world for six months is one helluva gift. On the actual day I had a tea party with my four children and we larked around on at the tennis courts. But I digress as what I wanted to say was that setting off on a travel adventure when you are grown up and have a house requires additional planning other than just where do I go and when. What do you do with the house and more importantly two dogs. We had a cat but that moved next door a couple of years ago.
The house went up for rent last week and we had about 10 visits with hopefully a couple of those wanting a six month rental. So that will help with costs. It does mean that you have to clear out the draws and the cupboards. We also have a large loft and garage that need clearing. We have been in this house 10 years and thats means a lot of accumulated recent nostalgia tucked away in various nooks and crannies. . In addition we both brought the wreckage of previous memories collapsed into an assortment of boxes. I found a paper I wrote on leadership from probably 20 years ago. For a conference where I was debating the question 'Why do we need leadership? '.
Going travelling is a punctuation mark in our lives. Rachel has a new job and new ambitions. Fred has a big new school on the horizon. We have old stuff to clear out and maybe new things to gather from our travels. I have a stalled Art career to recover or maybe even discover as the first attempt was very hit and miss. Travelling gives us access to new experiences and a chance to consider new longer term goals. Who knows it might open up different choices.
As we prepare and clear the cupboards we find our past, my past exposed in all its glory and sadness. We become invaded by long ago stories and departure points that litter every bit of our journey to where we stand now.
I pulled out of my nostalgia cupboard display my old copy of Bukowski 'Notes of a Dirty Old man' (acquired in July 1982 - I use to date all my books back then). Inside the cover I found a rambling I had written and from I guess, given the dates, I was working as a psychiatric nurse.
...and these are the rules that we must obey to stay put in our boxes and we can't talk to 4am because you must sleep and a report lays on the table for people gather around to discuss your needs but only you and I know what they really are locked up inside of you on the outside an exterior so young and I see only sadness and we've witnessed your madness and converted you while I was never really sure...
I also found, as I cleared out old clothes, an 'Old Navy' casual top that I had bought when I did my first big overseas trip at the age of 18 around the USA and Canada. I recall buying several Old Navy items including some pumpkin motif boxer shorts, maybe when I was in New York.
S0, even if your not going travelling, clear out those cupboards and enjoy a trip down memory lane and use it as an opportunity to appraise the wonders of journeys taken and ask yourself, what if I accumulate another 10 years in these cupboards. What would I want that to tell me 10 years from now?
I retired about 5 years ago. I had been in the Mental health industry for my whole working life. I put my spare time into art, writing and photography with mixed success. I found that I had a great capacity to be idle and I would love to teach this to other people. The opportunity to spend this amount of time together as family in these modern times is rare. I will miss my older kids and Buddy and my close friends.