Stop! Press

STOP! PRESS                                            CWG September 2013 entry –     Topic : NEWSPAPERS


“For Christ’s sake, Kath…..what’s wrong with you!”  Mike is fuming.

She sits twiddling the tv channels, not looking at him. He grabs the control from her, switching the TV off.

‘What have you done now?”

She turns red, yet is defiant.

“Mind your own business!”

He moves to the sofa and pulls her up to face him.

“What have you bought this time? “

She averts her head, but his hand under her chin turns her back. He waits.

“Well, there were these old newspapers – originals – on sale on the shopping channel for over two hours – nobody bought them… I did.”

“Them? How many?”

“Only nine, they were 34 pounds each – my own money! -and one was for the date of your birth.”

‘Three hundred quid on nine newspapers? …. what are you going to do with them?  Add them to the three rooms full you already have? This has gone too far….” He throws down the remote control and crashes out to the garden, banging the door.


Mavis next door pops around for a cuppa while Mike is sulking in the back garden stabbing away at his rhododendrons.

“What’s up with Mike, he looks miserable.”  she asks, looking out through the kitchen window. She never misses a thing, so Kath brings her up to date.

“ I haven’t been upstairs in your house for what? – 15 years? – show me these rooms he hates so much.”

Ten minutes later they’re down at the kitchen table again.

“Well, I’m shocked frankly, and I agree with Mike on this. Personally speaking, nobody should have 16 years of the Daily Mail in their house, the filth, but everyone to their taste. The Guardian’s not bad, but I’d really draw the line at the damned Telegraph. What on earth possessed you?”

She narrows her eyes and lips as she raises another hot cuppa, looking as though she’s seeing her friend in a new light. All those poncing Tories,  and going to the pictures is now called Culture.

“You know how sane I am, I just like newspapers.’ Kath retorts.

“That’s because you’re a librarian, you like words, but you don’t have to own them.”

“Of course I do – what about books?” Kath shoots back.

“ Books are attractive, you can re-read them, swap them. You’re surrounded by them every day. They’re not buried away gathering dust like some mouldering old nun.  Get rid of them, we’ll need a skip, maybe two, it’s a waste of space.”

“No, I might need the information, I don’t want to throw them out.”

“When’s the last time you read one?”

“I buy two every day, have a read and add them to the pile. I might need them.”

“Need? Not unless you’re planning to cut out words like a kidnapper and send anonymous letters to neighbours! Madness, woman, clean your windows with them, or learn origami, that would be useful…..” Mavis is shaking her head and wishing she hadn’t given up smoking again.


Mike’s back, and muttering.



He pours a cup of tea, still standing.

“Kath’s just shown me all the papers…..”

“And what’s your opinion, Mavis, is that normal? I was just thinking……her dad was a postman… brought back mail he couldn’t deliver, thinking he’d be able to do it next day. It piled up, next to the papers, never opened, never delivered, stacked neatly in every room of the house, even the bathroom. First time I went there, half the kitchen table was stacked 2 ft high with the Daily Mail – her mother’s rag – and the Guardian which her dad read. We all ate on the other half as though it was normal. It was hilarious then, but ….”

“That’s nothing to do with it!” Kath’s indignant.

“Don’t you find information on the internet like everyone else?” Mavis asks Kath, as Mike wanders out of the kitchen.

“It’s different…..look it’s just a hobby, I’m menopausal.”

“You need to do something about this, Kath. It’s out of hand when half your house is off limits. Mike wants his own space, not a bit of the living room.  You could have a study or a library up there.  He’s easy going but you’re pushing him. Get real, girl.” Mavis stands, convincing herself she has a cigarette butt in her hand she wants to stamp out, expressing herself metaphorically.


Kath is reading the Daily Mail behind the library counter half an hour before closing time. To her a paper is less attractive once used, less exciting than buying and storing one which will always remain perfect .  An article titled “Hoarding – a Psychological Disorder” catches her eye. Next afternoon she scans the library shelves, using the terms in the article – obsessive compulsive disorder, clinical depression, dependent personality disorder  – to find books on her problem.


 “…… I’ve come to the informed conclusion that I’m suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder – O.C.D.” They’re at the kitchen table again and Kath refills the wine glasses. It’s Mike’s bridge night and she is expounding her theories, expecting Mavis to concur.

“I’ve never told you this before, but I have an illness too, a chronic one.” Mavis lowers her eyes looking serious.

“What?! You never told me, Mavis, how long have you had it…..what is it?”

A deep sigh and then a few seconds silence before Mavis says,


“Let me guess….” Kath is thrilled and begins brain racking.

