Chaos at the Car Boot and the Magic of Random by Pauline Chandler

Parents, teachers, friends and casual acquaintances have, over the years, noticed how untidy I am, and failed, with all their well-intentioned comments, to change me.  I LOVE chaos. I do! I’m averse to order and routine, especially that imposed by other people. I dislike plans and ‘organised’. It feels anti-life.  By the side of my armchair, my nest, is my ‘pile’ of stuff. Books, notebook, diary, address book, photo albums of my grandchildren, sweets, aspirins, knitting, the stuff of me.  

Upstairs in my office, it’s the same : desk, shelves, floor, piled high with stuff, all of it precious chaos. My notebooks the same, my mind the same, a mish-mash of untidy thoughts, memories, anxieties, plans, regrets, what ifs and shoulds, as  well as those magical random moments, those beautiful experiences, usually for me in my garden, the flash of a goldfinch,  a new flower, a party of jays on the lawn.

Are all writers the same? To begin with my books are extremely chaotic, a jumble of scraps and fragments, random sentences.
I LOVE car boot sales, where chaos reigns, in stall after stall of mad jumble.  Each week I try to find a mystery object to take home for my other half, for him to guess what it is. Did you know there‘s a gadget for you’ve everything you’ve ever wanted to peel, poke, carve, clip, shave, extract and polish?  Clean, shorten, melt, magnify, colour, get the idea. One of my best finds was a tool for clipping a rabbit’s claws, which neither of us guessed, not even the stall holder.  Then there was the citrus segment extractor, which I had to research online, and this week – ta dah! – a 14” length of galvanised metal turned into a screw, with a point at one end and a handle at the other.

I guessed it was for uncorking a large barrel of wine. I was wrong, but I make no excuse. It turned out to be a hook to screw into the ground when camping, to which you can tether the dog.  Isn’t humanity wonderfully inventive?

Car boot banter is entertaining too. This week I overheard one chap say to another , ‘You’re looking affluent,Ron.’ To which came the reply, ‘Effluent? Yes, I’m full of it!’ 

Then there was my flower lady, who, whatever the weather, and the lack of trade, sets out her stall with pot after pot of spectacular plants in an explosion of colour. I admired some two-colour antirrhinums and she took me to one side, with a gesture towards the door of her caravan, where her old man sat smoking a cigar.  ‘They’re beautiful, aren’t they? I want some o’ them, I’ve got just the place for ‘em, but ‘e not let me ‘ave ‘em. ‘E says ‘After, ’ by which she means after the car boot, if the plants don’t sell.  Characters and stories. Wonderful random.

Creativity is a mystery. All I know is that for me, it doesn’t happen without chaos, where the best ideas come as surprises. They usually pop up when my mind is neutral, floating, wandering, drifting like a bee among flowers. Aah.  

Let me share my best random find of the week. I had run out of new books to read – oh no! - so I looked along my book shelves, to start again on some old favourites.  What I found was a book I’d not read before, ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’ by Mary Ann Schaffer .  If you’ve not read this one, do try it. It’s enchanting, horrific, funny, tender  and moving, by turns. I loved it. The book tells the story of author, Juliet, who visits Guernsey to research the experiences of the islanders during the Nazi occupation of World War II. It’s a fascinating story.

Wishing you many random moments of joy from the chaos!

Pauline Chandler


JO said…
Oh joy - a woman after my own heart. I love the randomness of life, and have never managed the writing routine advocated by so many. It's good to know there are others who float along and embrace the unexpected.
Lovely post - and I'm a car booter as well. Some days it's a heap of junk out there, and some days you find something wonderful, often lurking under a table. Bit like writing and reading, you're right.
Chris Longmuir said…
Briliant, I've found a soulmate. We must get together sometime to compare which one of us has the the most chaotic working environment. and isn't it awful when some good meaning soul tries to tidy you up?
Susan Price said…
Same here. It's starting to look as if there's a strong link between untidiness of one kind and another, and creativity.
An exasperated person once said to me, "Why do you GENERATE untidiness? Why is it, that when you've been for two minutes in a perfectly tidy room, untidiness starts to happen?"
I couldn't deny it, so I thought about it seriously - and came to same conclusion that Pauline does - that I strongly associate untidiness with creativity and neatness with sterility.
Also, that I'd much rather write, read, paint, draw, garden than tidy up.
Ha ha! Sending love and hugs to my wonderful chaotic friends! Xxoo
Lydia Bennet said…
me too, I have a huge desk in my study but I'm working in a teeny patch of it being encroached on by pens, mugs, phones, bits of paper with lists, notes, and god knows what. the study floor gets more and more covered by paper and docs, and stuff for shredding, until I start worrying about what might be lurking under it all.

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