This is weird.  Hang on, I wonder if that’s a fact or a feeling?  It certainly feels weird so I guess it’s a feeling.  But if it feels weird, doesn’t that make it a fact, as far as I’m concerned?  But if it’s a fact for me, but not for anyone else, surely it’s just a feeling?  Oh hell, I knew I’d get myself tied up in knots. 

Still, as a colleague at work used to say, ‘If you don’t start, you don’t start.’  Profound eh?   So here I am, with the notebook I’ve bought specially from Rymans, open at the first page.  I expect it’s obvious that I’m feeling a bit uncertain about how to proceed.  Ah, ‘feeling uncertain’ that’s another feeling isn’t it?  Need to flag them up. 

Perhaps I’d feel better if I drew a margin down the righthand side of each page like we used to do at school?  And put the date?  A bit of displacement activity never did anybody any harm.  I know I’m supposed to relax and let it all hang out but I’m not really sure how to do that, hence all this rambling.  You see, Dr Jackson, I’ve never been asked to do anything like this before: keep a journal.  Still, you’re the therapist.  Anything to keep you happy!

Truth is I’m a placid, easy-going sort of person, not at all given to introspection.  My philosophy’s simple: keep cheerful and get on with things.  Yep, I’m a great believer in keeping busy.  I find it’s therapeutic.  But I have to admit something’s amiss, otherwise why would I keep getting these blasted headaches, like having my head squeezed in a vice?   At first I thought I might need new specs, but I went to the optician and my prescription hadn’t changed.   

No, thinking back I’m pretty sure they started when things got a bit fraught at work.  The trouble is I hate confrontation, so I didn’t complain when my new boss started overloading me with extra work.  I’ve never had a woman as a boss before and, I admit, I was a bit thrown.  She was American too. Rather brash. Used to say things like, ‘that’s about as useful as tits on a bull’ and ‘let’s get to where the rubber hits the road.’  Made me wince.  She swore a lot too.  Anyway, when she started to give me stuff to do with impossible deadlines, I just buckled down and got on with it as best I could.  As a consequence, I became seriously overloaded and everything got on top of me.  I knew I should be upfront and tell her I wasn’t  coping, but I didn’t, just kowtowed and the resentment started building up.  Hey, there’s another feeling: resentment.  

Anyway, things eventually resolved themselves when my boss came a cropper. She lost her cool, sacked someone on the spot and was taken to a tribunal for wrongful dismissal.  The judgement went against her and she finished up getting sacked herself.  Quite a relief!  But my headaches persisted.  It was as if they’d become a habit.  The least thing would set them off: misplacing things, cutting it fine when catching a train, my laptop playing up.  My forehead even started tingling the other day in the supermarket when I was at a loss to know which sort of Ryvita biscuits to buy.  Pathetic, eh?

My headaches have definitely got worse since my wife announced that she wants to move to a smaller, more manageable house.  She didn’t actually use the word ‘downsizing’ but that’s what it amounts to.  It would be a nightmare— for me, not for Susan, she’s totally organised and doesn’t hang on to things.  But lots of my stuff would have to go, it just couldn’t be accommodated in a smaller house.  The very thought fills me with the screaming heebie-jeebies.  Wow, there’s a feeling: the screaming heebie-jeebies!  On a scale of one to ten, one being a doddle and ten a disaster, the prospect of moving house is a definite nine, maybe even a borderline ten. 

That’s enough scribbling for today.  Just writing all this stuff has brought on a blasted headache.  I’ll do more tomorrow.

Me again. As usual, my headache wore off after a night’s sleep, even thoughI dreamt that a removal lorry arrived before I’d had time to sort anything.  I looked out of the window and there it was, with four big blokes clambering out, eyeing up the house and rubbing their hands with glee.  Even if I’ve had a disturbed night, my headache is never there first thing in the morning.  It comes on gradually as the day takes its toll. 

Anyway, as I was saying, I dread the idea of moving house.  It definitely gives me a problem.  Is a problem a feeling?  I suppose if it feels like a problem it must be one?  Someone once told me that a problem is a gap, the difference between what you’ve got and what you want.  Well, this gap feels like a bloody great chasm!   It’s OK for Susan because she’s organised and tidy.  My trouble is that I’ve kept things when I should have ditched them or, I suppose, not acquired them in the first place.  Truth is, I had the space for self-indulgence and I convinced myself that the treasures I’ve collected might, just might, come in useful one day.  Maybe, even be worth something.

