Finally facing my Waterloo

When I was a little girl in the 1970s, ABBA was big. In fact, they were bigger than big, they were huge.

It’s fair to say that like most girls my age at the time, I was in love with ABBA. Specifically I was in love with Agnetha and Frida.

Four ABBA albums and three corresponding fridge magnets

Georgina from across the road would come over and the two of us would put my ABBA albums on and sing into our hairbrushes, pretending to be the two Swedish singers, who in our eyes were more beautiful and glamorous than anyone we could possibly imagine. Georgina would be Agnetha and I was always Frida.

After my friend Rachael and I left Denmark following Eurovision a few weeks ago, we made a beeline for Stockholm. The purpose: to visit ABBA The Museum.

Building with lights spelling out "ABBA The Museum"

What can I tell you? It’s not a huge space at all but ABBA The Museum is one of the best museums I’ve ever visited. It comprehensively covers its subject in every way imaginable.

There were stories: who they were, when they met, when they won Eurovision in 1974, what happened next, and how they broke up.

Waterloo costumes

Fernando and Australia

There were mocked up sewing rooms full of fabrics, offices with memos, holiday houses that they worked in and dressing rooms in a mess.

There was memorabilia: costumes, a complete display of all records released, a display of many of the gold and platinum albums, and much, much more.

ABBA discography

ABBA gold and platinum records

ABBA the museum - costume gallery

cats costumes

But that’s not even the best bit. The absolute best thing about ABBA The Museum is that it understands and caters for its visitors. Throughout the museum there are interactive activities that allow visitors to participate in the ABBA dream.

You can be the producer that has a go at mixing a song to achieve the ABBA sound (turns out I’m no Quincy Jones).

You can sing and dance on stage as the 5th member of ABBA (I danced completely out of time but didn’t care).

You can ‘audition’ in a recording booth which scores your karaoke performance (Rachael and I sang together, and I use the term ‘sang’ loosely as we actually laughed till we wept at how bad our Australian accents sounded put together with ABBA’s music; we didn’t score well).

And you can have your photo taken and avatars created of all four ABBA members (but with your face) which you then dance as (I busted moves Bjorn would’ve been proud of).

Avatar Len

Basically ABBA The Museum gives the little kid in us the opportunity to go back in time and relive singing ABBA songs into a hairbrush and dancing like Agnetha and Bjorn, Frida and Benny, on a pretend stage in our living rooms.

In short, it was ABBA fan heaven.

I felt perfectly at home.

Four cut out figures of ABBA with Frida's face swapped for the writer's face

Goodbye to the House, Farewell to the Home

“Home is where the heart is.” – Pliny the Elder

Before my father died, my mother had been agitating to sell the family home and downsize to a more manageable property. But Dad was not interested in moving.

When Dad passed away two years ago, Mum put the brakes on the idea of selling. Given Dad’s feelings about it, the house had become synonymous in her mind with him. To sell up seemed to be a sort of betrayal of his memory.

Eventually, though, the burden of managing a big family sized property on her own became too much and she returned to the idea of downsizing. And so, after a very long sales campaign, the family home of 33 years in outer suburban Melbourne was sold and Mum finally moved out last week.

Often when people move they take the opportunity to clear out any junk that has accumulated around the house, rather than take it to the new place. But downsizing brings with it the need to get rid of much more than junk.

Not one to dilly-dally, Mum got down to business the moment the house was sold. She had sold the formal lounge suite and the kitchen table within two days of selling, and she continued selling pieces of furniture to friends and neighbours right up until she moved out.

She also put aside bags and bags of unwanted clothes and homeware to give to her chosen charity, Vinnie’s. She literally filled a room with unwanted goods for them, including some mattresses and an old desk.

Then there were things that no one wanted to buy and the charities wouldn’t take. Everything from an old barbecue to an old television to old chairs and much, much more. In the end, the front yard was filled with junk, to be collected by the local council.

As all of this was taking place, my brother and I were caught up in the activity and excitement of a new start for Mum. We were both aware that saying goodbye to the family home was a big thing, but I think both of us were surprised by the level of emotion it brought with it. As my friend Mary would say, you can know something rationally or intellectually but it sometimes takes a little time to catch up emotionally.

After spending a day moving the junk out of the house and onto the front lawn last Sunday week, my brother left the house and only later realised that that was it, he wouldn’t be returning. He rang me and asked if I’d taken any photos of the house, but as we discussed it we both realised that we already had photos of the house: all the photos we’d taken over the course of the last 33 years there. The ones with us in them. Those were the photos that counted.

