Steve’s got the packing urge, really, really badly. He’s now packing and labelling things with a fury that is going to outstrip my own. I must add, however, that it’s in his own inimitable rag-and-bone, son-of-Steptoe way. All of the boxes are ‘reclaimed’ and have housed various other objects for various other places. I kind of like that. Boxes with history. They’re all pre-labelled with suitably dull-sounding things, and because his office is moving, there’s a lot of ‘reclaiming’ going on. There’s an OHP and a gooseneck lamp, a drawing board and some large set-squares, about a hundred rulers and pencils and clip-on wrist-bands and drinks mats and bags and rubbers, strange filing systems, previously used box-files and the likes. And there now seem to be more boxes than there were things in the house.
My packing makes my house smaller and more free; his makes his more cluttered. I’ve relegated my boxes to the spare room, and whilst it’s fair to say there are a good load at Steve’s, I’ve still managed to reduce the contents of my house accordingly, and it’s all now squarely secreted away in the downstairs toilet, waiting for April, when it will be moved to France. His packing has taken over the whole house. There are boxes everywhere you look, except in the bathroom.
All this means we’re given to entertain Steve’s friends in amongst the Steptoe Temple that is his front room. Mostly, they seem fairly used to it, as if it’s not unexpected to be sitting between 30 pairs of odd socks, some kettle plugs, a dog harness and a book about the Hell’s Angels. I, personally, shall be glad when I can relegate it to a room I never go in to. I would like to have more space simply so I can hide his findings more effectively. I would like to be able to sit on a settee without half of a laundry draped across it, and without a dog lead working its way up my rear end. I can’t wait for that moment. In the meanwhile, he will have to live in the austere minimalism of my house, which is a zen shrine of simplicity, where everything is tidy and hidden and clean. I think he might implode. I know he will find my house very small and he and all his long limbs will struggle to fit into it, like a giraffe trying to fit into a hen-house. I dread that moment to the point where I’d quite gladly say ‘you go off to France and be free for the next three months, and I’ll bring Jake when school’s over’ as I think Jake and I can manage quite well without the chaos.
Still, perhaps I under-estimate his ability to adapt, just as I have adapted to his clutter and lack of space. Maybe he’ll find it quite liberating, like last night when he shaved his beard off and said he felt like he could run faster now. I suspect he may even find it quite liberating.
I suspect that few of his friends recognise ‘new’ Steve… I think he’s much calmer than he was. Listening to Lennie talk last night about him, I realised what a fine man he is. I never under-estimate him. Nothing he does surprises me. I think he tries to pass off his lack of French as something amusing, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest to hear him have a full-blown conversation. I don’t think he likes to surprise, particularly, just that he doesn’t boast, as I do! However, I think many of his acquaintances – maybe people who’ve never seen him at work – realise his talent. I know his boss, Tina, does – or at least, she seems to, seeing the same in him as I do… a man who is infinitely capable. It’s almost as if many of the people who’ve known him in ‘the real world’ remember how talented and able he is. He is a man of gross understatement. I’m hugely looking forward to seeing what he will become in France: blacksmith, joiner, craftsman, gardener…. I think it’s all up for grabs, and I think the Steve of the future will be a very different man from now. And I don’t say that in ways I wish him to change. I love every inch of who he is now, and I know, deep inside, that my worries about him adapting are unfounded. He will wear this new life it as if it were a garment made especially for him.