It was the arrival of a man from Scottish Gas that did it.
He needed to see the meter, the one at the back of the hall cupboard, crammed from top to bottom, side to side with approximately 15 years’ worth of junk.
Full of apologies, I pointed in the general direction of where it might be and watched his face fall as he weighed up the odds of being brained by a falling box of Christmas decorations, having his limbs removed by a swinging Hallowe’en axe, or being lost forever in a suffocating forest of old coats and musty handbags sprinkled with a decade and a half of dust.
Shamed, I resolved to clear out the monster cupboard, maybe even give its grotty stained walls a lick of paint.
On Sunday in I went, like a Victorian pith-helmeted explorer chopping through dense jungle to reach the source of the Nile, to a world of dusty old vases (chipped), torches (mostly broken), assorted tool boxes (I have enough nails to complete the construction of La Sagrada Familia should Barcelona ever run out), tangled extension leads and used batteries.
I discovered a light bulb collection worthy of Blackpool’s Illuminations and a box of yellowing Commando comics, four decades old, kept because they must be worth something but which a scan of eBay revealed are only good for kindling.
For every item destined to be recycled came a dozen more that made it as far as the bin only to be later retrieved, too important to be allowed to just leave.
School art projects and primary one spelling jotters, given a cursory “that’s nice” glance when they arrived home, which on closer inspection exposed every ounce of effort that went into writing “I” and “the” and “ant”.
My mum’s old sewing machine threaded with the cotton she’d carefully wound around its levers, probably quietly cursing failing eyesight which made threading the needle such a chore.
And her spectacles, stored in an old bread bin, too personal to simply chuck away. It seemed right they should stay in the cupboard, for she was there too. Ashes are much easier to store behind a cupboard door than carry to a favourite spot to scatter and weep over.
Photographs of long gone family pets stuck between Mother’s Day cards with wobbly signatures and lots of kisses, a garishly painted ceramic workshop piggy bank and a video tape of my wedding but, sadly, no machine on which to play it.
Quietly wept over, they were dusted down and put back. The hall cupboard, I’m afraid, would be too bare without them.