Wednesday, 7 January 2009

The Wednesday Morning Play :: The Collector

The Collector.

A Play by Stanley H Cattermole

Act One, Scene One – INT. LONDON. A fairly small living room is made to seem smaller still as piles of half-emptied boxes and endless book cases vie for space. There are books and boxes of magazines and newspapers everywhere. Half-museum, half-warehouse, the lack of order is stifling and claustrophobic. A man and a woman stand in the middle of the mess.

MORGANA :: [raising her hands to her head, grabbing hold of her lavish hair] Aaaarrrggggghhhhh!

SLIM :: Is that absolutely necessary? Really. Is it?

MORGANA :: Yes! Evidently it is. I obviously can’t get through to you with common sense and logic. So what else am I supposed to do? I can’t…. I have no… Aaaarrrggggghhhhh!

SLIM :: Oh, please, come on. Stop that. Listen, just because I don’t agree with you doesn’t make me illogical.

MORGANA :: It’s nothing to do with you not agreeing with me. It’s to do with you being certifiably insane.

SLIM :: Right, yeah. I’m not the one standing in the middle of the room screaming like a retard.

MORGANA :: Slim, darling, please see sense. I’m not having a go at you, I’m just saying, you have too much stuff. You’ve got to get rid of some of it. It doesn’t make sense to live like this.

[MORGANA reaches into a nearby box and pulls out a smaller box, shoe box size.]

This for example. ‘Beermats, 1994-98.’

[SLIM shrugs.]

SLIM :: What?

MORGANA :: What do you mean, what? You have a collection of beermats. Why the fuck do you have a collection of beermats?

SLIM :: What kind of question is that? Why wouldn’t I have a collection of beermats? Probably a more pertinent question is, why don’t you have a collection of beermats?

MORGANA :: Slim, please, come on. You’re just being silly. Please. I beg you.

[SLIM rummages between boxes and picks up a laptop from the floor. He sits on an armchair and opens the lid.]

What are you doing?

SLIM :: I’m just going to have a look online. We’ll see who’s mad.

MORGANA :: We already know who’s mad. I don’t think the internet can help us at this stage.

SLIM :: Here we go. Beermats. 2,403 results on eBay.

MORGANA :: And what do you suppose that proves? All that proves is that there are thousands more lunatics out there just like you. But at least they’re doing the decent thing and trying to get rid of their idiotic collections.

SLIM :: No, what it proves is that to you that’s just a collection of beermats. To the collector, it’s gold dust. I could be sitting on a goldmine here. Look at this, pre-war South London Brewery beer mat, £25. That’s one single beermat, £25.

MORGANA :: So what? And pre-war, you said? Which war? How old is it exactly?

SLIM :: It’s from 1939.

MORGANA :: And your beermats, how old are they?

SLIM :: But this is exactly my point! This is why I refuse to throw them out. They’re an investment. In another 50 years, they’ll be worth an absolute fortune.

MORGANA :: You’ll be 80, Stan.

SLIM :: Slim.

MORGANA :: Sorry. Slim. You’ll be 80.

SLIM :: Yeah, I know. And I’ll either be struggling to get by on a state pension, and therefore, desperately in need of the cash, or I can give it to my grandchildren. It’s like a trust fund.

MORGANA :: Believe me, you won’t be having any grandchildren if you insist on hanging on to shit like this. It’s one or the other. A collection of beermats or a family. No one has both.

[MORGANA sits on the arm of the armchair and reads over SLIM’s shoulder. SLIM attempts to shield the screen.]

What? What are you trying to hide?

SLIM :: Nothing, I just don’t want you deriding my fellow….

MORGANA :: Your fellow freaks.

SLIM :: Collectors.

MORGANA :: Chinless freaks.

SLIM :: I’ve got chins.

MORGANA :: Chinless freaks with no girlfriends and fucked-up childhoods.

SLIM :: I’ve got a girlfriend.

MORGANA :: Yeah, well, don’t piss her off with a box of beermats, that’s my advice to you.

SLIM :: What, are you actually threatening to leave me just because I’ve got a hobby?

MORGANA :: Look at this, no bids, no bids, no bids, no bids. There might be two thousand chinless freaks trying to sell their beermat collections but no one wants to buy them, do they? Not even other chinless freaks.

SLIM :: What is this obsession with chins? I’ve got heaps of chins.

MORGANA :: Oh, hold on, there’s one. One bid. What’s that?

