Hastings Battleaxe has a clear-out…

Yes, as I mentioned in my New Year’s post, 2020 is going to be the year that Hastings Battleaxe and Philosopher have a clear-out. It has already started…. Why, oh why, you may ask.  Well, you  wouldn’t ask if could see the state of our loft, the garage, the sheds, our studies… and well, almost every room in the house. Health warning – this is a rather sad post…

Baby Battleaxe – Dec 1949

We had a massive clear-out when we moved down from Birmngham, but in the nine years we have lived down here it has built up again. The house is full. The walls are so full we can hang no more pictures – we have about 40 just stacked up… I can’t fit any more new clothes, shoes or bags in my cupboards. We are drowning in books, vases, crockery, glassware, spaghetti poodles, lumps of lucite with sea creatures inside, DVDs, CDs, and endless, endless papers. Both Battleaxe and Philospher are compulsive collectors, and interested in so many things…. we pick things up on our travels. We rarely take a trip to St Leonards or the junk shops of the Old Town without acquiring something. Car-boot sales? Antique fairs? Bring them on….

Sadly, practicalities have to be faced. Both of us are now in our 70s, and altough we are both strong and healthy, this won’t last for ever. We have vowed to tackle this while we still have the time and energy. Our family is very small. It does not feel as if our offspring are interested in the past, and our one grandchild is unlikely to be taking on family heirlooms. There will be no more grandchildren. One of our children works abroad, another is likely to go to live abroad, which leaves only one to sort out this place once we are gone. We don’t want the task to be overwhelmingly daunting.

So, we need to sort, rationalise, and clear.  Surplus things either have to go to the tip, go to charity, or be sold.

The process is physically demanding and emotionally stressful, so we are tackling it slowly, bit by bit.  Both of us have many things which were passed to us by our parents.  We have to look through all these things and decide what is to happen to them. Anything that we intend to try and pass on has to be labelled and sorted – otherwise the history is lost.  This is what I mean….

I brought down archive boxes of photos and paperwork from my parents from the loft, mostly my father’s.  He was a trainee engineer with the Great Western Railway in Swindon. There are pictures of him with ‘his’ steam locomotive, Princess Augusta, and here is his velvet and silver braid cap from his days with the GWR soccer team, with him wearing it in the photo…

Then all the WW2 stuff. He was initially in the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry. There are pictures of him on his horse. Then he joined the 8th Army, and was a Desert Rat. I have a set of SitReps from the Battle of El Alamein. I guess they should go to the Imperial War Museum. What is the story behind these little photos of Hitler with his colleagues and and Göring on his boat – unique snaps somehow acquired from some German…??

Then, my father was in Sicily, in Germany… I have letters, diaries, photos, his war medals… If I had the mind, I could plot and write up his complete war journey, because there is a fat file with all his pay slips, movement notices etc etc. But can I be bothered? The stuff can’t be disposed of – yet… Can it? But so often when we go to boot sales we come across these sad, poignant boxes full of ‘ephemera’ just like this, where presumably someone has died with nobody to leave their things to, and it all goes to house clearance.

There are around five more archive boxes in the understairs cupboard – more parents stuff and my own past… heesh.

Baby Battleaxe aged about 4…

So far, we have done the loft. It took four days of back-breaking work to get it all down and sort it. We have had three trips to the tip.

We filled a room with things to go to charity, all good stuff. We tried to donate a load previously to Emmaus in Hastings, but felt disgruntled because they only took a few bits, so this time we opted for the St Michael’s Hospice Donation Centre.  I understood they accepted most things and recycled stuff they didn’t want. So, we filled the car up and off we went. We were met by a very officious bloke who said he had to look through everything – which of course he didn’t, just glanced at the top of the bags. He was rushed, off-hand and dismissive.  There was no ‘Thanks for coming down here and donating’, but ‘We can’t take that… no, we can’t take any of that… no, we don’t take those… oh OK perhaps we’ll have those…’ and so on. In the end he took hardly anything, and we were so upset and pissed off we just went to the tip and dumped most of it. One of the tip men scuttled off delighted with a virtually unused Antler overnight case, and matching vanity case. Said his wife would love them. I bet she will….. it is the Hospice’s loss.

Also, another thing… passing on these things is often difficult and painful for the donors.  In our car we had two doll’s beds, with their bedclothes.  They were made by Dick, my late brother-in-law, for my nieces back in the 60s. Then the beds passed to my daughter, then to my grand-daughter, then to my friend Sue in Birmingham for her grand-daughter, and then to our neighbour down here, Angela, for her grand-daughter. Then that was the end, and off they went to the Hospice… Was it easy, giving them up with all that history? No, of course it wasn’t…  It would be good to have been thanked, and maybe treated with a bit of dignity.

