One evening when Izzy was little, maybe 5 or 6, I came into her bedroom to put her to bed. She had a window of pyjama playtime, after her bath, before her bedtime story and snuggle. I opened her bedroom door to find her crouched on the floor under her bedside table, in her PJs, hair still warm and damp from her bath, meticulously lining up her little collection of matchbox cars into neat, precise rows. She was organising them, partly by size, partly by colour.
I called Trace to come and look, but, to be honest, it really wasn’t much of a surprise to either of us. This seemingly unusual child tidiness was actually inevitable. For Izzy, it was a natural expression of her inheritance, her soul bloodline, her DNA. Izzy had inherited the ‘Squire’ jean.
When I was a kid, I would help my dad hoover and clean our family car. I’d do it willing. I’d look forward to it. It was our Sunday morning ritual – whilst others knelt and prayed, my dad and I would clean the car. Our weekly routine would start with me ‘having a go’, whilst he gave a continuous narration of guidance and instruction.
‘That’s it, get right in the corner.’ ‘Plenty of soap lad, plenty of soap’.
In between the well orchestrated dry and wet stages (lengthy, repeated, inch accurate hovering, followed by fervent floor mat banging, then onto the cold water spray, then hot soapy sponge, followed by a thorough rinse and a final diligent shammy leather dry), he’d basically do it all again. Whatever I’d done minutes before, whilst carrying on with his freely given feedback.
‘Right in here, in the corner, see?’ ‘Soap right round the wheels and under, here, see, always use plenty of soap’.
And that’s how I learnt how to ‘Squire’ a car. When a car has been ‘Squired’, it means it’s utterly, completely spotless. It’s a verb – to be Squired. It means it’s had hours of meticulous dry and wet treatment, diligently applied.
And so, I passed this on, from father to son, from son to daughter, three generations of Squiring. Like me, Izzy would volunteer to help me hoover out the car, and I’d find myself doing exactly as my dad had done. She’d hoover, then I’d hoover again, whilst offering her highly informative and supportive vacuuming advice. I have a photo of her when she was maybe 7 or 8, sat proudly in the boot of my Jeep, hoover in hand, grinning. I should dig it out sometime.
Even as a teenager, Izzy would tidy her bedroom with zero prompting and no need of incentive or offer of reward. And I’d often come home to find she’d completely rearranged all of her bedroom furniture. I’d find her stood in the midst of her generically engineered feng shui, proud and giddy with the glee of it, asking me ‘What you think?’
A few months before she and Beth left to go travelling, I helped her carefully hang her favourite eventing action photos in the black rimmed frames Trace had bought her.
So it was no surprise that, when it came to the weeks and the days before they left, Izzy made her room tidy and organised. She folded her clothes neatly in her wardrobe, in style and/or type order. In the Ikea under-bed shelves, she crossed-checked her already organised eventing rosettes and memorabilia. And one evening, she and I sat down together on her bedroom floor and backed-up her iPhone pictures to a hard drive. She wanted to make sure she had enough memory space for her photo travelogue, and at the same time, she didn’t want to run the risk of losing any of her photo library memories.
After, it must have been around Day 60 or thereabouts, I took it upon myself to make use of a home-alone evening to have a diligent, hearty attempt at sorting out Beth and Izzy’s rooms. We had to face this at some point. We couldn’t just leave their rooms as they were. After all, the ‘Squire force’ is strong in this one.
So, Dyson in hand, I decided to started in Izzy’s room. I knew that this would be the easier of the two. Beth’s room would be, well, much harder to clean up and well, much more personal, much more intimate and closer to her.
I’ll leave my swiftly thwarted attempt at sorting Beth’s room for another time. I’ve discovered that, when you lose 2 kids at the same time, you have to sort of, well, separate one from another. Dealing with both at the same time, trying to comprehend grief in double is frankly too much to bear in one sitting. Your brain and your heart learns to separate them. Suffice to say, I lasted mere minutes in Beth’s room, before I had a meltdown and called Cagney, to hear her say ‘What the f**k are you doing?’. At the time, in some deranged sense of sober Squire stoicism, it felt like the right thing to do. After all, out with the old, in with the new.
But back to me, Dyson at the ready, in Izzy’s room.
She had indeed left all her room tidy – her shoes lined up on shelves in style and/or height order, her make-up boxes and girly paraphilia organised and arranged. And on her neatly laid out desk, that sits next to her bed, she’d left her ‘coopers jar’.
When she’d started working, at 16, in Otto’s, a local restaurant down the road, Izzy commandeered a clear glass, kilner style jar from the kitchen, to collect her tips and her coppers. After a few break-ins, she’d secured the wiry metal clasp with a tiny padlock, to prevent any further wandering of Beth’s hands – she had a habit of ‘borrowing’ bus fare.
And here’s my confession now – just between you and me – I too sinned. I’d occasionally dip into Izzy coppers jar. Only of course when I was desperate, mind, when I was in abject need of pound coins for parking fares. I learnt to carefully clench together the wires that held the lid together, so I could unlock the jar without damaging the padlock. It was easily done. And Izzy was (I’m sorry Iz) none the wiser.
Now, nestled just behind her desk folders marked ‘personal’ and ‘equestrian’ was her coppers jar. And it seemed, as I put the Dyson hose to one side, entirely logical for me to empty out the jar’s contents, count out the coin bags therein and take them to the bank. The money was, well, let’s be frank, pretty useless to either of them now.
With my (now newly confessed) adept jar opening skills, I pinched the wires together without affecting the baby-like padlock and lifted open the glass lid. I plunged my hand into the jar’s open mouth, like the artificial claw reaching down for toys in a fairground attraction, and came out trumps.
I dumped the contents of my claw hand on Izzy’s desk. There were maybe 6 or 7 clear plastic coin bags, the ones you get from any high street bank, the ones you fold over to seal. I picked up each bag, one and one. In each, in amongst the coins, was a tiny, hand torn rectangle of yellowy Post-it note. On each little note, written in blue biro, in her stingingly familiar handwriting, she had written the exact amount contained in each bag. Counted out, secured and kept away from prying hands, safe for her return.
I fumbled the plastic bags back into the jar and clumsily pushed back the wire clasp to reseal the jar.
Now, her desk sits poised, pretty much as she left it, ready for her to come home.
We’ve added her travel journal and the rip-off Beats headphones she proudly told us she’d bought for a few quid in a Vietnamese market. And the certificates for the two stars named after her and Beth, given to us by Luke, Beth’s friend. And Mirelle’s blue and white ribbons. And some scented candles, as yet unused.
Izzy’s coppers jar sits intact, just as she left it.
There’s no more Squiring.