Well, to be honest (honest? this journal has a lot to answer for!) that’s not quite true.  As Susan often reminds me, I’ve got lots of things that are never, ever going to be useful or that anyone is likely to want.  My collection of car wheel hubs for example, and all the right- handed gloves I’ve found accidentally left on trains or displayed on railings.  Another  example would be my rusty rivets — six of them — picked up (I suppose stolen might be more accurate) when I visited SS Great Britain soon after it had arrived back in Bristol after being towed on a raft all the way from the Falkland Isles.  There were lots of them in heaps on the floor of the dry dock.  I’ve often wondered how puzzled the restorers must have been when they discovered six rivets, possibly once admired by the great Isambard Kingdom Brunel himself, were missing.  And then there is the cobblestone from Paris, scooped into my rucksack when I happened to find some unattended road works near the Arc de Triomphe.  It’s a whitish cube, looks as if it might even be marble, dressed on five sides so that it would fit snugly in place, like a piece in a jigsaw.  I like to think the entourage carrying Napoleon’s remains passed over my cobblestone on their way to Les Invalides.         

I’ve seen programmes on TV where cheerful presenters have ruthlessly decluttered a house that’s become an absolute tip.  Watching, I’ve always felt a touch smug because my things certainly aren’t clutter.  In any case, our house has always been tidy.  You see, Susan is houseproud and the parts of the house under her jurisdiction are pristine.  To locate my stuff you’d have to pry: open cupboards, clamber up a ladder, peer into the loft.  Or descend into the cellar.  Oh, and look in the garage that our car has never occupied.  Fortunately, none of our visitors ever venture into any of these places so my precious possessions have remained undetected by the outside world.  Susan knows about them of course, but that doesn’t count.  Anyway, until the prospect of downsizing reared its ugly head, she has always been tolerant, even been mildly amused by my collections.

My headache is back again!  Just the thought of having to decide what to keep and what to dispose of brings it on.  Take my vast collection of bottles for example, both glass and  plastic.  Some of the plastic ones claim to be recyclable and some of them boast that they are ‘proudly made from 50% recycled PET’.  The plain fact is that by storing them I’m helping to save the planet.  I’m reducing noise pollution too.  If you live near a pub (we do, that’s where most of my bottles come from) you’ll have heard the excruciating noise as hundreds of empty glass bottles cascade into the back of a refuse truck.  

I’ve even got some Victorian bottles, retrieved from a nearby building site when the foundations were being dug.  The workmen didn’t care, just carried on digging trenches with their bulldozers, dumping the soil in big heaps with the poor bottles, ruthlessly exposed, blinking in the sunlight.  I used to go each evening and rescue them.  There was a place where I could squeeze in through the temporary fence sporting ‘keep out’ notices.  I’ve got quite a good collection, most of them green, but some brown, and some a delightful blue.  

You might wonder why I’m in such a stew about having to ditch some of my treasures.  My homespun theory is it’s because when I was a kid (I was an army brat) my parents moved house seven times (just totted it up).  Every time my stuff got ditched: my comic collection, the brass bullet casings I’d found on a firing range, the fragments of Roman pottery I’d dug out of a disused quarry, the samples I’d been given on a school trip to a blanket factory, even the cigarette cards I’d collected of footballers and wayside flowers.  I was never into stamps but I guess they’d have gone the same way.  So, basically, it’s all to do with loss.  Might that explain why I’m getting in a tizz? 

That’s quite enough rambling for today.  I know I must pull myself together and stop procrastinating, so I’m off to the cellar to make a start on the basis that if you don’t start, you don’t start (have I said that before?).  More tomorrow. 

Hello Dr Jackson, Susan here.  Unfortunately, Brian can’t continue with his journal because he’s had a nasty accident.  Yesterday he was mucking about in the cellar, I’m not sure exactly what he was doing, when the shelf where he stacked his collection of Men Only magazines (I don’t suppose he told you about his magazines?) collapsed under the weight and knocked him over.  He fell awkwardly, landing sideways on some of his precious bottles.  He was badly cut, shards of broken glass piercing a lung and just missing one of his kidneys.  Anyway, he has had extensive surgery and is recovering in hospital. 

Of course, Brian’s accident will temporarily halt preparations to put our house on the market.  I’m tempted to get people in to clear his clutter.  I’ve seen a programme on the telly, I think it’s called Big House Clearout.  I wonder if I they’d take it on?

I’m afraid Brian’s likely to be out of action for a while but I’m sure he’ll be in touch to arrange another appointment once he’s home again.  In the meantime, I’m popping these pages in the post to you.

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