There is a wall of records in John’s study. Roughly 3,000 in total. They make up the third person in our marriage but I have long since come to love them. A bit like Keira Knightley does in the Duchess with that other woman who shacks up in her house and sleeps with her husband. In a remarkably similar set up, John spends most of his nights with his vinyl collection, but just like Keira, I’ve learnt to not be jealous. They make him happy and, when he puts on a good disco classic, they make me happy too. Once, someone asked him what he would save first in a fire (actually maybe I asked him this) – his records or me – and he actually paused. He paused before he answered me.
I have no doubt that he has counted each and every one and that if he had more time they would be sorted by alphabetical order, cross referenced by genre. He has also already sourced a shipping quote, on the offchance that we do decide we are moving to Australia or Bali or America. I wind him up by asking what he’ll do if the ship sinks. Or if it gets captured by Somalian pirates. How much he’d pay in ransom.
Then I go back to staring at the wall, like a mountaineer contemplating the North Face of the Eiger. I look at the loft planks John has bought. He is intending on packing all this vinyl and then putting it up in the loft. Good luck with that I think. Never have I been so pleased to have the bad back excuse. Sorry darling, I really can’t help you load these 3000 records up in the loft, you’ll have to find someone else to help.
John and I have very different approaches to packing, to cleaning – to living in fact. He does detail. I do not. He does perfection, ponderously. I do imperfection, fast. Somewhere, there is a middle ground but we struggle to find it. I guess all marriages are a compromise.
To illustrate this in the context of the house clearance currently going on, yesterday we decided to tackle the garage over the way. The one that is full of my mother’s junk. The one that should have a sign over it reading ‘Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.’ It is a mammoth task on a monumental hangover. I decide the best way to deal with it is to not look in any of the boxes but to just shove them in the car (actually to direct John to shove them in the car) and take them to the dump. John’s approach, which I gawp at open mouthed, is to sort through each box, put everything into freecycle, recycle, ebay and dump piles and then, SWEEP out the garage. I’m literally dumbstruck. I would never have thought about doing that. The effort. The point. But the result is amazing. We could almost set up home in the garage once he is done. It is perfect. Ready to accept the offerings of furniture and household goods I have boxed up ready to go. Then john looks at the boxes I have sealed up. They look like the carboard equivalent of mummies, parcel tape wrapped around and around them in ever increasing desperation, vainly trying to contain contents that clearly are the wrong size and shape for the box. ‘Dude,’ I say, ‘they’re just going into the garage, who cares?’
‘I hope it’s not my stuff.’ he says.
‘As if I’d dare.’ I mumble.