Saturday, 9 July 2011
Our Past Dies with us.
Yesterday, talking to the blogging friends who called in, we got to talking about possessions and what happens to them after we are gone. It was brought about by the two sea shells on my bedroom shelf - one a shell off Vancouver Beach and the other a razor clam shell off the beach at Hunstanton in Norfolk. I look at these shells often, I pick them up, I marvel that they sit here side by side and yet come literally from opposite sides of the world. I said yesterday that when I die somebody will throw them in the bin as they will have no use and nobody will want them.
We have a prestigious Auction house close to where we live and several times a year they have a Catalogue Sale with viewing days. The farmer and I often go to one of the viewing days and I always feel there is a certain sadness in the air. Dealers in fine arts and antiques, people on the lookout for special items of furniture, glass or pottery - all are going through the exhibits with a fine tooth comb and jotting down in their catalogues exactly how high they are prepared to bid for each item. And I always think that those things belonged to somebody, were loved and looked after by somebody and that many of the pieces had a long history now gone for ever. For example there are often photograph frames with old sepia posed prints in them. Who are these people? Why do their children/grandchildren/great grandchildren not want them on the sideboard?
This brought the TV Programme and the subsequent book - The History of the World in 100 Objects - into the discussion and then we said maybe there should be a blog about one's own life - recording things for posterity.
Thinking about this last evening I thought it would be interesting to take one thing from each decade of one's life and photograph and catalogue that. I might well do that in the future, but in the meantime I have photographed a few possessions which mean a lot to me.
If you came to my house I am sure you would be overwhelmed by the number of things I have on every available table and shelf. I can assure you that each one of these things means something, reminds me of something or somewhere - but when I am gone their history will be gone too.
There is the wooden arm chair which belonged to my Grandfather and which I think he inherited from his father - not worth anything financially but I love it, even though it is not a comfortable chair to sit in.
There is the small statuette of the bull's head which the farmer and I bought in one of our first trips abroad to Salamanca and which sits on the mantelshelf to remind us.
There is the tiny watercoloured box which surprises when it is opened by having two lines from a W H Davies poem painted inside the lid and two grazing cows in the bottom of the box. This box was bought for me one Christmas about ten years ago by a dear friend long dead and I treasure it greatly.
The little china boy sitting with a top hat on his knee belonged to my maternal grandmother and my mother loved it dearly. I have it on my bookshelves where it is a constant reminder of my mother.
The Hummel figurine of the little boy sitting on the fence was bought for me by the man I worked for. I typed up the report of his visit to the Hummel factory and he gave me this as a thank you. It was all many years ago - I was in my early twenties - but it does record an early stage in my life.
Finally, the two long-tailed tits sitting on a branch was bought for me a short while ago by my grandchildren, because they knew I loved birds in general and long-tailed tits in particular. I treasure it because they had given such thought to the present and it sits in a prominent place where I can always see it. My grandchildren are grown up now and all over the place so I rarely see all three together - but this is a good reminder.
I would hate to think these things would end up in a catalogue sale somewhere - but does it really matter? They are only possessions after all and once we are gone does their history matter at all? Maybe not.