collections

On being messy (what’s on your desk?)

What’s on your desk right now?  Or your kitchen or bedside table…whatever space you consider most yours?

Mine is messy.  Always.

Occasionally artfully messy, but more often cluttered with cups of half-drunk tea, pots of paintbrushes in water (or sometimes, I confess; paintbrushes in half-drunk tea), papers and scribbles and lost toys and lists and plans.

Every so often I clear the surface completely, wiping the desk and admiring the bright white sheen and zen-like calm and order.  It is peaceful and gives the impression that I could be an architect or Marie Kondo-esque disciple of minimalism.  But then, like a tide, clutter rises and I embrace once again the inevitability of finding nothing I’m looking for but also everything I had not realised was lost.

Here’s what’s on my desk tonight:

What's on your desk

1. Fresh flowers; I love lilies just before they open.  Once they do their scent is a bit over-powering and they shower pollen over all of my chaotically arranged projects, so this is the very transient stage when they are at their best

2. Folded pleats, from my map dress – this was my prototype practice-run and somehow has never been thrown away

3. Blank wooden matroyshka, newly arrived via eBay (£4!).  I am thinking of making Harry a set of nesting wooden animals for his Christmas stocking, and in the meantime just enjoying playing with them, getting a feel for the shapes and thinking about the animals I will choose.

4. Another potential project, awaiting time and inspiration

5. Harry’s desk calendar, still set to August (as it probably will be until November, in this house).

6. My trusty notebook which I carry everywhere, plus recipes clipped from magazines for my ‘things I really must attempt to cook in another lifetime’ file.

7. A Fitbit charger. I have succumbed at last to the tyranny of a sensor and am now experiencing the gentle chafing and constant vibration of my conscience, masquerading as a Fitbit Alta, urging me to move whenever I so much as think about eating a biscuit.

8. My new toy; a lightpad.  Have you ever used one?  I am in love, though I recognise it may be a passing infatuation.  I can now sketch something out on scrap paper until I get it right and then place thick watercolour paper over the top and trace it through.  I once watched the illustrator Quentin Blake explain how he does his incredible drawings in this way, and have coveted one ever since.

Also…

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More notebooks, an anglepoise lamp, a pot of velvety black sumi ink from a brief flirtation with calligraphy, and an indulgence; a box of my favourite Blackwing pencils, whose iconic shape and feel I love.

Also..

desk

1. A pinboard I have lugged with me since college, with the gradually changing landscape of my life filling every square inch year-on-year

2. Overdue library books.  Note to self.

3. Cretan olive oil in such beautiful packaging (Icarus!) that I keep it on desk just to look at rather than in the kitchen where I could actually put it to sensible use.

4. A clay elephant from Harry circa 2014 whose trunk needs to be carefully reattached every six months, and who hence has the lumpen look of someone who has had one too many rhinoplasty procedures

5. A card from my best friend, who sends wonderful things in the mail to make the (Atlantic) ocean between us seem smaller.

6. These jars from Ikea.  I’m not sure why yet, but I thought they were lovely and inexpensive (how many times have I filled a trolley at Ikea on this basis?  Too many…).  I will think of something to do with them.

7. One of my favourite candles.  Note the cavalier juxtaposition of the click lighter above, jauntily abutting the card.  It’s a wonder I haven’t set fire to my desk a long time ago.

 

So tell me; what’s on yours right now?

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The Mysteries of Small Boys

The Mysteries of Childrens Pockets

Until very recently, if you had asked me about the mythology of what small boys keep in their pockets, I would have been inclined to dismiss it as literary cliché and nostalgia.  What modern boy, after all,  covets marbles and decrees that random kerbside junk is somehow Treasure?

This one, it seems.

Harry discovered the true magic of pockets – with their seeming infinite capacity for holding Important Things – when he was given a fleece jacket with roomy, zipped pockets on each side.  When I pulled it out of the laundry basket last week ready to wash it, it weighed a startling amount.  Careful emptying of a single pocket revealed the list of treasures above, dictated by Harry as being;

An old fruit gum: “For my snack, if I need energy”

Pebbles: “For my collection”

A golf ball, found in undergrowth the previous weekend and carried around for 5 days: “For Grandma”

Marbles, source unknown: “For a game I am planning about lions”

A single, small Lego piece: ‘I always like to have Lego in my pocket”

Stray feather: “For you, because I know you like feathers and I always collect them when I find them”

Random rubber objects with sequins attached to them: ‘Just in case I need them for something.  And because you like sparkly things”.

Squashed pine cone: “In our game it was the school bell and I was ringing it to mean the end of playtime”

I was struck not only by the sheer magnitude of stuff which he’d collected (and you can imagine the shower of dust, soil and fluff which fell out with it all…), but also the considered evaluation and justification of each item.  They’re currently carefully collated in a shoebox, waiting for the fleece to be dry so that they can be restored to their rightful place.  Or discreetly thrown away.

 

Boys… a wonderful, awesome mystery.

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(p.s. What’s the strangest thing you’ve found in a pocket?  And to mothers of daughters; are girls the same?  )