Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Our Lady Of The Banana Boxes

In Glasgow they called me The Banana Box Lady of Gallowgate. Children stared at me and pointed, watching awestruck from a safe distance as I collected cartons from the kerb. Once I found myself idly gathering up strong boxes discarded outside a wedding goods shop, as the owner looked on, in wonder and fear. Collecting boxes has become an obsession (not as all consuming as my hobby of cupboard spotting, but slightly worrying, nonetheless.) I’m hoarding them for when I move again.

I’m settled and happy here in my new home. Even so, I haven’t been unpacking properly and I still have some boxes in my lounge. I don’t bother filing my vinyl meticulously in alphabetical order anymore. What’s the point? It’s currently hidden in the one cupboard, stacked in carrier bags awaiting digitisation. It’s been that way for years.

That’s how it is with short term lets: a short term mindset develops. Everything I hire, join or subscribe to, like phone, internet, societies, libraries anything really, is always chosen for the ease with which I can extricate myself. Many people live this way, but urban nomads like me are penalised for moving, and obliged to commit to eighteen months when realistically, they might stay at the same address for six moths. Everything is temporary. Even reduced rates for paying electricity monthly are misleading, as when the rental agreement has expired, you’ll end up pursuing utility companies for the amount you’ve overpaid, and they do like to hang on to your cash for as long as possible.

I unpack reluctantly, with half an eye on boxing everything back up again. My possessions re-emerge gradually, as I am wary of needlessly liberating belongings that will inevitably spend few halcyon months free from a swaddling of crunched up newspaper. I also maintain a stack of newspapers, just in case. Whenever I buy anything new, I have learned the hard way to hang on to the box it came in, as even a cheap tinny stereo will smash outside the box it called home. Perhaps that’s why I adore cupboards.

For your information, crisp boxes are no good, unless you reinforce them with parcel tape (look – ask me for advice whenever you want. I am an expert.) I wonder if the day will ever come when I can unpack completely, and throw all my boxes away. Actually, I’ll probably celebrate by burning them, dancing around a huge ritual bonfire with roaring flames visible for miles around.

But I dread packing. Every time I move I dread it even more. Every time I move, something loved or valuable is smashed or missing when I look for it. My best tip though is banana boxes, begged from the supermarket. I hoard banana boxes. In fact, I love them. They are strong and big enough for most things, yet small enough. You can’t overfill them and break your back, and removal men will acknowledge you as an insider, and appreciate your consideration. It’s scary that I know that.


W. S. Badfellowe said...

Oh boy, do I recognise your sentiments. As a bratling my parents were civilians working for H.M. RAF (listening stations, Ruskies and the Chinese) so I had seventeen different addresses and twelve different schools by the age of sixteen. As an adult, well - I've just continued the trend. Last time I moved the removals guys slouched into the house and then seemed to brighten up and stand taller. By the time they reached the third room of pre-packed, labelled, weight-distributed belongings, all piled in the centre, rubbish free and accessible I was getting proposals of bloke-marriage and baby-carrying.

My Mother could have moved Britain one place to the left, over to the right and then back again in a single day if required, all on one roll of tape. I used to assume that we were on the run from the police or gangsters or both.

p.s., do you have any idea of how to get rid of BT? I signed my life over to them during my last lease, haven't bought anything from them now for a year, no phone, no interweb - and they still seem to think that I have an "account" with them and send me regular bills telling me how much I'm in credit... credit despite their little fees to end this agreement, fees to close that service et infinitum and al.

Becky said...

As a fellow nomad (10 different addresses in as many years!) I can vouch for the wonder of the banana box. Especially if, y'know, you like to have more than one of personal items such as books, CDs, DVDs etc. I've never yet been able to afford the luxury of professional removal men though, my moves have always tended to involve tears, tantrums, sore backs and the kindness of friends and relations!

Another entertaining blog Renter Girl, thanks!

RenterGirl said...

Thanks for reading! As for BT; I think that seceretly, they are in charge of the world or something, as you can never be rid of them. And awesome banana boxes totally rule!

Boxing Helena said...

In the event of a nuclear blast, only cockroaches and banana boxes will survive. I know this after a spell supposedly 'breaking them up' for Tesco. They have magnificent staples holding them together that were created by God himself. In Hell. Or something like that.

RenterGirl said...

Ah! It is just as I suspected...

Abaddon the scrivener said...

This blogpost of yours ties in with your Guardian Society column today (8 April 2009), which I have just read, where you complain (understandably) about landlord short-termism. But do you have a solution to offer? I cannot see one!
Also, you mention the difficulty of "the legendary utility company reconnection trial" - have you tried signing up to Utility Warehouse? They seem to be the ONLY efficient utility "supplier" around!

RenterGirl said...

Abadonn; well...An end to S.21 being abused. An new philosophy that - I said in the piece - that investments must now be seen as durable, and set to last years or decades. Above all else, a body as feared as Health&Safety to enforce evictions due to supposed vacant possession, deposits I still think things mostly go in the landlord's favour, and wear and tear needs better definition), repair obligations peacable enjoyment, notice, and to supervise those vampires of the business: letting agents. The Foxton's case may end their worst excesses. Other than that; well you're the lawyer! Thanks for the utilities tip.