I was watching The Repair Shop and a gentleman had brought in an item to be repaired which his father had bought him while the family was in what was then Malaya when he was a little child aged about three or four in the early 1950’s. In case you don’t watch the programme, it is as is suggested, about repairing items of sentimental value – usually they are worth little except to the people who own them. Very occasionally an item is of actual value, sometimes thousands of pounds, but that is as naught to the owners. The repair shop has experts in every conceivable craft you might imagine, from hats to metalwork, from old book, maps, diaries to dolls and teddy bears. The programme tells little stories – like that of the man who spent time in Malaya as a young child, and was bought a small camel saddle which he treasured all his life, and went everywhere with him, including to university, and then to his own home when he was grown up. Unfortunately a pet dog had found it and chewed it so it was now in a very sorry state. The programme showed how it was repaired, as was a hundred year old teddy which had literally been through the war, and an old water can which had rusted and become leaky.
What I’m working up to thinking about is how items can sometimes be links to memories, not just our own memories, but those of whoever had the item before. For example, the teddy which had seen service in the RAF during the war had belonged to the father of the ladies who brought him in. They had a photo of their dad when he was only a baby with the ted beside him on a blanket. The teddy by the time the two sisters had him, wore an RAF blue jumper, and ‘uniform’ trousers. He had been repaired many times before, and not repaired very well, so the challenge was to make sure the ted would survive for their children and grandchildren, but still be essentially the same by preserving what could be, and sympathetically restoring what couldn’t. It would be preserving the stories and second-hand memories too.
I’m not exactly a hoarder, although no doubt my daughter would say I am, but I do find it very hard to throw things very old things away – things from my childhood, things from my parents, grandparents, and even my great-grandparents. The trouble is, many of the items I have, have only the tiniest of histories. I’ve written here about some of those things, my great-grandfather’s match case, his calling card – imaging things when I don’t actually know, although always making clear what is me and what is true! Then I began to think about the items I find precious from my parents and from my own childhood – they will be meaningless to my children apart from half-remembered things I might have told them. Should I write a history of those things? Or brief notes, or a simple label? Would it be of any interest or hold any meaning, when the item itself is ordinary, common, worthless? It’s a puzzle, but maybe I’ll think about it some more before I do anything at all!