Tuesday, 17 June 2014


Looking back and trying to place events in their proper time frame years after the fact can sometimes be a difficult task.  When we're able to associate a particular incident with a specific, cover-dated periodical (for example), the job becomes a lot easier;  however, without such an aid, accurate attribution of when things occurred can seldom be an exact science.  Unless one has a meticulously recorded diary, that is - and all too few of us do.

The event I am about to share is insignificant in the great scheme of things;  as is so much of what we regard as important to ourselves, and which we often imagine, in our vanity, to have far-reaching implications of immense profundity beyond our own finite sphere of influence and existence.  Don't we all consider ourselves, subconsciously (unconsciously even), to be the centre around which the entire universe revolves?  Of course we do.  And it's the occasions when we're reminded that such is not the case which often cause the biggest frustrations in life.

The following recollection is one of immense triviality.  (If such a stark contradiction in terms can be permitted.)  It is a tale of no consequence, banal, mundane, uninteresting - to anyone but myself, that is.  I offer it in the hope that you may be able to relate to it, inasmuch as it may remind you of a similar circumstance in your own life, and that you may take comfort from the fact that you are not so removed from the common condition of humankind as you may sometimes think (or fear).


When I was a boy, my parents had a porcelain ornament which I took note of almost as soon as the power of sequential thought and memory first dawned within me.  It was a little log, on which pink and yellow petals, underscored with green leaves, were arranged in a splendoured-display along the glazed brown bark which gave home to them.  I was probably only about 3 years old when it first introduced itself into my consciousness.

The seasons passed with regular inevitability, so let's now jump to either 1970 or '71, when I was in my first year at secondary school and aged about 11 or 12.  I was also two houses removed from the one in which this particular ornament had first come to my attention.  Even at that extremely young age, it represented a link to my cherished past which I was reluctant - nay, unable to relinquish.  I lived in and for the past;  I 'looked back' to such an extent that I should have turned into a pillar of salt long before ever reaching the age I then was.

One night, by prior arrangement, two classmates (who'd invited me to a youth club in the school across the road from the one we attended) called in for me.  I had previously been a member of the Boys' Brigade in this school some years before, and I was looking forward to reacquainting myself with its interiors.  The two lads were STUART MacDONALD and AIDEN DICK (whose nickname was probably 'Tiny'), and when they rang the bell, in my eagerness to put on my jacket, a flapping sleeve knocked the small ornament from its place atop the wooden fire-surround, whereupon it smashed to pieces on the tiled surface below.

I was dismayed and my parents were understandably annoyed, but with the callousness of youth, I suppressed my guilt (a temporary condition) and made my way with my two companions to our destination.  As it turned out, I didn't stay long at the club;  a combination of melancholy at unwittingly destroying the glazed log, dissatisfaction with the club itself, and anger at finding that the dastardly-duo had only invited me along in order to try and swindle me out of my entrance fee.  (An attempt that was doomed to failure.  They would have needed the A-TEAM to accomplish that - and they weren't around back then.)

I never forgot that ornament.  The years passed and I grew to adulthood, but, periodically, I would recall that night and cringe with shame at my part in the little log's destruction.  If ever I was at a Jumble Sale or Christmas Fayre, I would keep an eye out for one to replace it - but I was never successful in my aspiration.  It must have been about 32 or 33 years later that I saw its double in a charity shop, and - despite the unrealistic price that such establishments seem to place on much of their stock these days - I readily handed over my cash.

Well, I've had that replacement for around 11 years now.  I look at it every so often and my guilt at the murder of its twin is assuaged somewhat - 'though never completely.  It's strange to think that most of my life has been lived in its absence, because now that its doppelganger graces the same shelf-space the original would have occupied had it survived, it's almost as if history has been magically rewritten to include it in my memories of the time when it wasn't around.

Needless to say (but I'll say it anyway), it's a good feeling to be reunited with a familiar object from childhood and I derive a mixture of comfort, pleasure, and satisfaction from its presence.  It's as if I've redeemed myself (however slightly) for some heinous sin, the shame of which has haunted me for most of my life and from which I thought I'd never be free.

Is there a moral to this story?  Or even a point to it, as some of the more critical amongst you may be wondering.  I'm sure there is, even if it's as difficult to articulate as providing precise dates for the foregoing events is elusive.  However, my work is done.  I've given you the clay; 'tis now your task to reflect, to ponder - then fashion it into whichever shape you think may serve you best.


Colin Jones said...

Kid, an accident is an accident and I don't see what there was to feel guilty about - I once walked into the bathroom and found a cup filled with murky water so I flushed it down the loo only to discover the cup had contained my sister's gold ring which had been soaking in some kind of cleaning solution ! On the other hand, she went on holiday to Butlin's with her friend's family and lost my camera which I'd lent her. Ah, happy days.....?

Kid said...

I felt guilty because I was responsible for the accident, Col, and because part of my past had now been destroyed. I don't think something being an accident absolves the person responsible of culpability, as accidents don't 'just happen' - they're caused (so runs the old saying).

