In Sickness and in Health: I hope that one day he’ll want his moose head again

Earlier this year, Rebecca’s husband Nick was hit by a car and seriously injured. Here, in one of a series of columns, she writes about the aftermath of his accident.

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The Independent Online

I have never met anyone who could surpass Nick in enthusiasm for shopping. He owns more bags than I do. He has sufficient wallets to make Croesus blush, trainers that could furnish a legion of centipedes and enough Lego to remake the Great Wall of China in plastic.

A week after he was rushed to hospital, I opened a cupboard in our bedroom on the hunt for vital paperwork to see what was inside. Boxes and boxes of unopened Lego. An unused inflatable moose head. A hoard of technology, and a stack of empty boxes that once housed consumer electronics. I shouldn’t have been surprised.

Every event in life was a shopping opportunity for Nick. A trip to the coast saw him buying a plush tree gilded with miniature cuddly woodland creatures from a seafront stall. After my grandmother’s funeral, he nipped off into town with my dad on a quest for a new mobile phone.

Every holiday would see him buying something ludicrous to take with him (the two-foot-long remote controlled jet ski was a memorable pre-vacation acquisition) as well as something daft to bring home (an insulated punch jug from Barbados, perhaps, or a two-foot-tall salvaged crucifix from an antiques dealer in Wales).

One of our worst arguments happened just before we set off for a week to Carnarvon. I opened his wardrobe while packing and discovered a brand-new man-sized telescope inside. To complement, no doubt, the one that he already had. I was furious about the fact that he’d hidden it, and that he’d flouted one of the very few rules that really mattered to me in our relationship - the don’t-buy-anything-bigger-than-your-head-without-asking-me rule.

I wasn’t trying to be a spoilsport with this rule – our home is a one-and-a-half bedroom flat. With no loft or cellar, we were in danger of running out of oxygen. And we were already frittering money away on a storage unit. Where at least one other telescope was then housed.

Since the accident, the storage unit has had to go. My birthday present from my dad this year was a shed to house a fraction of the stuff that came out of it. I write surrounded by crates upon crates of Nick’s things. A vintage petrol can sits top a second-hand Coca-Cola ice bucket. Chewbacca looks at me through his plastic packaging. A Lego model of the Challenger rocket peeps out from a shelf. The area taken up by boxes in my bedroom is larger than the bed.

The constant refrain from friends and family is: “You should [sell] that stuff on eBay.” I have neither the time nor the nous to do so at the moment, and while the money – and the space – would be welcome, I sit surrounded by things bigger than my head, unwilling, now I have the chance, to evict them from my home.

Buying daft things was so much a part of who Nick was that I simply don’t have the heart to say goodbye to his stuff just yet. I hope that one day he’ll want his Lego and his moose head again. Although if anyone is interested in a telescope or two (one careful owner), I could perhaps be persuaded to do some kind of deal.

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