Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Object of my Affections...

Don't we all just love stuff. Things, tat, tut, flotsam... Whatever we call it... human nature has an obsession with objects. They don't have to be worth much in monetary value (although sometimes they are...) We are intrigued by archeological digs. We adorn the walls of pubs with items that have long since lost their purpose. We carry useless things around in our pockets, handbags, dangling from our keyrings. We obsess over museum artefacts... 

We hoard. Old bits of this and that. My friend kept the condom wrapper from her first sexual encounter. I inexplicably keep a ticket from a Canon and Ball gig that I found carefully preserved under the carpet when I moved into my house. 

This handbag was something found in a second hand warehouse, Bygone Times. It is too fragile to use, so therefore is useless. But the lipstick marks and curious perfumed scent inside, the hints of past owners, are too intriguing to disregard. It has been well used and I keep it because I hope perhaps in some way it will reveal its secrets to me... or at least suggest them for stories.
And this might look like a plop. But actually it's the first thing I ever whittled when my dad bought me a pen knife and taught me how to use it safely. Incase you're wondering, it's a mouse, sans ears or tail; they take a whole lot more years of whittling to master. The mouse fits perfectly in my palm. I've carried to every house I've ever lived in.

On one of those Channel 4 documentaries, that's really a freak show, a man of noble gentrified descent had had to sell his country manor and most of the content. The few old possessions he'd saved, he put into a storage unit. These possessions included a tupperware box containing dust and hair balls gathered from around the parquet floors. To him this stuff was precious. Significant in a way that was hard to quantify.

This obsession with objects was discussed in a short story workshop with writer Carys Davies recently, looking at its function in fiction. Her workshop inspired me to write 'Still Life' which made it into Writer's Forum, about a nodding dog. And if you think of almost any story / film / poem there's often highly significant objects that weave themselves into the narrative. Think Snow White and the apple and her stepmother's sycophantic mirror, think Dorian Gray with that portrait in the attic, think Donoghue's 'Room' where many of the objects take on special potency.

Roselle Angwin, writing in her Mslexia column Writing Your Self: The secret life of objects says 'Humans have known forever the power of objects... sometimes it's to do with the whole concept of the numerous human lives that have passed across the surface of that object, or created it..."

This was the aspect I was keen to capture in a 'Write on the Night' evening I organised this week at the Ormskirk's Owls Writers Group using the objects shown in the top image as a stimulus to creative writing. I asked the writers to select one to spark the first inklings of a story. The Owls writing Group is positively bulging with creative talent. Many members are widely published. And all have original voices and styles. It didn't take long before the fledglings of eleven fantastic stories were hatched. It was an exciting process. I'm looking forward to hearing where these stories go in the next few months.

The story I started, based around an old locked leather diary, will unfortunately have to go on the back burner. I've got a rewrite of a story for People's Friend that needs some serious editing and the Guardian short story competition deadline is looming. The story for this is behaving like a cat that doesn't want to go in its vet box. I'll keep wrestling and treat my scars with alcohol when it's done. 

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