So you know how my Puttery Treats are aways urging you to document you life to one degree or another? How I’m always saying keep this journal or that, spend one night a week collating your life story in photo albums and scrawled sentences? Run your household with a planner, save your shopping receipts, note down what you ate at the last dinner party you threw?
Well yes. Now imagine that I took myself at my word, and documented each and every moment of my life. If I no longer threw anything away but instead began to imagine that each and every slither of paper ephemera and other household matter was essential to my survival: and that without record of every shopping list I had ever made, every creative idea that flittered through my mind, every letter I received my welfare would somehow be in jeopardy. Imagine that and what you have is not me, but a remarkable, fiercely independant woman called May Savidge: famous not for the hoarding of every last bit of almost everything she ever used in her life, but because driven by sheer determination to secure the home she came to adore when it was threatened by certain destruction, she moved it, brick by brick and single handedly re-built it from the ground up, ultimately giving her life over to the task and sadly dying before it could be completed.
May’s story is documented by her nephews wife in a remarkable little book called “Miss Savidge Moves Her House” and in the month we celebrate International Women’s Day, I can think of no better woman to inspire us to figuratively move all the walls we imagine stand between us and our dreams. If May can move a house we can get off our bottoms and shift that cellulite can’t we? We can paint that wall. Read that book. Assert ourselves and say NO when we consider something unjust. We can do it and more than that if we truly believe in it enough, surely, in the long run, we can have the strength enough to stand up and say I did it (hurray!), and more than that, I did it MY WAY.
May Savidge did. She did it in her uniquely eccentric way. She did with a heart stitched together after both tragedy and casual disregard. She did it through hardship and health issues. She did it in the midst of more junk than anyone should ever cultivate on a paupers diet of cup a soup and biscuits and she did it because to her there was no choice: she loved her house and love was enough to inspire a lifetime’s work.
The book is fascinating because the house is only half the story. What we have in the stoic, brave woman that was May was the kind of commitment to detail that most of us would faint in horror at. A mind buzzing with possibility. Complete dis-regard for the norms of society. For that which should be thrown away, for the jobs a woman is usually deemed capable of, for the strength to stand up, be counted and FIGHT for that she believed in.
The story the book tells relies almost exclusively on the ephemera May Savidge left behind: on the shopping lists written on the back of cracker boxes, on the files and files of written correspondance, on the jam jars and medicine bottles, bus tickets and invoices she left behind, all stored and archived according to her own frugal, obsessive sense of orderliness. As she died with neither a significant other or a child to tell the incredible story that is her life, it is thus left to her Niece In Law to pick through the pieces, complete the building of May’s house (now a bed and breakfast) after her death, and weave together a story I think everyone of us can take feel inspired by.
What house will you move today?