Thursday 30 June 2022

Cat-English: Kingsley's Soft Side

 Another batch of what I laughingly call 'my papers' having turned up, I was browsing through some old copies of The Listener. In the issue of 11th June, 1987, I found this poem by – rather surprisingly – Kingsley Amis, a man not known for soft-hearted sentimentality, but a cat-lover none the less: 'I am enough of a cat-lover,' he wrote, 'to be suspicious of a household that doesn't have a cat ... I associate a person having a cat with them being gentler with other people.' The poem was written for an anthology of new poetry for children, Island of the Children, compiled by Angela Huth. 


It may seem funny but my cat
Is learning English. Think of that!
For years she did all right with 'Meow',
But that won’t satisfy her now,
And, where before she’d squawk or squeak,
She’ll try with all her might to speak.
So when I came downstairs today
I was impressed to hear her say
'Hallo'. Not like a person, true;
It might not sound quite right to you,
More of a simple squeak or squawk,
Still, that’s what happens when cats talk;
Their mouths and tongues and things are fine,
But different shapes from yours and mine;
They simply try their level best
And our good will must do the rest.
So, when I pick up Sarah’s dish
And ask who’s for a spot of fish,
I have to listen carefully,
But I’ve no doubt she answers, 'Me!'
And when I serve her with the stuff
It’s 'Ta', she tells me, right enough.
Well now, I could go on about
Her call of 'Bye!' when I go out
And 'Hi!' when I come home again
But by this stage the point is plain:
If you’ve a sympathetic ear
Cat-English comes through loud and clear;
Of course, the words are short and few,
The accent strange, and strident too,
And our side never gets a crack
At any kind of answer back,
But think of it the other way,
With them to listen, you to say.
Imagine the unholy row
You’d make with 'Mew!' and 'Purr!' and 'Meow!'
And not get anything across!
Sarah would give her head a toss,
Her nose or tail a scornful twitch –
I cannot really settle which –
And gaze at you in sad distress
For such pathetic childishness.
Unless you want a snub like that,
Leave all the talking to your cat.

[I've known cats myself that vocalise something very like 'Hello', but that's as far as it goes.]

Johnsonian Jottings

 Returning once again from Lichfield, I brought with me, not for the first time, a volume of the Johnson Society's transactions. These are available at a fiver a pop from the bookshop attached to the Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum, and are just the right length to beguile the 90-minute train journey back to London. This time I picked up the 1996 Transactions, and found it full of good reading and fascinating titbits (for anyone with Johnsonian inclinations). Beginning with an excellent essay on Boswell's Life of Johnson by Professor Ian Campbell, the slim volume also includes a very perceptive account of Johnson's uneasy relationship with Boswell's wife, the story of how the famous statue of Johnson in Lichfield marketplace came to be erected, an essay on 'that clever dog Burney' (Charles Burney, the great historian of music, father of Fanny and friend of Johnson), and a short piece on Johnson's famous letter to his unsatisfactory patron Lord Chesterfield ('Is not a patron, my lord, one who looks with concern on a man struggling in the water and when he has reached ground encumbers him with help? The notice which you have been pleased to take of my labours, had it been early, had been kind; but it has been delayed until I am indifferent and cannot enjoy it, till I am solitary and cannot impart it, till I am known and do not want it...'). 
  Boswell's wife, Margaret née Montgomerie, remarked, apropos her husband's devotion to the ursine Johnson, 'I have seen many a bear led by a man: but I never before saw a man led by a bear.' Johnson had real affection for Mrs B, but it was not reciprocated: the Doctor was too powerful a rival for her husband's time and attention. Johnson's irregular hours and messy, uncouth habits made him a far from ideal house guest, but he could certainly write a gracious apology: 'Make my compliments to Mrs Boswell' [he writes to Boswell] ' and tell her that I do not love her the less for wishing me away. I gave her trouble enough and shall be glad, in recompense, to give her any pleasure.' On another occasion, Boswell returned to his wife in a sorry state, following a long debauch, just as a letter from Johnson to Mrs Boswell arrived: 'You will now have Mr Boswell home; it is as well that you have him: he has led a wild life ... Pray take care of him and tame him. The only thing in which I have the honour to agree with you is, in loving him.'
  A couple more snippets. In Johnson's dictionary, under the definition of 'lich' ('A dead carcase'), 'Lichfield, the field of the dead, a city in Staffordshire, so named from martyred christians. Salve magna parens [Hail, great parent].' And here's a quotation from Dr Johnson by Mrs Thrale (1984, edited by Richard Ingrams): 'When [David] Garrick told Mrs Thrale that Johnson felt there was no other town like Lichfield, she replied, "There is no town which ever produced two such men." "Oh," replied Garrick, "I am only the gizzard, madam, trussed under the turkey's wing."' 