There is an exercise that a friend of mine taught me to help you say goodbye to a house. As you leave, you take the good memories and positive vibes with you, and you place them into your next house. My brother and I talked about the fact that we would be taking all the good memories, all the things that made the house our home, with us. There was no need to be sad.

Of course, that’s always easier said than done. On the final day, as Mum and I emptied out the final boxes and bits and pieces and left the house for the last time, we performed the exercise to say goodbye to the house. While Mum was cheery and getting on with it, eager to move on, I went from room to room thinking about the lives we’d led in the house, good times and bad, and tearing up.

I’d also decided to act on the little seed my brother had planted in my mind and take photos of the house and gardens after all. Thanks to digital photography we can all hoard photos to our heart’s content, so I figured why not.

When I uploaded the photos and looked through them, though, it was the strangest thing: The house, empty now of our furniture, our things, and most importantly us, was just that: an empty house.

It reminded me of a lovely quote by humourist Sam Ewing:

“When you finally go back to your old home, you find it wasn’t the old home you missed but your childhood.”

So it is with our old family home. My brother and I are no longer able to revisit our past simply by visiting our mum. Now the house has returned to just being a house, as it was before we lived there. And what we’ll miss about it most is what we put in it ourselves: our lives, our heart.
Large empty living room in a house, with curtains drawn

The Monster Called Memory

“Your memory is a monster; you forget—it doesn’t. It simply files things away. It keeps things for you, or hides things from you—and summons them to your recall with will of its own. You think you have a memory; but it has you!”
John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany

I’ve been thinking a lot about memory lately. I’m doing some research for a personal project which involves delving back into my diaries from the last few years. It’s been a fascinating process.

After a series of events in 2011, my life changed quite dramatically. Now, as I read about my life back in 2010, I marvel at how unrecognisable I am only three years later.

Yet the things I’ve forgotten come back to me as I read. I find myself constantly thinking, “Oh yeah, that happened! And I used to do those things! And I used to live like that! That’s right! Now I remember!”

And then there are those things that I think I remember well, until I read about them in my diary and it turns out I actually perceived them, and wrote about them at the time, very differently to how I remember them. Now I’m confused as to which is the real version: the perceived version at the time, or the version I remember.

Memory can be a tricky little beast.

Sometimes, in cahoots with our eyes, it plays games with us: manufacturing false memories out of photographs or stories we’ve heard over and over. I remember the experience of frolicking and laughing at the beach as a child, for example, but only through the prism of the photographs of that day, not from my actual memory of that experience.

It seems to me that our senses are anchored to memory in different ways. For me taste brings back an emotional memory, while hearing’s memory is filled with nostalgia.

Music, for example, always takes me back to different periods of my life: The Smiths will always and forever take me back to being 16 years old and full of teenage angst, while Matthew Sweet’s album “Girlfriend” reminds me of the carefree summers of my early 20s.

In my experience smell is the sense that evokes the strongest memories. In the early 1990s I was working in the candy bar of the local cinema multiplex. One hot summer day everyone was asking for extra ice with their drinks and I’d gone out the back to the ice machine to get more only to find we were nearly out. To fill my bucket with the remaining ice in the bottom of the ice machine, I had to bend at the waist and practically tip myself into it.

As I did so, I was suddenly transported to the ice skating rink that I’d visited as a child. I was so overwhelmed with the memory that I went into a kind of shock. I had completely forgotten that I had gone ice skating as a kid, but the strong smell of ice had brought it all back so sharply that I momentarily felt as if I was back there, at the rink. It wasn’t till I had pulled myself out of the ice machine that I regained a sense of where I actually was and the memory’s strength faded again.

Freud’s theory of forgetting things states that we forget those things to which we have an aversion (even if the aversion is to something that is connected to the thing we forget).

We all have painful, even traumatic, memories that we want to forget, consciously or subconsciously. At times we don’t even realise how successful we’ve been at forgetting until something intervenes to drag the memory out from where it has been long buried.

But I do believe it is all still there, out of our conscious reach, perhaps, but still there.

When I was 23 I nearly drowned. Just before I blacked out completely, I had a sort of conscious blackout and then my entire life flashed before my eyes. It was like being in a small but completely dark room for a few minutes, then having a projector suddenly flicker on and show you a home movie of your every experience, big or small. And as you watch, you re-experience all the thoughts, all the emotions.

