Grunt – 19 February 2014

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Have you noticed how an image, a recollection, a memory will pop up out of the blue, rather like the little red flag – Time Expired – on the old parking meters, when we had parking meters? They emerge uncalled for, usually without any connection with where you are or what you’re doing.
This happened to me a few days ago, when a whole lot of recollections popped up suddenly, rather like a poorly-made home movie, while I was washing the dishes. They were rooted in my childhood, and began with a memory of someone – I have no idea who – showing me a book of pressed flowers they’d collected during various meanders over the fields and down the lanes of England. And I recalled a fair number of individuals, mainly women, who chose to press flowers as a hobby, the colours from the petals staining the pages of the bulky books that held them. Some were almost works of art, meticulously labelled in a copperplate hand, dated, with the place where the blossoms were gathered. It seemed a very gentle, harmless pastime, far different from the brutalities of fox hunting that took place nearby.
A second image that arose was of people collecting things, all manner of things. One of my grandparents’ neighbours collected matchbox labels. Of course, this was in the days long before matches had been all but replaced by lighters of various sorts. And a distant relative collected the cards that came in cigarette packets. It was a sneaky way to get folks to keep on smoking – but in those days, smoking wasn’t considered as lethal as we know it to be now. Others acquired beer labels, every record of their favourite singer, miniature cars (like Dinky Toys), teaspoons from around the world, etc. Naturally, I caught the collecting bug, although I confined myself to books and records (until CDs came along).
Of course, all this stuff needs storage. If music outlets sell CD cabinets, why don’t bookshops sell shelves? But book collectors know that books fit on any flat surface. So, please watch your step!