mechanised
[beneath the rule a country hides]

Monday, January 1st, 2001

Time:7:14 pm.
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........#8 – Appendix: Loomer [June 2006]


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One of first things I did upon leaving Cambridge was to return to the house I wrote about at Christmas. (I’d received no reply to my letter, nor visited the site since, and often wondered if anything would have changed when I returned)

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Approached from the north, the house is visible from a mile away; and it was at this point on Sunday that I noticed a lone figure outside. From so far away, it was impossible to see anything clearly, and so I suddenly started to run, convinced that the family had returned to collect some of their possessions. Instead, upon my arrival I was confronted by workmen and a small pyre. The house had been stripped, with anything small enough to burn stacked up outside. (Furniture, bikes, clothes had been removed to a nearby barn and had disappeared completely when I returned a few days later).

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After waiting patiently for almost an hour, the workmen finally left, leaving me free to wander about the house and inspect the damage. While the bulk of the possessions had been removed, there remained a few items scattered about the floor - again, most rather personal - a photograph of one of the children as a baby, a plate commemorating another of the daughters' births….

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…It’s easy to become sentimental about such things, of course – but in the end, they are merely possessions; an unencumbered life always preferable. [A short while after my visit, I remembered a plate commemorating my own birth, which my mother later informed me she’d “chucked years ago”].

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As mentioned at Christmas, it was not so much the items themselves that were so affecting, rather their totality. Their car still parked outside (handcream on the dashboard, an atlas on one of the seats), it appears that they took with them almost nothing. Few clothes, no furniture, not even their jackets and schoolbags. Already existing at the margins, it is hard to believe that they could be so nonchalant about items that would be extremely costly to replace…

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In writing of the house, I at first considered listing everything left behind:

…a pair of ballet shoes; bicycle with child seat; inventory for a school trip; fishtank; handwritten number for a parenting hotline; gymnastic trophies, medals, ribbons….
…but quickly lost heart. There were two discoveries, however, that I wanted to record somehow….

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The first was the diary of the youngest child, Olivia. Prefaced by a ‘keep out’ warning, it ran to only two entries – one, an account of a football match she attended; the other a list of her friends, each rated by series of ticks (!)

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The second item was a story by the middle daughter, Alexis. Though difficult to follow (much of the ink had run and the narrative was a little disjointed) it concerned a girl called Elizabeth who helped solve her friends’ problems, in the process bringing teddy bears magically to life…

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I visited again this afternoon, the house now completely flattened, to its side a mound of ashes and twisted metal.

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