Sunday, December 27, 2015

The objects of life #1, faience bowl



Somewhere, among the stacked assemblage of boxes in my new garage, is a small faience bowl, marked (allowing for incorrect spelling) with my Christian name, and given to me as a gift when I was two years old.  My Great Aunt, on a tour of Europe and trip home from Australia, brought one for me and another for my elder bother.

I don't remember her visit, but I know I must have been a toddler because my younger brother hadn't yet arrived. This explained why, for all my childhood, only two bowls were displayed in the drawing room cabinet. And why also, when peering through the glass, I felt such great fortune that I was born in the nick of time to be given this valuable and mysterious treasure...

Such are the delusions of youth.

Quite why I still have the bowl, is part mystery too. Most probably I asked my mother for it during one of her clear outs or house moves, but in truth I can't remember. Whatever, it has been with me for thirty years and a half-dozen moves of my own. As far as I'm aware, it's the object that I've owned longer than any other.

The odd thing, in my keeping it, is that I otherwise dislike French faience. The designs remind me of the worst on offer in craft fairs, and the figurative illustrations have a Protestant dourness, despite their gaudy colours. Even to describe the bowl as faience is probably incorrect.  My Aunt had certainly travelled through Brittany, and perhaps visited the famous Quimper potteries, but the bowl is not stamped with their mark - souvenir stall trinket is more its likely provenance.


Perhaps that is why I make an exception for this particular example - it could sit as comfortably among my collection of kitsch as it did in my parent's china cabinet. Though paradoxically, I am still reluctant to use it, for fear of chipping an edge.

And it seems to me that our lives are a little like that. We surround ourselves with friends and objects that aren't rationally chosen or related to; but rather, they're a mash-up of chance and situation and memory (usually flawed) - and sometimes just a plain persistence of presence.

The objects we chose to treasure, perhaps because they don't change while we do, acquire a value which transcends objectivity - they root and remind us of where we are from and, in a curious way, help us adapt to the new. They become as much a part of ourselves and our sense of belonging as are the towns and houses we chose to call home.

Which perhaps explains, why the top of my list of New Year jobs, is a note to unpack those boxes in the garage.

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In Meet Me There, ten Cinnamon writers talk about writing.

From the places that inspire to how associations of place become important in literature, the writers engage us with work in which place plays a central role. 

With contributions from Gail Ashton, John Barnie, Mark Charlton, Jan Fortune, Ian Gregson, Mavis Gulliver, Hazel Manuel, Jane McKie, Jim Perrin & Susan Richardson.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Mark! Good to see you back!

    I have moved in the last few months, and I'm still in the process of unpacking. Your thoughts on the bowl resonate: I've downsized and downsized and downsized again, and still, foolishly I thought, hold on to a few scraps of bone and wire and a torn photo album that I remember working on when I was very young. Now I'm beginning to see the sense behind it all.
    "...they don't change while we do, ..." And yet, inside, I'm still the little girl with blunt scissors trying to cut a straight line around a newspaper photo.

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