An ABC of Relativity - C
In the last of a three-part series for the Journal of Wild Culture, artist and writer Hestia Peppe begins the painful process of cataloguing, cleaning and moving on.
(A) had found the house on the internet, searched by location and size and price and had contacted the then agent to arrange looking around. (A) and (B) had been the first to go there with the man from the small property management company – very informal, nothing corporate – who were looking after it for the landlady. The house was not ready to move into. It was irregularly empty; littered with debris from the previous inhabitants. A surprising number of huge CRT monitors had lain on the rough, poorly varnished wooden floors; (A) had counted at least three of them among the miserable pieces of furniture and the strange, large, purpose-built beds in the six bedrooms. There was a cellar and a garden shaded by the brick structure housing the railway line and the huge old apple tree. There was a fireplace in the living room. They liked it, and on behalf of (C), (D), (E) and (F) – unable to view it for themselves but with a common poverty of options and much trust – they had begun the negotiations for the Joint Tenancy Agreement.
Before they moved in, the house had been “entirely renovated”. This just meant a new coat of magnolia paint (was it really magnolia back then, or white? Perhaps it was only the years of smoke that now made it seem more likely to have been magnolia) and the garden razed to bear earth. The miserable furniture – a cheap mahogany veneer coffee table, a massive blue-covered three piece suite that seemed to absorb all light in the living room and a cupboard unit from a school, complete with compass scratched graffiti, in the front bedroom – had been left to serve in deference to the status of “part-furnished”. Uniform blue curtains of the kind found in hospitals had covered every window. When they changed these for drapes of their own choosing the landlady pleaded with them for over a year to let her put up blinds to protect the street from the sight of them. They would concede, to the blinds being put up, but rarely closed them.
(E) placed the tenancy agreement in the second drawer down next to the stove in the kitchen.
With the exception of the purpose-built beds, almost all of the furnishings were to disintegrate or expire or become so intolerable they would throw them out. (F)’s mattress would be the first to go, swiftly followed by (A)’s and (C)’s, and later the pine dining table and the hulking blue sofa and chairs. Finally, after the first (E) left, they would rid themselves of the coffee table, the fourth leg of which had been occasionally collapsing for several years. Alternatives and additions had been found (mostly from the street) but these were by now either too well loved to be left behind or too well loved to realistically withstand another wave of inhabitants. They had already been abandoned by their original owners before (C) or (D) or (A) ever brought them in. How should they be replaced? The Joint Tenancy Agreement requires its minimum ritual observances.
There were a great deal of things that those last to remain would be expected to “make good”. A list the landlady had compiled from pronouncements by two estate agents whom she had had visit the house some months before had been communicated to them by text message. Inside and outside the changes wrought by six years of living, or of “making bad”, as the logic seemed to have it, were expected to be undone. The various sycamore and buddleia trees that had sprouted in both the front and back gardens and in a gutter and from one of the walls must be chemically destroyed and removed. Inside, the outlines left by the hundreds of pictures must be obliterated, the scars left by the Blue-Tack that held them to the walls filled in and ameliorated, the entire house repainted (but in magnolia or white?). “Clearly this”, the current state of things, was not “fair wear and tear”, the text message had stated. The agents, who at no point introduced themselves, had repeated the phrase “just soap and water” over and over again like a litany during their procession through the house.
The architrave around every door was marked by dark halos at hand height which could indeed have been easily removed and even occasionally had been by (A) or the second (F) on especially fastidious occasions in the course of the last six years. The grout between the tiles in the bathroom now held faint smears of colour left by the crayon pictures that had for a number of those years covered the walls of that room before (D) tired of them and obliterated them with soap. The doors of the built-in cupboards in (A)’s bedroom and (D)’s and on the freestanding wardrobe housing the TV in the living room had been removed to save the space required to open them. They lay in the cellar now, with the CRT monitors, presumably warping unthinkably. The Joint Tenancy Agreement prohibits both destruction and creation.
The end of the world is easier to imagine than cleaning that oven or dividing up this strange collection of things in any sensible relation to use value, provenance or ownership. Somehow now, great feats of transformation must be accomplished. All the accumulated objects must be dispersed. Bulky waste, garden waste, electrical waste, recycling, charity shop donations: all somehow must be transported away, transferred to an elsewhere. Skip hire, van pick-ups, boxes by the kerbside, limescale remover, mould killer. An imperative return to neutral. There could be no grand cleansing inferno or other final gesture. Probably they would never again even light a fire in the fireplace. Anything they might leave behind them – mark or mess or artwork or votive shrine – would be transmuted into the bill for its own purging and applied negatively to the balance of their deposit. There was nothing before they came. Nothing must be left.
Read An ABC of Relativity - A
Read An ABC of Relativity - B