Incidentally, what was worth more, the ring or the camera? And did either of you make restoration?

Colin Jones said...

Kid, neither the ring or the camera were very expensive but I suppose the ring was worth more. I remember my sister making a huge fuss and me saying what a stupid place to leave a ring - neither of us compensated the other for our losses ! But you are right that just saying something is an accident doesn't completely resolve the situation. What I meant was what happened with your log was one of those unfortunate things with no malice intended and a genuine mistake can't really be helped. By the way, my sister and I were both regretful over each others' loss in case I gave the impression we didn't care !

Paul McScotty -Muir said...

Oh the memories we had that self same "log" in our house (well my mum and dads house) when I was a kid of about 9 or 10 and it was actually one of the few items my brother or myself never broke.

My brother and myself used to play football in the house as soon as my mum and dad went out (usually for the shopping) we would roll up 3 or 4 pairs of thick socks and hold them together with an elastic band and begin our version of the Scottish Football Cup - the radiogram was one goal the alcove to the kitchen another and almost without fail a clock or nik nak would be hit by the "ball" and be chipped (in fact our wall clock which had fin appendages a la 1970s designs was a maze of clue repairs at the back ) we would put the more expensive items in the kitchen so as not to break them but one day we forgot and we broke my mums ornamental Chinese lady just in time we managed to sort it before my parents returned home but thought it would only be matter of time till we were found out, and we were the next day my Dad was looking at it and said " some things wrong here lads did you two ...." before he could finish his sentence (and us dreading the outcome) my Dad dropped the ornament and without dropping a line said "ok lads heres the story you banged against the cabinet it was an accident I wasn't here and we'll say nothing to your mum about her clock (which we had chipped weekly playing footy) .." However, my dad being the kind man he was went out the next day and bought my mum a new (identical ) Chinese lady (which my brother and myself broke a few years later). My mum never kept things too long (and was never a fan of a lot of ornaments in the house) putting them away and changing them around regularly (although the wee China lady she did keep for many years)and she loved ot hear that story which I would tell her after my wee Dad and brother had passed away - II was one of the clumsiest boys around if I carried guilt over things like that I'd be in home - enjoy the positive side of the memory - and why did you call your pal Tiny Aiden? :)

Kid said...

I think it would've been smarter of your sister to mention that she had a ring she was cleaning in the bathroom, Col, but I think curiosity would have compelled me to check the cup before I emptied it. At least you're still on speaking terms, so no harm done, eh?


Ah, McScotty, it's reminiscences like this that make doing this blog so worthwhile. You've painted a wee slice of life that I'm sure is familiar to just about everybody, and done it so well, that it's almost like the reader is there along with you and your brother. Did I hear someone say give that man his own blog?

Colin Jones said...

Kid, unfortunately my sister died in 1988 but I think she forgave me for the ring incident - we got on fine usually !

Kid said...

That's a shame, Col, and it's possible that you may have already mentioned that sad event. Unfortunately, my memory for relatively recent information isn't as good as it once was. At least you were on good terms before she passed, which is nice.

Colin Jones said...

No problems, Kid - yes, I have mentioned it but I don't remember when either. Well, I'm off to bed now so fare thee well till tomorrow's blog.

Kid said...

Ooer, I'd better start thinking about what I'm going to write.

DeadSpiderEye said...

On the subject of accidents not being random events, it's a philosophical question really, in that it depends on how you think of it.It's true folk often dismiss minor tragedies, or even the severe ones come to that, as accident, frequently to negate their own culpability. Accident and the nature of randomness have been the subject of a lot of thought by some smart people, with not much to show for it. After Isaac Newton, the universe became completely deterministic and most smart people, or rather people who thought of themselves as smart, thought that truly random events were impossible. Max Planke put a big hole in that view of reality when he discovered that energy was propagated in discreet particles, which presents the possibility that Newton's third law can be circumvented.

Myself I think of accidents as negative encounters with risk, I should refine that really because not all accidents are unhappy, some of 'em can be fortunate. The thing is you can't avoid risk, you can reduce risk, and it's likely that will mean you have fewer accidents. Conversely those who keep doing stupid things will have more 'em, although unfortunately the consequences of such will not be confined to themselves. So should you chastise yourself for this particular mishap? Propably not, it would be painfully pedantic to penalise youthful exuberance by forcing to a child to put his coat on in the hall every time his friends called, just because there's a small risk he might knock something over. I think placing breakable ornaments out of reach of the odd swishing garment would be a more efficacious all round.

Kid said...

Everything you say makes sense, but my guilt was caused by the result more than the circumstances that led to it. Nobody means to 'cause' an accident, of course, but they usually occur through carelessness and can be avoided by a little forethought. Perhaps my parents shouldn't have placed the ornament in a location where it could be knocked over, but equally one can argue that as it was where it was, I should have been mindful of the possibility of mishap and not stood where my flapping sleeve could cause damage, however inadvertently.

Oh, it's a big subject for such a small ornament, eh?

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