My mother’s sister had become an alcoholic. This was probably as a result of her husband’s poor business management and her miscarriages and losing a baby just before the birth. She retired, started drinking and the house spiralled into a pit that probably wasn’t fit for human habitation really.
One day, I went into her kitchen while my uncle was at work, found in the kitchen, boxes of old vegetables that were rotten and crawling with maggots. I set about cleaning up the kitchen. It was strewn with hundreds of plastic carrier bags. I dumped everything off the floor, all the boxes. I scrubbed the kitchen. There was just one tiny patch on the work surface that they’d kept clean to prepare food and kept the oven clean, but it was absolutely filthy, and I was heartbroken, absolutely heartbroken.
My aunt, said to me, “Thank you, but I’m going to pay for this. Your uncle’s going to be absolutely furious.” The next day I saw her, and he had been very, very angry. I don’t know what it was, whether it was embarrassment, or he felt I was interfering, but it was very, very sad. I broke down to my aunt afterwards and just cried because I felt very sorry about the state they were living in.
I think she was just so disabled, because she had a heart condition as well and she wasn’t sober, wasn’t looking after the house at all. I think it just got to a point where she was so worn down that my uncle (and he’s admitted this and he had psychiatric help after she died in a house fire) he admitted he was a hoarder.
Although the room that was affected, where my aunt was asleep in a chair, was the only one that was actually burned, after the fire my uncle went back to live in it. He went back into the house. It was like walking into a dark tomb, this sitting room that she’d been asleep in. She’d tried to light a fire. Everything was blackened, and it was like a Salvador Dali painting. Everything was melted. The television had melted and slipped over the edge of the table it was on and the sideboard was like a charred black coffin almost, on legs. The carpet was black, and it was just the most bizarre landscape. The door had been broken down by the firemen, but it still could be propped up, he just lived in the house with it propped up against the doorway.