There’s no cash in the attic – just my lofty ideals

12th January 2018 at 00:00
Sure, Steve Eddison might be having a clearout of some old junk. But who’s to say what’s junk, and what’s a precious memory?

’Tis no longer the season to be jolly, but at least having more festive waste than there are festive bin collections is not an issue. We’ve utilised the skip in the driveway that’s waiting for the men who began remodelling the bathroom in October to come back and finish it. But while this solves one problem, it creates another. Seeing the skip still half empty has given Mrs Eddison an idea: “Before the decorations go back to the loft, let’s clear it out.”

Ignoring my opposing arguments, she assumes the role of project manager and purchases several storage boxes with lids. ‘Everything we need to keep goes in these. The rest can be thrown out,’ she says. Then in anticipation of my next question, explains the sorting and selection process. “I’ll colour-code everything for you. Anything with a green sticker goes in a labelled box, yellow stickers go to the recycling centre at Sainsbury’s and red stickers go in the skip.”

In the cluttered confines of the loft, a pattern emerges. All items charting the formative years of our daughters are to be preserved. These include the grim remains of Jessica the one-armed doll, the threadbare carcass of a toy dog called Wrinkles and a battered copy of Happy Birthday Moon by Frank Asch. In stark contrast, all evidence of my own existence is condemned and will be removed from the archives of our family history for all time.

Boycott and ballcocks

While I can live with the loss of outmoded computers and ancillary items – including floppy disks, dead modems, Neolithic monitors, expired keyboards and mice with balls – there are some things I cannot bear to lose. What sort of Yorkshireman lets a framed signed photograph of Geoffrey Boycott go the way of a broken ballcock? What Pele of the pub team dumps his runner-up Player of the Year Award 1977-8 in yesterday’s toilet bowl?

While secretly reallocating my past, I find a cardboard box bearing a red sticker. On opening it I am instantly transported to a tiny resources room in a forgotten school. It is a wet Monday morning in 1989 and behind me, a queue of teachers cheerfully wait their turn. My younger self locates his flimsy master copy onto the drum, locks it into place and begins turning the handle. He is relieved when the master sheet doesn’t wrinkle and ruin several hours of careful preparation.

For me the death of the school Banda machine (spirit duplicator) signalled the birth of a new age of creative austerity and a downturn in teacher satisfaction. With its passing, the joy of having purple fingers faded. The excitement of peeling handwritten masters off waxed sheets dissolved. The light-headed euphoria from inhaling too many solvent vapours dissipated. And as the old went out, the ubiquitous photocopier crept in. Followed by several weighty tomes called the national curriculum.

Is that the faint, lingering odour of methanol I can smell, or is my memory playing tricks on me? And, either way, how can I be expected to throw this reminder of happier times into a skip nearly 30 years after rescuing it from one?

Steve Eddison teaches at Arbourthorne Community Primary School in Sheffield

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