While enjoying an unaccustomed and leisurely breakfast in bed, Rose was struck by a new thought. She laid down her toast, flicked away a crumb, and gazed gloomily at her surroundings: whatnots, little gilt console tables and hand-me-down tapestry chairs, and that was only the bedroom. What had once seemed so comfortable, offering continuity and a well-polished notion of permanence, was now nothing more than a baleful echo.
There was no getting away from it, her flat was just like the Museum. The Westgate Museum, that is, where until yesterday she had worked.
She began to off-load her furniture on to family and friends.
‘Are you sure, are you really sure? How will you cope without . . . and so soon after your . . . ?’
‘Not at all,’ Rose replied, jumping swiftly in. ‘Perfect timing.’
She didn’t want to hear them say it – retirement; such a horrible word suggesting slippers. She didn’t let on that retirement was really a euphemism for redundancy, one suggested by the Museum, not by her, but twenty-three years of beehive thimbles and decorated spindle whorls was more than enough for anybody. And besides, she drew the line at slippers.
‘Are you moving?’ asked her landlord, emerging from his ground-floor flat.
‘Just having a clear-out, Mr Aldridge. That’s all,’ she said as she helped a man-with-a-van shift a heavy Victorian wardrobe through the communal hall.
Mr Aldridge raised one bristly, silver eyebrow, but Rose took no notice. She was much too busy scooping up fallen coathangers and hurling them into the van. Vases, ornaments, pictures, curtains, cushions – everything was given away to anyone who would take it. If she put something outside by the front gate (a broken umbrella-stand, for instance) then, in moments – pouf – it was gone. Nothing could have been more liberating.
Soon she had whittled her possessions down to clothes she actually wore, plus a few kitchen and bathroom necessities. And her books? Won