I am not much of a one for material possessions. I’ve never set any store by fancy labelled clothes and I’ve always been way too careless and clumsy to attempt to have anything treasured to look after and keep safe. I only wear cheap trinket type of jewellery (wedding ring aside, which has double sentimental value as it was my paternal grandmother’s wedding ring and a piece of amber with a cadisfly captured inside which I wear around my neck. Both are very, very old, one way older than the other which is what I love most about them both – they existed way before me – as mineral gold and as pine sap – in different incarnations and will exist long after I have gone, they are excellent for keeping you grounded and realising your own finite existence).
My most recent Christmas, birthday and Mothers Day gifts have been a purple opinel pocketknife, something I carry at all times (mainland trips aside, and sometimes I forget to take it out of my jeans even then!) and some pottery from Susan Frankel’s Caractacus Pots – I have a very large mug from which I drink my tea in the daytime and a gorgeously tactile tumbler from which I drink my wine or G&T of an evening. These are small things which make me happy every single I time I use them which is several times every day. Precious, handmade, supporting a true craftswoman and small business, a joy to use. I likely won’t still have any of these things five years from now – the knife may have been lost or blunted, the mug and tumbler chipped or broken in use. In many ways that is what I love most about them, they are useful and functional yet bring pleasure every time I use them. Any knife could cut baler twiner, slit open a bag of compost or animal feed, slice through a gathered up amount of netting but my purple knife makes me smile every time I use it. Any receptacle could hold tea or wine but none would feel quite so satisfyingly heavy and comfortable in my hand as the ones I have now, or bring with them the memory that I knew I was getting the mug because Susan emailed chasing up that it had arrived in time for Christmas making me check with Ady (it was a surprise but he ordered through my account) as my birthday is so soon after Christmas he had ordered it in advance. In the end despite his forethought I got it late as we were not even here for my birthday. The tumbler for Mothers Day was a true surprise as we don’t generally do such extravagant gifts outside of birthdays.
Davies and Scarlett seem to have inherited this idea of attaching memories and intrinsic value to things. They tell me that the two items they wish to keep to remember me by when I die are a blanket I knitted when they were small and my recipe book. The blanket is a ridiculous – learning to knit affair. It is made of a mish mash of weight and type of yarn, all clumsily stitched together to create a ramshackle weirdly shaped, much mended rag of material. It’s been snuggled up under round campfires, taken on our travels with us in Willow and now resides on the sofa. The recipe book is an old notebook, I’m not even sure where it came from, dark blue hardcover lined. It contains recipes which have been made at least twice – prior to that they are written on scraps of paper and held inside until they are approved sufficiently to be copied in permanently. It includes basic much used recipes like cheese scones, pizza dough and peanut butter cookies but also has little stories included such as ‘eggless chocolate cake for winter days when the hens have stopped laying and the ferry doesn’t come’, ‘Pumpkin fritters from the Isle of Eigg’, ‘Katy Beresford’s snickerdoodles’, ‘Katy Salmon’s cheesey stars’, ‘Ridiculously gooey chocolate birthday brownies’, ‘soft white rolls for burgers such as on Back to the Future day when Doc and Marty went back’. It is spattered with grease, cocoa stains and several of the recipes have had to be recopied as the originals have faded. It’s less precious to me because it’s my notebook but I can see why it has heirloom potential to my children.
My most enduring possession though is my clock. It was my 21st birthday gift from Ady. We’d been together for a couple of years, were perpetually broke as we were in the early years of our mortgage and used to regularly peruse a little independent pine furniture shop along the seafront close to where we lived. They had a couple of oversized clocks which I adored. They were priced at £65 which was way out of our birthday budget, but it being my 21st Ady splashed out. This was 1995… I still remember the credit card machine running over Ady’s card with those old fashioned triple carbon credit card slips thinking it was more than we could afford. It hung above our fireplace in our house, a real focal point drawing comment from all visitors. It was that clock which we used to mark midnight on New Years Eve, to time feeds for Davies as a tiny newborn. It moved with us to Manchester and hung in our front room there. It was that clock which I timed contractions for while in labour with Scarlett. It sat at my parents house while we were WWOOFing but it was one of the few possessions which we found space for, wrapped in bedding and towels to keep it safe, stashed in the back of the horsebox to bring up to Rum when we moved here. It has to be regularly taken down when it’s windy but it hangs here in the caravan marking this as our home. It keeps time for cooking dinners, knowing when it’s Popmaster o’clock or time to head down to the ferry. It can be seen from outside the caravan to check on the time. I remember looking at it while waiting for the helicopter for Ady.
For over half my life now this clock has marked the minutes and hours of my life. It has a water stain between the 11 and the 1 where Ady laid it on our bed while we were away incase it was windy but the roof leaked and it got wet. About ten years ago it got unreliable and eventually we bought a new mechanism for it. Last year it got a bit sketchy again and it’s been a bit random for the last few months, working fine for weeks and then stopping or running slow so yesterday we replaced the mechanism. I couldn’t get a mechanism which was compatible with the hands so had to replace them too. They are slightly different to the previous ones, which as I recall were slightly different to the ones before that. At the moment every time any of the four of us looks at the clock we are slightly wrongfooted by the different hands. I know we’ll get used to them and a week from now will forget it ever looked any different.
It’s all still just stuff. It’s all still just nonsense.
My stuff though.