This is a small post, but one that I couldn’t let pass given the date, the 29th June. It’s not a particularly special date in most calendars – bit sunny, not too hot – that sort of thing, but the thing that makes it special for me is the little box I found at the bottom of a drawer the other day, completely buried under just about everything else. It was so close to the actual date, that I put it to one side.
If you open the box you will find this. It’s a sports day winner’s medal that some stringy little nine-year-old must have won at their junior school years ago. It really is quite a fancy thing – silver plated, green enamelled and heavy. I think they went in for sports day prizes in a bigger way in those days. I can have a good go at imagining what the sports day must have looked like – track all marked out in white lime on the grass, trestle tables set out behind the finish with neat rows of the little black boxes all ready for presentation at the end of the day. And there would have been benches from the assembly hall to sit on and chairs for the mums and dads, and the starter’s gun and the yelling and shouting through heats, semi’s and final. Yes, I can imagine it all.
Which I suppose is not too hard for me really, because if you turn the little medal over, neatly inscribed on the back is the winner’s name.
Forty-six years ago to the day, I won a medal on sports day. I was so proud – I remember that I put it under my pillow when I went to bed that night. And I think a little bit of that happiness must still be inside the box, because when I found it again the other day, I smiled. Perhaps not as broad a grin as I had when I was given it on sports day forty-six years ago, but a smile nonetheless.
I shall have to do a run round the garden today in celebration, and then give myself the medal again.
I think I’m just have to accept that I’m a picker up of oddments – other people’s dropped stars, the washers that have fallen off things (that collection is coming along very nicely, thank you for asking) small soft toy pigs in fields – and now I’ve struck out into the world of lost marbles. Our village used to have a children’s play area, but it was dim and dismal and the local council built a better one. The old one they made over to allotments. We’ve got one of them. And digging it over the other day I found a marble, a small yellow one. Then the next day in quite a different bit, I found a large reddish one, and the day after that in quite another bit still, a small blue one. Three days, three marbles. And I couldn’t help but think about who had lost them, and when, and what they’d thought when they did.
It’s maybe because when I was about eight, I lost a marble that was really important. It was solid white glass with peppermint green swirls and had belonged to my grandad who’d died before I was even born. I wasn’t supposed to take it to school – I knew it was really special – but I did. And I knew I shouldn’t risk it on a game on top of a drain cover but I was offered some stupid number of marbles against it, so I did. And I lost it. I had to go home and tell my mum that I’d lost my dead grandad’s marble – the one she’d told me was so special and I had to keep for ever. I can remember it all even now – the marble, the wet drain cover, the rushed game and the loss.
Finding those three marbles doesn’t make up for losing that one, but just in case whoever lost them felt as sick about it all as I did when I was eight, I’m going to keep them very carefully.
There is something deeply touching about a lost toy, maybe it’s all to do with lost innocence and lost childhood. This little lead hen of ours dates from at least the 1800’s possibly even earlier. It was found by a man with a metal detector and I bought it from him. It’s a very nice thing to hold, smooth and heavy, and sometime long ago it dropped from someone’s hand or pocket and they never saw it again. It sits in a bowl in our house and I often wonder about it – where and when it was made, where it was bought, what the moment was like when it was given to the child, who the child was? The list is endless. But there is something I particularly wonder about it – what was the moment that who ever it was given to realised it was a whistle. A small lead whistle in the shape of a hen. It doesn’t look like a whistle at all – you have to blow across its tail as you would a flute – but it has the most wonderful sound, not harsh and shrill like most whistles. It must have been a very special toy for someone, and they lost it. Even now I feel sorry for them that they did. So every now and then when I pass it, I pick it up from the bowl and blow it, and that sound makes a bridge back to a time long gone – it’s my way of saying ‘it’s alright – I’ve found your whistle.’
We’re on a bit of a run of breaking things at the moment. A couple of weeks ago as she measured up some textile homework, Bea managed to put a large metal set square through the glass globe that went round the light above the table, and the other day I broke the table lamp by dropping – at the same time – a brass bugle and a large dictionary on it. I once dropped the same dictionary into our goldfish tank, the fish survived but I’ve often wondered, had it died, whether I’d have been the only person ever to kill their goldfish with a dictionary? Which reminds me that our last car was such a wreck that once as we were driving slowly down the steep hill outside our house one of the headlights fell out and I ran over it. I’ve always wondered if I’m the only person ever to run over one of their own headlights as well.
I’ve just googled ‘run over your own headlight’ and I think that I might just be.
Actually, I’ve just searched ‘kill your goldfish with a dictionary’ too and think that I can very nearly lay claim to that one as well. The search did reveal that ‘The life span of your goldfish and the level of attachment formed between you will depend on the care you provide’ So, dropping a dictionary on it might not be for the best.
I like making things, I always have, and that includes working out how things are put together. When I saw this paper model at a friend’s house I asked to borrow it to see how it was done and to try and make one too. It’s just one sheet of card cut so that when folded it makes a wonderfully shadowed three dimensional sculpture. It was one of those things that I wish I hadn’t started. Several hours later (really, that’s no exaggeration) I ended up with a plan so complicated that I really haven’t the will left anymore to try and make the thing.
It really is a very beautiful here today. On the hill behind the house the buttercups are so deep that you could almost believe you could row a boat across them. Now, there would be a thing to do.