Sunday, 13 January 2013

13th January 2013 -Who the ... is Alice???

I managed to wade my way through the first section of my basement on Friday. Only cleared a space of about 3ft by 3ft from floor to ceiling, but that took most of the day and didn't include checking the papers in the file boxes, which contained records of the Inner Wheel and NSPCC for the last 30 years - that was a job I could leave to Susie. But that block of 3ft by 3ft was an important start!!

Two bags of rubbish, one full of paper for recycling of course, another full of electrical bits and pieces, again to make their was to the amenity centre. We don't have dumps any more... Would be a sad day for Arlo Guthrie to write his Massacree today "When we go to the Amenity Centre we found a chain across the drive and a sign that said "Amenity Centre closed on Thanksgiving!!"
Remember Alice?? It's a Blog about Alice..
But not that one!!

No the Alice that was brought to mind was small shop near to the end of Upper Park Street in Llanelli, on the right hand side as you left Stepney Street. Bars across the window and some form of grill. Thick glass and panes that did not appear to ever have been washed - how could you - you could not get near the inside. Alice's!!  Many a time I would stop and gaze into the window at the cornucopia that was Alice's Window. I did go in on occasion, and thank my stars that I was thin in those days as there was very little room to make your way through the small front room of the shop. Often the door was locked, and I am sure that it was shut more often than it was open. But the interior was an Aladdin's cave of  items, stacked apparently without order, but somehow you always felt that Alice knew where everything was.

I never saw anyone come out of the shop with anything. But I never saw anything taken in their either - but there always seemed to be just a little more space for another piece of furniture, some more trinkets for the glass cabinet, another lampshade, portrait or those green glass balls that hung from fishermen's nets. I remember those Green Balls, I am sure that we have some somewhere. Probably in the next 3ft by 3ft of the basement..

It is my basement that now reminds me of Alice's.
Maybe she did not sell anything. Maybe she also just accumulated "things" that were too valuable to throw away. "Things" that might come in useful one day. "Things" that nowadays you could probably sell on Ebay. I know people who do so - but getting the first item onto the selling list is the worst. "Things" that may have once been alive. Standing at the bottom of my basement steps it is possible to conjecture that there may be "things" with their own alien life form evolving in the morass.

I never knew Alice by any other name - spoke to her seldom, but she was that strange figure, like a curator of some seventies version of Warehouse 13 museum. Reading Harry Davies' recollections in his book "Looking around Llanelli", I find that her full name was Alice Davies, and she had been in the business  40 years when he interviewed her. I read that she nearly went out of business in 1970, some six years before I would get to meet her, when she sold about half her stock including most of her African Items to a dealer in South Carolina. He, while visiting Llanelli, had made a conditional bid for all the contents at the shop. Apparently the deal was a modest down payment and a 50 percent share of profits on the sale in America. Eight days it took to load everything into crates and ship it to the States. Sadly the dealer died suddenly, the stateside business had no-one to run it and the goods disappeared into limbo. Harry tells us that Mrs Davies put it down to bad luck. "It was a heavy blow" she said, " but not so much the result of bad faith but of bad luck". A restrained way to consider your entire business ruined at the age of 57.

So looking at the timing of the article, it seems that Alice and I started our collections of various useful and possibly variable valued items at about the same time. Mine in the natural course of raising a family, and hers in the acquisition of more stock for her shop. For by the time I met her, there was no indication that she had once more started from scratch. I thought that the portal I entered in her shop had been there from time immemorial. No indication was there that it had started not only in my lifetime but in my recent history.

And so it is with my basement, I know that within living history of my children, we used to sit and watch television here. That once I traverse the next corridor, there is a bar and a three piece suite hiding under crates and marquee canvass. But, as you step carefully watching for trip hazards and peer into the rows of costumes hanging like a demented Narnian Wardrobe, it would be possible to see Alice's Tiger skin, a real one not the imitation that is in the living room upstairs. There would be swords and daggers and rifles and bayonets, relics of previous wars unlike the replicas and latex covered axes by the front door. And Assegais. African throwing spears which form the centrepiece of Harry's story - I never had one of those... Maybe they would be valuable if I collected one...

At 72 Alice was still collecting stock for her business, and presumably making a living in her small shop in Upper Park Street. Falcon Music Closed. Circles the bar closed, but Alice's seemed to just continue.  Harry  reported that she seemed happy as ever and showed no signs of retiring. Alice had her favourites though. She loved to collect elephants. She accumulated over 300 in her herd, china, porcelain, ivory, ebony. But were they a white elephant to her I  wonder?

I will try to tackle the next 3ft of flooring in the basement tomorrow. I took a day off today because I found too many old photographs, and in the spirit of 2013, found that I had to scan them for future generations and store them in perpetuity.. by uploading them to Facebook and tagging family members. It is the modern way.
Tomorrow I will take another step towards sorting my accumulated wealth of nick-nacks. No elephants for me !! I don't have these sort of foibles - well unless you count the flying pigs that festoon the house. They don't count really..... but there are a lot ...

I didn't see when Alice's shop closed. That area of Llanelli grew shabbier and shabbier over the years. Tesco moved out and Tinopolis the TV studio took over. Stepney Hotel got demolished. Island House Public house fought to live and failed, and a new theatre complex opens with hotel and entertainment establishments. The Subway is replaced and access to Upper Park Street is difficult to find in the new road complex but maybe I shall take my camera and see if I can find where Alice once stood.

But there is hope. All the contents of her shop must have been transported, and though I do not know what happened to them, at this stage of basement clearance, the knowledge that it can be done is more important than details of what happened...

As long as it is not the City Dump....  Remember Alice ? It is a blog about Alice...

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