Adam Edwards: The love object
09:41 14 February 2017
‘So what five things would you save from your home in the event of a fire? In my case it’s a small Russian china mouse’
This being the love issue I’ve been pondering where exactly my intense feelings of deep affection do lie and, once I have excluded my daughter, my chums, my small Cotswold home and my adoration of liquor, I am stuck.
I might, for example, say I love the Cirencester Tesco Extra but it is not, in truth, a deep romantic or sexual attachment but rather a figure of speech to explain my antipathy towards both Waitrose and Lidl. In a similar vein I love a spicy takeaway lamb Jalfrezi –rather than, say, a bland chicken tikka masala; I adore a well-rolled Cuban cigar while hating a Hamlet Panatella and I have a passion for Thistlecrack in this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.
What I no longer love, however, is objects. I find it baffling that anyone should profess undying adoration for a car or an urgent desire for a wristwatch. It is a mystery how anyone can be emotionally attached to one pair of trainers over another, dote on a designer bag or worship a retro swivel chair. That said, I have been wondering, if I were a Viking, what objects, if any, I would wish to have buried with me in my Longship as I set sail for the after life.
There is a jolly game that can be played at a dinner party when conversation slackens which is to ask your neighbours what are the five objects that they would save if their homes were burning down. Relatives, pets and photographs, one must assume, have already been rescued. The remarkable thing about the question, particularly considering our modern love of the consumer world, is how few people can name, off the top of their heads, five things that they do love and would save.
In my case there are a couple of paintings that have been hanging in my various homes for the past 30 years that I would wish to liberate from the burning building, but then a pedant might take me to task arguing that there is little emotional difference between a photograph and a painting. Then there is the only item that was particularly left to me in my father’s will - a small, worthless, dented Georgian toothpick holder (my siblings and I had to fight over the rest of the kit). I love the joke of the silver container (I do hope Father meant it as a joke) but I am not sure it is really worth saving.
And so what is left. I have noticed since my parents and my wife died that it is the silly, unimportant things that I love. There is, for example, a half completed exercise book of my mother’s badly scribbled recipes, my father’s old tweed cap that I now occasionally wear and most importantly my wife’s white china mouse that stares at the moon.
After the death of Stalin, the one-and-a-half-inch high porcelain rodent escaped from the USSR in the skirt pocket of my wife’s Russian mother. My late wife inherited it and loved it, but even so it sat for decades mostly ignored and unnoticed in the dusty corner of a trendy 1950s picture frame. I never gave the mouse more than a passing thought until my 21-year-old daughter landed at Heathrow after a gap year holiday in the USA. “I’ve got a tattoo,” she said. And there and then, in the arrivals lounge of Terminal 3, she took off her right trainer, pulled down her pop sock and on the inside of her ankle showed me the perfect outline of the white Russian mouse.
”How did the tattooist manage such an accurate depiction?” I asked. My daughter explained that for years, without so much as a by your leave, she had travelled with the mouse in her wash bag as both a memory of her mother and a good luck charm. When she was in Los Angeles she took a photograph of the mouse on her phone, sent the picture to an artist in the UK who drew the outline and then sent it back to the States for the tattooist to copy.
The mouse now sits on my bedside table. It reminds me of my wife, my daughter (and her cheek) and many happy times. It is, I have concluded, the only object that I love enough to save from my flaming cottage; the only thing I will take to the afterlife, although more likely in a small rowing boat than a Viking Longship.
For more from Adam Edwards, follow him on Twitter @cotswoldhack