1622 c/o Kirsty Logan

Anchor of the Suburbs

It was halfway through the spring of '84 when Sandra decided that she was going to become an anchoress.

'I am going to live,' she announced one evening during the advert break of our nightly TV soaps, 'in the crawlspace beside the laundry room.' She warned us that being an anchoress included refusing all contact except food in the morning, removal of her bucket in the evening, and the weekly updates on the TV soaps.

Our mother was displeased: 'I did not buy a house at this address, complete with jacuzzi and wide driveway, to spend my time emptying slop buckets. Oh no, little miss anchoress; it's a long time since I stopped cleaning up your do-do, and you won't catch me starting now.' The row was postponed when Sandra realised that she was missing EastEnders, the most vital of the soaps.

The next morning, Sandra lined up her anchoress supplies in a row outside the laundry room: a bucket, a selection of Danielle Steele novels, a blanket, and a refillable water bottle.

'You won’t make it to the end of spring,' I shouted through the crack of my bedroom door.

'I hope you catch the swine flu and die!' Sandra shouted back through the wall of the crawlspace. She seemed to remember the live-and-let-live philosophy that had sent her to the anchorage in the first place, and added, ‘I take it back!’ Her outburst was understandable: we had all lived together at the same address for thirteen years, and old habits are hard to forget. I watched Sandra potter about with the rest of her supplies, but I refused to help; if she wanted to be fragile and holy, she could do it herself.

That evening Sandra put out her bucket of refuse, complete with its neat cling film lid, for our mother to empty. I arranged my desk chair so I could see it through the gap in the door; I knew there was going to be a row and I didn’t want to miss it. My mother had a variety of ways to address issues with her children, and none of them was pleasant. I settled into my chair, ready to spring up and join the fight if it looked exciting enough.

'If this is the way we must live,' said our mother cheerfully as she picked up the bucket and went to empty it, 'then so be it.' I waited for an hour, still sure that I was going to catch Sandra breaking her anchoress rules of quiet reflection, but the crawlspace stayed silent all night.

Every day I tried to catch Sandra cheating on her anchoress duties, sure that she was too weak to stick to them. I even glanced in her refuse bucket to make sure she hadn’t been sneaking in contraband: Twix bars, gossip magazines, or notes from friends. She didn’t even come out in May, when the TV soap awards were live on Channel 3. Mum and I had a row over whether we should put the TV nearer the door so that Sandra could hear it, but then Sandra just sang hymns loudly until we turned the volume back down.

Spring soon turned to summer and Sandra was still living in the crawlspace, still leaving out her refuse bucket, and still missing the TV soaps every night. In August, a man from the newspaper telephoned to ask if this was the address of the Anchor of the Suburbs.

'Anchoress,' said my mother, and confirmed the address. The newspaper man said he wanted to write a flattering piece about Sandra, but mum was sure there would be a catch: with newspaper men, she said, there always was.

'Will he spring for all these new dietary requests she’s having, that’s what I want to know,' said mum as she boiled a dozen eggs, which was all Sandra was eating that day. When the newspaper man showed up, I knew mum wouldn’t refuse to give him whatever he wanted. He had teeth like a movie star, hair as curly as worms, and gold rings in a row along his knuckles; just like the man who runs the local pub in EastEnders.

'Is this going out live?' asked mum, which was a silly question because he only had a tape recorder, not a camera.

'I, and my readers, are just dying to see how you are all living,' said the newspaper man from between his icy teeth, 'with The Anchoress.' He said it just like that, the words all starting with capital letters, as if this was the Queen’s address and not just 19 Greenwood Drive. The next week the article was published in the middle pages of the local newspaper, and I knew that mum wished she’d put up more of a row. The article said Sandra was quiet, fragile, and utterly dependent: the perfect catch for today’s modern man.

'What rubbish!' shouted mum, 'Refuse and rot! My Sandra doesn’t care about any silly boys; she's got far more important things to think about than cooking dinner and sweeping the floor.' Sandra agreed: she stayed being an anchoress all the way to the next spring, whispering her meagre requests through the laundry-room door.

There was no row, or shouting match, or final straw that finally made me break down the door to Sandra’s anchorage: I just couldn’t live with her silence any more.