It was the most extraordinary thing. When I told my brother about it, he said that perhaps our brain is like a giant filing cabinet, and all our experiences, thoughts and emotions are filed away in it. Perhaps, he said, as I was nearing death my brain started frantically pulling out all the files trying to find an experience similar to what I was going through to try to find a way to deal with it.

Of course I couldn’t tell you now what it was that I had seen and felt during that experience. Obviously all the files have been put back in their place.

When I think of memory now, I combine the visual of the filing cabinet with the monster that John Irving likened memory to, filing things away and choosing what to hide and reveal.

Sometimes the monster tries to protect us, if it thinks it’s for our own good. Other times it conspires with our senses to trick us. And sometimes the monster’s revelations surprise and amaze us.

In Praise of the Humble Desk Calendar

At the start of 2012 I was working in a small team within a government department’s IT division. The agenda for my first day back at work after a short break over the Christmas and New Year period was quite simple: check email and source a day-by-day desk calendar for my desk.

The first task was easily taken care of: very little email had come through in the previous two weeks. And so to point two: finding a desk calendar.

When I looked through all the stationery cupboards on our floor and couldn’t find any, I sought out the person in charge of ordering stationery. Perhaps they hadn’t come in yet, or maybe I had just missed them in too hasty an appraisal of stationery cupboard contents in my rounds of the floor.

Nope, I was told. There were no desk calendars because the division simply hadn’t ordered any. Physical calendars, including day-by-day calendars, were deemed obsolete in a division where everyone carried a smartphone.

I decided to buy one for myself and went back to my desk to ask my colleagues if they wanted one too. My question was met with an exchange of quizzical looks, then laughter and finally, holding up their smartphones, comments about desk calendars being “old school” and whether I would perhaps like to join them in the twenty-first century.

Now, you may remember from a previous post of mine that I don’t have a smartphone. Even if I did, though, I would still want my day-by-day desk calendar. And here’s why.

Quite simply, the day-by-day desk calendar is one of the most brilliant pieces of multi-functional stationery ever invented by man.

Here’s what it can do:

It lets you know what the day and date is. Really simply, in big, friendly, easy-to-read letters and numbers. No mistaking one day for the other and buggering up appointments with the desk calendar.

It’s a notepad. You can take notes on it. Perfect for when the phone rings. Perfect for adding reminders to special days. Perfect for writing daily to-do lists on. Perfect for doodling on. Perfect in so many ways! There are usually a few extra blank pages at the end of the calendar – “just in case” – and the calendar stand even has a handy spot for a pen or pencil so you’re never caught short.

Each page on a day-by-day calendar also shows you the entire month, as well as the previous and next month. Not only that, but at the start of the calendar, there’s also a full year calendar for the current year, the previous year and the next year. Having an argument about what day a certain date fell on last year? No problem – you can check! Want to know what day your birthday will fall on next year? You can check that too! It’s genius, I tell you!

Undoubtedly, though, my absolute favourite part of a day-by-day desk calendar is the daily quote at the bottom of each page. It might be a clever and witty bon mot, a snippet of deep and meaningful philosophy, a truism delivered wisely, or just a hilariously silly one-liner.

Whenever I turn the page and contemplate a new day, I stop for a moment, read the quote and think about it. Sometimes it might just be a way to start the day with a smile. Other times it can be something so profound and timely that it shines a light into a dark corner of my mind. I can be amused or inspired, educated or enlightened.

I know smartphones (and tablets and computers) come with calendar applications. And yes, there are a gazillion apps to deliver you as many quotes as you wish to read. But you actually have to choose to access the quotes, to go out and seek them. And when are you going to have the time or inclination to do that? I’m guessing not very often.

Whereas the day-by-day desk calendar slyly inserts a little dose of daily wisdom, humour or inspiration right into every day. And it’s the random nature of the delivery that makes it most enjoyable.

So, in honour of the humble day-by-day desk calendar, that hard-working wonder of the stationery world, here are a few of my favourite quotes from this year’s calendar (that is, so far; there has been no cheating by looking ahead!):

“Your work is to discover your work and then, with all your heart, to give yourself to it.” – Buddha

“We are all here for some special reason. Stop being a prisoner of your past. Become an architect of your future.” – Robin Sharma

“I haven’t failed. I just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison

“Don’t be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated. You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.” – David Lloyd George

“We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.” – Charles R. Swindoll

“Summer afternoon – summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” – Henry James

“There are only two emotions in a plane: boredom and terror.” – Orson Wells

Day by day desk calendar showing page for 30 September with the word "Blog" circled on the notepad

The Hoarding Gene

When my brother and I were teenagers, if our mum found our rooms untidy she would use only one threat to get us to tidy up.

