That Demmed Elusive Virginia Woolf Image!

I am in the process of dejunking: Therapeutic, very! This morning, I was up betimes and, having heaved a hundred-weight of ripped, and feather-sprouting pillows, and duvets so old they were probably an integral part of the Ancient Egyptian Mummification process, down to the car, then looked around for more rubbish! An ironing board of decidedly Heath Robinson-esque design followed, as did a pair of lamps in an advanced state of decrepitude…

…and this was just the start!

Why is it that we hoard the minutiae of our pasts so zealously? Why is it so fiendishly difficult to part us from old school reports we haven’t looked at in fifty years or more, rotting educational letters to our parents circa 1972 (and bloody tedious even back then), handwritten essays from our university days, Duke of Edinburgh Award handbooks – and all the other stuff which so fills our houses whilst having no current – or, in all probability, future! – impact upon our busy lives?

Why, also, is there this nasty little variant of The Law of Sod whereby that thing we most want, and need, to find proves the most elusive, while landfill sites of unutterable bollocks almost springs into our hands?

Sod’s Law of Elusiveness has struck innumerable times during my life – most poignantly (and irritatingly) for me when I was designing the cover for ‘Riding at the Gates of Sixty’.Β There are rules concerning the use of images when it comes to covers – and I hoped to circumvent this by scanning and then uploading a drawing of Virginia Woolf done by my then-boyfriend, Nigel, back in 1980. But could I find the accursed thing? Could I heck as like!

It eluded me just as effectively as the fictional Scarlet Pimpernel avoided the attentions of the Frenchies!

I sought the demmed thing here; I sought it there; I sought it well-nigh everywhere. It cocked a merry snook, from whichever crook and nanny it was hiding in, and continued to elude me!

Until today, that is. Ripping old essays and crap examples of writing into tiny pieces, and shoving them in one of several black bin liners, I suddenly saw a thin, slightly torn piece of paper the colour of old teeth/ancient manuscripts (take your pick!) – and, on winkling it out from the soon-to-be-rent-pile, I saw the familiar lines of Virginia Woolf drawn in black ink thirty-six years ago.

It I have kept, along with a small handful of certificates from my school days (including the unfathomable decision by the Oxford Junior Art Competition judges to award me First Prize for painting two years in a row – 1970 and 1971, for those still vaguely awake! – when even my dearest friends would have to concur with my view that I have the artistic skill of a cirrhotic liver), my copy of the Browning Family Tree and a few photos.

Three drawers full of my past is now reduced to a handful of items. Two trips to the Civic Amenity Site (Tip, to you and me!) later, I am feeling lighter in every sense. What is the point in keeping things just in case when you have not given them the time of day for thirty years and are highly unlikely to do so this side of the grave? When I roll up the curtain and join the Choir Invisible, my Lad is not going to want to trawl through oceans of foetid old school reports, essays written decades earlier and notifications that his mother was due to have the measles, mumps and rubella injection some time back in the seventies!

Who, frankly, gives a toss? Even I, who have kept these bits of paper for so long, found myself nodding off as I flicked through them!

I have also jettisoned all old birthday and thank you cards. This I have resisted, out of some kind of misplaced sentiment, for YEARS: Had examples going back thirty years from children now adults and parents themselves.

I think, for me, a lot of it was down to insecurity and a very elusive (going back to the DP word for today) sense of myself: I kept physical objects to remind me that I was real, liked, loved, important, alive. But the memories of those special people and their gifts are already recorded in both mind and journal – and I no longer feel the need to keep the physical evidence. I know I matter to those I value – and have no further need to prove it by keeping my own weight in forty-year-old trinkets.

I am so glad I have started this process – and that I have been able to let go. I had worried that I would cling on, make endless excuses (as I have done so often before) and keep all these useless artefacts for yet another decade or two!

I think it is a very healthy exercise for all of us to look at what is really important in our lives. Once that becomes clear, and in a sense impersonal, throwing out the chaff is relatively straight-forward!

If the chains holding us to the past are over-weighty, it is almost impossible to move on – and any kind of positive, hopeful future remains a elusive.

“We seek him here, we seek him there
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere!
Is he in heaven? Or is he in hell?
That demmed Elusive Pimpernel?”


18 thoughts on “That Demmed Elusive Virginia Woolf Image!