Saturday 25 June 2022

Carr's Tennyson

What will be the lasting legacy of that extraordinary one-off J.L. Carr, novelist, publisher, teacher, map-maker and eccentric (about whom I have written frequently on this blog)? Certainly his haunting short novel A Month in the Country (another extraordinary one-off) will last, having rightly achieved classic status. His other novels, each one so different from all the others, are excellent in their way(s), but lack the special magic of A Month in the Country.  Byron Rogers' biography of Carr, The Last Englishman, surely deserves to rank among the classics of the form, and will keep the memory of the man alive. And there is another Carr legacy: the long series of Carr's Pocket Books which he published, edited, illustrated and printed at his Quince Tree Press in Kettering. These very small, genuinely pocket-size books – ideal 'for reading in cold bedrooms and/or the bath' – are always a joy to find. The choice of subjects – poetry and prose selections, pocket dictionaries of cricketers, parsons, eponymists, etc. – reflect Carr's own range of interests, and the books are lovingly made, often surprising and highly individual. Yesterday I came across one I hadn't seen before, so naturally I snapped it up. Titled Alfred Tennyson: A Lincolnshire Landscape, it is a small collection of well chosen short poems and excerpts, all of them imbued with the feel of the landscapes of Tennyson's Lincolnshire childhood and early manhood. Beginning with 'The Owl' ('Alone and warming his five wits, The white owl in the belfry sits'), it arrives at its last entry, 'A Farewell' ('Flow down, cold rivulet, to the sea...'), by way of excerpts from 'Maud' and 'Mariana', 'In Memoriam', 'The Miller's Daughter' and 'The Lady of Shallot', with the dialect poem 'The Northern Farmer: Old Style'  (heavy going) underlining the Lincolnshire theme. The pages are decorated with images from Bewick's wood engravings, and it's a lovely little thing. Long may Carr's Pocket Books prosper.
(This is Bewick's disgruntled owl, who looks too fed up to warm his five wits.)

Friday 24 June 2022

Dove for Larkin

 I see one of our exam boards is dropping poems by Larkin, Owen, Hardy, Keats, Heaney and Hopkins from its Eng Lit GCSE syllabus in order to 'refresh' it with new works by writers of – you guessed! – 'diverse ethnic backgrounds'. Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi, a man with a pretty diverse ethnic background, has rightly condemned this as 'cultural vandalism'. Among the casualties is Larkin's 'An Arundel Tomb', which has been replaced with 'Flirtation' by Rita Dove. Comments David James, a deputy head writing online for the Centre for Policy Studies: 'There may be many reasons for replacing Larkin’s 'An Arundel Tomb' with 'Flirtation' by Rita Dove, but nobody except the most swivel-eyed social justice warrior could say the latter is the better poem. The losers in this campaign to extend the culture wars into every corner of every classroom are the children denied the opportunity of studying a work of genius.' For the record, here is the poem that has replaced 'An Arundel Tomb' . I think it, er, speaks for itself –  Flirtation

After all, there’s no need
to say anything

at first. An orange, peeled
and quartered, flares

like a tulip on a wedgwood plate
Anything can happen.

Outside the sun
has rolled up her rugs

and night strewn salt
across the sky. My heart

is humming a tune
I haven’t heard in years!

Quiet’s cool flesh—
let’s sniff and eat it.

There are ways
to make of the moment

a topiary
so the pleasure’s in

walking through.

Thursday 23 June 2022

It Flies Indeed...

 I know tempus fugit and all that, but yesterday's birthdays delivered two shocks. One: Prunella Scales – a fine actress whose portrayal of Sybil Fawlty (wife of Basil) surely placed her among the  comedy immortals – is now 90 years old. And two: Kris Kristofersson yesterday turned 86, which hardly seems possible (though I knew he was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford in the 1950s). His great album The Austin Sessions is one that I play often, but here is a moment that shows a different side of Kristofersson – enjoy!

