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!


Gwil W said...

I didn't find any stuffed pheasants or birds' eggs today - only two books:
'The Prisoner of Zenda' by Anthony Hope. Signature inside -
Gladys Stiles, Easter 1938.
'The Famous Cases of Dr. Thorndyke' - 37 of his criminal investigations as set down by R. Austin Freeman.

Anybody else found anything lately?

Rachel Phillips said...

I found Jack Kerouac's Lonesome Traveler in a skep marked "all books 10p" in a charity shop in Attleborough. All the others were Mills and Boons.

George S said...

The Prisoner of Zenda is a spirited lark. I rather enjoyed it about fifteen or so yers ago and was encouraged to find other books by Anthony Hope. I read the folow up, Rupert of Hentzau, and then The Dolly Dialogues, which were witty enough, but then I thought I'd done my duty by Hope and he by me. If the film comes on again - it's Ronald Colman, Madeleine Carroll and Douglas Fairbanks Jr in the first (1937) version, and Stewart Granger, Deborah Kerr and James Mason in the second (1952) version - I will watch it if it's a nice day for watching old films of no remarkable quality. Nice poem by Richard Wilbur on the latter, see Saturday's post.

Ah, Jack Kerouac. He died while I was at art college. I wrote a (bad) poem in his honour.

Pascale Petit said...

Lovely description of gift hunting. Sounds like the kind of things my husband buys me (one was a bat, one a stuffed kingfisher) but the colours of the soil tester tubes against the black box sound great, a poem indeed. I recently was shown an antique cabinet of birds' eggs at King's Lynn by my hosts, loved it, I wonder if it's the same one, he said someone was glad to be rid of it and it wasn't complete.

Gwil W said...

George, I haven't read the next post because, dash it all, I don't want to ruin my ending.
I'm jolly well up to where they find the servant's body in the cellar. I suspect that Black Michael has hatched an evil plot but you can never be sure...
Directions to Ruritania,- to the east of Dresden. Zenda, 10 miles over the border!

George S said...

We still have the cabinet with the eggs in it, Pascale. Some eggs broken, it also includes a few seashells and a couple of geological samples. As new! meaning just as very old. Gorgeous little labels peeling. Some people like things crisp and clean and restored - I like a bit of entropy myself.

Gwilym - Let Black Michael's name be a clue! I reckoned Ruritania might be south of Dresden near the Czech border or just over it - though another voice tells me it is on the Hungarian-Transylvanian border, overlapping the two.

Gwil W said...

I'm sorry to say that I'm giving up the thrilling adventure story.
Several urgent horseback rides and ensuing battles - it's all getting you know - Zendanesque. I return now to the intriguing story of Marie Antoinette's daughter. Now there's a real story.