Magpie At Midnight is currently doing a series of blog posts about objects that mean something to her. In the first post in the series, she says:
“I am slightly suspicious of wholesale minimalism. I feel that some objects come with important emotional meaning attached, and they form part of our emotional memory. Our emotional story. What looks like simple clutter to some people, is for other people an anchor to an important moment, good or bad, in their past. I am sure that sometimes getting rid of those anchors can, in itself, be a very psychologically healthy thing to do. But I am not an advocate of throwing things away simply for the sake of being tidy, of creating a clean, minimalist environment.”
And I completely agree. So I thought I’d take a look at some of my own objects of meaning, but I’m putting them in one post rather than spreading them out, because my posting queue is horrendous right now and I don’t want it to get even longer. Hop over there and take a look at Magpie’s blog too!
At the moment my living room is covered in dust sheets. The floor has bits of stripped-off wallpaper all over it, and paint cans are scattered around near the door. The piano is hiding under plastic so it doesn’t go too badly out of tune. Everything else has been removed from the room while I renovate it.
The only item I didn’t remove was this little stick-on window thingy (I’m sure there’s an actual name for them, but I don’t know what it is) depicting Glastonbury Tor. It was given to me a couple of years ago by my friends who live in Glastonbury, to remind me of them and their house, which is on the side of the Tor hill.
I love it because when I look at it I think of Glastonbury, a place I associate with being relaxed and happy. I also think of my friends, and naturally that makes me smile.
I have on occasion considered replacing this ukulele with one that’s better made and more likely to reliably stay in tune, but every time I try I just can’t bring myself to do it.
I bought this ukulele to write a song for my friend who had just died. I often write songs about significant things that happen in my life, including when people die, and I usually write them on the piano. But Jo was such an outside person that the piano just didn’t seem like the right instrument for her song. Wanting to get it written as soon as possible, I decided a ukulele would be a good option as it’s very easy to learn and it probably wouldn’t take me too long to work out a couple of chords and be able to write a song with them.
Once I’d done that and discovered just how simple yet effective the ukulele can be, I learned a few covers and then continued writing ukulele songs. I’ve since gigged with the ukulele and busked with her, and spent many a happy evening sitting in my living room singing melancholy versions of songs with her. I also once accidentally serenaded some FBI agents with Dolly Parton ukulele covers when we were doing some online digital forensics training, but that’s another story.
So the ukulele is special to me because of why I first acquired her, and because of how long we’ve been together.
Colourful Champagne Glasses
When I was sixteen I found these multicoloured champagne flutes in a charity shop for 99p (there are six of them in total). I’d pointed them out to my mother and was just about to pick them up when she swooped in and bought them instead. She then decided they were hers and refused to give them to me even though I’d seen them first. I was fairly used to this kind of thing, so I didn’t make a fuss about it, but I did gaze longingly at them from time to time and wish I could have them.
Fast forward to three years later, when I got married, and my mother turned up with a table full of cake. She also held a little box which she told me contained something fragile. When I opened it I found these champagne glasses, and it was probably the best present she could have given me. I’d wanted them for years and now they were mine! Such beauties!
They are one of the very few things that have moved successfully with me to every house I’ve lived in since – six in total. They are the only things I don’t pack in with the rest of the boxes when I move; instead, I wrap them individually in bubble wrap and put them in a special box, which I keep on my lap. The only other things that have enjoyed such special treatment when I’ve moved have been the cat and my big bag of notebooks.
A Cutlery Set
When I got married, we asked people not to give us presents. We already had enough stuff and we didn’t need or want any more. However one of my friends has been a bit of a surrogate parent to me since I met her when I was a teenager, and she refused to accept this. She insisted on getting us a present and said there had to be something we needed.
I talked it through with the fiancé, who pointed out that we only had about three pieces of cutlery and maybe a set would be helpful. I agreed, so I told my friend. I didn’t specify a type but I was thinking, y’know, a little basic twelve-piece set or something?
When they arrived at the wedding, she and her husband were carrying this HUGE box with more cutlery than I think I’ll ever need, unless I start hosting massive posh dinner parties. There are so many different types of spoon! I don’t even know what they’re all for.
Anyway, suffice it to say the cutlery lasted longer than the marriage, and I got it in the divorce so yay. The more outlandish items that I don’t quite understand are stored in a little box in my kitchen; the rest is in my cutlery drawer, which as you can see from the picture needs a clean. I’ve punched up the brightness though to hide at least some of the dust.
Edward Monkton Calendars
I first bought one of these for myself when I was a teenager, and it made me very happy with its quirky humour. I now buy one every year; for a couple of years I thought I should maybe switch it up and tried buying a different calendar, but nothing makes me as happy as ninja biscuits and the meaning of life being a piece of cheese suspended in the air.
I’m not entirely sure why I’m so attached to this shabby old airer, which is difficult to photograph because it’s quite ugly and full of clothes. I think it’s just that it’s survived so long that I couldn’t possibly throw it out now. I admire its tenacity.
My mother has had this airer since I was a child. I’m not sure at what point she acquired it, but I expect I was about eight. When she left Brighton and I moved into her old flat, she left the airer there, and I intended to throw it out but then I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. So now it’s mine, and it probably will be for some years to come, even though it’s not the most beautiful object in my house and it sometimes decides to randomly collapse in the middle of the day. #relatableobjects
My family is not exactly effusive in their displays of affection. They’re also not big present-givers.
When I was seventeen I left my mother’s house and moved to London on my own. She knew I was doing it, but she didn’t know I was doing it so I could leave her cult and build my own life.
She gave me a set of four camembert plates when I left, in a pretty little box. Two of them are still around thirteen years later.
When I left her religion she stopped speaking to me for two years, because her cult dictates that people who leave are evil and should be shunned. A couple of years on she found a loophole which meant she was technically still allowed to talk to me, and so she got back in contact and now we have a relatively good, if slightly delicate, relationship.
During those two years I considered throwing the plates out because they reminded me of her, but they were the only real reminder I had, so I kept them. Now that we’re talking again they make me smile. Plus, camembert is a great cheese.
The Happy Wagon
See the little open box on top of the closed box? The one with a sunflower poking out the top? That’s the pebble wagon, aka the happy wagon.
When I was twelve Jerry Spinelli published Stargirl and I fell competely, totally, hopelessly in love with the novel. The school librarians gave me their copy of the promotional poster and I had it blu-tacked to my wall for years.
Stargirl, the book’s eponymous character, is a quirky young girl who is openly, unashamedly herself (for most of the book, anyway). She has a ukulele, a rat named Cinnamon, and a little wagon where she keeps a certain number of pebbles. The pebbles show how happy she is on any given day. I loved this idea, so I borrowed it.
For years – probably until I was about twenty-seven – there were ten pebbles sitting in and around the wagon, which originally had wheels and little shafts coming out the front to attach it to an invisible horse. I’d add a pebble if something made me happy, and remove a pebble if something made me sad, per Stargirl’s habit in the book.
(I just had to google this to find out what shafts were called:
…and I ended up at this very handy image, courtesy of the Equine Heritage Museum.)
So, shafts. Anyway.
I no longer use my pebble wagon to track my happiness, but I do still have what remains of the wagon and I also still have the happiness pebbles. They sit inside it, topped by a sunflower, and there they shall remain.
Books are the only things I’ve regretted giving away when I move, so now I’ve decided that if I ever move house again I’m taking them all with me.
There are of course several other items that could go on this list, but I’m stopping there for now – tell me about some of your meaningful objects!