SLIM :: ‘One thousand plus beermat collection. 70s and 80s. Needs a good home.’ Only 1p!

[SLIM gasps and allows his mouth to fall open. He turns and stares at MORGANA.]

Only 1p. That is amazing value, Mo. This is quite possibly the bargain of the century and an opportunity far too good to miss.

MORGANA :: Don’t even think about it.

SLIM :: Oh, look, he’s got photos. There they are in a bin bag. There they are laid out on the living room floor.

MORGANA :: Look at the state of his fucking house. What a loser. Look at that. Shit everywhere.

SLIM :: Probably nearer 2000, he says.

MORGANA :: What kind of moron keeps 2000 beermats in a bin liner? Eh? Seriously though. What must have happened to him in his childhood? Write to him and ask him that. I bet you any money that he had a fucked-up childhood.

SLIM :: I will, I will, yeah, that’s a great idea. I’ll write: ‘Dear Sir, I was just perusing your impressive collection of beermats on eBay when my impertinent girlfriend encouraged me to write to you and enquire as to what manner of horrific abuse your parents visited upon you when you were a child that so twisted your mind and turned you into an adult who keeps beermats in a big bag.’ I’m sure he’ll appreciate that.

MORGANA :: Fucking freak.

SLIM :: Sweet-peach, please. Have a little compassion.

MORGANA :: I do. I mean, I’m sorry for him. I’m sorry for anyone who feels they need to cling to worthless items in order to compensate for the love they never received as children.

SLIM :: Oh, it’s as simple as that, is it?

MORGANA :: [standing, moving between the boxes] Why else do you suppose you’ve got an entire box of Big Issues here?

SLIM :: [shaking his head] Sorry, I’m a little confused. You see a box of magazines and you automatically think: abused childhood? Does that not strike you as a little odd?

MORGANA :: Nope. What strikes me as odd is that you have six boxes of Empire magazine that you never ever look at and will probably never look at again.

SLIM :: But we’re at complete odds here. I was eleven or twelve when that magazine came out and I just happened to see the first issue, so I bought it, and then I decided to collect them. So I collected them, and I went out and bought a copy of the magazine every month, and I read it from cover to cover because I enjoyed it, and I enjoyed seeing my collection grow. You know? It gave me pleasure.

MORGANA :: Yeah, I can understand that but Stan, that was 20 years ago….

SLIM :: Slim.

MORGANA :: I used to collect Just 17 magazines, but what happened then was this: I grew up and I threw them all away.

[SLIM flinches.]

You have to learn to throw things away. All this shit, this clutter, it’s suffocating you. You need to get rid of it. I really believe it’s holding you back, keeping you tethered to the past. I really think it’s time for a spring clean.

SLIM :: But I don’t agree.

MORGANA :: Well, I don’t know. I’m not giving you ultimatums here….

SLIM :: Ultimata.

MORGANA :: …but this is a small house and I’m not sure there’s room for all of your stuff and all of my stuff. But to be honest, it’s not really about that. I really think it would be good for you to break free from this crap. I mean, how many books have you got?

SLIM :: Oh, you want to burn my books now?

MORGANA :: Oh, please. I don’t want to burn anything. Except maybe your beermats.

SLIM :: Nazi.

MORGANA :: Oh, touché. Anyway, you’ve just lost the argument, haven’t you, according to what’s it called – Godfrey’s Dilemma, is it?

SLIM :: Godwin’s Law.

MORGANA :: Whatever. Loser.

SLIM :: Nazi.

MORGANA :: I just think, there are six book cases in this room, that’s hundreds of books, most of them you’ll never look at again, most of which I bet you’ve never even read.

SLIM :: Balls.

MORGANA :: I’m sorry?

SLIM :: Try me.

MORGANA :: OK, then. What about… Ulysses.

SLIM :: Oh, that’s not fair. You pick the one book that no one alive has ever actually finished. I had a good crack at it though. There’s a bookmark. What page…? 89, that’s not bad. So anyway, yeah, I’m still reading that book. That’s a work in progress. Next!

MORGANA :: How to Be Born Again by Billy Graham.

SLIM :: I’m saving that.

MORGANA :: What, for your death bed?

SLIM :: Yeah, it’s last minute bet-hedging material.

[MORGANA shakes her head and sighs.]

No, but in all seriousness, that’s a great book and it’ll come in really handy when one day I’m writing something about religion, about being born again or about Billy Graham.

MORGANA :: And when will that be?

SLIM :: I don’t know. One day. It’s bound to happen.