  1. Having moved three times in three years I have had to do the same….however, I do have a storage container with “stuff” that was meant to go in to the the previous house ” once it was finished” and now it will go in the new house once it is built. It’s been in there over two years now. So it begs the question, do I really need it seeing some as I’ve done without it all in that time? Probably not. I did go through the stuff in there a month or so back, like you Ali, looking for something elusive. A lot of the contents were really sentimental items that I’m going to have to make a decision on. Is it sensible spending Β£75/ month on things I’m pretty sure I shall throw away/ recycle….well 90% of the stuff at a guesstimate? No!
    I’m pretty good at decluttering actually and a couple of times it was forced upon me; in 1981 I had finished Uni and put all my worldly goods, including all my uni notes, note books of beautifully drawn fossils from my geology practicals, contents from my house, in my parents garage. On the 13th November we had a biblical flood. Next morning I discovered it had either been swept away or what was left covered in stinking mud. I had nothing left! Actually, it didn’t bother me that much!
    So go for it Ali, you are creating space for your new life πŸ‘πŸ˜€xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Many thanks, Dean, for this supportive response. You know exactly whereof you speak (as I know!). Yes, the sentiment versus practicality thing is what gets me , too: All those ancient artefacts, never looked at, but kept just in case. Felt great to finally dispense with them – and, only this morning, I have taken approximately a third of my books to the local Hospice Shop. Such selection allows us to weigh up what’s really important, doesn’t it? Yes, you are a very good declutterer – an inspiration to us all in that way! xxx


  2. Funny thing is I have virtually nothing from my ancient past it all floated away, on every high tide a little more, light and airy full of nothing really, it’s all just gone. Brilliant! Piles of rubbishy photography, school reports (must try harder), a packet of potato puffs I purchased in 1970 and never ate. Yup all gone, somewhere. All except one black and white photo of me and my first ‘sort of’ girlfriend from a local newspaper, it has hidden from high winds and careless handling and now is partly buried under a pile of music gear in my studio… (she looks fantastic at seventeen, I am a total geek, ah memories…)

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  3. I am in the process of moving to a new apartment, and though I have jettisoned (I love that word!) some items, I had a hard time pitching many of the small items (e.g. baggage tags from my first air trip to a city or airplane tickets), sports tickets, etc.

    I agree that eventually, the memory is sufficient moreso than the physical evidence.

    But I think that many people have pack-rat tendencies! Myself included!

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    1. Oh, I am terrible when it comes to keeping stuff, Noah! The folder I ransacked and culled yesterday was the one kept by my parents (they had one for each of us) and contained items going back to my Christening in February 1958! I just felt the time had finally come to leave such items behind. xxx


  4. I’m the opposite, I regularly de-clutter. Much to the annoyance of my husband, if he’s searching for something I’ve probably thrown it out. My daughter is like you, her bedroom makes me twitch, it’s full of stuff she can not & will not part with. Tut tut!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good for you, Lorraine – actually, I do too; but there has been this nostalgia-inducing stash of items which I have clung onto all my life. This one folder, collected by my mother, went back to my Christening, at six weeks of age, in February 1958! Now gone! xxx

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Having just been through the dejunking process, as you know, I concur… its effects feel as if some miracle diet that, should we patet it, would make us millions, worked overnight. I am still debarassing myself of Stuff; having run out of time to dispose of everything prior to the move, some boxes came unattacked to the new place. Having run out of storage room, most of that too will go. I could squeeze it in… but squeezing is not on the menu. I want space.
    Except the books. And even then, most of them could go if they really, really had to.
    Enjoy….it is amazing what you find, even more amazing what you find you can let go of. xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Sue; I know you understand whereof I speak on this matter! It is amazing – and, to my delight, I even managed to take a car-boot full of books I never read to the local hospice shop. That felt wonderful. xxx


      1. Having filled every available space with bookcases in the new place…and filled every shelf thereof, even though I did manage to dispose of a LOT of books before moving, I know a secondary cull is in order. Which has the added advantage of freeing up some shelf space…for new books πŸ™‚ xxx

        Liked by 1 person

        1. EXACTLY, Sue: I must confess there was similar method in my apparent madness! I have now freed up about three shelves: Rapture for the future, methinks, as I labour ecstatically to fill them!!! xxx


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