Although old, the desk is not a family heirloom. It came originally from a music shop in Dublin and some of its drawers still contained violin strings when I bought it about 35 years ago in one of those semi-junk/antique shops along Bachelors Walk.
I had an old house with a couple of big rooms to the front and it was an easy way to fill one of them, as I didn't have anything much else by way of furniture.
Unfortunately, such desks have gone out of fashion, it's too big for a modern room and coming as it does from the Victorian era of solid brown oak, it is ill-suited to the new world of computers and wi-fi. In furniture terms, it is the opposite of the Scandi-cool school of modern design.
The room it occupies has been recently repurposed to take in a refugee from Covid-19 in search of her own bedroom and the desk overwhelms the space.
"You'll have to do something with it," says my wife, who has never liked it anyway and now wants it gone.
"Yes," I answer wearily, only occasionally having looked in the drawers over the past several years, to find passports or birth certs, or some other official document which I keep stored in a compartment at the back.
But this is a time for re-considering our lives and reassessing the accumulation of useless objects.
Sitting at the desk, I reflect how you begin life happily devoid of possessions. Even in my twenties I moved from flat to flat with only a portable typewriter and a record player. Then you settle down to the life of a wage slave, a bondsman to the monthly mortgage repayment and a growing family and along the way you accumulate 'stuff'. I know the desk contains the detritus of my life, the things I kept because somehow they seemed important at the time. Looking through it now, I wonder why.
The bullet that I got in the post - I don't even remember why, but the little hole near the base means it had been disarmed. There is a brass escutcheon that I meant to replace in the keyhole and the sawn-off horn of a bullock on my grandfather's farm, Graffogue in Longford, and a lanyard and whistle from my days in the scouts in Kilmacud.
Did I buy the desk just to fill it with trivia? Known as a 'pedestal' desk, it has two wide shallow drawers on top and three each on either side. Then there are further drawers to the back and side. It was dark when I bought it, but a bottle of thinners removed a layer of varnish and 19th century grime to reveal a light oak finish.
In the top drawer on the left are a couple of old Sunday Independents, the week Veronica Guerin was murdered, a rather difficult interview I once conducted with Christy Moore and a piece written by my wife commemorating the stillbirth of our baby daughter Eva, whose 21st birthday was earlier this year. There is a copy of the Westmeath Examiner from May, 1973, where I wrote the ubiquitous column, The Music Scene.
Sifting through the other drawers, it occurs to me that there is an astonishing randomness about it all. You wouldn't even try to flog it in a car boot sale - and I can't help reflecting that I was a lousy collector of cheap tat, when I could have been saving up to buy just one or two good pieces.
There is a 1979 phone book (very useful for numbers long ago delisted), a thank-you letter from Ian Stuart (son of Iseult Gonne and the writer Francis Stuart) who once crashed into the back of our car, a battered little Carroll's 'Kerry Blue' cigarette box and a packet of Northlight razor blades 'Made in Eire' that I found under the floorboards when I was renovating the house.
But why did I even think of keeping a little red account book (complete with 5p stamps) maintained by a Mrs Fitzgerald of Patrick Street, Portarlington, noting, among other things, that she paid five shillings and three pence for four chops? An old metal crucifix and a small picture of the Virgin Mary with the heading 'God is here, Stand Firm' used to hang, rather inappropriately in the outdoor toilet, and now lies in my desk.
There is a withered small brown envelope, still sealed, bearing the legend 'Tory Island Clay' dated October 14, 1975. Written in biro is "not much left, a little suffices". It seems that the clay, which could only be dispensed by members of the island's Duggan clan, has medicinal purposes and wards off rats.
Then there are various press accreditations, for the visit of Ronald Reagan to Ireland in 1984, where I stood opposite him in the pub in Ballyporeen, another for the show jumping in Aachen, Germany, which I attended with Eddie Macken and Paul Darragh, and a laminated card for the 1981 Eurovision Song Contest in Dublin. There is also a packet of old cigarette cards and a glass negative of the Earl of Granard attending a race meeting in 1927. (At some point I sat in the back of the Earl's old Rolls Royce which Sean Kinsella bought and parked outside his restaurant The Mirabeau on the sea front at Dun Laoghaire.)
In the black and white photograph, my family will know it's me laughing with Charlie Haughey outside RTE during one of the three elections in 1981/1982. But they'll never know that the laughing boy with the moustache is PJ Cunningham or that half a face between us belongs to Larry Gildea, a reporter with the Irish Press who, like the paper, vanished one day. Then there is the youthful me, all hair and beard, at a dress rehearsal for the Eurovision Song Contest with the late John Feeney and a fresh-faced bunch of hacks, like myself, now bordering on, or past pension age.
Old photographs without names or captions become meaningless with the passage of time.
There is a finely written lease for a property at No 1 (now No 11) Carysfort Avenue, Blackrock, dated April 9, 1860, between Patrick Anna Smith Esq of Baggot Street Dublin and Charles Close, a 'delfman', for a rental consideration of £40 sterling a year.
Apart from various pairs of old glasses, there is my old green school catechism, with 10 shilling and a one-pound note, which most certainly isn't my Confirmation money.
There are little bags of old Irish coins of various denominations, a Nokia phone, as well as a number of unused tokens from the opening of the Guinness Store House in Dublin.
Looking at it all, in the cold light of day, I'm sorry I started on this task. If the pub was open, or I could drop in on a friend or catch a train to Mullingar or somewhere, anywhere, I probably wouldn't have started on this pointless journey down memory lane.
What it brings home to me is that whether your possessions are mere tat like mine, or fine art and silver it's all the same in the end. Someone will consign them to the skip or the saleroom.
So I realise how lucky I've been, not in acquiring possessions but in the various lives I've led and am still trying to lead. When all is said and done it's people: your family, your friends, your neighbours and workmates, not what you accumulate, that make life worth living.