I’m not going to lie to y’all, I looked like shit. I don’t know why that’s important, but it seemed to be at the time. Having no makeup on makes me feel a little more innocent or something. Anyhow, once there, the three of us went down into the backyard to the hut where all the bikes and tools and whatnot are kept. It’s weird but my nanny’s hut has this really distinctive smell that I’d recognize anywhere in the world. It’s almost like hot tar—you know when it’s scorching outside and the tar fumes are totally intoxicating and there’s no clouds anywhere? It’s like that, but kind of vintage because it’s filled with old rusty crap. The door sort of creaks open and all these memories that don’t belong to me seep out. Someone slap me. So Ivor enters the hut, which is pretty damn large actually, whilst Nanny and I stand outside, and he locates the calor gas and I get kind of transfixed by all the cobwebs everywhere, over everything, like veils almost, with bits of dead things stuck in them.
Now, perhaps if you know me in real life you will know I have a convoluted relationship with spiders, but there’s a good chance you won’t because it’s not something I can easily explain without calling myself A SILLY RABBIT. I believe in signs, whether or not they are real, and spiders have become one of them. Whenever I see a spider I immediately think of a particular person and I interpret the eight-legged manifestation as a cosmological sign that they are still very much relevant in my life. Sometimes that is good, and sometimes it is bad.
So when faced with a hut full of spider decay and debris, I’m ambivalent. I was both drawn to it and repelled by it. Not to mention the fact I’d just spotted a live one in the living room which had been roosting there for three days, and the fact that I could see the aforementioned person’s house from the back garden. I looked into the hut and then I looked over the gate to roughly the spot where the house was, and I was pensive. Six months ago I would not have hesitated before immediately ranting to this person about the spiderific horror, but it’s different now. I know this sounds incredibly stupid, but I felt as though I had to go into that hut and look at all the ruins and remains. Kind of out of respect for what was, and also as acknowledgement that maybe it is over. So I stepped in, ducking my head in case of silken abseils, and looked around at all the cobwebs covering everything, and all the dead bits of spiders shrivelled up inside themselves. You could hardly tell they used to be spiders. And it made me sad because, as much as I dislike them, I kind of like what they’re all about; independence and solitariness and ruthlessness and survival. They got dealt a pretty rough hand, poor ugly bastards, but they are unapologetically themselves, and I like that. I could tell you numerous psychological episodes involving spiders, but it’d be a plus if this post wasn’t as long as the Iliad, so I’ll leave them out for now. Anyway, caught in a lot of the webs were untouched woodlice, except they had turned totally luminous white in the aphotic environment. I took a couple pictures, cause I’m like that, and then bent to study a curled up ball of spiderness. Then I shivered. And started whimpering. And my nanny was all “Since when are YOU afraid of spiders?” And I whirled on her and was halfway through saying “Since WHEN? Since the time I was three years old and one tried to assassinate me coming down the stairs in your house, and then you attempted to exterminate it with a broom but you only got me dusty instead!” when I noticed a large black circle moving on her shoulder. I froze. “Um...Nanny, you have a spider on you.” “WHAT?! WHERE?! EURGHJGJHG!” She flicked it to her arm. “Um...Nanny, it’s still on you.” Ivor flicked it at me. It landed on my foot and scuttled over it. I screamed, turned in a circle, and leapt out of the hut, half crying and half laughing. Nanny opened her arms to hug me and I was all “Dude, NO, you’re covered in cobwebs!” Which she was. Cobwebs thick as sheep wool. I shuddered my way back into the house with the sound of mocking laughter following me.
I broke the fridge in my mother’s house via an incidence of pure bad luck whilst defrosting the ice box. Consequently, after the trip to the nanny’s, Ivor was dropping by his house to pick up my old mini fridge for us to use temporarily. He said “Do you want to come up for a minute?” And I said “Yeah, okay.”
My dad’s house is a modest cottage flat with a stunning view of those hills over there. It was the first and only house my parents had together and when we moved in my dad took me to B&Q, told me to pick out seven colours of paint in those little tester pots, and then we painted the gate and the fence. At the time he was reading me Mark Twain, and he called this ‘thematic learning’. For years afterward we were known as the people with the rainbow gate. When I went there yesterday not much had changed in the months since I’d last popped in. My swing set was still standing in the garden and all my childhood stuff was still in its boxes and cupboards. There were a few more IKEA additions, but that was about all. I did my rounds of the rooms and we ended up in my old bedroom. It seemed so much smaller than I remember, despite the fact the light colour scheme is now much more conducive to the illusion of space than my midnight blue one with the hand-painted horses above my bed ever was. It’s a spare room now because I never stay there anymore. I never go to that house anymore. My dad started rummaging around in the cupboard for the mini fridge, and once he’d found it he moved onto exploring the drawers and shelves and boxes that still contain all my stuff but which I feel unconnected to. It was like having amnesia or something and trying to connect that past life to this one. I felt intrusive and unfamiliar, like a stranger standing in his dead daughter’s room and he was showing me all her stuff. After about fifteen minutes of that I sat in the living room while my dad had a cup of tea. I sat on the sofa and he sat in his chair gazing out the window at the view, the reason he bought the house in the first place. He talked about how the house used to look before. Before? About how we’d had a bamboo suite and a patterned nineties carpet and a big old fireplace. And then how he’d painted the walls and floorboards yellow and how when Kylie came over from Australia she thought her uncle was ‘really cool’ for doing that. He reminded me of the time he’d given me a thousand pounds to decorate the house as a means to encourage my creativity, and I thought about all the trips to IKEA we’d taken and then about how gradually I’d reduced my stay there to three nights a week and then two nights a week and then no nights a week. He’d been pleasantly surprised I still carry my old key on my keychain and that I’d let myself in. And he suggested that maybe while he was away on his camping trip I could come over and water the plants or whatever.
And then he said, “Do you remember living here?”
“What do you mean? Like on a Monday and a Tuesday?”
“No, I meant when you actually lived here.”
And I thought about it, and I realized I didn’t. I didn’t and I don’t remember.
And that made me sad. And I think it made him sad. He was just sitting there in all the memories and all the furniture I’d picked out and I was telling him I didn’t remember any of it.
Then we motored, and while he hung a washing out in the garden I sat in the car and I thought about the whole day. About how the weird limbo I am in with one person at the moment has everything to do with the fact I no longer live in that house anymore, with my dad. And then I got an absolute bitch of a migraine.
And I saw how much I was supposed to know this person, and how they were supposed to live there, so very close to it all, and how without them I would not have worked out a lot of what I have. And it made me very resolved to fix it, and to trust it, because I don’t want to end up with cobwebs and empty memories, you know?
|Me & Eagle the stray, Easdale Island, 2004.|