Assessing the damage by Trevor Plumbly
We all gather bits and pieces around us albeit for different reasons: as reminders, as a result of the lure of collecting or because of the somewhat false security of being surrounded by a lot of stuff. Pam and I qualify on all counts; most of our shelves are filled with stuff ranging from pure tat to quite valuable nick-nacks, some with a story attached, others just fixtures.
My early years were spent in homes that didn’t have ornaments so it’s natural, to me anyway, that I’m a bit overprotective towards the breakable bits in our little hoard, which, as every grandparent knows, remain reasonably safe until the little infants grow to be perfectly normal kids, energetic, curious and, of course, careless.
Looking round somewhat wistfully (wistful seems easier lately) is like an emotional stocktake. A pair of 1950s iron ashtrays with aeroplanes attached; a gift from our son Ben when he was around six, absolutely priceless and indestructible, definitely lower shelf, along with several antique paper knives, small silver boxes and a few guilt-ridden gifts, lacking in use or ornament but essential in case ‘they’ visit. We then move up beyond youthful reach to a Georgian silver inkstand that brings back thoughts of tea/business visits to a wonderful elderly lady along with some good examples of early 20th Century English Lustre porcelain of no emotional value but too fragile for close range. There are little gifts to and from each other with a now half-forgotten story. Then tucked away, almost hidden, is a small air twist ale glass from around 1760, a gift from a treasured friend; this, I decided, deserves to live beyond my ownership and has been moved up a shelf. It’s all a bit too clinical this exercise, so I’ve decided wistful is the happier way to go.
This plea, quietly offered to grandson number one, is scarcely necessary: he is non-exploratory, dwelling in a largely stationary world, populated by books and electronic beeps. Grandson number two, however, seems to have an aversion to anything that hampers movement: chairs, for him, only exist as a means of getting closer to food. ‘Active’, is perhaps the kindest description for him; outside he kicks or throws depending on the season, he skateboards, bikes, scooters and climbs most stationary structures. Inside, the enthusiasm threatens all things bright and breakable, so it’s aged restraint versus explosive enthusiasm. Wistful is OK but it don’t stand much chance against a seven year old human time-bomb. I’d write more on this for the benefit of all grandparents, but I need the time to create more space on the top shelves.