The rain rolls down the cold, hard, glass of my little bedroom and I find myself pondering on the topic of ‘replacement’, debating in my equally little head what the term actually means.
Grey clouds sit high above in a content fashion. On this drizzly January evening it’s hard to imagine that anything else could possibly occupy these temperate British skies. Only occasionally are the plump objects forced to move on, being replaced by a substance more yellow and warmer in personality. One would expect the ants below to rejoice in this uncommon of events, yet the reaction is ironical. Instead of being celebrated, hailed and praised, the British will complain. We’ll moan that it’s too hot, or complain that our offices are insufferable, some will even complain that it’s bad for our health. I can predict the headlines now “Sun Sizzles Cells!”, “Cats Fainting in Cumbria!” (or words to that effect). But, until that happens we will all sit in the gloom and sniff and cough until a suitable replacement is found. We complain when it’s cold, tut and sigh when it’s hot, that’s just how we are. Just as the sun is characteristically warm, our Island is habitually cool.
My gaze moving now from the window, I look across my room until my eyes fix on a plastic storage unit, my plastic storage unit. Complete with bugling drawers of linen, stationery and books, I smile at the thought that my life can be summed up by the very existence of this cheap short-term, turned long-term, storage solution. My necessity to collect the trivial but essential fuels its existence. However when the time comes to move it will, at best, be relegated to a dark corner or, at worst, disposed of entirely. In short, it will be replaced. It’s years of service will mean nothing. Utilitarian style is after all so 1941. In the history of never has anyone ever shown off a £15 storage cabinet to visitors. It has skills, it has done me no wrong, but it is ugly. Like the grey skies above me, it must be replaced.
The books stacked on top tell the stories of fictional individuals, but they also whisper unwritten tales of the reader who studied each page so very closely. They speak, to pardon the pun, volumes. The reader has laughed, cried and everything in between whilst flicking through the dog-eared pages of these novels, sat on the plastic storage unit. I happen to know her very well. And yet, they have been read now, the stories seen, the lessons learnt, which is why they now stack up in an ever growing pile. There is no space to put them anywhere else. They used to look pretty, create the feeling of an intellectual figure who reads a lot, but now the reader has had enough of these books, she bores of them. Overnight the stack has turned from romantic to repulsive. Yes, new books are needed, but the old ones must be given new homes. They may be of a different breed to the generic storage unit, but then surely one book is as good as another? After all they all have jackets and pages, what are a few differing words? Yes, the old needs definitely needs replacing with the new.
Isn’t it funny how a seemingly harmless word can be, well, so harmful? So insulting and damming. ‘Replacement’ is not a term that fills one with optimism. To replace someone or something is to hope that their successor does an equally good job with an additional quality or characteristic that is more appealing. Failing that, one hopes that the replaceor can do the same job, at the same level, with no complaint. No one ever asks for a ‘lesser replacement’. I want the sun to come out, but yet my lifestyle won’t cease to continue if it remains grey for the next six months. I want a prettier storage unit, but I don’t want it to fall apart on day one. I want a new book but I don’t want it to be full of nursery rhymes.
I have heard people say “anything can be replaced if you look hard enough” and then witness these same people grumbling as they struggle to find a healthy, tasty, alternative for chocolate. If everything was replaceable then wouldn’t all food be the same, all objects identical, all creatures predictable? The uniqueness of life itself is what makes our planet as beautiful as it is and what makes each ‘thing’ unchangeable.
Nothing is truly replaceable.
(Written in response to the Daily Post Replacement)