My Father In Reflection
03/07/1938 – 18/10/2018
This tale comes from deep within my Father’s computer in the section that l have come to term, ‘the unpublished stories’. Here is the true complexity of the man l seek answers on.
Written in 2008, he takes a deep look into his collecting, or rather hoarding honestly. Now this tale is now just over ten years of age, and so ten years later from first penned, there is a chasm of difference between what was valuable even back then to what is considered valuable today. In fact, l would now say that in 2008 various items in the house were quite possibly considered valuable , now it is more a case of what is salvagable.
My Father for years continued to tell people my Mother got all the money, she didn’t she requested and was granted a clean break, however she did receive sufficient funds to buy her own property. My Mother had several photographs from the albums, but the actual number was l believe roughly 46 photo extracted from the divorce in 1989 out of a potential 1900 photographs. The divorce between my parents was hostile, aggressive and acrimonious, so l should imagine, my Mother felt more compelled to simply take the photos themselves rather than requesting the negatives from my Father at which there was no guarantee he would ever deliver them, such was the nature of who they had become as a couple.
My Father for years after the divorce and by this l even refer to the fact of a stray comment in 2016 where he scornfully spat my Mother’s theft of these 46 photos and likened them to the ransacking of Paris! Dad was a materialistic man, it was never people, it was always things. Things were power! People were bugs to be squashed. I find no joy in the realisation that currently my Sister is of the same ilk! My Father thoroughly enjoyed retelling the story of the missing photographs like he was a toppled hero.
I have over the last couple of months on three lengthy occasions since his death gone through everything he lists here, and bear in mind this was written just over ten years ago, and can confirm everything he writes. The saddest aspect is that yes he has/had all of these things – but he didn’t look after them. In the last ten years of his life he became a very different man to the man of 2008.
The huge collection of books were not thumbed copies, maybe a few. The Wisden’s his pride and joy were bought every year and all he did was buy a new version and shelve it. He had hundreds of branded CD’s. The 45’s and 78’s were in a cupboard having not been played for probably close to 20 years.
Tigers filled every nook, cranny and corner of the house, in the form of mugs, soft cuddly toys alone numbered 87 ranging from three foot in size down to perhaps three inches, posters on every door, framed tigers on the wall, books on the shelves.
As to his clothing, l had never seen as many shirts, tee shirts, suits, trousers and what nots in one house for a man in my life, some still in their wraps from when they were dry cleaned and were simply never worn again. The clothing he did wear was restricted to perhaps a dozen items. The rest of the clothing we had to donate to the homeless charity and what we couldn’t, had to be disposed of due to mould. He owned 27 pairs of shoes and only 6 are now considered perhaps okay for donation, the rest were eaten away by mould.
He had the money to improve his house, but left it to drop to disrepair and rot and instead he bought things he didn’t want or need to the point that whilst yes there were collections, they were not collections of passion anymore, but hoarded possessions.
The cursed photo albums actually number 203, yes the very same ones that my Sister is so keen to acquire yet as of yet still hasn’t moved any from the house. The albums reside in cupboards in the utility room, bedroom and kitchen.
The stamps a much loved hobby at one point have now had more spent on them in the last ten years than their collective price will yield as a return investment and some have not been allowed to breathe and have become damp. Goodbye Australia as an example, a collection once prized was attacked by damp and is now nowhere near it’s booked value in 2008. The Pre-War Germany collection sits in perhaps fifty albums alone and all he did was continue to spend at times as much as £400 on two stamps sit in the envelopes they arrive in, and do not have that resell value in today’s climate. How many devout elitist stamp collectors do you know under the age of fifty as an example?
The Wisdens are indeed a good run, but they are merely second hands and not mint, and because they were not maintained, they have deteriorated further causing them too to lose value. They are now ancient before their time and no longer a prize.
A few years ago, l decided that life wasn’t about things, l was a serious collector of bits and bots as well, and so sold off more or less everything. I have another spring clean to attend to in the next month, and what little l possess now will soon go to homes that want them, or sadly failing that many books will become homeless and have to be destroyed. We are no longer living in a rich society for the likes of books when everything is digitalised. I came to realise that life was about living, the days we have left as our lives are short, about being in the moment, about leading a more minimalised lifestyle, about being with those that l love and not surrounding myself with things that burdened me or tied me down. Memories l could store in my head and relive that way.
My Father sadly never came to realise that, and all he did for not just the past ten years but for twenty years was continue to hoard collect and eke out an existence.
