Friday, 22 January 2010
Pheasants, bats, beetles, birds' eggs and a soil testing kit
The air damp all day, rain a very fine suspension. I am hunting for presents for C's birthday. I try the curio shops. One - the oddest of them - is closed, but another round the corner is open. There stands a stuffed pheasant. I wonder if that might be curious enough. Many years ago I bought one of the presents I am most proud of. It was cheap but we had little money. It was on a market stall in a folding black box. What's that? I asked the man. Open it and see, he said. So I did. Inside the box was a set of glass tubes filled with liquid in a variety of glorious colours. I asked the man what they were for. It' a soil testing kit, the man replied.I bought it. It was very beautiful - C still has it. It was the unlikely combination of the plain black box, the wonderful glass tubes and the function they were intended to serve. It was like a poem.
The pheasant was attractive because I know C sometimes finds such things haunting. In the blue room at the front of the house is a glass case filled with beetles and a stuffed bat opening its arms and legs so it looks somewhat like a tiny vampirical flasher. That case was in a movie-and-record memorabilia shop. She glimpsed it in the window and wanted it.
But the pheasant was simply too big and I had to take the bus home. I couldn't imagine where we'd put it in the house, and I doubted the bus driver would let me on carrying it. As an art student I did once take a goldfish for a walk, but that was something else. It was art.
Then there were the geological samples and the old cards...
It is harder to find such things now. Perhaps there are only a finite number of them in the world and they are snapped up by collectors crazy for full sets of knick-knack. Damn knick-knacks! Long live poetry!