“If you don’t clean this mess up by the time [insert arbitrary deadline here], I am going to throw all this stuff out! All of it! In the rubbish!

My mum does not like mess. She also does not like to hold onto things she no longer needs.

My dad on the other hand, was a hoarder. Dad liked to hold onto everything that ever passed through his hands, or so it seemed when we cleaned out his garage (because in the last decade or so it was definitely his garage and no one else’s) a year after he passed away.
Inside of a garage filled with various objects and rubbishMy brother, his brother-in-law and I took just three and a half hours to clean out what we’d imagined would take three days. We thought we’d be deliberating on each item: Do we need this? Does anyone want to keep it? Can we donate it? Or is it just junk?

As it turns out, there was very little to deliberate on. Save for the comprehensive collection of tools that Dad had amassed, one quick glance around the garage revealed that most of its contents was rubbish.

As we systematically went through it and turfed things out, the men repeatedly asked, “Why would you keep this?” and I would always reply, laughing, “Just in case!” and “You never know!”

Dad was the ultimate re-user, recycler and re-purposer of things so he saw the potential in all objects to become something else. He had both an enormous imagination and a sense of preparedness that would’ve made any scout jealous.

In one enormous box we found about 20 hubcaps from different cars. Rubbish, we decided, and out they all went.

About a month later my mum lost one of the hubcaps on her car. We all saw the irony and could just hear Dad laughing at us from the other side. “See?!” he’d be saying, “What did I tell you?!”

A few of the items in the garage reflected Dad’s acute sentimentality. Some telephones from the 70s and 80s from when he worked in telecommunications, our first portable radio cassette player and, most surprisingly of all, the suitcases that he and Mum brought over from Greece when they first emigrated to Australia in the mid 1960s. They’d been securely wrapped in plastic and were still in good condition.
190s radio casette playertwo 1960s suitcasesInside one of them was a plate with a photo of my parents from around the same time, which had become smoke damaged when we’d had a house fire. Mum had thrown it out with all the other smoke damaged items. To our surprise, Dad had pulled it out of the rubbish and kept it.

If you read the post on my collections you won’t be surprised to hear that I take after my dad in the sentimentality and hoarding stakes. I definitely have the hoarding gene within me and I often think of how dad ended up (he didn’t always have a garage full of junk) and caution myself with “there but for the grace of God go I”.

But I also take after my mum, and definitely have the purging gene in me, too. I find purging really cathartic. Some people, when they find that their cupboards are full and spare rooms overflowing, buy bigger houses or more storage. Not me. When the house is full I realise I’m overdue for a good clean out and get to it. I may hold onto things for a long time but then I’ll decide to clean out a cupboard or a whole room and – whoosh! – it’s all gone. Just like that.

There are pros and cons with each gene. I’ve accidentally held on to some odd little gems that I consider priceless, such as a single copy of the Weird Mysteries comic book series from the 70s. On the other hand, my purging zeal has led to some colossal mistakes being made, such as the time I donated my mint condition 70s Lego sets to charity and then found out they were worth a fortune.
Cover of Weird Mysteries comic book showing a doctor unable to help a patient and a woman pointing to the devilIf you’ve seen the TV show Hoarders you’ll know that serious hoarding always has an emotional basis. The inability to let something go emotionally and the quest to control one’s life in some way manifest in the extreme collection of everything from household goods to household rubbish, to the point where homes and backyards are filled wall to wall and chest high with utter, and in some cases truly bizarre, crap.

But it’s a fine line. In a way, collecting is socially acceptable and sanctioned hoarding. I read recently of a woman who has a shed that holds 13,000 teaspoons. An impressive collection, or a case of organised and narrowly focussed hoarding?

Perhaps we just don’t relate to what hoarders collect because it doesn’t make sense to us in the way a collection of teaspoons might, though for militant purgers like my mum, there is as little sense in a shed with 13,000 teaspoons as there is in my dad’s garage of crap.

Let’s face it, if hoarding is about holding on and purging is about letting go, we’re all hoarders in comparison to say, Buddhist monks, who let go of everything on their path to enlightenment. We could all look around our homes, I’m sure, and think about what meaning we gain from our possessions and what emotions lie behind our inability to let go of some things.

