Monday, 19 May 2008

And What's in Your Loft.

My wife has been steadily packing boxes though our house move is not immediately imminent. Feeling guilty I stick my head in the loft, seemingly considered my domain and survey the scene. Amid the dust are numerous loose items and probably in the region of forty cardboard boxes. I hurredly close the door (it is a walk in loft) and retreat to the settee downstairs and an all important play off match.
I listen to the dear lady for the rest of the week, packing through gritted teeth, she not me until I can stand it no longer. My wife goes shopping and I enter the loft, reluctantly, not too far in and extract the nearest box. Clouds of dust fill the air as I carry it downstairs. I place it on the table and survey the contents. Ten minutes pass and the contents of the box still resolutely refuse to unpack themselves.
I remove the items on top of the pile. Derby County football programmes. The first one Derby versus Southend United in the Littlewoods Challenge Cup, Wednesday September 28, 1988, kick off 7.30pm, programme price, eighty pence. I notice tickets for next Saturday's game are on sale, eight pounds each. I also read that the illustrious Robert Maxwell is still chairman and Arthur Cox is the manager. All very interesting to a football fanatic.
A scruffy envelope beckons. I open it to see, for the first time in years a faded certificate from the University of Nottingham. Awarded to Kenneth Stevens on the eleventh day of July 1974, Bachelor of Education. I am immediately transported to Kesteven College of Education in Lincolnshire. Four happy years and two children later my wife and I returned from an idyllic rural student existence to a life as a schoolteacher in downtown Derby.
Some extremely tatty stamp albums are next to surface. I remember buying them as a boy at a Moravian Church jumble sale and they were even then somewhat ancient. Fascinated I study the contents. Mention of Abyssinia, Carinthia and Heligoland; Labuan, Loningermanland and St Pierre and Miquelon. Places unknown in my limited experience but interesting all the same. Talk of krones, rupees, paras and rigsbankdalers. I become engrossed in a hobby I had discarded over fifty years ago. Reluctantly I put down the last of the stamp albums,
A World Review 1942, price 1/6d catches the eye. Amazingly I read in an article concerning the Free French that Admiral Muselier has unexpectedly taken over St. Pierre and Miquelon. To think that fifteen minutes ago I had never heard of the place. But perhaps of more interest an advertisement suggesting 'a loose denture makes it impossible to masticate your food properly.' What quaint language! Evidently the answer is to carry Kolynos sprinklet tins in your pocket or handbag, price 1/3d.
The box is a treasure trove to be sure. My days in charge of a school community service programme are recalled as the class register for 1988/89 is uncovered. Mainly involving girls but not exclusively so the names reflect the era. Maxines, Sarahs, Melissas and Donnas; Simons, Garys, Craigs and Stuarts. Where are you now I wonder. And do you look back with fondness at those shared experiences.
Times change, never more epitomised than by the small pamphlet at the bottom of the box. Called simply 'Games for Socials' by Sid Hedges, first published in 1929, this edition reprinted in 1947 recalls a more gentle, innocent era long since gone. One of Sid's games, called simply 'Treasure Hunt' involves one person being given sixpence secretly before the game commences. The tenth person shaking hands with the recipient of the sixpence is the winner. Everyone frantically shakes hands with everyone else. The holder of the sixpence keeps score and eventually whispers to the game leader as to who was the winner. At which point 'You promptly announce this; present the coin and lead off the applause.' Good old Sid, happy days!
I hear the door opening as my wife returns. Three hours have passed. I ought to be aghast but I am surprisingly upbeat. I have as yet discarded no item whatsoever. Never mind, only thirty nine boxes to go.

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