The Big Project

Eddie and I live in a small flat, so space isn’t exactly generous, especially if you collect all sorts of things, like we do. Nevertheless, we have this one room that’s been standing “empty” for years. It’s storage, it’s where some of the books live and it is where this huge painting of a piglet resides. Yup, that’s the one on top there. We bought it in Penang quite a while back and didn’t realise just how big it was. Galleries have huge empty white walls, so everything looks reasonably sized. Of course reasonable people will measure and go home and check, but then we are not reasonable people.

It arrived and would not fit into the lift, so the movers schlepped it up 20 floors. I am still mortified. Fortunately the thing is quite light. One of our neighbours in the penthouse had a concert grand brought up the stairs. The poor movers did it a few floors a day, so I’m told it took a month to get there. Fortunately they could just leave it in the stairs, as there was fairly little chance of anyone stealing it and carrying it away.

Born in the age of the CD, we have amassed huge quantities of them. Now is the time to decide whether that US3 album is worth keeping.

So yesterday we decided to set up this room once and for all! This meant moving shelves from the living room into what we grandly call “The Library”, though it’s really just the spare bedroom. We started by switching on the air-conditioner, which has been sleeping on the wall for the past ten years. It took an hour to locate the remote control, so called because whenever you need it, it is.

When we located the thing and at last switched the geriatric air-con on, it was at first so surprised, it did nothing at all. Then it sputtered, coughed and belched out a vast cloud of grey dust that immediately settled on the pig. The compressor in back groaned, the gears ratcheted the noise level up a few hundred decibel and then the thing surprisingly did all an air-conditioner is supposed to do. Miraculous!

Have you noticed how you don’t notice how much stuff you have until you’ve pull it all out of the shelves? It has taken over our sitting room and our lives. There’s so little space left anywhere, you have to go outside to change your mind. In fact I had to escape to the yet uncompleted “library” to write this blog. Cat has refused to come join me as she is still upset about the mess.

The cat is called Tikus, thought I mostly just call her Cat.

Cat is very obedient, leaves the room when you tell her to and generally behaves in a very uncatlike manner, but she has a nasty temper that no one can really fathom. She looks sweet, white and gentle and will purr and come up to guests, whom we always tell not to touch her and who invariably don’t listen. That’s why we always keep Dettol cream to hand. Maybe naming her Tikus wasn’t such a good idea after all. She looked like drenched rat when I picked her out of the drain outside Frangipani, but the name has obviously given her personality problems.

Here I am sitting writing this post, or rather here I am not sitting, because I’m taking this picture of where I am not sitting. In fact I am not even writing, because, obviously, I’m taking the picture. But now I am. Writing.
You’re probably thinking; where’s the mess? This is empty, but not too messy and there seems to be plenty of room. That’s because this is where everything is supposed to be going, not where is currently is.

Because it is currently here. On the dining table, on the floor and all over the damn place. We opened boxes! Now, opening boxes that have been closed for a decade is a very, very bad idea. If you haven’t looked at it in the last ten years, you won’t miss it in the next ten, so my advice is to throw the whole box in the garbage unopened and save yourself a lot of heartache deciding what to keep and what to chuck. Just chuck it all. The same goes for the single cup left over from a set of 12 that your aunt gave you for your wedding. Throw it. If you liked the thing that much, you wouldn’t have broken eleven of them in the fist place. I’m hardly Marie Kondo, but I do believe in getting rid of excess stuff that is not giving you pleasure and if you’re using something once every two years, it’s definitely not pleasuring you enough.

The fun part of all this tidying and parting with things is that we get to hang paintings that have been leaning against the shelves for ages. We have a fair amount of them, none of them particularly expensive, some gifted by friends and they all give us immense pleasure. My advice to young people? Start buying artwork early, buy what you can afford, buy what you like, not what you think will make you money. We still have the very first painting we bought and 30 years on I still pause in front if it and take it in.

The OTHER thing that will keep you sane while you live in a hovel is access to the drinks trolley! The one thing not to block is the isle to the booze. You’ll need it. Oh, and stock up on beers, they go down surprisingly fast when you’re condemned to hard labour.

Yes, that’s a little frog. Don’t look at the Economist Style Guide. It was a mistake.

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