The Touring Twelve

 I see the National Gallery is planning to mark its bicentenary by releasing a dozen of its masterpieces on loan to 12 galleries across the country, where each can be admired in splendid isolation. There's a slight whiff of Londocentric condescension about this, but I'm all for anything that spreads the capital's art treasures around a bit – and that reduces the scale of art exhibitions: you can't go lower than one painting. Presented with a single masterpiece, you have no choice but to engage with it at some length and in some depth, whereas, in touring a grand gallery – even one on a relatively modest scale, which the National is – it's all too easy to pass from one painting to another with barely a pause, forming only a superficial idea of each work. The average time a gallery visitor spends with each painting has been calculated at eight seconds, so there's plenty of scope for what is fashionably known as 'slow looking', and nothing could make that easier – imperative even – than a single-painting exhibition. The twelve set to be unveiled across the provinces are listed here...
It's an unexceptionable, even predictable, list, though another list of a dozen of equal quality could be made, and another, and another – the National is a great gallery with a quite astonishing collection. The odd one out in the touring twelve is obvious: Artemisia Gentileschi's Self-Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria – and not solely because it's the only painting by a woman. A fine and fascinating work though it is, it surely doesn't fit in such stratospherically august company as this. No doubt it was included simply because the list makers felt there had to be something painted by a woman, and frankly there's not a lot of choice, at least in the National Gallery's collection. Oddly, it is the one painting of the dozen that has already been on tour – in 2018, when it turned up in a wide range of non-gallery, non-museum settings, so that it could be seen by people who do not go out of their way to look at works of art. Another laudable initiative, though of course not the kind of thing you could do with the Wilton Diptych or the Toilet of Venus... 

Sunday 19 June 2022

Unquenchable Superabundance

 In the course of thinning out my bookshelves, I have just 'let go', after a short struggle, my big fat two-volume Browning, partly because of its condition, but largely because, well, who needs two fat volumes of Browning? Apart from 'The Ring and the Book', Volume Two contains little that is likely ever to interest anyone outside academe – 'Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau, Saviour of Society' anyone? 'Red Cotton Night-Cap Country, or Turf and Towers'? 'Pacchiarotto, and How He Worked in Distemper, et Cetera'? No, surely a judicious one-volume selection of Browning's best would be enough for anyone... Which made me think of Geoffrey Hill (who would have been 90 today). He wrote enough to fill two volumes almost as fat as my Browning, but would his Volume Two be of much more interest or appeal than Browning's? I'm quite sure that Hill's poetry will last, but what will last, and deserve to last, will be, I think, his earlier work, up to and including the two great long poems, 'The Triumph of Love' and 'The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Peguy', and the little flurry of later short poems. After that, as with Browning, prolixity – or, more kindly, sheer unquenchable superabundance – takes over, and the returns diminish. Not that it matters: by that time, Hill had done enough, as Browning had, to secure his place among the greats.  

Saturday 18 June 2022

Fred and Adele

 I caught this cheery number on Radio 3 this morning. In a recording made in 1926, Fred Astaire and his sister Adele sing Gershwin's 'I'd Rather Charleston' (from Lady Be Good), with the composer enjoying himself at the piano. 
Adele (born Adele Marie Austerlitz) was hugely talented and, in their early days, a bigger star than Fred. In 1932, after 27 years performing with her brother, she gave up showbusiness to marry Lord Charles Cavendish, son of the Duke of Devonshire. She proposed to him over drinks in a speakeasy, and he said yes. When the time came to meet his family, she introduced herself by cartwheeling across the floor to where her new relatives stood waiting uneasily. Overcoming some initial resistance, she was welcomed into the family, married at Chatsworth, and set up home with the alcoholic Lord Charles at Lismore castle in Ireland. When war came, she worked tirelessly at the American Red Cross's canteen near Piccadilly Circus, writing and posting letters home for soldiers, manning the information desk, dancing with soldiers and helping them to shop for necessities. After Lord Charles drank himself to death, Adele married an American Colonel and lived happily ever after – well, more or less – remaining close to Fred throughout her long life. 
P.G. Wodehouse and Guy Bolton, both big fans of Adele, wrote after her premature retirement:

'Adele closed her career with a triumphant performance in The Band Wagon ... She then married the Duke of Devonshire's second son and retired to Lismore Castle, leaving a gap that can never be filled. Fred struggled on without her for a while, but finally threw in his hand in and disappeared. There is a rumour that he turned up in Hollywood. It was the best the poor chap could hope for after losing his brilliant sister.'

