In 2014 I read Penelope Lively’s memoir: Ammonites and Leaping Fish: A Life in Time (also published as “Dancing Fish and Ammonites”). She called this “not quite a memoir” the view from old age. She structured the slim (234 pages) book into five sections: Old Age, Life and Times, Memory, Reading and Writing, Six Things, plus the preface. Her ‘six things’ included objects (such as the ammonites of the title) that meant something to her.
I enjoyed it and soon after tried to find some objects that mean something to me. Although my house is full of objects, I nevertheless struggled to think of some significant objects. I have already written a post describing some objects. However, none of these objects came to mind when I tried this exercise in 2014. These are what I came up with then:
Ammonites and other fossils: Like Penelope Lively, I too have a small fossil collection, but most of them have been bought rather than collected by me. I did do one brief attempt at fossil collecting years ago on a trip in Morocco and I found a long spear-like fossil in a rock. Unfortunately, the rock proved too heavy to take back to England and I left it in a gutter at Calais!
An apron I made when I was aged about 11: Manual training (cooking, sewing, woodwork, metalwork) were required subjects in New Zealand schools in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. I don’t know what happened after that. This website includes a bit of information about it, as does the recent book by Bronwyn Labrum, Real Modern: Everyday New Zealand in the 1950s and 1960s, Te Papa Press, 2015, p. 170.
The apron was made in sewing class to be used for cooking class. I have embroidered my name on it as well as doing some embroidery on the pocket and near the bottom. I haven’t worn this for many years – it probably no longer fits – but as a piece of ‘kiwiana’ I decided to display it on a cupboard door. As a piece of sewing it is not very good and only means something to me for the memories it evokes.
It was usual for the girls to take sewing and cooking and the boys to take woodwork and metalwork. However, in my form two year (when I was aged about 12) the boys decided it would be amusing to take cooking and sewing so the girls agreed that we would take metalwork and woodwork (apart from two boys who wanted to pursue technical subjects). I enjoyed both classes and still have a stool I made in the metalwork class! Another memory of sewing class was the time one of my friends scratched several names in a drawer and those whose names were there had to sandpaper them off (me included).
A jewellery box made by my aunt at the Blind Institute and given to me for my birthday when I was about nine or ten. It is encrusted with buttons and old coins (from New Zealand’s pre-decimal coin days) – another piece of ‘kiwiana’.
A crocheted sewing bag I made as a teenager – it is included in this photo, along with other sewing items that I inherited.
Some family photos – but which ones? Probably the album I put together of family history photos; however, quite a number of these photos have now been included in various posts on this website.
My book lists – I have kept a list of books read since my first year at secondary school when our English teacher required us to. I included the first year’s list in this post. I am now up to book five. These record many years of my reading habits.
Most of these objects I no longer use – they sit on shelves or in drawers. I have to wonder whether objects are all that important to me – but if not, why is my house so full of them!
This post was prompted by another of the online courses I’m currently doing called Behind the scenes at the 21st century museum: www.futurelearn.com/courses/museum. We were asked to add an object and talk about it – I added the school apron.