No one actually buys a filing cabinet.
Filing cabinets just appear in your house one day and, like that annoying Patek Philippe advertisement, you simply look after them for the next generation. I suspect it’s something to do with builders’ regulations: they just get left in a corner when the snagging gets done.
They are the unlovely metal thing on which you bark your shins when you get up from your desk, and into whose cavernous spaces you consign the paper evidence of your struggles.
Ours has two levels. ‘Hers’ is upstairs, and is neatly categorised in alphabetical order: art; bank; car; health; insurance; school etc. The problem with her’s is that not much is ever thrown away, so it has all ended up bulging and sagging into spaces where it shouldn’t be, like a dowager duchess.
‘His’ is downstairs, and more abstract. It is predicated on the idea that most important family paperwork is in ‘her’s’, and therefore consists of sections like adventure, beekeeping, cricket and so on. There is a section of press cuttings, like the local paper’s obituary on my father (‘Local businessman, 67, dies’), and another on the same subject from the Times (‘Man who rode bicycles backwards’). Further back there is space for funeral orders of service, thick A5 mementos of lives lived sometimes too well, with a hundred different versions of Dear Lord and Father of Mankind.
The biggest section of all is, of course, marked ‘Miscellaneous’ which is the holding centre for paper refugees that have no other home. Last time I looked, which was probably about two years ago, it had items as varied as planning permission, election leaflets, little poems that went in my childrens’ schoolbags, and a prescription from an optician that no longer works. The prescription, that is, not the optician. Nothing can ever be found, so I suppose that the role that cabinet plays in our lives is much like the appendix in a human body, a useless remnant from our evolutionary past.
The basic problem, of course, is that the filing cabinet has been bypassed by technology, just like one of those towns that the motorway system ignores. The average age of its contents increases with each passing year, whilst the only useful document it has ever surrendered was one that reminded me that a grateful nation would start paying me a tiny pension in December 2019 based on my eight years military service. Maybe some primal instinct makes us leave it for future historians and archivists.
Only one of its functions, however, do I mourn.
In the decades leading up to my coming out as a writer, I would meticulously file away all the things that had been published in my name: letters to newspapers, articles in trade magazines, contributions to poetry competitions and a hundred other things. Re-reading some of them now, they signpost that personal transition that all writers have to go through, whereby you stop worrying about what people think, and just write the very best you can.
Which makes the surprise publication this week by the Guardian Online of a 2000 word piece I wrote on social cricket all the sweeter. It might not have the physical form to go into any filing cabinet, but I love that it is snuggling its little nose onto laptops on Islington breakfast tables, and insinuating itself into the beards of its gentle readers. And more than that, I love that it has been shared 544 times, which is exactly 543 times more than anything I have ever written has been shared before, and has drawn 98 comments, most of them surprisingly nice.
But I love most of all that the Yorkshireman, (I so want it to be the same one), who once went on Amazon to say my first book ‘were total rubbish’ is back again, bemoaning the ‘soft southern’ approach to cricket that I ‘were advocating’ , and asserting cricket’s right to be as miserable as all the other elements encircled by the dry stone walls of his life.
More than anything, he made my day.