I can see myself giving away a lot of my things and living a very minimalist if not totally ascetic lifestyle when I’m older. Until I get to that point, I’ll continue to balance my two genetic dispositions to hoard and purge. And meanwhile, I’m holding onto that burnt out plate. Not quite ready to let it go.
photo of man and woman from 1960s on a plate that has had smoke damage

Boogie Fever

“Dance is the body at its maximum.” – George Balanchine

Before I started writing compulsively, before I wanted to be a paperback writer, there was dance. Dance was my first love.

I was about five or six when my mum took me along to ballet classes. I was enthralled. It was like learning a secret language that your entire body could speak. It totally captured my imagination.

young girl in bright blue leotard and headband posing with arms out

I can’t tell you how long I attended but I know it wasn’t too long. We moved house to a suburb far away and I was so shy that the idea of having to make new friends not only at school but also at ballet terrified me. When Mum asked me if I wanted to take it up again in our new suburb I said no.

It wasn’t the end of dance in my life though. I was already growing up with dance in my home. My parents had music on all the time and it was not unusual for us to break into dance – whether Greek or otherwise – at any point in the day. My mum could be cooking and a song would come on and she’d down tools and start dancing, grabbing me along the way. Dad was the same.

I absolutely adored musicals, not for the singing but for the dancing. Gene Kelly was the love of my life; I was sure I was going to marry him when I grew up. Singin’ in the Rain was my favourite film until I was in my early 20s and it’s still in my top five. It’s funny, it’s romantic and the dancing is spectacular.

Movie poster from the film Singin in the Rain - two men and a woman in yellow mackintosh raincoats and with umbrellas

These days I listen to a lot of music and no matter what I’m listening to and where I am, I’ll dance. I often dance around the house with the music blaring when I’m cleaning, cooking or even ironing. If I’m in my car, my fingers will tap, my head will nod. I just can’t help it.

I hang out for opportunities to dance with friends and family, be they New Year’s Eve parties, weddings, milestone birthdays or anything else.

One of my favourite TV shows is So You Think You Can Dance. What I love about it is that it exemplifies, in popular format, but not without art and grace, the power of dance to tell a story or express emotion, whether sorrow, passion or pure joy. And the dancers themselves inspire me. Dancers are everything you admire about elite athletes but with art thrown in.

As with other TV talent shows there is always the possibility of an unforgettable moment on each episode. The first one that really took my breath away was a short jazz routine of exquisite artistry choreographed by Wade Robson in Season 3. Two amateur dancers symbolising a hummingbird and a flower dance to perfect music in a piece that both delighted and moved me. Since then I have been delighted and moved many, many times.

The joy of dance can be contagious. One of my favourite clips on YouTube is the Sound of Music mob dance that was performed at Antwerp Central Station in 2009. The expressions on the faces of the onlookers are priceless, as is the reaction of some people who, despite not actually being part of the organised ‘mob’, begin to dance along as well. Dance is like that. It draws you in.

(And if you have any doubts about whether dance can make you laugh, check out the “Stavros Flatley” routine from a past series of Britain’s Got Talent.)

The other day I was stopped at lights in my car. Across the road from me a young man in a t-shirt, shorts and runners was waiting to cross. He had his headphones on and was dancing as he waited – and I don’t just mean nodding his head or swaying his hips a little. I’m talking about full on, out there dancing. He was clearly in a disco wonderland of one, clearly not self-conscious and utterly oblivious to anyone else around him.

I couldn’t help but smile as I caught his very obvious joy. I turned to see if the driver in the car next to me had also noticed him but the young woman I saw at the steering wheel was in her own disco wonderland, not only singing along to whatever music she was listening to but also swaying her head vigorously and gesturing with her hands in what I can only describe as a Saturday Night Fever way.

What can I say? I turned the music up loud and began to dance. Boogie fever had a hold on me.

Man in white suit on dance floor striking dance pose

Confessions of an Incidental Collector

Last week I attended the funeral of Mrs J, the beautiful and much loved mother of one of my oldest friends. Thinking about Mrs J three things immediately sprung to mind. Orchids (she was a renowned grower with many pots of different colours and varieties), knitted dolls (she was a prolific knitter and knitted dolls for grandchildren) and salt and pepper shakers, because years ago the wall unit in the “J” family home housed a huge collection of salt and pepper shakers of every shape and size.

Remembering that collection made me reflect on my own collections over the years. In my teens and early twenties I made a serious effort at collecting matchboxes, women’s fashion magazines and, for a solid decade, Vanity Fair magazine.

