The Scaremonger

Week One – The Pre-sentencing report.


I first encountered the subject – who, for the purposes of this draft (just for me, I’ll clean it up before distribution – NOTE TO SELF – DON’T FORGET AND SEND IT OUT AS IS!! AGAIN!!!), I shall call Di; while this is not her real name of course, it is a convenient shorthand for Diogenes, although the label is not entirely applicable in her case. But it will do for now.


I visited Di’s north London home on two occasions; the site has been sealed by the police so my inspection was limited to what I could see without contaminating potential evidence. What impressed me most were the many large (40 litre?) paper sacks. In contrast to any of the other hoarder sites I have visited (hoarding – det. of prof. exp in appendix blah blah) there was no smell other than the hot dusty smell of an unoccupied house in summer and that not unpleasant, indeed somehow comforting, aroma of warm paper and glue. And one could not but be touched by the amount of painstaking labour involved in constructing eighty plus large sacks from used envelopes and plastic wrappers, held together with nothing but their own glue, supplemented here and there with (wholemeal?) flour and water paste. If one had seen them in the Tate Modern (and there were sufficient in number to have filled a goodly corner of the Turbine Hall) one could not fail to have been impressed. This is stuff worthy of the Turner Prize! The symbolism – unintentional maybe but nevertheless forcefully striking – the symbolism inherent in the rhythmical repetition of the phrase “if undelivered return to” then myriad addresses of myriad banks, wine societies, charities, would-be suppliers of everything under the sun – shutters, 1000 thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets, pizzas, organic meat, veg boxes, garden furniture, mobile phones, cavity wall insulation, solar panels, credit cards, stair lifts – one could spend a day examining them, or as in my case, two days, and not have time to read them all. And then, to read, inverted, her name and address, again and again and, even more poignantly symbolic, the empty envelope windows, through which one glimpsed the unwanted post which filled the sacks to the brim; evidence of years of a daily bombardment of drek; one’s imagination inevitably stirred to picture the poor addressee – a modern day Penelope, sighing, opening, flattening, sticking, refusing, refusing to – well, add to the refuse! Take that out. Not funny, really. Not since re-introduction of d.p.


So – oh, I do so hate sentences that begin with ‘so’ and yet here I am, doing it to myself, although perhaps on this occasion a degree of sententiousness is apposite; so. The question is this; along with her other numerous abberant behaviours, are these sacks a manifestation of a deranged mind, or evidence of a sharply functioning one? A mind fully capable of calculation and subtlety? Planning and execution? Had she, over all those months and years gradually gone downhill to the point where depression (evident from her m. recs going back years, quote here – so much for CBT!) had transitioned into full-blown psychosis? Did she just, on that particular day, to use the vernacular, lose the plot, the run of herself? Or – and this, for me, is the nub – was she trying to make a point? Did she wake that morning,  in her, admittedly by then unmanageably cluttered but still highly desirable four bedroom semi in Palmer’s Green and think to herself, “Today is the day.”? Did she shower, dress carefully, brush her teeth, take one last look around before locking the house and walking to the bus stop with a carefully laid plan in her head and murderous rage in her heart? At this stage of the game – no idea. 

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