When Your Apartment is Engulfed in Flames…

May 26, 2010 at 9:22 am (Uncategorized)

What do you grab? This is the tag I’ve received from NorwichRocks, so today I shall attempt to name the 10 things I’d reach for.

I’ve already figured out I’ll have to cheat, and assume I can safely remove whole categories of things instead of simply individual items. This fire business just won’t wash otherwise. I can’t possibly whittle down the list just to ten things – that seems a bit too stingy when everything I own is right here. I’m not one of these people who have a storage facility otherwise known as The Parents’ Home in which to dump the worldly possessions I can’t quite be bothered taking with me. Nope, it’s all here. In a way it’s kept me quite disciplined, but it’s true I’ve recently been feeling very, very crowded. It’s paper, mostly. My office spews paper, and I have these fantasies of a vast minimalist space with nothing in it but the desk, my computer, and a chair. But then I know I’d be sick of that in two seconds, because what would I do without all those books?

So that’s category #1. My books. They roll with, no questions asked. I suppose that includes my thesis, unless I can give it the slip at the door.

Category #2: my letters. I have saved every letter I have ever received, and a good number of cards too. They are amazing, precious artefacts, and I adore them. Could not be without them, so make way, make way, we’re comin’ through…

Category #3: My diaries and ‘thought books.’ My life in all its puny unimportance is traceable through these flimsy tomes – their contents mystify, delight, distress, amuse and in some sense define me. If this fire is going to get the go-ahead, then there simply has to be room for me to cart these many irregularly shaped volumes to the waiting truck before the ceiling falls in.

Category #4: our photos. Some of these are stacked in trunks, some in boxes in various hiding places around this apartment (which seems to enjoy its wholly inadequate allocation of storage space; I often feel it sneering at me as I try to get out from underneath all that paper…), some are on the fridge, some are hanging on the wall. All must be rescued and delivered to safety. Here I include my Granddad’s diploma from the Institute of Automotive Engineers. It’s not a photo, but it’s in a frame and it’s him if anything ever was, a career mechanic whose hands never recovered, and I’m having it.

Category #5: our art. We hardly have a Saatchi-esque collection, but what we do have it’s taken years and effort and careful consideration and a bit of madness and the occasional outright folly to acquire. Each piece of art we have has a story behind its presence in our home, and I love them dearly, I appreciate them daily, and they are irreplaceable so must be saved.

Category #6: my jewellery. It’s not that I have any jewellery that is especially valuable, I don’t, it’s that what I do have usually means something to me. The necklace Llew gave me for my 30th birthday. The necklace given to me by my Egyptian best friend on the occasion of our ten year reunion in Canada, the necklace (okay, yes, there is a theme emerging here…) I wore on my wedding day, the necklaces I bought in Venice on holiday with Llew, the cuff I bought in Auckland the weekend we visited friends… the list goes on. They sparkle with memories, and to me, they are priceless, more valuable than any Crown jewel.

I might be running out of categories now and into items:

#7: Llew’s granddad’s record player. My life wouldn’t be worth living if I left this behind, and fair enough too.

#8: My Granddad’s ladder. I use it as a bookshelf now, but it’s covered in paint-spatters from when he and I painted the spare room of his house, and looking at them makes me happy.

#9: the saddle chair. It rocks. I’d rather save that chair than my bed, and that’s really saying something.

#10: the desk. It’s a very cool piece of furniture, and it would be a crying shame if it went up in flames.

Now, must check those electrics…


  1. Lilian Nattel said,

    You better install good smoke alarms! Also sprinklers. I would stick my keys in my pocket and grab my kids’ hands. There is a flashdrive attached to my keys that has backup on it. It doesn’t have everything that’s in my laptop, but i just can’t see how I’d hold my laptop and run out with my kids. I wouldn’t have time to ask h to grab it, because I’d be yelling at him to come on and make sure he is right at my back as we ran out. That’s all that matters. Everything else is stuff. If I couldn’t find the keys, so be it.

    • doctordi said,

      Well, yes, LIlian, of course in the event of an ACTUAL fire, all I would do is make sure there was no one else in the building and get the fuck out. But that wouldn’t have made for much of a post! I thought this morning that I didn’t say “my laptop,” but I would of course chuck it in my bag or under my arm – at the moment I also have two free hands because there are not yet any kids to save! Llew I’m assuming is at the office while this event is taking place, I’ve put him there for safe keeping!

      But in my version above, I’ve basically backed up a removalist van – they’d probably think my fire was an insurance job…

      We don’t have sprinklers, but we do have smoke alarms… and a couple of fire extinguishers… and very good neighbours. We have caught two fires since we’ve been here – one next door and one upstairs, both saucepans left unattended on the stove.

  2. davidrochester said,

    I love it that you have a real live record player. I wish I had one — the modern turntables you can buy are crap, and I have a large collection of records that I can never listen to.

  3. doctordi said,

    David, I love the record player so much I don’t touch it for fear of harming it in some way. We have a great time with it, and also hunting records to bring home to it as worshipful offerings. I think it’s a wonderful thing that Llew’s granddad played records on this, and now his grandson plays his own. It’s a wonderful part of any dinner or party – and Llew and I have danced to records on many a night all on our own. I recommend you find one second-hand – there must be some beauties out there.

    We have packed all our CDs away, btw, because we never listen to anything but vinyl now. It’s too much fun playing records to even contemplate anything else.

  4. litlove said,

    Lilian – that’s what memory sticks are for – put the contents of your laptop on one, and it’s easy to hold along with the hand of a child… you can tell I’ve thought this all through!

    Loved your answers, Di – I would want all my books too, but the fire would have to be contained in the bathroom if I were going to get them all out! Still, I’m sure they would top my list too.

  5. Fugitive Pieces said,

    Um, Di, I hate to put a damper on this (oh fnah – boom, tish, thank you, I’ll be here all week) – but in the event of a fire, you really are toast.

    • doctordi said,

      Arf arf, Fugitive – you’re really “on fire”!

      Yes, I know. High flammable from start to finish.

  6. Norwichrocks said,

    An excellent list, Di. And categories are, absolutely, allowed. I particularly like the grandad’s stepladder item and the story of its importance. Really, most of our precious items are precious because of their associations with people we have loved, and because of their ability to recall those people whenever we see/wear/play the item. And that’s reassuring, I think. That we’re all about the people we’ve loved, about experiences and connections, not about possessions per se.

    But I am going to start scanning in my old photos and saving them to my MobileMe account right now so that I have a backup of them all, in case the flames engulf my little flat!

  7. doctordi said,

    Yes, I think that’s very true, NW, as evinced by my apparent lack of regard for, er, a single article of clothing…

    Scanning all our photos – now THERE’S a massive job…

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