October 17, 2011

Objects and memories

This morning I dropped off our second child at the train station to go and see friends in London and have an overnight stay with beloved grandparents who live in a rather groovy part of West London.

Until a few years ago my parents had always and forever lived in period properties, and over many years have collected and I suppose curated a lovely, quirky collection of old books and antiques, often picked up for a song when they were deeply unfashionable buys in the "let's all go plastic-fantastic" sixties and seventies. Birthday presents to eachother, anniversary tokens, holiday purchases - now furnishing their first modern apartment with its underfloor heating and underground parking. The clever thing is they have made these possessions look right at home and cosy in their unlikely setting. And when I visit I see the same objects that surrounded me when I mooched on a beanbag watching Sesame Street and Play away, opened my Christmas stockings, gazed listlessly from the sofa giddy with chickenpox or the mumps...

And they are woven about with childhood memories, floating fragments of half-forgotton events and emotions, sometimes strong enough for me to want to reach out and touch them, not because I really love them as objects but for the link they are to my childhood and to my mum and dad. I remember sitting for  the sculptress who made the bronze busts of me and my sister and the stainedglass-in-clay mini windows she made with us to thank us for sitting still so long, and I love the pictures of Napoleon and Frederick the Great my dad is fond of, and the watercolours of Norfolk marshes and boats, and portraits of my grandmothers because they were the backdrop to the walls of my past. It is entirely to my parents credit of course that these evoke such feelings of security and happiness because it is a childhood they made for me.

yep, that's me rocking the '70s urchin look!

My parents do seem to live by that well know phrase of William Morris', to have only "that which you believe to be beautiful or know to be useful". Even the useful things, the door stop, fruit bowl or washing up utensils are pleasing to the eye,

Isn't it strange how we embue inanimate objects with emotion, feel them pulse with memory and love and whispers of the past? I really like the notion of having a light touch on material things - you know, that they are only things, that people and relationships are where my heart lies, and yet these funny little objects, they make me smile, they feel touched by the living history of my family. Do you feel this way about certain objects?


  1. Hello, I have just come across your beautiful blog via Madeleif, what a fascinating and stylish home your parents have, its not always the building that makes a home, it is the people and their personalities. What beautiful busts of you and your sister! Thank you for sharing such a lovely home with us!

  2. Welcome Jill, thanks so much for your kind words! I kinda always wished I looked slightly less like the artful dodger in that bust!!!

  3. i am in love with this post and their place belinda. o my goodness! love the busts and all the little bric a brac that make up their home and such beautiful memories. you really are blessed.


  4. Oh my, such beautiful things, and that elephant is just gorgeous ... how wonderful that your parents have so many reminders of your growing up still in their possession.

  5. Some items here are indeed useful, but they certainly are all very beautiful... William Morris would have definitely approved!
    Please tell your father I was delighted to receive his letter of thanks for 'Whalton Tales'. I am so glad he enjoyed reading about the production, and I would be happy for him to keep the copy I sent. Abby xx

  6. Wonderful post, Belinda! Will you tell me about that flower arrangement in the urn? Is it silk?

  7. No wonder you have such an eye, you clearly come by it naturally.

    I too love objects for the sentiments and feeling of well being they induce in me.

    Lovely post. good night:)

    xo Jane

  8. A post to dwell upon. Lovely vignettes in word and picture.

  9. How very English. Your parents have wonderful taste, I can see where you get it from.

  10. Beautiful post Belinda, both in pictures and words.
    Nice to see you sporting the urchin look in the 70's...I had a similar look in the 60's....always with short hair and wishing I had long hair like my best friend!
    Julie x

  11. ' Lying on the sofa giddy with mumps' ...... oh I remember it well! Isn't it strange how important some of these items can still be even when we are adult and have left home. In spite of everything that happens, we still love to know that our original 'home' is still there as it should be? xx

  12. You are right Belinda, it is more like a curated collection, I love all things wooden, and would love to stroke the lovely wooden apple box, and touch the drawers, and don't get me started on the books...

  13. Hi Belinda,
    Don't know if my comments were posted or not....
    Had some problems with publishing, blogger!

    Here again:
    A lovely and very thoughtful post indeed.
    All these wonderful memories, making life richer.

    Greetings from the Périgord,

  14. Such beautiful objects, and - yes, they actually LOOK loved too.

  15. Dear Belinda,

    Your parents live in a beautiful apartment. I like the combination of old and new and art. Those sculptured heads are very pretty!

    Yes, I have a lot of objects in my home which are full of memories and emotions too; an old mirror from my very classy spinster aunt, a menu card from the boat my grandparents and father came home with in 1945 after five years in a Japanese prison camp, the Art Deco table my other grandmother had in her bedroom. I could go on an on...I cannot do without them. They keep the memories of those special people alive. I love to add new memories too :-)!

    Have a lovely evening,

    Madelief x

  16. I have lots of things in my house which have come from relatives long gone - sometimes I think that I should declutter, but the memories attached to them make them too precious.

    Pomona x

  17. What a lovely post. Thanks for adding your link to Beach Cottage Good Life Wednesdays.

  18. Yes yes yes! I agree with you whole heartedly..." feel them pulse with memory and love and whispers of the past?" this line you wrote is amazing and encaptures exactly how I feel.You have yet another talent. I LOVE LOVE THIS POST!!! Simply beautiful...Sinead x