Let us hope the Hospice treats us better when we are on our death beds.

My maternal grand-parents wedding – approx 1910


  1. Catherine Emmitt
    January 18, 2020 / 5:36 pm

    I commiserate with your clearing out sadness and frustration. I have done this twice and was quite unable to get rid of all kinds of sentimental stuff. My mother was apparently good at this as all her and my father’s family papers had disappeared before she had to move into a care home. I was devastated and determined not to do the same to my children. I had a more generous hospice charity in Maidstone to use but was very disappointed in another who came round and dismissed most of the furniture they advertise for. The local tip was the site of many tears and I gained some friends among the staff who were very willing to help carry boxes. Books, well where do I start. I sold some online, gave a few to reluctant charity shops, sold none on my boot fair days and actually threw some away at the tip. That was awful and shaming. Well done to you two for getting this far.

    • January 18, 2020 / 9:07 pm

      Thank you so much for your comment. It is good to know we are not alone!

  2. Jill Fricker
    January 19, 2020 / 3:33 pm

    It’s so time-consuming isn’t it? I hate throwing things away if I can possibly find another home for them! I find the Hastings’ Oxfam Shop good for taking donations of clothes, books, bric-a-brac. The HARC charity shop in London Road, St Leonards comes and collects unwanted furniture. However, if some charity shops are less than willing to accept items, I can heartily recommend Freegle, the national movement to stop stuff going to Landfill. (Join up online.) I have given away loads of stuff – and it’s constantly surprising what Freeglers are looking for, including old wine corks, broken crockery (for mosaic makers), jiffy bags and packing materials etc for the e-bayers, as well as more ‘obvious’ things – kids’ books, unwanted computer gear, furniture etc. West St Leonards Station has a book swap area – so some books could go there. The Old Town laundrette also has books on their window shelf that people leave for others to take ! How about inviting friends to rummage through your giveaways in return for a donation to the charity of your choice – I’d have taken that Antler case off your hands! Good luck! X

    • January 19, 2020 / 6:13 pm

      Thanks for that, Jill. We hate throwing things away too, and don’t usually do it. We have a pile of bedding etc to take to Seaview for the homeless, and we have a WI jumble sale coming up – so there are plenty of options. Sara Lee are good too. When we have sorted all the pictures, china etc we’ll have a grab-it-and-run evening for friends!

  3. J. P
    January 19, 2020 / 4:05 pm

    Hi, I sympathise with you about the off hand attitude of charity shops, I ‘ve suffered too. I recommend in St Leonards, the Romanian charity shop in Kings Rd near St Leonards station, they ‘get’ retro stuff. I either donate there or go to the PDSA in Newhaven who have a tiny shop in a run down area and are really grateful for donations and have never turned anything down . They also tell you through the gift aid scheme how much money your donation has made which is heartening, and something that Oxfam do not do.
    Congratulations for doing this! I was left to clear and sort out my parents belongings and it was a nightmare although they were tidy people , over a long life there is so much stuff and so much emotion attached to some of the objects and it was a horribly lonely task for me to make decisions and find homes for some of the military and historic items. Regimental museums took some stuff and the wonderful Keep at Sussex other stuff but it took me years. So well done for taking this on and saving your offspring from all these agonising decisions.

    • January 19, 2020 / 6:09 pm

      Thanks for your comments, and your suggestions. It is indeed a long and difficult job, painful, too…

    • Jill Fricker
      January 20, 2020 / 1:26 am

      I have to correct you re: Oxfam, J.P. – I have a card so that they can track donated items, and I get a quarterly update re: the amount raised from these items.

  4. Valerie Poore
    January 21, 2020 / 9:25 pm

    How sad indeed to be faced with this task. How sad too that the younger ones aren’t interested. The history in your home alone would give a tremendous boost to a museum. We too have been doing some clearing lately and have plenty more to do. Having moved countries, I don’t have all that much history, but we still seem to have accumulated an awful lot of stuff for a pair of boat dwellers…it is the books mostly, the endless books. Courage and strength to you both. I’m so sorry you were treated so officiously by the charities. It feels wrong, doesn’t it? There must be so many people who would value the things you want to get rid of. Maybe have a garage sale?

    • January 22, 2020 / 9:13 am

      Thanks Val… I think we shoould live on a boat – a very small one… a rubber dinghy maybe…

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