Friday 17 June 2022

Another Amis

 Today is the centenary of the birth of the urbane John Amis, broadcaster, journalist and musical all-rounder.  A cousin of the more famous Kingsley, he was educated at Dulwich College (alma mater of P.G. Wodehouse, Raymond Chandler, C.S. Forester, Michael Ondaatje and indeed Bob Monkhouse) and had all manner of jobs in the music business, at one point turning the pages for Dame Myra Hess during her famous wartime concerts in the National Gallery, at another organising Gerard Hoffnung's anarchic performances. In his brief career as a tenor, he sang the role of Ishmael in Bernard Herrmann's cantata Moby-Dick and the Emperor in Turandot. After moving into broadcasting as a producer and presenter, he found wider fame with the radio (and later TV) series My Music, on which he became a regular panellist, along with two old friends of this blog, Frank Muir and Denis Norden. On Muir's suggestion, he gave up trying to compete with Frank and Denis in comic repartee and concentrated on music-related anecdotes, of which he had a plentiful store. Everyone on that show had to sing a bit, regardless of vocal talent – Muir and Norden's contributions (often from music-hall repertoire) were wonderfully game – and Amis not only sang but showed himself to be a skilled siffleur (surely the only thing he had in common with Wittgenstein). He died in 2013, at the ripe age of 91. 

Wednesday 15 June 2022

Random Notes

 Lately, for obvious reasons, I've been having more telephone conversations than is healthy with estate agents, solicitors and the like. This is irksome enough in itself, but what makes it worse is that every single call from one such begins with an apparently serious inquiry into whether I am all right/well. I dismiss these as fast as I can, rather than regaling them with my latest symptoms, but the caller at the other end always sound faintly disappointed, as if I've failed to keep up my end of the conversation. At the conclusion of the call, when we have got through whatever tedious business needed to be got through, I am invariably urged to have a 'lovely' day/afternoon/weekend, but at least this is easier to deal with than the 'Are you well/ all right?' The English used to have the perfect greeting – 'How do you do', which was emphatically not a question, and to which the answer was another 'How do you do', and then down to business. 

While we're on the subject of this strange modern world – the other day, a sunny one, I was startled to see the Rector of our parish striding through the village clad in a black clerical vest with clerical collar and, heaven help us all, a matching pair of black shorts. Are these now standard clerical issue? If so, the world has surely gone to the dogs. I remember a previous Rector, from not so many years ago, who knew how to dress the part (he was very 'High'), swanning around the village in his long, flowing cassock, wearing or carrying his biretta. I believe he even had buckled shoes. He would certainly not have been seen dead wearing a clerical vest with shorts. 

And finally – a new word: 'spuddling'. This verb, long obsolete but surely due for revival, means to work with every sign of busyness but feebly and ineffectively. I've seen a good deal of spuddling in my time (and done some too) and I'm sure there is still plenty of it going on. (The root meaning is to dig up stubble and weeds after a harvest, hence to shallowly dig or stir up in an unsystematic manner.) 

Monday 13 June 2022

The Silver Age

More evidence of what a fine poet Thom Gunn was. This one, evocative and enigmatic, could almost be an Auden, or even a Cavafy. Note the inconspicuously clever construction: each line of each stanza rhymes or half-rhymes with the corresponding line in all the other stanzas, and each stanza ends with the word 'moonlight'. The effect is strangely haunting (well, I find it so)...

The Silver Age

Do not enquire from the centurion nodding
At the corner, with his head gentle over
The swelling breastplate, where true Rome is found.
Even of Livy there are volumes lost.
All he can do is guide you through the moonlight.

When he moves, mark how his eager striding,
To which we know the darkness is a river
Sullen with mud, is easy as on ground.
We know it is a river never crossed
By any but some few who hate the moonlight.

And when he speaks, mark how his ancient wording
Is hard with indignation of a lover. 
'I do not think our new Emperor likes the sound
Of turning squadrons or the last post.
Consorts with Christians, I think he lives in moonlight.'