MORGANA :: But it might not.

SLIM :: Well, no. But by that same token, we might both be hit by a truck tonight so there’s no point going to Sainsbury’s.

MORGANA :: I think the likelihood of us surviving the week is slightly more than the likelihood of you writing something about Billy Graham.

SLIM :: Shows what you know.

MORGANA :: [mocking SLIM’s petty intonation] Shows what you know.

SLIM :: Look, this is going nowhere. What….

MORGANA :: The Little Book of Calm.


MORGANA :: OK, OK. Jesus.

[Hands SLIM The Little Book of Calm, which he proceeds to stroke whilst chanting.]

SLIM :: Calm, calm, calm….

MORGANA :: And this? How To Give Successful Dinner Parties. Have you found this particularly useful?

SLIM :: Indispensable, yes.

MORGANA :: Really?

SLIM :: Really.

MORGANA :: Fine. I won’t call you a liar.

SLIM :: Big of you.

MORGANA :: Thanks. What about this though? Stories For Girls. Isn’t that a little bit… gay?

SLIM :: Don’t be homophobic, Morag, please.

MORGANA :: Morgana.

SLIM :: Sorry.

MORGANA :: I mean, why have you even got this book?

SLIM :: Um… I found it, I think.

MORGANA :: Where did you find it?

SLIM :: Outside of a charity shop if I remember correctly.

MORGANA :: What do you mean?

SLIM :: There was a pile of books outside a charity shop one night. I was drunk.

MORGANA :: What, and you just took it?

SLIM :: Yeah.

MORGANA :: You stole from a charity shop?

SLIM :: I was drunk.

MORGANA :: Wow. That’s pretty low.

SLIM :: Oh, come on. We’ve all done it.

MORGANA :: Not me. That’s pretty fucked up if you ask me. Stealing from charity shops. That’s just wrong. That’s…

SLIM :: Don’t….

MORGANA :: …wrong on so many levels.

SLIM :: No! Please don’t say that

MORGANA :: Oh, now this is just totally random.

SLIM :: Oh, don’t say ‘random’, please. You’re just deliberately saying things that you know will annoy me now, aren’t you?

MORGANA :: Happy Days 4: Fonzie Goes To College? WTF, Slim?

SLIM :: Aaaarggh! I’m not listening.

[SLIM clamps his hands over his ears and makes loud nonsense noises. MORGANA glares at him. He stops.]


SLIM :: Oh, please. I beg you.

MORGANA :: Listen to me. Darling. Sweetheart. Do you think we have a future together?

SLIM :: I’m not… This is… You can’t…

MORGANA :: Yes or no, baby.

SLIM :: I hope so. I’d like that, yes. But you know, the future’s….

MORGANA :: OK, and you know we’ve talked about going to live in France maybe, in a year or two?

[SLIM folds his arms, stares. He knows where this is going.]

Darling? France. Me and you.

SLIM :: Yes, yes, yes.

MORGANA :: Well, you know, I’m just saying, all this stuff? You can’t take it with you. And storage costs a fortune. And really, I don’t think it’s good for you. It’s like an albatross around your neck. You know? The beermats, the badges, the coins and stamps. The magazines. You’re a grown man. You have to let go. Even the books.

SLIM :: Oh, not the books. I love the books. Each one is full of memories. Even the ones I haven’t read. I remember where I was when I bought them, what I was doing or feeling.

MORGANA :: The thing with books though, you can always get hold of them again. I mean, if ever you have the urge to read a certain book, then you can have the pleasure of going out and finding a copy again.

[SLIM takes a deep breath, rubs his eyes with the palms of his hands.]

It’s just not practical, Stan.

SLIM :: Slim.

MORGANA :: Stan. You’ve been here three weeks and you still haven’t unpacked everything. Maybe there’s a reason for that. Maybe deep down you know….

SLIM :: Alright, alright, alright. Jesus. I’ll think about it, alright?

MORGANA :: Thanks, baby.

SLIM :: Maybe there are some books I can get rid of. Maybe. But I’m going to count them all first, and catalogue them.

MORGANA :: OK, darling. That’s lovely. You do that.

[MORGANA turns to walk out of the room. As she goes, she sings the following word, stretching out the final syllable…]


[SLIM picks up his copy of Happy Days 4: Fonzie Goes To College, opens it up and starts to read. Lights fade. Scene One ends.]

Share on Facebook! Digg this


Shimacat said...