“C, well there’s the big c – cancer? – cervix – colon –curvature…. oh I don’t know, I give up.“

Mavis shakes her head.

“Tell me, it must be so rare.”

“Compulsive Cigarette Addiction!” Mavis can hardly get the words out, she’s laughing so hard. Kath’s deflated, but Mavis continues,

“…also known as Life. We all have compulsions and addictions, every single one of us. Can I smoke?”  reaching for the cigarettes again. “…’s too cold out there”.

“No, go outside, Mike hates it,” Kath commands, so Mavis braves the freezing night for three minutes then comes back in.

“I have all the symptoms of this disorder,” Kath begins, picking up one of the library tomes, but Mavis holds her hand up saying,

“ Kath, you’re a 50 year old childless woman, with a decent husband, no money worries.  Your house is stuffed with newspapers – that’s all. All this psycho stuff will do your head in. You’re in the menopause – who isn’t? even our husbands are – but use your head. Have another glass of wine and don’t be ridiculous.”

“You’re being assertive, controlling….” Kath says judgmentally, having today read about these sorts of people.

Mavis bursts out laughing.

“ Of course I am, I’ve never been anything else. Your only problem is that you’re too pigheaded to remove all that rubbish without a drama.”

Kath’s lips draw tightly together. She is sure she’s suffering from some underlying condition which predisposes her to hoarding because of her unusually abnormal sensitivity.   She must go to a psychologist. She’s worth it.


“Mrs Walker, nice to see you.”

Clare Baxter is someone Kath feels entirely comfortable with. It’s been three months since the weekly sessions began.  Clare is blonde and fluffy and wears wonderful shoes which Kath has never seen anywhere else, and covets. She has a perfect view of them every time from the soothing stool where she lies back, closes her eyes  and relaxes.

A few minutes later, Clare says,

“You and I are standing in your kitchen. Could you describe it to me?”

Kath’s eyelids flicker. “White units, with grey slate floors.”

“What else is in the kitchen?”

“The table, white, Italian design.

“Is there anything on the table?”

“um……” Kath has been asked to keep the table and benches completely clear as the last week’s exercise. (She suddenly remembers Mavis saying “Bailiffs been?” when she saw the minimised version.)

“What else do you see as you look around?”

“….just the empty yoghurt packs, washed of course, stacked in a pyramid shape on the windowsill, I like pyramids…..6 on the bottom, five then, and so on – one at the top”.  Clare scribbles.

“Well done, keeping the….. benches and table clear. How does that make you feel?”

“It looks nice, I suppose.”

“Let’s walk upstairs now, what room do we see?”

“That’s the study.”

“Let’s go in, shall we?”

Kath blushes despite the closed eyes.

“Well, I haven’t got round to clearing it, I’ll have to sort things out.”
“What things?”

“Mainly…newspapers. “

“Do you use the study?”

“Well, no,I sit downstairs in the living room and do everything there, its cosier.  ”

“Does Mike use the study?”

“No….though he keeps nagging to have it to himself.”

“Lets go in and see, shall we?”

Kath’s face closes, resistance written all over it, as she swings her feet to the floor.

“I’ve been reading a lot on the internet about A.P.D. – avoidant personality disorder – I’m pretty certain I have that.”

This is the twelfth week she has arrived with a conviction she has anxiety syndrome, acute distress disorder, dissociative identity disorder,etc – a new one every week – after diagnosing herself on the internet. She is curious, articulate, but the psychologist answers, as she often has,

“Please don’t classify yourself. We are trying to find a way of living through negative habits and stress. Names are unnecessary, we are looking for different ways of thinking, healthy, more social  behaviours that improve your self esteem and contentment. Now let’s go into your study.”


 “Kath, how about going to that shopping mall in Bicester for a day out – I really fancy it.” Mavis is at the door but won’t come in.
“ I’d love that.”

“How about Friday, this week, or are you booked?”

“I’ve got an appointment with my psychologist at 4 pm, but if we left at 8, we’d be back by 2 or 3. Sounds good, will you drive or shall I?”

“Let’s take mine, she needs a good run” Mavis replies.


 “I had a great day, Mavis, see you later.”

Kath climbs out of the car outside the psychologist’s practice and Mavis leans out the window saying,

“I’ll pick you up in an hour if you like….”

“Don’t bother, I’ll catch the bus,” says Kath over her shoulder, walking away.


 “….now we’ve been into all the rooms, and you have taken the stacks of papers out and put them in the skip.  Where are we standing today?”

“In the study, yes I’d forgotten how nice it looks with books I’d forgotten were there. The Persian rug looks great, it was covered, now I really like it.”

