John Chambers: To the attic and beyond
Buzz Lightyear wasn't all John Chambers found in his attic. He also discovered the past, and a poignant truth
They were up there, unlooked at, for 15 years, those boxes full of things from which we couldn't bear to be parted when we left our last house. They had been up in the attic so long we couldn't remember what was in them - even with the help of the scrawled words on the outside: 'Dining room, books' or 'Kitchen, fragile'. Most of the time, they were as out of mind as they were out of sight - we kept them in the eaves, not even in the converted part of the attic. God only knew what state the contents were in now.
And there were so many of them. The professional packer - see, we're not entirely stupid - had sighed all those years ago as he taped up yet another box and explained that, apart from the big items, furniture, TVs, etc, the contents of the average three-bed semi-d could be packed into 30-40 boxes. We had 73.
To be fair, we had, in the preceding few months, had to clear my mother's house. So we were really talking about the contents of one-and-a-half homes, but that was just an excuse masking the real problem: the hoarder's reluctance to let go of things; fear that you might be throwing out something, the significance of which would be revealed only later; an inability to recognise that, sometimes, the past really is another country.