Mabel scares the crap out of me.
You can see why, can’t you?
For the last seven months, Mabel has been sitting on top of the cabinet above the sink in my bathroom. Under her skirts, she’s been keeping her treasured belongings safe:
But this morning, I’m taking Mabel off to the charity shop. It’s a momentous occasion and I thought it fitting to photograph her before she goes.
Mabel is the very last remnant of the previous owners still left in my house. (Well, apart from all their decoration, wallpaper, tiles and such like, anyway. Perhaps I should say she is the last possession.)
We moved here last September, to a house that had clearly been someone’s home for a very long time.
On the one hand, it was the perfect opportunity for us. A classic “fixer-upper”.
The house hadn’t been updated for a good while, at least 50 years. There’s no central heating (yes, I know, we picked the absolute worst Winter to go without central heating, with the temperature still at “fricking freezing” even in April), there’s no shower, there’s no dishwasher, there’s nothing, in fact, that you could call a “mod con.”
So we get to start afresh and do it up exactly as we like. It’s a massive project and I love nothing more than a project.
But on the other hand, it’s also quite sad. The couple who lived here before had been here for 65 years. Raised their family here. Watched their children grow up and move out. Filled the house with their possessions. Possessions like Mabel.
When we moved in, the man had just died and we were buying the house from his children. So we said it was fine to leave any furniture, possessions or anything they didn’t want to have to clear out.
We slightly regretted having said that, after we moved all our furniture in and there literally wasn’t enough space for everything.
But over the last seven months, we’ve sorted through things, got rid of bits and pieces, earmarked the things we want to try and keep and find a new home for (well, retain their old home, really) among our own possessions.
And now, Mabel, and her old-fashioned loo roll, are the last things to go. Sure, we’ve got a phenomenal amount of renovation and work to do still, but once Mabel’s gone that marks the point from which the house holds only our possessions.
Which is nice for us, but the end of the line for the previous inhabitants.
We never knew the family, but I’ve felt as if we’ve got to know them a little. From all the 1950s furniture left here; from the choice of flowers planted in the back garden, and the fruit trees espaliered against the wall; from the pack of photographs we found that had slipped behind a cabinet, showing them sitting in the garden in the summer, surrounded by blooming flowers; from the neighbours who stopped, aghast, to tell me off when we cut down the giant cactus in the front garden; from the stories they told about how the man used to give miniature cactus plant cuttings to the local school children; from the floral wallpapers, a different one in every room and the rolls of spares we found in the attic.
I’d like to think that we’ll be here that long as well, a fixture in the community at the ends of our lives, our children reluctantly selling our house and the neighbours reminiscing fondly about us. But, you know what, I suspect it’s unlikely. We’ll probably move on in a few years, tempted by the lure of the countryside or a bigger house or the chance to live abroad…
So goodbye Mabel, may the charity shop treat you well.
And may you find a new home among people who don’t think you’re half as creepy as I do.