“Which room next?”
“ The big guestroom looks even bigger without the papers. I’m thinking of making it a music room, oh yes, there’s a piano in there I’d forgotten about.”

“Excellent – and the last one?”

“I haven’t been in there much, its smaller without the papers in it. I can’t remember where I put the key…….. I do so miss the smell of newsprint.”

“So with all the papers gone, what difference does that make to you?”

“I feel lighter, though I still worry about the massively useful information I’ve missed out on, so wasteful.”

“And where can you look for any information you think you need?”

“The library, the internet….”

“Kath, get your coat on, we’re going on a magical mystery tour.”

Clare suddenly stands, putting on her own coat, a perfect match that pink with the dark brown suede boots.

Such fun!  Kath loves the idea. But outside the building Mavis, who dropped her off half an hour earlier, is still sitting there in her car. Clare takes Kath’s arm and they cross to where Mavis is parked.

“Surprise!” Mavis jumps out and opens the back door and the other two step in.

“What IS this?” Kath’s alarmed, something’s up.

“Wait, Kath.” Mavis commands giving her a Trust Me look through the rear vision mirror. Twenty minutes later they arrive outside their neighbouring houses.

Kath freezes.

“What are they doing?”

Mavis parks opposite her own house, unwinds the windows.

“What do you think they’re doing?” Clare enquires quietly.

Four men are manoeuvring a skip into the right place for removal. It’s full to the brim of yellowing, aged papers, tied in bundles, expertly suffocated and bound.   Mike appears to be paying them and looks up at the car, but does not come over. Kath’s hand goes to open the door but Clare says,

“Sit tight, Kath.  You’re ready for this, you have to see it yourself to realise how the papers don’t have any meaning in your life. It is a link to your parents, to your past, but all that is within you – the papers are just things. Time to let go.”


Kath stares at the mountain of words; her personal mountain, mostly unread, being lifted skyward.

“The throw away society strikes again,” she says, sadly, stepping out of the car.

“Champagne, ladies, this way!” Mike can hardly contain his exuberance, he’s thrilled to have the house back. Mavis opens the bottle, pours them all a glass and they tramp upstairs clutching them.

The study is huge, it’s square proportions as subtle and symmetric as they were in the 1930’s  when it was built.

“ Lovely…..”Kath runs her hand across the windowsill, feeling the heat of the sunlight on the wood, as was intended before it was submerged.

The big guestroom is the same, though with less light.

“I only remembered the piano today, maybe I’ll have lessons again, turn it into a music room.” Kath swings round, eyes alight.

“I’m feeling embarrassed, now, that I didn’t get rid of it all years ago,” she says slowly.

“ It looks marvellous, I’ve got some colour swatches here.” Mavis is jubilant.

“….and now the small room, Kath.”

“We lost the key for it months ago,” Mike says. “We’ll have to do that one ourselves.”

“There aren’t any papers in there,” Kath says, looking over their heads. “Clare, I only have – had – a problem with newspapers, but nothing else. I’m normal in every other way. Aren’t I?”

Confronted, Clare must be diplomatic, especially on this day.

“Yes, you’re normal.”

Kath hesitates, then reaches into her handbag pulling out a key.

“Where did you find it, you never said….” Mike’s amazed.

Kath turns and walks along the hall, the others following.  She leans briefly on the door, puts the key in the lock, twists it, to reveal – no newspapers.   Instead, from floor to ceiling are dozens and dozens of shoeboxes.

“What the…..! begins Mike.

“Shoes.” says Kath proudly “I’ve categorised them, into seasons, colour, and make. Over here, Clare, you’ll see your favourite Kurt Geiger..and Mavis, try some on.”

“We’re the same size,” Mavis beams at Clare as she takes the lid off a pair of exquisite black ankle boots in the softest suede and the subtlest of shapes.  Clare pores over them with her, saying,

“I’ve never seen these anywhere….”
“It’s a past collection, I trawled them on the internet, they came from the States…..” Kath informs them.

“Clare! You’re the psychologist. This isn’t right is it? A locked door, a room with a secret, the money she’s spent……!” Mike’s pale, shocked.

Clare is the serious professional, looking from him to Kath, while Mavis takes part in the joint stare at the one man standing there.

“Usually I’d agree with you, Mike, but shoes – for any woman – are an exception. It’s a psychological truth. They are so important to a woman’s state of mind, especially these makes; Louboutin, Jimmy Choo, Manolo Blahnik! the quality just screams. They are NOT an obsession, their use is entirely practical. Kath, what website did you use for the Prada’s, can I slip one on to try, is there a mirror in here…….hang on, I’ll just get my pen out and jot things down…..”



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