Posts Tagged ‘collecting’

I sat, listening with what I hoped was an interested expression, to one of my (on the Spectrum) students as he earnestly explained, in the utmost detail, the intricacies of his Pokémon Go game. This downloadable App swept our nation (and most likely the entire planet) at the start of the summer and is the sole reason that more children than ever were walking around during the holidays with their eyes fixed firmly to the screens of their mobile phones, obsessively collecting virtual cartoon characters. I suppose it at least got them outside in the fresh air and with any luck gave them some insight in to map co-ordinates – but I’m not holding out much hope on the latter. Frankly I just don’t see the attraction of these crudely drawn fantasy figures with their over large eyes, flat colours and lack of detail. I was about to say it’s probably an age thing but our local TV news ran a feature on a man – yes, people, an ADULT, who apparently was the first reported person to have finished the game and was offering help to others for a FEE. How low can one stoop.

As my student launched into a second phase of enthusiastic explanation, the like of which he never displays in any lessons, I felt myself glazing over and for the first time in my life was thankful to hear the bell ring indicating the start of maths. Then, as I sat trying to absorb what my teaching colleague was saying about simplifying expressions so that I’d stand half a chance if any of the students asked me for extra help, I realised that I could have been guilty of a similar useless obsession during my own summer holidays.

It began last term when a friend arrived at work one morning waving her phone at me and asking whether I’d seen the life-size blue cow at the traffic lights.

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She’d managed to snap it while waiting for the green light to prove that she wasn’t going mad. A few neural cogs chugged around and I vaguely remembered my niece (the arty one), mentioning something about a Cow Parade.

So, on further investigation (OK, I Googled it: isn’t that what we all do these days?), I discovered that The Cow Parade reckons it’s the world’s largest public art event, providing artists and chosen charities a chance to benefit from the scheme. Anyone can sponsor a cow – from individuals, to schools to local businesses or multi million pound companies. Each cow is painted – either by an amateur or an established artist and then auctioned to raise money. There have been Cow Parades in different cities across the world since 1999 and over £2.5 million raised for worthy causes. This year the Cow Parade was coming to the Surrey Hills.

From this point on, my friend – I shall refer to her as WF1 (Work Friend 1) and I were on a mission. To see how many cows we could find over the summer, either by ourselves or by meeting up for a walk which would invariably end in a tea shop and doing a bit of cow-spotting on the way.

We started off enthusiastically enough.

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Here’s one looking nicely out of place at the top of Guildford High Street while this mother and calf greet shoppers at the entrance to the Friary Shopping Centre.

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WF1 was better at it than me and would arrive in the staff room with reports of yet another sighting. We met up for a walk across beautiful countryside ending at the Watts Gallery where a couple of painted cows were grazing, one of which had allegedly been decorated by Sir Peter Blake, designer of the Beatles iconic Sergeant Pepper album cover.

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I think what had really happened here was that he’d allowed his signature to be used. I refuse to believe that one of our foremost pop artists would have been content with simple colour blocking when we could have had something fantastical. And those awful plinths! Whoever attached these sculptures to their bases certainly wasn’t over flowing in the imagination department, were they? A little green paint may have helped, or even a yard or two of Astroturf, which to be fair, I did spot a few days later as I spied a cow in the middle of a round-a-bout outside one of Guildford’s Park and Ride facilities.

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But by this time, WF1 and I were becoming a bit bored by the whole thing. Once you’ve seen one painted cow, you’ve seen them all. I was much more taken with this wooden sculpture which I discovered near the Park and Ride when I stopped to photograph the one on the round-a-bout. Although I must have passed it hundreds of times in the car, the  view was always obscured  by a hedge.

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Called ‘Farm Talk,’ the farmer and his bull were sculpted by Jo Wood in 2004 as part of the Wey Valley Rural Art Project.

The Cow Parade cows are due to be auctioned off on Thursday 20th October at a grand bash at Sandown Park. Tickets are from £10 (standing) or £65 for a three course dinner. It’ll be interesting to see how much these vibrant bovines fetch…and even more interesting – what do you actually do with one, once you’ve bought it?

