Monday, 24 March 2014

Life Essentials

The Vicar has confiscated the 11-year-old's iPod. 'You may as well,' she sobs, 'take away my life!'

Upstairs she sags desolately, contemplating 24 hours without Instagram, Jesse J and hair-styling videos on YouTube. I am fascinated by her grief. Self-sufficiency, I tell myself, is one of the perks of maturity. Fate might rob me of any of my possessions and I'd be none the poorer, provided health and loved-ones remained intact.

I enjoy the smugness this realisation causes me and, leaving her adrift without her prop, I go downstairs to make breakfast. Then the blow strikes. Someone's scraped out the last of the Marmite. The jar is empty. I have to face 24 hours without Marmite toast inside me.

My complacency evaporates. I am not invincible. Shaken, I start to ponder the material objects to which I'm enslaved. The length of the list dismays me. I feel sudden empathy with my bereft daughter for I realise that I would struggle to live without:

My wellies. Hunters, don't you know, bought to mitigate the embarrassment of my M&S labels at the school gate. Faithfully they have seen me through stream-wading, pond pick-axeing, mud-floundering and parents' evenings. Every mud splash is a memory. They are removed each day only to accommodate my slippers.



My fountain pen. It and its two predecessors have endeavoured to make sense of my days through thirty years of diary entries. It has maintained friendships when long miles have intervened and relieved my mind when my thoughts have tangled.



Bendicks Bittermints. Lent is a misery without them. I am a misery without them.



My hot water bottle. It's elderly, dust-rimed and spattered with the fall-out from family flossing, but I turn in with shameless speed after dinner so urgently do I desire to embrace this bedfellow.



My bottle opener. Every night for eleven years this has heralded respite from my children. As soon as they are in bed I flee to it. Tin openers, tea spoons, corkscrews are feckless things, always absconding from the kitchen drawer, but this friend is a faithful presence in all emergencies.



I shan't, of course, confess my new empathy with my daughter. Instead I tell my children that material objects are of illusory worth; that love, courage and kindness are the only meaningful legacy we leave behind us. When the Vicar announces the death of a parishioner the 9-year-old assumes an expression of pious sorrow. I hope he's about to repeat these newly-learned insights.

But - 'Poor woman,' he laments. 'Fancy having to die before they've released the iPhone 6!'

What couldn't you live without?









16 comments:

  1. Well, I missed your blog....a whole entire month! Thank goodness you're back!

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    1. What a lovely thing to say! I'll try to live more interestingly from henceforth to aid the Muse!!

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  2. Three holiday fortnights spent abroad, on the pillion of my Rev's huge Honda, when I was only allowed a TINY bag, taught me I MUST pack a Bible, a pen, a toothbrush and a small Swiss army knife. With these 4 items, I feel able to take on the world. But I really missed decent cups of tea, toast&Marmite, Radio 4 & my HWB.
    This is an alarmingly challenging post!

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    1. I have alarmingly challenging children! I too carry a knife - a pen knife - at all times. Airport staff envy it so much they often ask to borrow it for the duration of my holidays.

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  3. My computer and my Kindle, as long as I can read I'm ok. I have to read, even if it's just the labels on things.

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    1. Yes indeed. Although in my case it would be books.

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  4. Two out of three of you have mentioned Marmite as being meaningful! Now I'm curious and as I've seen this 'yeasty extract' in our Canadian grocery stores, I'm going to throw some I'm my cart. Of course I'll be wearing my Hunter wellies

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    1. I'm certain you'll hate it. You have to be bred on it!

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  5. Perhaps give up something else for lent? And where have you been woman

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    1. Oh, doing the rounds of sundry London hospitals. Living it up!

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  6. I'm intrigued to know now what you open with that bottle opener every evening!

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  7. Well I broke my cell phone at the beginning of our vacation in Jamaica last week, so I had no choice but to go without Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and texts with my children and I survived! When I did want to phone the children I had to ask the eldest for their phone numbers, gone are the days when you dialed and memorized, now you just click a pic on your phone and it rings.

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    1. Don't I know it! I have lost my address book and am helpless.

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  8. Loved the last line... so nice to be reading you again. I couldn't live without my central heating and I have to say, I love Bendicts Bitter Mints... X

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