The box

Joining with Amber on Mondays for concretewords, where we practise writing by communicating the abstract through concrete things – a Horse, a book, stairs – and today The Box. These concrete words posts have led me on a journey through childhood and nostalgia and spiritual maturity – I write and that’s what comes out at the moment. Join me?

pink box

We returned home, sun-tanned and happy-tired and discovered that we’d been burgled.


We went from room to room, assessing the damage. The china set from Aunty had been dropped on the floor, still in the box, mainly in tact. They must have been interrupted.


I could hear my mother sobbing in her bedroom: the jewellery box with the dancing ballerina and her jewellery passed on from her mum was gone.


In the lounge, Dad found they’d taken all the CDs – apart from his copy of The Very Best of Shakatak, which wobbled alone in the empty CD rack. (That they should have exercised such quality control was as darkly humorous as it was insulting.)


I ran up the two flights of stairs to my attic room, raced to the cupboard in the corner and felt amongst the foam mattress and boxes – my Β£2,000 flute was still there. I had hidden it as a precaution. It was the only thing of value in my possession and it was safe.


I hugged it to my chest and quickly scanned the rest of the room – my favourite verses stuck with blutack above my bed, my crucifix, the poster of Richie from the Manic Street Preachers all eye-liner and bones, the scrumpled-up jeans on the floor, platforms worn down at the heel, my Forever Friends duvet cover. There were drawers hanging half-open, old train tickets, cards, earrings in disarray, books flung on top of files, more books balanced on piles of unwashed clothes.


I exhaled, relieved. It was just as I had left it. Perhaps they had not come up this far.


And then I noticed something different on my candle shelf. There was something awry in the mix of coloured wax blobs and burnt matches. Next to my bootlegged Suede and Blur tapes – it should have been there. I was sure I had left it there.

I checked – it was gone: a small pink box with a metal heart-shaped lock, crammed with various treasures and all my diaries written at primary school.


It was just a silly little pink plastic box. Why had they even taken it?


I pictured them, balaclavas off, cracking it open, sifting then discarding – no, worse – reading and sniggering.


I am the only one allowed to laugh at my devoted scribblings, my juvenilia. I am allowed to cringe at the exclamation marks and doodled hearts – you are not. I am allowed to laugh at these because I laugh with fondness, a protective indulgence of my seven-year-old self.

Ten sums on the board today – takeaway sums as usual and BORING days and she broke friends with me again today, left alone in the corner of a field; and roller skating on proper roller boots, red with blue stripes; and I wonder if he’ll marry me; I sat on a cold step outside the basement at school and there was no fairy at the bottom after all. These rainbow-coloured biro entries written small with the small things of life.


There was now only a blank, dustless spot on the foil with the candles.


I sat on the bed with my flute case heavy in my lap. I had hidden the wrong thing.


Over to you:

  • Did you keep a diary as a child? What were your ‘small things written small’?


Health update: Well. My GP said, “let’s do this logically” and after all the blood tests and chest X-rays had come back normal, and I was still unable to say more than two words without gasping for breath and having to grip onto the walls, we cut out a medication i had been taking for a while. i told her it wouldn’t be that, because i had never had side effects on it before – but it was, and now we’re a week on and i am feeling SO much more human, a normal amount of ill. I can breathe again! Being able to breathe is good. i am so relieved – and so thankful to all who were praying. I am still waiting for an appointment with my ME specialist, and still need to chase them up about their administrative snafu that meant i was lost in the system, but at least i know that it’s not as urgent as it was before. I can wait a little longer. Fear has given way to hope, and it’s bubbling out everywhere. THANK YOU for your prayers.

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31 Responses to The box

  1. Mark Allman 17th December, 2014 at 7:06 pm #

    This should be under Must Read post for I thought once again of it today and had to reread it.
    thanks Tanya,

    • Tanya 13th January, 2015 at 5:40 pm #

      Thank you! This is one of my faves.

  2. Cathy 4th February, 2013 at 11:59 pm #

    I don’t know if I’ve commented before, but have been reading your blog for just a few months. Wonderful post, and am sooo glad you’re doing better and that it was a medication interaction. What an easy fix! (But potentially hard to figure out.) I just appreciate your candor and perspective about suffering. Mine has been less physical and more circumstantial, but it’s not that different having limitations placed on your life far more than you would ever expect. Enjoy this respite!

    • Cathy 5th February, 2013 at 12:01 am #

      PS My GP pulled a “let’s do this logistically” when the specialists wanted to do every test under the sun, and it gave me permission to figure out another contributing factor. Here’s to logic and common sense!

      • Tanya 5th February, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

        So lovely to ‘see’ you! I really appreciate you taking the time to say hi. I’m so glad you also had a sensible GP – hurrah for logic!

  3. Janice 4th February, 2013 at 9:37 pm #

    a) This was the best concrete words post yet. I loved it. “I had hidden the wrong thing.” So great.

    b) I agree with Margaret that I LOVE the word burgled. I know it’s an awful thing, but it’s very fun to say.

    c) So happy to hear about your health!

    • Tanya 5th February, 2013 at 12:28 pm #

      Oo – thank you! I feel like every week I am learning to write, and I feel quite shy about these concrete words posts in a way that I don’t about others. So – thank you! πŸ™‚

  4. Margaret @ Felice Mi Fa 4th February, 2013 at 8:34 pm #

    Aw…great piece. My apartment was burgled a few years ago (despite the loss, I still love to use that word). I spent a long time thinking through the nature of my attachment to possessions, and figuring out what mattered and what didn’t, and why. You capture that really well.

    • Tanya 5th February, 2013 at 12:29 pm #

      Thank you so much, Margaret! I wonder how I would find it, being burgled as an adult rather than as a teenager. I suspect I would struggle with it more now, even though I probably shouldn’t. This has got me pondering!

  5. Joy Lenton 4th February, 2013 at 6:26 pm #

    Cause to sigh and groan for you regarding the loss of your precious personal scribbles – hopes, dreams and general chatter all wrapped up in those irreplaceable diaries. How well I remember my childhood scribbles, poems and stories, unfortunately lost to me forever from moving house and being inconsiderately discarded and disposed off by others who didn’t think to check and dismissed their inestimable worth to me.
    Much greater cause to rejoice, Tanya, with the wonderful improvement in your health. What a marvellous answer to prayer! Long may it last, be sustained and grow more as time goes on. We will keep on invading the Throne Room on your behalf, my friend. Blessings in abundance πŸ™‚

    • Tanya 5th February, 2013 at 12:31 pm #

      Oh, I’m gutted for you with your stuff being disposed of. Especially the poems and stories. I have one book of poems I have written, and I’d be gutted if they were lost. (I ought to type them up somewhere actually…)

      And thank you for celebrating with me re: the health. I am raging for yours at the moment too…

      • Mark Allman 5th February, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

        Scan them and make yourself electronic copies and store them in the cloud. Amazon has free cloud storage.

        • Tanya 5th February, 2013 at 4:52 pm #

          Oo – good thinking!

  6. Penelope Swithinbank 4th February, 2013 at 6:05 pm #

    Good encouragement for your health – praying “more, Lord!”

    And thank you for memory jogging; childhood scribbles long gone, but I have my journals going back to 1974 ….

    • Tanya 5th February, 2013 at 12:32 pm #

      Thank you!!
      Wow – it must be weird looking back all those years. Sometimes I get frustrated with my younger self, and sometimes I am just full of admiration. It is good to live the reflected life…

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