Friday, 10 October 2014

the things people leave behind

It is rather evident in my writing that I am obsessed not only with big houses, but with secrets and letters, desks, and forgotten things. So, when I found myself sorting out my mum's old desk the other day I didn't know what I might find. Of course as a child (and a rather nosy one at that), it had been once of those places that was forbidden, but so, so tempting. Otherwise, how else would you know what was really going on, or what was being written about you, or your siblings? I never really peeked (not really), but beginning to sort these things out, I did feel like that nosy, naughty child again.

Sorting out old things is always way more moving than I anticipate it to be. No matter how much you might be geared up to doing something, such as sorting a desk out, the reality of it doesnt' hit you until you're in the midst of it. After all, all these things have been kept for a reason, by someone who cared about them. It always feels like a strange intrusion to go through, even though they'll never be able to look at them again. It's hard sometimes as well to know what to keep. The temptation to keep every scrap of paper and every card just because of the handwriting and the acknowledgement that they once existed is too strong, especially for me, because I hoard an awful lot of stuff. And once you throw something away, you wonder if you should have done that. But you can't keep everything.

The past, family stories, and memories are all very well, but until you are holding something tangible in your hands it is hard to believe that any of it was ever real (something my characters often find in my stories).

And there's not only the cards or scraps of paper that you find, with handwriting that you want to keep just because it's the handwriting you recognise and remember and don't want to forget, but the objects too. The things that you don't know if they might have a story, some sort of tale to tell or if you're placing too much emphasis on it just because it's there.

And within all these things, you find letters, things hidden away. Letters from other people, thank you cards, or notes. It's an odd feeling, like you're intruding.

Sorting my mum's desk I found all this. It's a weird feeling. It's something you feel that you want to do, you need to do, but once you start, it unleashes so much, and part of you wishes that you'd left it there forever, preserved, just the way it is.

We also came across a bunch of my granny's letters and poems, which again feels like an intrusion, something very private, but also something left behind. Again it's that thing of trying to unite the person you knew, and in the case of grandparents, someone elderly with the young person in pictures and letters and writings.

It's a draining exercise, but also rewarding, and fulfilling in an odd way. Moving too.

But I suppose, there is a reason why people love archives, and looking through someone's papers or writings.It's funny too because this is something that I'm very much exploring in the book that I'm editing at the moment - in it the main character discovers things from her Gran's past, and - well, I won't say more as I'm still editing, but that theme is very much prevalent.

Desks are funny things aren't they?

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