Last week I went for a trip with a friend to visit an elderly uncle in one of the more isolated parts of England. Our journey took us to a location in which small groups of houses gather by the roadside, but without any sort of village centre or even a village pub.
The roads are narrow, and often there is a deep drainage ditch to one side. The landscape continues for miles and miles and is quite unlike anything I have ever seen anywhere else.
We drove around for quite a while just marvelling at the landscape, (while also attempting to work out where we were) and wondering at the people who chose to live in such isolation. It is certainly not the sort of environment within which I would choose to base my home.
And then we came across something completely different. Not the house of the sought-for uncle but something so utterly strange that we drove past, turned around, drove back and took photographs as we passed.
It was not an action that passed unnoticed, and we were forced to drive on quickly. In fact, even the three point turn undertaken to get us back to the site we wanted to photograph, was something of an adventure. For as we slowed down, the owner of the house near to where I conducted the 3-point manoeuvre, believing perhaps that I was going to creep a few inches onto his drive, ran out of the house and waved his fist at me in a manner that one might call a trifle aggressive.
I chose not to be riled, blew him a kiss, and then returned to our target of our interest – the house further down the road.
Now what made this house such a centre of attention to us both was the fact that by its side was piled all manner of junk. There were old cars, old furniture, and endless bags of what (looking again at the photos we took) seem to be old newspapers and magazines.
Some of this material was protected by a lean-to while some was open to the elements. And most extraordinary of all, cut through the midst of all this stuff was a little pathway which led to the front door of the house (which as is quite common in the area is positioned not facing the road, but to the side of the house.)
I described the pathway in the last paragraph as “little”, and I want to emphasise that word. Little means, well, little, but I think in retrospect that is too grand a word. This path seemed tiny as we made our drive-by, and indeed checking the photographs it certainly appears minute.
For to be plain, my guess is that in order to walk along the path to the front door one would have to turn sideways and proceed in a crablike manner!
Of course I have no idea what the inside of the house is like, but I would put money on it being pretty much the same as the outside. A house packed solid with, what for the want of a better word, I must continue to call “stuff”.
You will recognise my professional interest at this point – after all my business is storage, and much of what I store is paper.
But the storage that we undertake at Admiral has some purpose – that the materials we hold are kept because they are of some historic interest or are documents from legal cases or maybe collections of some specific value or interest.
I guess the insight I gather from this is that every reasonable human activity somewhere has its downside, where people go too far. Taking exercise is good for you – but doing it to excess is not. Ditto eating meat and telling your friends a joke. Everything, it seems, can get out of balance.
It also seems that there are medications that compulsive hoarders can take and which do reduce their problematic behaviour, but of course that is a realm that is way beyond what I do.
We did find the sought after elderly relative eventually and spent a pleasant couple of hours in his company, but the visit to this remote community, as you may have gathered, had a considerable effect on me that went far beyond family connections.
Ultimately we returned safely to our homes, slightly bemused, and perhaps a little wiser. It is a strange world out there, and one that needs to be seen. But maybe only from time to time.
For myself I prefer collections to be properly organised and stored in professional storage facilities such as Admiral. I guess people can store what they like in their own homes – but I’m glad no one does it living next door to me.
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