Cupboard Love

I am, as we say in these parts, absolutely jiggered. By mid-day today, my oxters were a-wash with sweat, my hands trembling and my nerves threadbare. I had spent several hours clearing out a cupboard. With, of course, all the ramifications such a project involves. And not just any cupboard. This was my sideboard. Serried ranks of Edinburgh crystal and Caithness glass; all remaining spaces crammed with odd little objects handed on from shadowy, distant ancestors. Ancient doilies, damask edged with feathery frochet, sugar tongs and bone handled side knives. A very Scottish gallimaufry. At least, when I finally sat back on my hunkers, peered into its darkened depths, then gently closed its little, oak door, only my nerves had been shattered.

Why had I inflicted such strain on myself? Especially as we were finally, enjoying decent weather. Well, the screen reader and I have discovered Ebay. There's a lot of really interesting stuff in there. It's not just I-pods and gimmicky mobile phones which can do everything except, of course, talk. There's really grown-up stuff out there too. Grown-up and useful. Virtually every classic china pattern known to man. Or should that be woman? Designer labels to diet for. And I haven't even started on the ear-rings. Best of all, the screen reader can access this cornucopia. It's rather laborious but that could be me as much as the essert wee cyber beastie and, anyway, no matter the web site, if I decide to order anything, I always nab someone sighted to confirm descriptive details and do the financial essentials. I don't consider that's cheating. If you have a Guide Dog, would you trot off on an expedition down town without him? Similarly, I've no wish to be declared insolvent just because of a misplaced decimal point.

So, via the combined technologies of screen reader and THAT web site, I had successfully traced various bits of Denby. Of course, by ‘bits’ I mean items, rather than jagged shards. It was perfectly feasible to augment a dinner service despite the design having been out of production for almost thirty years. Aye, it's not just computer programs which become incompatible with each other in a matter of months! The arrival of one huge casserole, several plates and a wee curvy thing with a lid was imminent, giving me the problem of where to store them.

Things had been removed, dusted, examined. Thankfully, the phone hadn't rung, nor had anyone arrived at the door. There's nothing worse than, when returning to an interrupted task, to hear the crunch of one's foot, or, even worse, one's bahoochie, settling on something irreplaceable and fragile. Now, I had to make decisions. To paraphrase the Clash, what should go and what should stay.

Take the ramekins. And I would have handed them over, gladly and with alactrity. Ought I keep the five, tan-coloured dishes which had been part of my existence since distant childhood? Never more than five, despite their pre-decimal origin and used, on a rough average, about once a year. Or should it be the four, Royal Worscester ones, with matching souffle dish? Elegant, dainty but no part of family tradition? What about the gratin dish; a delicious deep blue, whose pinched oval shape meant whilst occupying much space, it actually held much less than expected. Having been acquired with Co-op vouchers, it hadn't even cost me anything. Eventually, my kitchen resembled a Blue Peter Bring and buy as conscience wrestled with common sense.

Order and space now reign in the sideboard. The scattered sticky residue of a dripping bottle of Corfiot, kumquat liqueur, finally scoured into oblivion. Ghastly stuff, a lurid copper colour and tasting like cough mixture with a kick. The ancient, treen egg cups nabbed by a nephew; bulging bags deposited in the charity shops. Even the musical corkscrew, in purple plastic, has gone. So, what's the problem? Why am I girning?

Unfortunately, this neatness has only been achieved at great cost. All sorts of things are now in different places; everything from my Grandmother's blue bowl in which I've always heated baked beans to the packs of beeswax candles. Even if I had twenty- twenty vision, it will be impossible for me to find anything for months. And something cast aside is bound to soon be absolutely indispensable. With everything else, I've also stored up months of futile searching and swearing.

And all that stuff! And such variety! This was a redd oot of a sideboard, wasn't it? Not a spring clean in the Tardis? Well. . . One cupboard led to another shelf, leading eventually to the kitchen. Once in that frame of mind, it would have been downright daft to have allowed the urge to dissipate unfulfilled. When I've got my breath back and with my husband as sighted assistant, I'll start on the cookery books next.

© Charlotte Bennie 2007