In the house where I grew up my dad spent most of his free time in a room we called ‘The Study’. If that sounds terribly middle-class, it must be because it was. It was a spare bedroom really, but it had the airing cupboard in it - and the central heating pipes and pumps held noisy parties inside it every night, so you wouldn’t want to sleep there.
I’m wondering now if the room ever got vacuumed or dusted; it wasn’t easy to navigate. It was shelved from floor to ceiling on two sides and in the middle there was a 1950s kitchen table, with blue formica top and metal legs, not that you could tell. Just like the other makeshift cupboards around the room, its surface was buried under ‘stuff’.
By stuff I mean….well, for example, every single periodical that my dad had ever bought since 1959. I can’t be certain but they had names like Practical Oscillator and Illustrated Semiconductor. The sort with pictures of nude wires and semi-clad magnetic tape on their covers.
Then there were
bent coathangers (could come in handy one day)
a collection of used milk bottle tops (could come in handy one day)
dismantled plugs (could come in…. etc. etc. - I’m boring myself)
ball valves, soldering irons, a lovely black and gold Singer sewing machine, a beer-making kit, a hostess trolley and a manual typewriter missing the E key.
Empty chocolate boxes, the inner workings of old biros, a kettle without a lid.
Shall I carry on?
A home-made – home-made! by my dad! - ‘tumbler’ device for polishing pebbles - which was endlessly whirring, rotating and clattering like a washing machine full of stones (which it basically was) yet not one pebble came out shiny, ever. Why did people want shiny pebbles in the ‘70s anyway? Just to be displayed in saucers on windowsills?
Broken radios, unidentified amplifying objects, spent matches, dried up Polyfilla, ping pong bats….
The irony is that I don’t think anything in that room ever actually came in useful apart from the noisy airing cupboard, and my lasting memory of its true worth was that it was where my mum once put a very weak newborn guinea pig to keep it warm, wrapped in a towel in a box. I came home from school to find this, much to my delight. She (the baby guinea pig) happily survived and went on to live with us for several years, in a hutch in the shed. Which is really where all the other above stuff should have been kept all along.