A barrel full of memories.

Today the murk was still clinging to the coast as I set off on my morning ride. Not far today, only out to Pitscottie and home.

Distance 14.2 miles

Time taken 1:18:01 (minus time spend blethering to neighbours on the way in)

Average speed 10.94 mph

Max speed 26.42

Calories burned 550

Ascent 794 feet.

It is fair to say that one of the main reasons I love to travel is not only for the new and interesting sights but to meet and converse with people. I love to hear their stories and tell mine. Now retires and with time on my hands (whit, Hamilton, time on your hands?) The next logical step would be to write some of these stories down so that others might enjoy these whimsical tales too.

Alas, I was the lad in the English class, that the teacher would throw pieces of chalk at, or creep up on, and crack a rule over his knuckles. Caught once more staring out of the window, daydreaming. I, therefore, left school at 15 years of age, never understanding ‘what grammar are’ or much else about our written language. I have been playing catch up ever since.

A young girl visitor to New York asked a musician,

“How do I get to the Metropolitan?”

He answered

“Practice, practice, practice.”

To help me in my endeavors, I have read many self-help books, ‘Spellwell. Write right…..the latest in this long line, ‘The creative writing coursebook’. It is very much a study book so you have to read small portions then put it down and think about what you have learned (or reread the passage again).

From Esther Morgan – articles of faith: using objects in poetry. (this girl quotes from Sylvia Plath, so a lot of rereading here for me).

I bring to the class a selection of household objects, which might include, for instance, a candlestick, cheese grater, lightbulb, scarf, corkscrew, pepper grinder, etc.

She then goes on to say that she asks her student to close their eyes. Explore the object with their hands, (what about that cheese grater) to start the de-familiarization process. Open their eyes and make notes of what they experienced. Then use their other senses to explore the object further. Then they are asked to widen their writing to include any memories or other thoughts triggered by their objects.

What becomes evident as they read out their pieces is the extent to which this exercise helps them to re-imagine their object. In the same way that a word repeated over and over begins to sound bizarre, so an object scrutinized with such attention will start to shed its everyday invisibility. So pepper grinders become an armless women who scream when their heads are twisted and rain bitterness, a cheese grater becomes a steel wall of tears, or a light bulb the lost eye of a Cyclops.

You can tell she is a poet, who understands Sylvia Plath. By doing this we are told that we will never have writer’s block.

I read this in the dentists waiting room the other day, and sort of wondered if I would ever understand any of it.

Of course once such thoughts have been planted in your head, they work away in the background, a puzzle to be solved.

This morning, as I sat at breakfast and just before I set off on my morning ride, I looked over at the little chest of drawers. On top are three objects, a large vase made from Edinburgh Crystal, a crystal fruit bowl, and a small biscuit barrel.

And yes, each and everyone had a story to tell.

That little biscuit barrel had been in our family ever since I can remember. It sat on the sideboard, but as far as anyone knows, never contained biscuits. Biscuits were only seen in the home at Christmas time of possible some special occasion, a packet of biscuits would not last long in our house, with seven hungry mouths. Mum baked a lot in those days, she could rustle up a load of scones, or pancakes in no time at all. Or a tray of sponge, that would be covered in custard for after-dinner sweet, any leftover would go into the bottom of a trifle.

The little barrel was unsure of what it was supposed to be, art deco or art-newvue, for its handle is certainly the latter, and the finial on the lid most defiantly art deco. The little barrel has been a great survivor over the years. It has remained intact for many, many years and countless house moves. When mum died and I cleared her house, somehow I could not bring myself to part with the little barrel, even to give it away to the charity shop along with all her other nick-knacks.

The little barrel has no real value but still for me it holds a lifetime of memories so will remain on the little chest of drawers, the barrel may be empty of any worldly contents but full to the brim with days of my childhood.

The Edinburgh Crystal vase, I bought for my mother one Christmas, this whould have been the early 1970s. It came from Binns of Edinburgh a big posh shop at the time in Princess Street. I was spending Christmas with friends so went over to mum’s a day of two before Christmas and deliver her present. Mum has liked a small child when it came to presents, as soon as they came into her possession they had to be ripped open. Come Christmas Day, of course, she would tell, how she had this big family, yet here she sat with not one present to open.

I placed the big box by the side of her chair and waited to see how long it would take before she opened it, not long. As she removed the wrapping, her eyes lit up as bright and wide as any child’s,

“I wonder what this is?”

“Not an old vase, I hope”

She of course, then gushed over the (old) vase and said it was the most beautiful vase she had ever seen. All too late, once the words were out they could not be retracted. I had always known it would be a good present for mum, for mum, loved having cut flowers in the home, so the vase was seldom seen without a huge bunch of flowers exploding from it like a canon shot.

The crystal bowl, came from my sister’s house when she died. It had been given to her as a retirement present from her work and lived on a small shelf, near a window. In the early morning light, those deep cuts would catch the sun’s rays and send rainbows dancing around the room. It had always fascinated me, thankfully I was in the right place at the right time to rescue it, just before it was unceremoniously thrown into a skip. Few things have real value in this throw-away modern society.

When I count up all the costs,

What we have gained,

What we have lost,

I can’t help thinking,

We’ve all been taken for a ride.

Stay safe.

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