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  • Writer's picturertoon8

What's worse than skeletons in the closet? ...Udder rubbish on the shelf

Until 3 years ago when I actually grew the fuck up (maybe?) and 'bought' my house (well, you know, signed myself up to a life sentence of repayments) I frequently found myself, black bags in hand, on my parents' doorstep. I'm sure that for one reason or another many grown adults find themselves in this position at least once after initially 'flying the nest'; but honestly, I was back and forth like a PPI sales person. I was on and off with my ex so many times it became risible. It reached the point I would announce (yet another) break up to family members and they wouldn't even bat an eyelid. I could have said, 'he's just parking the car' for all the notice they took and, to be fair, on the rare occasions he did show his face at family gatherings, he said so little, his absence was hardly noticeable.

To compensate for the shame I brought upon the family and the fact that my 'old room' was my 'still room' until I was well into my forties, I would help out a lot around the place. I actually got pretty possessive over the housework, which is kind of perverse considering how much I hate domesticity. Anyway, one thing that used to drive me crazy was all the STUFF Mum hoarded. Every cupboard was packed, every last inch of shelf space taken. But I'm not talking about the regular 'nick-nacks': photos, ornaments, house plants and kitchen gadgets. Mum is incapable of throwing ANYTHING out: from plastic pots, to old undies and socks, to carrier bags; she keeps adding to her personal landfill, always with the mantra, "never know when that might come in handy". Cloth items are used as dusters or cleaning rags (even though she continues to buy items actually made for this from Mr Marigolds - a barrow boy she takes pity on due to his 'special mind'); yogurt cartons are used as snack pots, for Dad's grapes and Mum's tropical mix; and jar lids are used as receptacles for all the pills and potions Dad doles out each morning and evening, like a benevolent version of Nurse Ratched (vitamins, Evening Primrose, Cod Liver Oil, Brewers Yeast, Bee Propolis, Zinc, Milk Thistle... everything but Statins because these are EVIL and will result in side effects that will mean having to take lots of tablets!) The weirdest thing ever to grace her shelves was a pot of udder cream. Yes - actual udder cream. As far as I know, Mum doesn't have any friends with cows who might have used the pot to pass on something perfectly innocent, like some Liquorice Torpedoes or Fruit Jellies. I had to fetch my brother to check my eyes weren't playing tricks on me; we both just stood and stared, neither of us brave enough to check the contents.

By far the item that Mum always had most of was margarine tubs. And I have to admit, they can have their uses: a large Stork tub makes a suitable home for up to a dozen spice jars and smaller tubs can 'come in handy' for freezing portions of batch cooking. For Mum, though, a margarine tub alone is not adequate. Say she wanted to send you away after Sunday dinner with some of her famous Sherry trifle, the lid of the margarine tub could come loose and we wouldn't want trifle stains in the car, would we? So she puts the tub into a bread bag (these would come a close second to the top of the pots, in fact, I remember it getting to a point where two bread bins were necessary - one for actual bread and the other for bags. And then she ties a Navy Seal grade knot in it. The times I have wrangled with one of her Krypton Factor challenges, snapping nails and almost losing teeth, only to admit defeat and tear into the plastic in such a frenzy, the lid does fly off and I end up wearing whatever's inside.

In previous blogs I have talked about getting more and more like my Mother; while I do not hoard plastic pots (that's what the blue bin's for Mum) or bread bags (can't eat the stuff - it gives me chronic heart burn), I do have a problem. It's with items that can't be recycled but seem somehow not rubbish enough to throw away. Those little fish of soy sauce you get with sushi - I have shoals of them floating round in my cutlery drawer; Gu ramekins are stacked up next to my plates, in a sort of solo game of glass Jenga, until I eventually remember I have a glass recycling bin now; Amazon cardboard envelopes are shelved in the bin cupboard, lined up like a cheap imitation of the books they once held. I have enough old towels to stock a maternity ward and enough old bed sheets to dress a town of ghosts. The Vegan Supermarket send out frozen goods in massive silver bubble wrap bags, which you can send back - 5 at a time, but that's a trip to the Post Office I can never quite force myself to make.

Recently Mum was telling me how the local Pet Bereavement Service had helped out with a house clearance for her good friend who sadly died of Covid. I couldn't help but wonder what they'd make of Mum's cupboards. Or mine, for that matter. Take the boiler cupboard - that's where I keep my alchemy kit: the accouterments of candle recycling. An old saucepan (used to boil the wax to melting point), an old wooden spoon (used to scrape out the melted wax), and empty hot chocolate tins (to pour the wax into). Recently my problem has escalated to a new level. I empty anything - crisp packets, Pringle tubes, cereal boxes - and I think to myself; actually I SAY to myself - "that might come in handy"! The next day I find myself using a crisp bag as a plate protector (saves on washing up) or using empty packages to put rubbish in to save on bin bags. The other day Mum popped round to feed the dog for me. I was mortified when I realised she'd been in the bin cupboard and seen the evidence of my habit; it may as well have been littered with dirty needles. Then I reminded myself - I saw the udder cream. No competition.

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