Hurrying to show you his companions guarding,
He grips your arm like a cold strap of leather,
Then halts, earthpale, as he stares round and round.
What made this one fragment of a sunken coast
Remain, far out, to be beaten by the moonlight?

Sunday 12 June 2022

'The careering of a not too captive balloon'

 I've been reading a small book called The Essential Shakespeare by John Dover Wilson, a name I vaguely remembered from my Eng Lit days as a prominent Shakespeare scholar. This little book was first published in 1932, and the 1967 edition I have was the 15th printing, so clearly it was a success, and it's easy to see why: it's lively, very readable, short of course, and it gives as plausible an account as any of Shakespeare the man. 'Here, in a nutshell, is the kind of man I believe Shakespeare to have been,' writes Dover Wilson in his Preface. He explores the works through the man and the man through the works, filling the biographical gaps with reasonable conjectures. His approach is set in deliberate opposition to those critics who were inclined to view Shakespeare's works as texts standing quite independent of their maker, to be studied in isolation from biographical context. Like virtually all Shakespeare scholars, Dover Wilson delights in differing from his fellow Shakespeareans, but in this instance fate has robbed him of one opportunity: 'I had hoped,' he writes, 'to break a lance with an old friend from Cambridge days, Lytton Strachey, in the last chapter, which was first written as a reply to his brilliant essay, Shakespeare's Final Period. But just as I was going to press, he laid his pen aside to join "the loveliest and the best", and I have removed all traces of disagreement except one nameless reference.' Oh well, there you go. 
  I read in Wikipedia that Dover Wilson's textual work (notably on The New Shakespeare) 'was characterised by considerable boldness and confidence in his own judgment', which is a nice way of putting it. A less kind judgment was passed by one of his enemies, W.W. Greg, who referred to Dover Wilson's ideas as 'the careering of a not too captive balloon in a high wind.' Be that as it may, I enjoyed reading The Essential Shakespeare, and, if you want your Shakespeare in a nutshell, you could hardly do better. 

Thursday 9 June 2022


 Born on this day in 1597 was the extraordinary Dutch painter of church interiors, Pieter Jansz Saenredam. His paintings of churches scraped and stripped of all ornament by Protestant zeal have a remarkably potent presence, and are much more than mere architectural studies: they are fully achieved paintings. Although Saenredam measured his subjects with minute care, when he came to making the final picture he had no qualms about distorting the image for dramatic effect, making piers soar higher, creating a quality of cool level light that goes beyond naturalistic presentation into something more suggestive of the sublime, and introducing artfully placed figures for pictorial effect. It is unlikely that any real church interior, even a Dutch one, ever looked quite like a Saenredam, and there are certainly no paintings quite like his, so full of light and air, so rewarding (and calming) to look at. Happily the National Gallery has two Saenredams: the one above is of the Grote Kerk in Haarlem, the artist's home town. 

Monday 6 June 2022


 There is only one reason to mark the birthday (in 1918) of the comic actor Kenneth Connor, stalwart of many a Carry On film: he is the subject of a particularly fine footnote. It occurs in Roger Lewis's hugely enjoyable biography of another Carry On stalwart, Charle Hawtrey: to the name 'Kenneth Connor' is appended the following note – 
'What a pain in the arse he is. The only person I know who can abide Connor's going-to-pieces, swallowing-hard, nervous-wreck act is Jonathan Coe, who wrote an entire novel on the subject, What a Carve-Up! (1994). His The House of Sleep (1997) was filled with allusions to Billy Wilder's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, the Baker Street set for which at Pinewood was used for exterior views of the Hawtrey character's boarding house in [Carry On at YourConvenience. I await Coe's homage to The Shoes of the Fisherman, no doubt to be called Kiss My Ring!'


 Well, the Jubilee celebrations are over. I caught a good deal of the goings-on on television, including that poignant last balcony appearance, and happily excluding most of the music and the worthier elements of the Mall pageant. All in all, I found it very heartening to see so much evidence of what this country is actually like – good-humoured, easy-going, mildly eccentric, open and inclusive, deeply patriotic in the most benign way, and genuinely fond (and admiring) of its Queen. No doubt this ample evidence of the reality will do nothing to dent the certainty of those who believe this to be a cheerless, divided, inward-looking, fundamentally racist nation, and no doubt the BBC will resume its standard woke anti-British shtick without missing a beat. And we'll all have to put away the flags and bunting until the next occasion when we're permitted to show ourselves proud to be British – or even, perish the thought, English (that'll be a football match). 

