Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Different lives

It says a lot about the vagaries of life that last night I was swanning around at an event with a man who has just made several £billion by selling some of his company to HP. I gaily went around a room of 250 or more full of confidence and joie de vivre, chatting to so many familiar faces and coming home drunk on the pleasure of the evening.  Today I was  full of aches and pains, covered in dust, cobwebs and twenty years of emotional baggage.

The evening event had been to launch a Foundation which will help bring pupils to The Boy's school who could not otherwise afford to pay the fees.  I was fortunate enough to go there as a grant-aided pupil, and have always been very grateful for that opportunity.  The founder of the school, Francis Bancroft, had bequeathed a legacy and specified that the school should have one hundred scholars from a poorer background.  In recent years as the grant-aided system was closed, the number of pupils who don't come from a monied background has dwindled. So the Foundation has been set up to right this anomaly.  This did set me thinking that I've missed a big chunk of the argument when they talk about kids from public school who go to university rather from state schools.  The Boy's school is not alone amongst public schools in helping the less well off  progress.  So the State School vs Public School debate is more complicated than I had previously really thought.

Today my task was to empty out the basement of The Boy's house.  This is the property left to him and his sister by their mother.  It's been my responsibility to look after because I'm relatively local and property is my business.  After a couple of empty years, it hadbeen me that took the decision to rent it out, and in quite a brutal weekend it had the living quarters emptied of the most (emotionally) valuable things.

It has been rented out for a few years now, but the basement has remained resolutely filled to the ceiling.  Literally.  With new tenants in it had to be emptied.  The easiest thing would have been to get some laboureres in to do it, but there was a feeling  that there may be some precious things down in the dampness.  So I arrived this morning and began the task...it was a bit more monumental than I had anticipated, but I dug in.  I now know what the pit miners felt like - the ceiling is no more than five foot at best, and the ladder down is narrow and steep.  My back was quickly aching as I piled stuff outside the house in readiness for throwing in the Transit I had rented for the day

Like an urban archeologist I waded in uncovering long forgotten secrets.  Some unused kitchen cabinet doors addressed to The Boy's Moother's first husband when they had converted a ramshackle building itno a splendid North London double fronted terraced home.  It must have been very exciting.  So many old clothes from a different age, and hundreds of toys from two childhoods....including a Barbie Doll SUV which I remember building in a panic of Christmas Eve.  The Boy's travelling cot and many books now ruined by damp.  A lot of paperwork from her company which went down in the post-millenium crash.  Some pictures, enough crockery for the finest banquet.....and so on.  There were all sorts of trinkets which I half remembered.  Of our life together the only thing I found were the divorce files.  In another time I'd have looked and seen her side of the story, but really that chapter has closed and I didn't feel it mattered anymore.

Nearing the end and I found the holy grail...a rocking horse which has survived quite intact.  There were lots and lots of soft toys which will head to the charity shop tomorrow, and some badly damaged vinyl albums which probaly can't be revived.

It being Finsbury Park, it was long before the scavengers arrived, and they were welcome to pick.  A couple of hours later and half way through a couple of Romanian guys arrived offering to take the metal and electrical goods...I seized the opportunity and offered them £20 each to help me finish off the task.  An hour later the task was done...there was not a a millimeter to spare...literally. 

I headed off to the municipal tip and an hour later I'd emptied the van all by myself.  I ache from head to toe.  Some of that is the physical exertion, no doubt some of that is emotion of it. 

But it's done.  The past is in the past and the future beckons enticingly.