 

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I come from a family of collectors. When we were children my mother went through phases of collecting different things – piggy banks, china cottages, pill boxes. At the moment I have my suspicions that her assortment of teddy bears is getting larger – she can’t pass a forlorn little furry face without rescuing it from a shop shelf and bringing it home to join the others for a bit of tender loving care. Dad amassed tools. He had a workshop built onto the back of the kitchen which he filled with screwdrivers, chisels, tins of nails and tacks, hammers, saws for any eventuality, bits of wood (my sister and I were always accompanying him to the wood yard), planes, drills, attachments, cans of oil, string and goodness knows what else. Glue. He had a lot of glue.

Dad's workshop looked a little like this

Dad’s workshop looked a little like this model from Brooklands Museum in Surrey

So, as a child, I began collecting things. Shells from days at the beach; bus tickets, theatre tickets and programmes; pencils (I was always buying pencils with pocket money); Enid Blyton books; note pads and drawing paper. I hoarded them all. Imagine my excitement, at around the age of nine or ten, when someone sent me a chain letter with promises of postcards from every corner of the world. All I had to do was send a postcard from my village to the unknown person at the top of the attached list and forward the letter to six friends. Which I dutifully did and then waited with delicious anticipation for my exponential pile of postcards to arrive, once my name had moved to the top of the list. I waited and watched the doormat under the front door every day for the post to arrive. For weeks. After an eternity, three cards dropped through the letter box. Two were from England, one from Wales. And that was it. Forever. No four corners of the earth for me. It was probably this one event that triggered my long-term cynical outlook on life.

My sister and I moved onto other things. We began collecting badges: the cloth ones that could be sewn onto an anorak – rather like those earned in the Brownies or Guides but since neither of us lasted very long in that particular institution we decided to create our own sleeves of honour. These were very popular decades ago, there being no such thing as designer logo back then. We’d buy them on our holidays – woven badges depicting a county, or a particular town or historical place. This was a craze that only lasted as long as the anorak fitted. My sister went on to accumulating  wrapped sugar lumps which she stored in an old cigar box. I think that’s when I gave up and became a minimalist. My brother, in the meantime, was collecting football cards.

I did, however, accumulate a variety of pigs at one point. I made the mistake of admitting I liked them, found them misunderstood and quite cute which was like opening the floodgates for every Christmas and birthday thereafter. They ended up stuffed in a box and then farmed out to charity shops.

So I don’t think I’m really a collector of things. A collector has to be dogged; determined and should enjoy displaying (and dusting) whatever it is that’s being sought. When Son was learning the clarinet at around the age of eleven, we had to visit the home of the piano accompanist who would take him through his music exam rehearsal. Her home was full of frogs. Everywhere. Wooden, knitted, metal, fabric, macramé. On cushions, tea towels, on teacups and saucers. There were pictures on the walls of frogs and she had stone ornaments of them in various poses in her garden. This was extreme collecting. To be honest, it was creepy. She even looked a little amphibian herself. I was glad when the half hour session was over.

Is storing one’s own stories collecting, do you think? If it is, then I am still a collector of sorts. Trawling through my computer files this week, I came across this 300 flash, written some time ago in response to “Theft” – a creative writing prompt.

Mavis opened the battered leather case and stroked the faded purple velvet into which the six silver apostle spoons were nestled. They were perfect; just in need of a shine. Holding her polishing cloth in one hand, she took one of the spoons in the other and twirled it around on the cloth until the little figure shone with a soft glow as she rubbed the tarnish away. She would check the hallmark later in the little reference book Mr Hennessy had given her, after she had expressed an interest one morning, whilst wiping his mantelpiece.

Of course when Mr Hennessy died suddenly, a couple of years ago, it had come as a shock. Mavis had worked for the Hennessy’s for years but she was even more shocked when, continuing her employment, she discovered that Mrs Hennessy had no taste, preferring to display garish china dogs rather than the beautiful pieces of silver Mr Hennessy had collected over the years. She found his collection one morning, stuffed into the back of the sideboard, unloved and forgotten. She took the pieces out, polished them and arranged them on a table but the following week they were back in their cupboard and she was left to dust the loathsome Staffordshire spaniels.

The eighteenth century cow creamer came home first – it looked lovely under Mavis’ lamp in her front room. Next came the owls cruet set and the Mappin and Webb porringer; a tiny snuff box with an enamel lid (in which Mavis kept her sweeteners); an ivory handled paper knife, a pair of Victorian berry spoons and the Paul Storr coffee pot, in use every day since.  What Mavis was doing with Mr Hennessy’s collection couldn’t be classed as stealing, she told herself: it was appreciating.

What do you collect?

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