Oh, boy. I'm with Morgana/Morag on this one. Apart from the books of course. I have a simple rule with books - proof copy or first edition - keep. Until you sell it. Paperback/epherma - if I'm going to read it again, keep for a while. If not, it goes to a charity shop where hopefully it will be bought, not stolen.

The rest - useless epherma, saved on the nominal excuse that one tiny bit of it will be worth something one day. Tosh. Rubbish.

Go, Moragana, go! (I mean 'go' as in more power to you, not 'go', as in 'leave'. Obviously.)

Lily Lane said...

I am DEFINITELY on Morag's side here too.

Aside from your own mild craziness at keeping these things (beermats especially), even if they ARE worth something in a trillion years time (when you've forgotten you have them), as penance for stealing from the charity shop I think you owe it to the universe in general to save at least one poor soul from spending a stupid amount of money on your junk by throwing it out before he/she can think about buying it.

It's time to start being honest with yourself. If you've had a book for a year and not read it yet, you're just not going to. So if you're not excited enough to start that book today, just chuck it. Or give it to a charity shop.

Whether or not the collections are the result of a crappy childhood, I suspect you will enjoy the experience of letting it all go. Just don't think of it as making room for more stuff. Life is for doing, not for having, so keep the things you will use, and give away the things that someone else might use. As for the rest, be creative. Got newspapers? Give them to a kindergarten for paper mache. Those magazines would be handy for getting a fire started on a camping trip. What are you doing this weekend? Take Morag out bush (or however you northern hemisphere people do it), make a bonfire, and dance around it to celebrate your new-found freedom from clutter. And there's no aphrodisiac quite like a tent.


I have been collecting beer mats for 32 years and today at 47 I have
24,00O UK Brewery mats in my collection.

Call me sad or whatever ,I couldn't give a toss to what other people think. We all collect something be it dust or memories.

If you are interested check out my website

Anyone with an old collection that they wish to dispose off, please contact me through my web site.

Remember your junk is someone else's treasure.

Happy collecting

Ian Calvert

Anonymous said...

Well, I remember my ex and I starting out. He's still a great friend so I feel a little bit bad in spilling this story. But. I moved into his apartment. In his living room he had a 3 foot high and 12 foot long pile of yellowing newspapers stacked against the back wall of said living room. He had been collecting them for 8 years. Um, why? It must be a male thing. Luckily, he saw sense and chucked them and, thus, we continued our relationship. No woman will put up with 'collectors baggage'. You know that, right?


Ann Anon

Misssy M said...

No word of a lie - my future husband brought to our first shared flat a cardboard box full of old clothes that had been ruined after a oil fueled boiler burst and soaked them. The boiler had flooded the box with kerosene about 2 years before our moving in together.

Man needs woman. Case closed.

Maria in Oregon said...

I have tons of books too. I've started selling/trading them at a second-hand book shop, and that's a lot more fun than hoarding them or trying to find space for them. I keep the special books of course - over-100-year-old text book on the practice of obstetrics, which is both hillarious and terrifying. Stuff like that. But less than 30 year old paperbacks? nah. Except for Herman Hesse.

Fermina said...

I agree with Morag. Morag rocks! Ditch the junk, Slim. it's bad for you!

Selena said...

I don't think it's fair to ask someone to give up all of their nostalgic belongings just because they mean nothing to you.

I was made to give up all my She-ra, Transformers and He-man toys as a child and I take great pleasure in pointing out the fact that I could be selling them for hefty sums on E-bay to my mom whenever I get the chance.

However, I don't believe in living like a pack rat either. Maybe instead of getting rid of all the beer mats you could just pare down; you know, pick your favorites. Then you and Morag could share the joy of finding a crafty way to display them in your new home.


I understand the idea of Spring Cleaning and starting out fresh-but I don't think its unhealthy to hold on to memories- unless they are bad ones.

Good Luck.

Holly Hall said...

My husband is a pack rat. He had 3 storage sheds when he first met me. He doesn't any more though.

He still struggles with letting go of stuff. Be he is chosing to put more energy into the physical aspects of love versus keeping stuff that reminds him of love. This includes kisses, hugs, and a round of the maritals now and again (most every night in fact). All the real live parts of real love.

This is where he puts his energy now. Now that it is freed up by the jettison of cargo. Cargo that just sucks all sorts of love energy from the room.

something to think about there Stan.


Mrs. Hall

Antipo Déesse said...

Cor blimey, your readers love to give you advice, don't they?!

