Last night, courtesy of my friend Anne, we watched the director's cut of Lord of the Rings. Much longer, and much more coherent and emotionally satisfying as a narrative than the commercial release, though if the third one has any more of Sam I doubt I'll be quite so thrilled: what an annoyingly abject character he is, with his "Mr Frodo". (I thought we were being told to disapprove of the hobbit class hierarchy with the jibe at the Sackville-Bagginses, and all.)
Anyway. As one after another character's eyes glazed over at the sight of the ring, I started thinking about the talkback radio I'd heard the other day. It was bushfire-awareness day on the ABC, as Victoria starts to count down for the next fire season, coming way too quickly on the heels of the last. I don't know how many times I've heard Christine Nixon explain to people who complain about how slowly things are happening that many people are still in the grip of post-traumatic stress, and can't be hurried to make decisions. At the same time, it's becoming clear that if last February's conditions are repeated this year — and there's every expectation they will be — that the only safe thing for many people to do is to leave, and not stay and (heroically) "defend" their property. But with many towns in the hills, there is just one road out. How easy it would be for those roads to become blocked.
Anyway. Richard Stubbs was discussing the difficulty of cleaning up your property, and sorting out what you would take if you had to evacuate in a hurry, and started coaxing callers who were hoarders to phone in. Not that they identified themselves as such, but there were a number of calls from slightly puzzled folk who said yes, they did have lots of piles of papers in the house, but that it was possible to walk a path through from one room to another, and was that really a problem? Another said a friend had volunteered to help him go through the piles of papers on his dining-room table, but that it would take a while, because he had to look at every piece first before deciding if it could go. Some huge proportion of house fires, it turns out, are in the homes of hoarders.
And then I read Jeffrey's post about going through most of the household items before a temporary move, and giving and throwing things away.
And I think about my son, who buys lost of his clothes from second-hand and charity shops, but now makes a point of trying to take something back whenever he goes shopping.
So. I am at least going to clean up my study today. I do try not to keep papers, but I have 6 filing cabinet drawers at home, and 16 in the office. When I go back to work next year, I'm going to get rid of at least one four-drawer set: I can't possibly need all that stuff. I'm going to do a clean-out of my wardrobe, soon, too (although now that I am in my new gym routine, there are a number of items that will soon graduate into the "wearable" category).
But it's hard not to love beautiful things. I have a ridiculous affection for pretty cups, plates and saucers; I love the jewellery I have collected, and that has been given to me, over the years. I love the convenience of my books, but as objects and vehicles of ideas, they are mostly replaceable. If I think of a fire going through the house, though, which of my personal possessions would I want to take? The computer (or the hard drive back-up); two drawers of Garter files, which would be very hard to replace; the photo albums (maybe: so long as my family were safe I wouldn't mind so much); and my jewellery. And apart from the house itself, which we have laboured long and hard on, what would grieve me most to lose? I think it would be the piano. Which is irrational, because if our insurance ran to it, it would be replaceable. But it was one of the hardest things to buy and to commit to, and is one of the most beautiful things in the house. And the thought of all that finely wrought wood going up in flames is quite shocking.
Of course, we are not in a fire zone. But then, that's what a lot of people think...
What would you would find hardest to lose?