…it rains/I have to go ballroom dancing/I have to speak Spanish/aliens invade?
Much, I think, to the disappointment of my ex-military father, I have never been able to travel light. In my first car-less year at university, pick ups and drop offs were exhausting affairs comprising of several trips up and down a hill and six flights of stairs, as all manner of items were carted to and from my tiny student room. Of course, more often than not I’d return to my parent’s house and find that my five day visit really didn’t warrant six pairs of shoes and my entire CD collection, but an overwhelming need to be ‘prepared’ always meant they’d come along regardless. The ‘what if…?’ principal plays a large part in my forward planning for almost every conceivable event in my life.
Happily for my long suffering father, I can now make my own way to and from university and every trip sees fewer and fewer items packed into the boot of my car. In fact, I am now of the belief that each item that comes with me is of absolute necessity and I have few, if any, extravagant possessions with me. Having said this, I am presently regretting the absence of at least some CDs, for as I write this I have little option but to flick between the mundane and repetitive radio and a scratched copy of Britney Spears’ Greatest Hits.
Anyway, as I said, I put this affliction down to a need to be prepared – something I’ve undoubtedly inherited from said father. I recall an event which occurred while I was in sixth form when, having all been out on a ‘class bonding hike’ over the hills behind the school, we returned 15 minutes behind schedule. As we approached the collection point, there, emerging from the mist marched my father, rucksack in tow, brandishing a map and one of those tinfoil blankets. Assuming we were lost, he’d come to rescue us and apparently kept all this stuff in the boot of the car for (and I quote) ‘events such as this.’
With scenarios like this making fairly frequent appearances in my life, I don’t think it’s much of a surprise that I’ve emulated this behaviour. On a daily basis I cart around with me a bag of fairly enormous proportions, for which I take a lot of flak. However, it wouldn’t be the first time somebody had lamented the absence of ____ , and a quick rummage on my behalf has fixed the situation. Various fruits, eye drops, elastic bands, blank CDs, a plastic penguin, three clothes pegs, an assortment of coloured pencils, various medication, nail varnish remover and a watch battery are among some of the items which have made situation saving appearances in my tardis-like bag over the years. Even tipping the contents of it onto my bed right now yields a variety of potentially life saving items, including a pack of playing cards, a sewing kit, an old Remembrance Day poppy and a pink button. Of course, I could just turf them out, but then those seductive voices begin their plaguing chant of ‘what if…?’ and the thought of the potential consequences of the loss of these items brings me out in a cold sweat. In a few years time I’ll be one of those annoying bastards that drags a wheely suitcase behind them everywhere they go. Annoying, yes – but prepared? Definitely. For every possible event. Every. Possible. Event.
And unfortunately, this trip home has served only to reinforce this behaviour. Even though I have returned with the bare minimum of possessions, there exists on the fridge in the kitchen a list of ‘Things for Rachel to take back,’ which means I’ll be going back to Cardiff with almost three times the amount of stuff I left with. These items include an old hoover, a clothes horse, ‘any surplus food’ and various items Dad wants me to put on eBay.
“But Mum, I already have a clothes horse,” I pleaded, desperate to avoid cramming yet more crap into my tiny flat.
“Perhaps,” she said knowingly. “But another one will make drying sheets easier.”
And of course, she was right. Drying sheets would be easier with another clothes horse – but I don’t need another one. Or do I? What if I have to wash several sheets at once? What if a situation arises whereby the ownership of two clothes horses warrants the difference between life and death? What if, what if, what if.
And so I’m now going back to Cardiff with another clothes horse because in my mind the implications of leaving it behind are too great. Of course, I’ll have to find a way to fit it into my bag, because you never know….