Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Of Backpacks & National Geographics

The house has 15 rooms: A verandah, a study, a hallway, a store-cupboard under the stairs, a lounge, a sun-room, a bathroom with a toilet and a shower (for which I am sure there is a word), a kitchen and a pantry. Then upstairs… the house is pretty big. So I have arranged the lounge, which is also more than spacious. You could fit all 20 members of the Llama's First Oompah-Band & Union Billiards Squad into it. But for now there's just me.

I've hung my backpack on the handle of the door. It is a simple blue and white backpack. I have had it for more than a decade – Sam and I bought it on Edgware Road in London. There is a photograph of William Carnegie standing outside the shop where we bought it.
I have used the backpack often and I use it almost every day now that I travel by scooter. It holds a small amount of grocery shopping. It can hold the makings of a meal - a bottle of wine, bread, porterhouse steak, packets of chips. It can hold the various clothing choices required for a swim in the sea. I am sure I used this same pack when Ian and I used to hike up Table Mountain. It has netting pockets on the sides that I would put a loo roll into. I am looking at new backpacks - now that I use one daily I am looking to get Scandinavian about my backpack needs. I am ambivalent in my guilt about this, especially obviously right now, looking at it hanging there, handy and tremendously trustworthy after all these years. Things don’t normally last on me – my Doctor Martin’s boots always wore out after 2 years; flip-flops last a matter of months; jeans develop an unwillingness in their crotches; socks surrender at the heel. So this pack, 13 years unbroken, untorn, unrepentant, perhaps deserves more than a replacement named after a military base in north-west Greenland.

Next to the door is a cardboard box softened out of shape by a very heavy load of National Geographics. I took them off my sister. National Geographics have maps, and I just can’t get enough of maps. Preferably maps with no civil-war troop movements or big flowy arrows showing where the flippen birds fly south. Geopolitical maps of the world are where it’s at. There are 200 and some sovereign states in the world – and every now and then a new one happens: Monotheistic group A fights monotheistic group B and at the end a new state is agreed upon and the UN recognises it and then the map of the world is wrong, and it needs to be re-printed and placed as a supplement in an issue of the National Geographic. Reading articles in old Geographics is to shift the world in time - you always read the Geographic as contemporary, not history. In an issue from 2004-ish I find a story about Kurdish Iraq. This part of Iraq is looking to secede: they have their own airline. I feel sure I would have heard, more recently, of something about Kurdish Iraq – but probably the hopes and aspirations and narratives in the article were destined not to be. I think the story existed then, and just doesn’t anymore.

The rest of the lounge is an assortment of furniture on a deeply coloured wooden floor with wide planks. There’s a round side-table next to the sofa and armchair, with a lamp, a paper robot, and an issue of UNCUT magazine featuring the Rolling Stones’ 1973 American tour. There's a work table that has ever-shifting piles of paper, books, keys, cash, dvds, pens and stuff that belongs to the children. On it is a desk light made from a cardboard suitcase-box with a cut-out of a lamp in one side, inset with corrugated translucent plastic - so the light shines through to form the silhouette of a lamp.


Black Square said...

But it just stops... I want to know more about the lamp, and your plans for the maps, and the red coffee table...

audreyrose said...

i will never visit you at this place! it is a place of sadness!
im sorry!

Bronwen Murray said...

I love your way of telling things and I love you Major Tom.

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