Since that phone call in August, my life has been a bit of a whirlwind. Work, PhD, performing as a rather psychotic dancer, Judy Turner, with Company MK’s production of A Chorus Line and seeking permission for the sabbatical. As far as the UAE were concerned, they wanted me to sort everything- yesterday. So, somehow, I managed to seek permission from everyone in record time. But everything happens bukra insh’Allah as they say there, “tomorrow, God willing” and so now, I wait.
It’s a bit like sitting immobile in a room with a ticking clock the only sound. The world is going on around me and yet I’m powerless to do anything except watch others getting on with their lives. I was due to fly out at the start of November, once the visa was sorted, and everything would be taken care of for me; I just had to turn up at the airport. So, it was agreed that my last day of work would be the 31st October. I said my goodbyes and threw a dust sheet over my life here. No more rehearsals, no more work, no physical contact with my friends in the outside world. I would go cold turkey as I wasn’t going to have a support network for the next four months. But come on, this is life, nothing ever goes according to plan!
The Department of Antiquities and Museums were still waiting for the visa to be issued but could I come on, say, the 15th? At least I had a date now. Oh, and can you sort out your own airfare which would then be reimbursed. You’re only telling me this NOW? Fine. So, I thought I would use my time constructively and finish the little jobs that I keep putting off. One of which was to sort through all of my clothes. Now, I have a lot of clothes. I aspire to be a minimalist. People have laughed in my face when I have said that. Why? Because I have too much stuff. I am a hoarder. I have kept every birthday card that was ever sent to me, every ticket stub from the concerts I’ve been to and every newspaper clipping that featured my friends. Mementos of my life’s journey.Why? I could blame my parents. Growing up with their mentality that nothing should be thrown away as it may come in handy – even though it rarely does (I still carefully open presents so that I can reuse the wrapping paper). But the real reason is that I’m a Social Historian. Everything that I cling on to has some sentimental value but in the future these things will help to shape the picture of everyday life.
It makes sense, I suppose, that I have found myself in my line of work. I recently co-curated an exhibition entitled How Extraordinary the Ordinary: Exploring How Everyday Life has Changed. The exhibition was about one family spanning three generations and over a century living in one town. They threw nothing away from accounts and receipts to diaries and wedding dresses. I’m not that bad. But what struck me was that everyone’s stories are unique and yet strangely similar. Every visitor to that exhibition could relate to aspects of that family’s life. Maybe one day someone will be examining my life in the same way. “Look, her Primary 3 report card says Kate has a sunny disposition.” I’d always equated that with Mary Poppins and so I would spend many an hour trying to click my fingers at my bedroom in the vein attempt that it would tidy itself.
So, my clothes. Well, for some reason I find them the hardest to deal with. Most of them, I wouldn’t be seen dead wearing. But yet, they have some strange hold over me which compels me to assign them to boxes under the bed, rather than to bags heading to the charity shop. You never know when you might need that turquoise lycra leotard last worn when I was 14. Don’t laugh, it happened recently. As a result, the entire upstairs of the house is taken over by my clothes. My mission in these two weeks was to sort this out once and for all. It would be no exaggeration to say that I have been actively accumulating clothes and shoes since 1998 (it was a passive process prior to that). The vast majority could be items I’d only worn once for high days and holidays. You have to keep these for ‘good’. My Mother would say when I was a child. Well, like tomorrow, ‘good’ rarely comes and so they just don’t get worn. I’ve even got things that belonged to my Mother and Grandmother (although the gold lace shoes my grandmother wore in the company of the Queen in the 1960s still get a regular outing).
Something had to be done. So, I did my research and pulled out all of my clothes and heaped them in the middle of the floor. The entire master bedroom had turned into an ocean of fabric and I felt like I was drowning. I managed to grab onto something solid, a pair of jeans, and from there I sorted into heaps. I spent an entire week washing and drying. Things I was never going to wear, ever, I put straight into a black bin bag headed for the charity shop and before I knew it I had managed to get rid of six bin bags stuffed with clothes. It felt amazing. Unfortunately, I was now left with the arduous task of ironing and putting everything else away.
The visa didn’t arrive until the 13th- along with an apologetic, I’m afraid I will be in Pakistan for a week then there is national holiday. Can you come for the 5th? Okay, not a problem. At least it would now give me a bit longer to put everything away. “Oh, Mary Poppins…”