Katia lived with a hoarder; her house was stuffed to the brim. Over the years and to hide her embarrassment she had made something of a joke about it with her friends. They were happy to support her valiant attempts to stay on top of it and from time to time would call round and help her organise the chaos of furniture, especially chairs, cupboards and tables lifted from skips. They laughed with her as she described her husband as `potty` or `barmy` or any other amusing adjective to distract them from her increasing dismay.
One time she decided to go away and stayed away for some years as she had had enough and needed a change of scenery. When she returned, she found six bicycle skeletons in the back garden, propping up half a ton of old wood resting against the tumbledown fence. In the outhouses were more bicycles, more wood and lots of odd pieces of marble he had painstakingly carried to the house from a nearby stone masons. It took two skips to sort out the garden and the house, which looked like a bomb site. After negotiations he agreed to part with some of the wood, but the bikes and the marble remained.
Every conversation became a battle ground. In the side entrance to the house Katia found a load of floorboards he`d had secretly delivered. She enquired why and he told her they may `come in useful`. She pleaded with him to at least meet her halfway and allow her to take some of the stuff down to the local tip. He retaliated by bringing more things home and hiding them in the attic, in cupboards, in the recently acquired garden shed.
One time, Katia had a clear up and discovered six hefty, extending lamps which he told her were for when he sorted out a studio for his painting. In his bedroom and even though he did not play, there were no less than five guitars. In the attic, bags of clothes from thirty years ago which he said he would one day slim into. An entire wardrobe was host to hundreds of tubes of artists` oil paints and dozens of unused canvases leaned up against the wall of the spare bedroom. He hadn`t painted for years, which was a shame because he was a very talented painter.
Katia became quite depressed and sad and when he noticed he asked, `What is wrong?` She told him she found his collections difficult to live with.
To satisfy his deep need to surround himself with `stuff` but also worried that Katia might leave again, he changed tactics. He started to bring home food. He would go out to the supermarket just before closing time, when he knew prices would dramatically drop. Standing up and pulling on his braces he would announce in a loud voice, `I`m not going to bring any food back.`
Katia would sigh and the following day inside the fridge she would find six iceberg lettuces, three large punnets of mushrooms, half a dozen blocks of blue cheese, several heads of broccoli and enough meat to feed a small army. She became used to throwing away food that was well past its sell by date, packets of salad leaves that were beginning to rot, potatoes going green and sprouting, bendy carrots and squishy oranges and lemons with beautifully coloured, pale green powdery mould appearing on the skin. One time he came home with a huge plastic bag containing fifty hard boiled eggs. Katia pickled them and gave them away as Christmas presents.
Katia hated throwing food away. She became adept at creating a meal from diverse and unusual groceries, for he never cooked. One day they might have Duchy of Cornwall organic asparagus spears with Thai fish cakes and spinach. Another it might be a salad with spicy venison burgers and sweet potato fries. The freezer was full of dead animals and fish with their heads still on. This distressed Katia as she preferred not to eat meat and kept to a mostly vegetarian diet with a lot of pulses thrown in.
When she explained to him that she felt overwhelmed by the sheer volume of fresh food he was purchasing, after all there was just the two of them, he met her consternation by bringing home two dozen tins of spiced cauliflower soup and six large cans of mackerel in tomato sauce.
So Katia worked out how to live with this strange man who, in spite of it all, she loved. Before he arose, she would cook or bake or shred or pickle or mix. Her sottaceti pickled vegetables became legendary, her cakes sought after by family and friends, her banana bread recipe asked for on social media. She wrote a book, she called it, `Living with a Feeder.` She was invited to guest on local radio and television stations and to her great delight, was offered payment for her appearances.
Although she had retired, Katia eventually opened a consultancy to inform and assist people and professionals who lived or worked with hoarders. She called it `Get Down and Get Dirty plc`. It became a massive commercial success.
With the proceeds Katia bought herself a small villa in Tenerife where from time to time she would escape to sit in the sun, her kindle in one hand, a gin and tonic in the other and a kitchen full of nothing other than several small bottles of Budweiser on ice and the occasional packet of Twiglets.