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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Time warps

There are several crumbling houses along the street in Lanzarote which leads into Granny's street. Two days ago a shutter had blown open in the front. Granny and Beloved had a look inside. And there it was still furnished and much as it must always have been. The most recent piece of furniture was a big wardrobe, a cheap version of art deco. Otherwise the bed and chair could have come from a hundred, even two hundred years earlier. So could the piece de resistance - a big wooden cradle on rockers with the mattress still in it; there was a mattress still on the bed too - and of all of it, bed, wardrobe, cradle, chair, mattresses was thickly layered with dust. Even the lurking ghosts of the baby in the cradle, the parents in the bed, felt layered with dust.

(On the other hand... it could have been worse. Beloved once bought a house from an old man who had been rushed into hospital after a heart attack and never came home again. Months later, when they first viewed the house his uneaten dinner was still mouldering on the table...it was still there when they moved in. At least there was nothing like that.)

Lanzarote is full of crumbling old houses. The problem as in much of Europe is an inheritance law which means all property has to be divided between all children; if they can't agree on selling the parents' house, handing it over to one of them, whatever, it's just left to rot. More often than not a new house is then built next door, a Disneyland version of the old one. It's much cheaper than doing up the old house - even assuming its fate has been agreed on. The new build, of course, one breezeblock thick, is far less attuned to the climate; doesn't keep wind, cold, rain heat out according to season the way the thick stone walls of the older house used to. But it's trendier, smarter as well as cheaper. On an island dirt poor up till the sixties, the notion of heritage hasn't really taken root; one or two particularly big and special buildings have been restored, in one or two places, but that's the limit of it.

Granny is back in a London now, in a different kind of timewarp; juddering and shuddering just like when she arrived there two years back, shortly after 7/7. Bombs. Saturday's date is another 7/7; complete with Wimbledon and the Tour de France, which does not help. But at least it seems to have stopped raining. And Granny is rising above it all -trying to - by catching up on her culture. As she writes this Leyton Hewitt is on the telly attempting to come back from the dead in a match against someone with an 'ic' at the end of his name who she's never heard of... But then she's out of touch these days. It's called getting old, or something...but at least she thinks - she believes - she hasn't got a redundant cradle, let alone dinner mouldering, metaphorically, inside her.... there are different ways of growing old....

She's attempting another sort of restoration, this time on herself. She's gone out and bought - how dare she left herself be wooed by the hype? - she has been - some of the stuff about which there was so much fuss back in April. You know, that elixir of life in a Boots' bottle which turns old skin to new skin, something like that. If houses can be done up, why not people? Another useless aspiration. But she's sticking to it. Even to the extent of buying two bottles. Twice fooled her you could say. And all the more profit to them.

Poor Leyton Hewitt's restoration has failed; maybe it's a lesson to her. He's out. And Granny is off to see a film....it will do nothing to renew her skin. But what will it do to renew her soul?

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