Inside Leg 31,Waist 36 ish
What I am going to say will be a difficult concept for many to grasp, but I would ask that you try. I am not perfect. No, no, I hear the protests, but unfortunately, it’s true. I have many faults. Well, not many perhaps, but certainly a few. Oh, all right then, one or two.
A decided fault in my own eyes is that I am a collector. My ex wife expressed it slightly differently. “You’re a hoarder”, was what she said. I may be obliged to enter a plea of guilty to the charge. Now you can visit my place and you will not break a leg tripping over piles of old newspapers or plastic bags, but the evidence can be located on closer inspection. Her cruel, but not untrue words came about because of my habit of collecting bits and pieces in a very large biscuit tin. In this Aladdin’s Cave I have nails and screws, nuts and bolts, rawl plugs and washers of all sizes, fuses and fuse wire and God knows what else.
My plea of “You never know when it will come in useful” was routinely ignored by said wife, but has proven to be true on countless occasions.
And this has continued in the twenty years since we divorced. Photographs for example. I have always collected them in albums, even today when it is possible to use a computer. Computers are a very good thing, but for me they are simply a tool, not something to be loved, no more than a hammer, chisel and screwdriver are loved. A photograph album has a tangible aspect to it. It can be picked up, opened, examined and put down again. I should know, on divorce, I received eighty-one of them.
Our split was equitable; she got all the money, I got all the photographs. Well, not quite all; she had gone through the bloody lot and removed those pictures which she had wanted. None of me, I’m sure. Later I asked why she had done that, as I had all the negatives and could have had them reprinted for her. She denied doing so, so I was left with a collection of gap toothed albums, all suffering from Dutch album disease.
Since those days, I have acquired a further sixty two or three. And a good deal else besides.
I have a huge collection of LPs, many 45s and not a few 78’s, none of which get played today. All the Sinatra and Neil Diamond albums have been supplemented on CD, but still the vinyl gathers dust. I still have a turntable and styli for all speeds. I suppose that, even today, it is possible to buy a stylus, as 12 inch vinyl can still be found in the record shops.
And books. I don’t know how many I have, but it is probably closer to 2000 than 1000. I have even read a few of them. Pride of my collection is the Wisden Cricketer’s Almanac. They are all there, from 1864 to 2007. They are quite valuable, too. In 1977 I bought a job lot of Wisdens from 1938 to 1952 with the exception of 1942. They cost me £3 each. I picked up the missing year eventually for £285. The six issues of 1940 to 1945 are catalogued at £1800, which represents a good return for a bit of hoarding. The copies of the First World War are valued at £2500.
About every two years I decide to cull my books and give the unwanted ones to a charity shop. On my best year, I gave away five or six.
I have been a Jaguar aficionado all my adult life, eventually buying my first of three Jags in 1997. I receive magazines on the marque every month and have been unable to throw a single one away. I won’t even mention tiger associated items, but go straight to clothes. Here is another concept. By and large, women are more interested in clothes than men. Agreed? My clothes are to keep me decent and warm or cool, depending on the season. I am not out to impress anyone. I must have around a hundred shirts, or maybe only eighty. I have business shirts, dress shirts, polo shirts, rugby shirts, Jaguar shirts and probably a few I have forgotten about.
I may also have as many ties to fit some of the shirts. There are police ties, military ties, ties from all the oil companies in Britain. I also have one with the head of a Swale dale sheep from the British Wool Marketing Board. Don’t ask me; I have no idea how I came by that.
I have a dozen suits, single breasted, double breasted, with and without waistcoats. Now that I no longer work full time, I wear a suit for weddings, not many, funerals, too many and bar mitzvahs, none.
I also possess raincoats, fleeces, jackets, sports trousers and all the other accoutrements. Shoes? A pair of black leather, ditto brown leather, and matching boots.
So what is all this saying? Not a great deal really. I have my favourite book, favourite record and favourite tiger if it comes to that, but I don’t let the others know. All in all my clothes are like my computer, a necessary tool. But, if I am forced to pick a favourite, I would nominate my wide brimmed had which kept my brain cool in India, or my Cap, blue. Service dress, which the Australian Government gave me to wear in the RAAF. And if you give me a Chinese burn, and forced me to choose one, it will be the RAAF cap. Why? Because the seven years I was privileged to wear it was the happiest, most fulfilling period of my working life.
Written by my Father B.M