The Clothes They Stood Up In and the Lady in the Van
The Clothes They Stood Up In and The Lady in the Van — By Alan Bennett
This slim paperback is an interesting pairing of two short pieces. “The Clothes They Stood Up in” is the tale of a stodgy solicitor and his bored wife, whose life is turned upside down when they return home one night to find their home completely empty. Losing a lifetime’s worth of possessions affects and changes them in subtle and different ways, as does their ultimate recovery of them. It’s a spare, sad and witty story.
“The Lady in the Van” is a surprisingly appropriate companion piece. It’s the true story of Miss Shepherd, an independent, strong-willed, elderly woman who lives in a van stuffed with all her possessions, parked just outside author Bennett’s door. Their odd relationship, recounted mostly through Bennett’s journal entries, is also both sad and funny. I was so taken with this account that when I finished it this morning I went to the library to get Bennett’s collection of nonfiction pieces, Writing Home, in which it first appeared. I was rewarded with two photographs, one of Miss Shepherd herself in her Rambo cap, and one of the van.