Sunday, 24 March 2019

WHAT DO WE EVER TRULY WHOLLY OWN?



There are three cracks running from top to bottom on the inside of my Chelsea mug. Against the white they look like long thick dark strands of hair.

The base still appears sound, but I’d look a right plonker if it fell apart and scorched me with boiling hot tea.

Binned. It’s a goner.
 

The mug that presently qualifies as my mug is emblazoned with photos of the 2010 Double Winning team. 

A gift from another True Blue, it reminds me of the day I turned 50, stomping exuberant and ebullient around a bar in Greece, swigging a bottle of Jameson from the neck, watching Chelsea win at Wembley.

In proper Chelsea tradition, this mug is also strangely defective. It seeps from the bottom.
 

Always has. Pick it up and there’s a little ring of dampness on the surface left behind.

Votcha gonna do?

My this, my that. Does it matter?

Mugs come and go, part of our lifetime conveyor belt of fading ephemera. Worn out, broken, lost or discarded, we no longer even possess much of what we once felt we owned.

Unless there’s a history or a personal significance to an object, I see no value in owning it.
 

Ironically, the things that matter most to me are not mine at all. In the eyes of the law (and family members!) everything I have is rightfully mine. Yet I’m only their caretaker. They’ll survive beyond me, in the family.

There are a few possessions I care about that aren’t heirlooms. I love the tiny mini sea stack I was given by a dear friend on Omey Island. 


Then there's the two neolithic stones I found in a flower bed in my back garden. One is a cutting tool, worked well to a sharp three inch blade, the other a simple hand axe.
 

These are not mine either. I have them, but they belong to the soil, and will doubtless be returned there at some stage.

It’s okay for me to feel I own them for a while. Their original owners no longer miss them.

There is Blue Bag, my 35 year-old travelling companion, and even higher in the longevity league, my gold Parker pen, which I was given as a bar mitzvah present.

This pleases me, as gifts given to the boy becoming a man are supposed to last a lifetime.

There’s a sentimental corner of me that loves the memory of using that pen to start writing my daily diary at the age of 15, while there it is, sitting beside me now, and here I am, still scribbling.

Hallelujah.

Is it that kind of continuity we seek, when we try to own things?

Does the idea of owning something delude us into believing we have cheated death for a weak beguiling minute?

Maybe, but there’s more to it than that.

I have objects around me in this house that long ago travelled from London and Brighton to the west of Ireland. 


Far from my family in the UK, I take great comfort in seeing Gran’s tiny chest of drawers in its rightful spot, beside my desk, wherever I work.

Dark oak, with carved acorn drawer handles and perfect dovetail joints, it was handmade by a craftsman, where today a stud, some glue or a weak nail would do.

Much more than that, it’s Gran’s. My mother’s mother was a wonderful woman: eccentric, kind and always interested. Along with her magnifying glass, which sits atop my fireplace, her presence is here with me.

My Dad’s parents are here too. I found them both difficult people, yet truly appreciate the two paintings I have from their Hove flat. They bring me much pleasure.

Do I own them?

Here once again ownership feels contentious. Both artists have respected reputations, but what fascinates me most is not what they might be worth, although naturally I’d like to know, but more whether those who care for and curate the artists’ collections know these paintings even exist.

Do I have some kind of moral obligation to let their estates know about these works, hung in private homes since who knows when?

Do they, in some way belong to those others, as well as me?

What’s he bloomin’ on about?” I hear you cry. “Get the paintings valued, pronto Tonto! Then we’ll see how much he still wants to own his precious paintings!

Sorry if my musings seem otherworldly and crass, but I’m allowed to wonder with such naivety, as I don’t feel I own these paintings.

I’ve no children, so one day they will pass to my nieces and their children, and so it goes.

Also treasured are my father’s father’s long lens field glasses. They sit by my back door in their sturdy old leather case, strung all over with romantic little silver, blue and scarlet tags, telling stories of decades ago, when Pops had access to the Members Enclosures and Private Clubs of the racecourses at Newbury, York, Sandown Park and Ascot.

Electric Ireland sent a note last week to say that the power would be off in my house from 9am-5pm yesterday, so I drove to Galway, spent good time with valuable friends and arrived back home around 4pm.

At 4:53pm the power returned.

7 minutes early. 

Early? 

What’s Ireland become?
Are we Scandinavians now or something?

“View me! Join me!” implored my Sky box, as it hummed and whirred into life. “Vital vote, you know you want to know, Brexit Brexit Brexit!” it whispered, but I ignored it.

After resetting the heating and oven clock, I sat in my armchair, draping my old family picnic blanket over my legs, and returned to my crossword.

Sitting by the fire.

Warm, fed and housed.
 

I don’t own any of that, but it’s all I need.


©Charlie Adley
23.03.2019

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