This is one of two short stories here that is entirely factual. I have no idea why I was motivated to write this, but it is about incidents that happened. In addition the references to the addresses in Essen and Durham and to the shared meal in Aachen (see my 20 Years on account of my visit to Aachen, posted last August) are all true. The second house in which I lived in Norwich had its bathroom built on the back of the house behind the kitchen (as in Belgian houses) which meant that it was almost separate from the house, which in itself was very cold. The bathroom constantly had condensation on the walls and ceiling. In the winter this would freeze. Given how cold the room was I took to having my baths during my lunch break. The trouble was that the steam from the bath would rise up and melt the ice on the ceiling so you knew it was time to get out when icy cold water began falling on you from above. Anyway, I wrote this short piece about all the stuff I carried around with me that fell out when having a bath one lunchtime.
At times like these you always want to make an impact, something to mark it out. As the usual habit I had hauled out all the items which I carried around. Out of the Polish raincoat that I had once said had too many pockets for its own good. It was always a sign of change when all the pieces were laid out on the table-top. From one set of clothes to another. Another set would be selected with care and all would be paraded before that curious long mirror set in the middle of the old wardrobe, before it was ever seen as a collection on the street. There they lay, the screwed up handkerchiefs and the small cloth bag which was coming apart, the scarred leather of the change purse which rattled with coins and had a satisfying feel when it sat in my pocket or my hand. The mass of keys, the strings that held them entangled, so they barely made a sound when moved. The usual wallet filled with addresses of houses I had long left. Why could I never throw them away? There was a strand that wanted them for posterity and one which worried that the lost wallet would go to some flat in Essen rather than home. There was one scrap among many, a Durham address, and I remembered the wet, quiet evening in Aachen youth hostel when I was fifteen streets from food, and subsisted on shared bread.
In the bath I think over these. Always have a bath to wash away concern, but in fact it makes it worse, I just turn to introspection of this kind. I sit entranced by the dripping hot tap that never stops and watch the steam spiralling away into the cold wet bathroom, then laugh as the water condensed from my own bath drips cold back onto me, and I think of those school diagrams of the circulation of water through rivers, sea and clouds. The clothes are piled in the corner, just moved away from the dripping wall. There sits a till receipt fallen from the corner of my pocket. It lies translucent, pasted to the wet floor. I remember it from a few days before, when the rear tyre was punctured and I bought the shopping on the way home and squeezed it into the already packed grubby grey bag. I wrote a cheque and I remembered it clearer than if it had been spot on a tenner. £15.51.