Sunday 5 June 2022


 And today's only-a-day-late musical birthday is that of Michelle Phillips, late of the Mammas and the Pappas, who was 78 yesterday. As well as her contributions to the music of that extraordinarily talented vocal combo (and to the emotional sturm und drang that eventually broke it up), the dangerously beautiful Michelle had a brief solo career. Her one album, Victim of Romance, nicely produced by Jack Nitzsche, made no commercial impact (just like her husband John's extraordinary Wolfking of LA), but is still valued by a few connoisseurs. Here is a rather lovely track, There She Goes, written by John. Is that a fresh gardenia in Michelle's hair?

Saturday 4 June 2022


 Yesterday was the 83rd – yes, 83rd – birthday of Mott the Hoople lead singer Ian Hunter. I'm a day late but this is surely the perfect occasion to roll out the Mott's greatest belter, with brilliant video accompaniment. If this doesn't do it for you, you might be wise to check with your doctor that you're not clinically dead –


 Well, it's Jubilee weekend (still). Things have been pretty quiet in this neck of the suburban woods, and I've been getting on with other stuff, but I gather there are events planned for tomorrow, when they should coincide with that essential feature of English public holidays – rain. Meanwhile I have naturally been thinking about the Queen, and the monarchy. It's a great occasion, this jubilee that will almost certainly never recur, and it should be a straightforward matter (for us reactionary monarchists) of celebrating the Queen's astonishing 70-year reign and all that she and it represent. Happily there has been plenty of public rejoicing, thanksgiving and street partying, but somehow the whole affair, for me at least, is tinged with sadness – the sadness of an approaching end. The fact that the Queen is so obviously ailing is of course unsurprising, but the prospect it opens up is none the less unsettling: that soon she will no longer be here, that the next monarch (or two) will have nothing like her moral stature, self-control or fortitude. The Queen has always been there, all through my 70 years of remembered life (Coronation Day is among my earliest memories). As Larkin put it, 'In times when nothing stood But worsened or grew strange, There was one constant good – She did not change.'
  As a child I, like others of my generation, subconsciously identified the Queen with my mother, and that has given the relationship a particular emotional charge. And it seems I'm not the only one who feels this way about our monarch. Rather to my surprise, the Spectator's Low Life correspondent Jeremy Clarke is also in thrall. Looking back to his childhood home, where Karsh's 1951 portrait of the then Princess Elizabeth hung in a place of honour, he writes: 'As a child I counted it great good fortune to be born the subject of a queen, and one so beautiful. The feeling has increased, with the additional wonder that she has ruled over me with integrity and humility until she is the only one left in the kingdom – the one righteous individual staying God's hand against us in our iniquity.' I wouldn't quite go along with that last phrase, but I know just what he means. It is at the least a case of 'Après elle le déluge'. The end of an age, and of a deeply admirable human type, is drawing near. 

Wednesday 1 June 2022

Enter the Cardboard Box, Again...

 Having just embarked on thinning out my books, preparatory to moving house, I found myself in need of some cardboard boxes. Naturally this situation recalled to my mind that imperishable phrase 'Enter the cardboard box' and the wonderfully desperate BBC News piece in which it originated. So I ordered ten cardboard boxes online, and today they arrived – in a cardboard box, one that was practically big enough to set up camp in. I measured it from side to side, 'twas four feet long and three feet wide – well, not quite, but it was just about the largest cardboard box I have ever seen in a life not entirely innocent of cardboard box experience. It was certainly too large to get through the side gate to my garden. How, I asked myself, could ten flat-packed cardboard boxes require another box of this immense size? I soon found the answer, which was – spoiler alert – that they absolutely didn't. The immense box was almost entirely full of packing paper – so full that it took me some while to dig through it all, and even longer to stuff it all into a large, but barely large enough, black plastic sack. When I finally reached the bottom, there, taking up about a twentieth of the volume of the box that held them, lay my flat-packed cardboard boxes. After a brief pause to recover my energy, I set about demolishing the giant box, reducing it to a supersized flat-pack, and lugging it out of the house. Exit the cardboard box.