Number 17 – The hoarder.
That’s not of course what he calls himself, nobody ever called themselves a hoarder, not even after the C list celebrity has picked her way around the mountain of bin liners in unsuitable shoes, not even when the tabloid cameras have photographed children eating breakfast in the small cleared pathway between the kitchen and the front door, not even when the council dig out team hire and skip and fill it, two, three, four times.
Nobody is ever a horder.
Keen on recycling.
Buying and selling on the black, shady cash market.
Definitely going to do some car boot sales, honest.
And Danny, he’s not a horder either, he just has a lot of stuff.
It wasn’t so bad when Mary still lived there,mind you, she liked a bargain too,enjoyed a good root around a charity shop,often came home with a China dog or a vase or a pair of nearly new shoes only 2 sizes too big.
But, she kept a lid on it, didn’t allow the motor bikes and the push bikes and the almost working lawn mowers actually into the house.
She kept the kitchen and bathroom functioning, insisted that they slept in the bedroom, in the bed, made meals and remembered to put out the bin, pay the milkman, wash the dishes and even run the ancient Hoover ( rescued from a skip on one of his regular late rambles through the city centre.) around the sitting room every now and then.
He was quite surprised when one day wandering back indoors after a satisfying 3 hours spent in the big shed taking a 1970s knitting machine apart, he found her gone.
It took him a while to notice that she was actually gone and not simply out. In fact, it was only when he wandered into the kitchen to make a cup of tea that he saw the note, propped up against the packet of tea bags.
Writing wasn’t her strong suit but the note was clear enough, even to an infrequent reader like himself.
“ I’ve met another man, he’s got a car. I will take the dog with me”
Looking around, he saw that she had,so, he put the kettle on anyway and went back to the sofa to have a bit of a think and when it came to bedtime, well, there he was all warm and comfy in front of the gas fire and why bother getting undressed just to go to sleep.
He curled up on the sofa and slept well, waking up just once, unsure for a moment of where he was, but the faint glow from the still warm fire reassured him and he fell straight back to sleep.
He missed her, well of course he did, he missed her solid sturdy body curved against his at night, he missed grabbing a handful of stomach or arse when he walked past her. He missed his breakfast mug of tea, the slice of fried bread, he missed her bustling returns from walking the dog, he missed her chat over east Enders, an endless soothing flow,counterpoint to the action on the screen.
They had been together a fair while, met when he was still roaring with the drink, hearing the voices in his head, banging his fists against brick walls. She, a girl from home, had seen enough of men and drink and waited him out, patient like, until one day, he knew he couldn’t do it anymore and took to tea, 6 and 7 pints of tea every day, 3 sugars and dash of milk.
He became as well known for the not drinking as he had been known for the drinking and their life together got a bit quieter,a bit more money and him signed on the sick and taking the pills every day.
He wouldn’t have said her loved her, couldn’t have said that, but if pushed, he might mumble something, say that they rubbed along together alright and he liked a woman with a bit of flesh on her, something to get hold of.
So, although he’d never really given it much, any though, he just assumed she’d be there, getting a bit fatter, heating up fray bentos steak and kidney pies for a Friday treat, for ever and ever.
And then there it was, just him and no woman and no dog and having to make his own mugs of tea and he missed her.
He even missed the dog, a bit and then a bit more.
But Danny was at heart pragmatic, a survivor, skilled in making the best of a situation, so, he took stock and made a few changes.
It was February, bone chillingly cold and one afternoon, 3 weeks after she had left, as he bent over the engine of a micro motor bike, his hands so cold he could hardly hold the screwdriver, he simply picked up the machine and carried it indoors, finishing the repair in front of the fire, a bacon sandwich resting on the fuel tank as he worked.
He stopped sleeping in the bedroom, couldn’t see the point and besides it freed up the room for storage. He moved a lot of things from the sheds into the bedroom and then into the back room.
It was winter,he rationalised, cold out there and damp, stuff would keep better indoors, be safer, easier to get at if anybody needed anything and it was definitely easier to work indoors, less effort to put his hands on what he needed.
And he did sell things, occasionally, a bit regretfully, the gap any item sold left always seemed too big.
Needed to be filled quickly and finding things was easy.
People threw out so much good stuff, objects just missing a few screws, a bit of taking apart and putting back together, a clean up and then as good as new.
The stuff built up, took up the whole of the back sitting room, most of the kitchen, his cooking talents were meagre, he only really needed a frying pan and the kettle, was a dab hand with a rasher, a spluttering egg frying and then thick slices of white bread and the constant mugs of tea, so the loss of most of the kitchen wasn’t a problem.
He made a careful path from the sofa to the cooker and the back door, left a narrow gap up the stairs and along the landing, just enough room to make it to the bathroom.
Pretty much everything he needed and nobody ever came into the house, so there was no need to make the passage ways any wider, accommodate anybody else.
As the house became fuller,he started to spend more time in the tiny front garden, became friendly with the street drinkers who congregated at this end, the bad end of the street.
They would lean on his garden gate, perch against the brick wall,cans of super strong lager and cheap knock off fags and he with the mug of tea and the prison thin roll up which went out more than it was lit.
He helped out with cars bought for less than 500 quid, mended bikes and mopeds that the local bad lads rode too fast along the pavement.
Neighbours from the better end of the street borrowed tools from him,paid him small amounts of money to make not very effective repairs and all the time, he collected more stuff, allowed the objects to range around him, took comfort from their presence.
Sometimes he wondered how Mary was, wondered if she was happy with the man with the car, wondered if she would ever return and hoped that she wouldn’t.
His life was too full to fit her in, his house was certainly too full to fit her in and besides sometime soon, he would get his own car, have a car and a boot and then he would definitely do a car boot sale or two.
But today,today was a big day, he had finally got his hands on a pinball machine , liberated from a skip, well close to a skip, definitely being thrown out by the builders refitting the pub round the corner.
He hadn’t paid much for it and he knew for sure that he could get it mended and there was definitely room for it somewhere,although he might have to move a few things around first.