None of these collections still exist, or at least they don’t exist in the same form. A lack of storage space at various times in my life caused me to say goodbye to all but a handful of the fashion magazines, to relegate my Vanity Fair magazines to boxes in my garage, and to get rid of about 90 per cent of my matchboxes, only keeping a handful of my favourites in a bowl on the coffee table and some of the Redheads, which I framed.

bowl containing various matchboxes including Greek Michelin tyres, Gnome, Frida Kahlo, Vogue Johnny Walker whisky, and Automatic Restauranta white box frame containing nine different Redheads matchboxes

These days I sort of collect bookmarks. I say ‘sort of’ because despite collecting them since I was a child, I don’t really put much of an effort into it. It’s only been in the past decade that it’s really kicked off; I’ve added bookmarks picked up on my travels and coincidentally received a few as gifts. They’re flat and lightweight so they don’t take up much space in your suitcase nor, importantly, when you get them home.

bookmarks of varying sizes and styles scattered on the floor

I did think bookmarks were my only active collection. Then I remembered my movie ticket collection. Since I was about 19 I have been collecting my cinema tickets. I’m not sure why I started, but I did and now I have over two decades’ worth of movie tickets in a small cardboard box.

The movie tickets box sits atop my collection of MTC theatre programs. I’ve bought a program from every play I’ve seen since the late 1980s. I’ve got nearly 100 programs. Needless to say inside each program is my ticket from the play.

When I opened the tickets box to photograph it I realised it came with several other mini collections inside it: concert, opera and ballet tickets (no programs for these: too expensive). And sporting event tickets.

a box containing used cinema tickets with more tickets scattered around it

But wait, there’s more. There was a little plastic wallet in the box that held a mini collection of Australian dollar and Greek drachma notes (no longer in use), and, inexplicably, some stamps. And a 50 cent coin or two. A wee mini collection that I’d totally forgotten about, stored within another collection.

Of course that reminded me of my foreign coin collection, kept in a small ceramic jar from Greece. It holds coins from places I’ve been to and a few I haven’t been to. Another mini collection.

Australian one dollar note, two dollar note and Greek 50 and 100 drachma notes, stamps (Blinky Bill, Weary Dunlop, Click go the Shears), 50 cent coinscattered coins of different sizes and metals from Greece, Italy, Japan, Mexico and the United States

There’s more too. On the same bookshelf that holds my theatre programs and bookmarks there’s my collection of … well, I guess you could call them little toys. Mostly they’re things I’ve picked up travelling, like the beaver soft toy from Vancouver, or the yo-yo from Cordoba. Within this collection I have a little sub-collection of small spinning tops, too.

Despite being a keyring, the Canadian beaver doesn’t live with the other keyrings I’ve collected (only a handful, honestly). They hang blue-tacked on the inside of one of my kitchen cupboards. Does this location make sense? No, it doesn’t. But I’ve come to realise that nothing much about what and why I collect things makes sense.

And still there are more small collections. I’ve got about a dozen decks of cards collected on my travels or received as gifts from friends who have travelled. When I took these out to look at them I discovered my old collection of pins and badges which used to adorn an oft-worn denim jacket in my uni days but now sit in a wooden box in the cupboard in my study.

Selection of small toys including Elvis Mr Potato Head, spinning tops, a robot, a small plane, figurines of a knight, king and jester, yo-yo and plush beaver

Oh and my marbles. I still have all the marbles I played with as a kid (cue countless jokes about not losing one’s marbles). Is this a collection? I would’ve said no except a few months ago I bought three very beautiful marbles and added them to the bag. So I’m going to say yes, it’s a collection.

I’m not including here my many collections of practical things that get used, or have had a practical use. Things that I just have a lot of, for example: bathers, scarves, handbags, cardigans, embroidered linen, books, cds, cookbooks, postcards, diaries.

I’m not even including the many other memento collections I have from my travels: the fridge magnets, the artworks or other wall hangings, the wee kitsch things that sit on my kitchen window sill.

selection of small spinning tops, some made of wood, others metal and plastic

Though even these things have something in common with all my other small collections, and that is that they haven’t really been put together with much intent. They’re all incidental collections.

I don’t go out of my way to collect things. I just happen to buy them or receive them or pick them up for free every now and again. Then I hold onto them. And I don’t often let go.

You could say I’ve curated the objects of my life into little groups that make sense to me. I guess the only thing I actively collect, then, is little wee collections.

scattered marbles of different colours and sizes