Tuesday, 4 October 2011

My past in boxes

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.
William Morris

Somewhere near Bexhill on Sea my past sits in boxes. The garage of mum and dad being far cheaper than the a local firm wanted to charge for the safekeeping of my shabby chic and boho tat. I could rent a bigger house for that! The owner looked shocked at my reaction, (yes I did say it out loud!). Storage is a growing industry apparently and in these times of austerity people are still emotionally attached to collections of things they can longer afford to house. People feel they need bigger houses beacause they simply own too much stuff. In this scenario we are not slaves to our mortgages but slaves to piles of junk. And when our lives are over it will be somebody else sorting through it and piling it into binbags, facing the agonising choice of what you would have wanted them to keep.

Preempting the need to downsize, I began to cull my collections, binbag my belongings. If it was neither use nor ornament it was out on its ear. I began to distill my object d'art, to cut the wheat from the chaff, everything left would please my eye or my mind. I began to curate the exhibition of my life so far. The final sort and cuts come this weekend. The last boot fair of the season, the charity shop runs will re commence and I will be left with the things I value, those items I can afford to house. In this retrospective, cabinet space has so far been reserved for the following items, things that I cannot part with, things that have no or little monetary value. The less we have the more we value and these are a few of my favourite things. If I were to give an exhibition of myself these items would have to be included. There will be no back room with a warning to parents and the elderly, my parents read this blog...

Exhibit One: A quiet child Large home developed, dogged eared, black and white photos C 1974. Taken by art students in a garden in West Dulwich. I pose with my young parents in a mini tartan dress and white pigtails. It was summer, it was always sunny in the 70's.

Exhibit Two First Loss: A 34 year old walnut uncracked. Presented to my grandfather when he was dying from a stroke. My nan kept it until she died and I have kept it ever since.

Exhibit three: Pages that will turn forever 'Works of Dylan Thomas' a gift from my dad bought from the Cut market. 'The unbearable Lightness of being' Milun Kundera from the WHsmith Oxford st when I worked as a bored shop assistant. My Angela Carters! 'The Passion by Jeanette Winterson. 'If nobody speaks of remarkable things' Jon Mcgregor and many other yellowing editions that have moved from bookcase to shelf over the years.

Exhibit four : Dreams and fates Russian wooden egg painted as a Gypsy fortune teller. Brought by my sister from Moscow where she trained with the Kirov as a child.

Exhibit Five: Letters home Box of letters from my teenage husband written whilst he served in the airforce. From my sisters and a now notorious comedian written to me at uni. An ode to a time when we took the trouble to take pen to paper and in such a formal way. These documents literally read like antiques. A rare find.

Exhibit Six: The Theatrical Years Red petticoat and black velvet frilled knickers. A red felt heart is stitched onto the back (made by Butress and Snatch) they were worn for numerous can can performances. The tiniest ever chartreuse green bustier, customised with green glass beads and metallic green slingbacks (worn for a green fairy routine). A powdered wig adorned with birds, pearls and roses sits on a white china bust (wig for a high kicking Marie Antionette routine ) A collection of corsets from Magick, Velda lauder, Vollers, and Glitzy Tarts.

Exhibit Seven: My eyes never tire of beholding you A collection of artworks. Small painting of Sappho in gold Frame by Menguin (repro). Picture of demure woman undressing in her boudoir in black ink by Dorian Drake (original). The girl with a plastic bag on her head Hendrick Kerstens. Some beautiful prints that still have no frames. A task for the curator.

Exhibit Eight Gothic Tendencies: Vintage, velvet, black cape with tattered lining and metallic clasp. Bought Kensinton Gardens, Brighton. Worn in the woods and out to dinner. A gothic comfort blanket. Robert smith of the Cure's red lipstick print on a Selfridges compliment slip (original)

Exhibit Nine Simple Jewels: Amythyst and silver ring from The Great Frog, Carnaby St. 18th Birthday gift from husband. Moonstone wedding ring Curioser & Curioser, Brighton. Granfather's Gold and Pearl tie pin from Newmarket, a prize won when he raced as a jockey. Child's pearl necklace bought for daughters first christmas.

Exhibit Ten: Micellaneous writings. Beatrix Potter pastiche 'The little Grey Mouse" written in red felt tip with illustrations. 'Spirit Bottle" Original script of the play performed at the Marlborough theatre Brighton, includes the programme. Short film script and play script written for PG Dip, various short stories ,essays and drafts. Published copy of 'The Beginners guide to Capoeira'.

I will not pay to store things that I do not use, but I am human and a sentimental one at that. Be it photos, quirky clothing or letters ,their value lies in the memories and history they help me share. I am choosing wisely so that the things I own do not dictate where I live. I can be ruthless but not too harsh, because I am looking forward to the day when the kids squeal 'You wore that!" Some of the things I own have been beautifully made by somebody and they deserved to be kept. A homage to the unknown artists and people who enriched my emotional, cultural and visual life. The tat can go but history will be preserved for posterity.

So yes, on Saturday tat be gone, you can't take it with you! I only wish i'd hung on to that crushed velvet fanny pelmet from Thunderspussy.....



  1. this is my fave -

    Exhibit Eight Gothic Tendencies

    ;p xx

  2. Gosh, I have a moist eye, must be something in it, dust or some such. I love the Hendrick Kerstens picture. It sounds a wonderful exhibit. Dx

  3. You are very modest. The Hendrick Kerstens poster is amazing, I just hope I can find a wall big enough for it!

  4. Ah, I recognise some of those items! Lovely...