Earlier this year, a mouse crawled into the space within my bedroom wall – the one directly beneath the headboard of my bed – and died.
What started as a vague presentiment of something amiss on the Sunday evening had, by the following morning, bloomed into a richly pungent stink. I lived with that smell for about 10 days. I would tell my workmates, “I think a mouse has died in my wall,” secretly seething with rage, wishing I could prise the plaster apart in huge clumps, Incredible Hulk style, grab the corpse and fling it as far as possible into a neighbour’s garden (of course, I’ve just realised, the Hulk could probably throw it into the stratosphere, but I like the image of it being lobbed gingerly instead).
I tried to stay out of my bedroom as much as possible. I kept the windows open, turned up the heating to try and dry the carcass out, and bought some room odourisers (not poppers) to mask the smell – but none of it really made much of a difference; it came in aggressive waves, peaking on the Friday when I told a date demurely that, sorry, there was a dead mouse in the wall and it wouldn’t be much fun to go home right now. And then it trailed off. No onslaught of bluebottles afterwards; one or two, but nothing too bad.
Those 10 days felt interminable. The thought crossed my mind that maybe this was some kind of prank by the Universe, well-overdue karma or simple poetic justice: enduring the fumes of a curdling rodent while I programmed and promoted a club night about sex, death, the afterlife and – fountain of morbid fragrances – the butt. As if to say, if you love these topics so much, why don’t we get a bit immersive?
There is a story in David Eagleman’s SUM that says when you die, you live your whole life again but with every individual activity grouped together i.e. seven months standing under a shower. I do not look forward to revisiting that smell for any period of time, or the mountains of stress and anxiety returning to programming caused me (not that I didn’t enjoy the end result, or consider it successful, because I did).
There is a room in my house which is almost completely given over to my landlady storing old mattresses, bed frames, broken shelving units, bags of cement, boxes of family trinkets, and so on. I prefer this to having another tenant. I keep my bike there, out of the hallway. I was putting it away last night when I noticed a nice bookshelf half-buried behind the mountain of discarded bric-a-brac, the sea of stuff in limbo.
The bookshelf now sits in my room. I’ve finally hung the beautiful Julia Bardsley print my ex gave to me nearly a year and a half a go. There are roses in a vase on the kitchen table, a lampshade over the light. Soon there will be painted orchids in the bathroom and bedroom.
I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to begin turning this home into a place I love, not simply bear. I’ve had the good fortune and comparative luxury to receive some funding for a project, which has given me some breathing space to consider how it is I live, where I live, and how much I do.
Watching Louisa Robbin’s slow and considered performance at Future Ritual on Friday evening, I listened to all the things she would do when she recovered. “I wouldn’t even do half of that much” I thought to myself. I’m probably still fresh from a near-burnout over November: illness, tiredness, and too much travelling.
Rather than making art, I’ve been buying and – better yet – finding little things that will make my home an enjoyable place to be. ‘Home-maker’: denigrated and oft-dismissed epithet for the one who stays in the house, cooks, cleans, raises the kids if there are kids to be raised. Take a hammer to this attitude.