If you do move to France, I'll be delighted to have a beer with you. And you can keep the beermats afterwards.

Peach said...

NOT THE BOOKS STAN! NOT THE BOOKS!!! Wholly agree with everyone else on everything else but NOT THE BOOKS!

Anonymous said...

my hubby and I have an ongoing struggle with mountains of stuff because we agree with Selena. And we do clear things out sometimes - when the three-deep bookshelves start to collapse and we can no longer see the floor... but at least when we have holidays we can work our way through the stacks of books that we haven't got round to reading yet. It's a lovely feeling reading a twenty year old book that hardly anyone else you know has ever heard of.


iLL Man said...

It could be worse, you could have a box full of toenail clippings.....

Or did you not get around to opening that box? ;)

Mellie said...

I'd never heard of Godwins Law until now... What an education you are!
Stanley H Cattermole; Diarist, Author & Playwright. Bravo!

La Bête said...

Thank you all for your comments. Yes, compromise is definitely the way forward. I'm definitely thinking about getting rid of some junk and to be fair, I have already started. I freecycled a bunch of stuff before the move and charity-shopped another four bin-bags of stuff. Last week I even threw away the old display case I'd been keeping my coins in. Now I keep them in a chocolate box, which is considerably smaller.

What gets me though - what gets me is this: shoes. How many pair of freaking shoes does one person need? Eh? I've got two: boots and trainers, and they take up very little space.

Just something to ponder there, ladies, something to ponder.

emordino said...

A few days ago I was wondering what I'd feel like if I lost all my books... and I don't know, I don't think I'd feel so bad. I've moved around a lot over the past few years, and generally what's happened is that all the books I've collected end up in the family home while I get to watch another set of bookshelves slowly fill up. And that's a glorious feeling.

This is not to say that I want to get rid of all my books, or that I have any imminent plans to do so. But books really excite me when I'm picking up two or three at a time in a bookshop, ones I really want to read. After I'm finished reading them, the vast majority just end up as... artifacts.

(PS to Mrs Hall: I love the phrase "a round of the maritals" and will use it at every opportunity.)

Alan said...

Oh cripes - substitute "Empire" for "Four Four Two" and that's me. I don't even like the bloody excuse for a magazine any more. That's it, the collection's getting shredded tonight.

Melissa said...

Whaaat? Shoes are great, and they get used regularly, Monsieur Bete. Don't even open THAT can of worms. I'm sure your female readers will hastily open a can of whup-ass on you.

Well done on the compromise, though. Happy news indeed.

Laura said...

My beloved is the only non pack rat in about 3 generations of pack rat. It's taken him about two years to clean out their house to the point at which there's actually room to breathe (there were teddy bears hanging from the curtains and grandma's ashes under the table and many many series of ordered-off-the-back-of-the-Daily-Mail collectors plates under the stairs) and he was only able to do this because his sister moved out (she would have caused a screaming row if he'd touched a thing).

1) At least you don't have to deal with 3 generations of your family's junk, but 2) If you accumulate loads of junk someone else will have to deal with it one day.

Also 3) Non hoarders and hoarders can live together happily, but only if either the non hoarder doesn't mind there being junk EVERYWHERE or if he/she reforms the hoarder.

I'm not a hoarder. But I am also a student whose entire worldly goods fit into a single small room, so I don't have the space to fill it with "collections".

Very best of luck!

Anonymous said...

I used to collect beermats. Then i moved on to business cards.


That's not meant to be funny. It's a serious medical condition, alright?

Tim Footman said...

Of course, Beckett, who was Joyce's secretary, went on to write a play called... Happy Days.

It's about a man buried upside down in a barrel of Pepsi.

Henk Van Vleck said...

I found a book in a skip once comimg back from the pub. It was called "survivor" or something like that and was written by the guy who wrote fight club. It wasn't as good as fight club though and had a very unsatisfactory go-nowhere ending.

But I only looked in the skip because a few weeks earlier I had found 2 porno dvds in there.

Sherylificus said...

If it's any consolation to Morag, I am 22 and have seven bookcases jam packed with books... and some more living in boxes that are waiting for more bookcases. And I moved all of them 1320 kilometres last August.

Which is of course a very small collection when compared to my father's, and I helped him move the books nine years ago.

Just tell her it builds muscle hauling them all around.

Also, re: Ultimatums/ultimata, I thought I would share the rather unpleasant and disconcerting fact that 'sister in-laws' is now coming into common usage, and will likely replace 'sisters in-law' in the coming years.