A neighbour once admired my ‘collection’ of wooden boxes.   I thought, I don’t have a ‘collection’.    Collections are useless gatherings of unnecessary stuff that take up room and need dusting.

I once visited a house whose fairly large sitting room was shelved from floor to ceiling and filled
with hundreds of ceramic ladies.   I thought it was the stuff of nightmares.

So, I’m not a collector.    I just like boxes, and over the years I seem to have acquired a few.   How many?   One or two, I haven’t counted…

The first one I was given, I no longer possess.   (Possibly one of my children or grandchildren now has it.)
A girl I never particularly liked, but who had a knack for present giving, gave me a carved softwood Indian box with red lining.   I was always torn between love of the box, and memories of her.    I suppose she was
a nice enough girl but she was excessively organised and tidy.   Every theatre programme she had ever had was stored in date order in an attractive box tied with red ribbon.     She had a truly overwhelming desire to be married, and her wedding was planned down to the details of the flowers on the table, only no prospective husband had as yet turned up.    All her energies were devoted to this aim, and I think what she actually wanted of me was someone to share the hunt.      I on the other hand did not want to be
the pursuer but the pursued.        I found the whole state of affairs rather alarming, and felt sorry for the husband who would one day blunder into this trap.   I do not know what became of her, but I imagine she did find a husband – she had natural blonde hair, good legs, and was prepared to please – in the short term anyway.   I loved the box, but I suspect it is because of my recollection of her that I no longer own it.

Among the boxes (not that many…) that seem to have found a place in this house, are two that I love, of
dark wood painted with roses, which judging from their shape I imagine were  meant to hold a lady’s handkerchiefs and gloves, and these were given me by  John’s Aunt.    She also gave me a very
small wooden box with a ceramic rose plaque on it.   I have a box whose lid is made from the rare
Huron pine from Tasmania, which was almost brought to extinction because it  made such fine ships.    I have a  marquetry box I think from Morocco given me by Elisabeth, and a white painted  and inlaid with shell box from Africa given me by (Rory or Elisabeth.)    By my chair is a heavy metal engraved box
brought from India by Rory and Sarah which I keep filled with little cards to  entertain my grandchildren.    I have a  black enamel box from Kyoto with storks on it.    Recently arrived is a cylindrical box of
cherry bark from Kiroshiki, which I had  sadly decided was too expensive but John bought me anyway.    Some of ‘our’ boxes are used by John – I  suppose he imagines he owns them!    There is a marquetry one, showing Fuji that we bought in Hakone.    There is one with metal within its design  which I won in a raffle.   I had already  won a fridge in that raffle, and I am afraid when I saw the second prize was a
box, I did not return it to be redistributed as I might otherwise have done.   We also have two round wooden boxes for  cuff-links or similar items, 5 of which we bought under a bridge in Melbourne,  and the other three of which are owned by Rory, Lawrence, and Elisabeth’s ex  boyfriend.   When she and he parted, I
did regret the box!    I also have larger  Japanese wooden boxes which were used to store ceramics (now there’s another  love, but that’s a different story…)    These boxes have Japanese writing on them, which I presume says the name  of the shop, but I don’t know that.

My children share my  enthusiasm, and when Elisabeth was quite a small girl, I lent her £42 – a huge
investment for her – and she bought 7 carved dark wooden boxes from India,  which are now in Japan housing her jewellery, and in the company of her growing  collection of boxes and jewellery.

I don’t really know why I like  boxes so much.    Someone once told me it  was because they shut, and were, like me, full of secrets.   (I don’t know what she meant;  I am sunny and transparent, an open book, as
you all know.)

I like keeping ‘stuff’ in  the boxes.   I like the feel and the  shape and the smell of them.   I like the
skill that has gone into the making.    I  like to remember the tree that it came from and the country of its origin.    I just like boxes.

No, I’m not a  collector.   They just come, somehow.


About adhocannie
I am a good natured woman with a long memory and a swift tongue. I like loooking at things and thinking about them. Also food, clothes, travel, reading, sewing. I try to see the ridiculous in things, but sobriety of reflection keeps edgting in. I have husband, children, grandchildren, friends... I feel rich in things that matter. I am a happy exile. I like writing. I do not like talking about me (though I do.). You willl be much more interesting.

3 Responses to BOXING CLEVER

  1. adhocannie says:

    My friend Elizabeth from Oxford sent me this poem which I like. I’ve come across Gillian Clarke before and liked her poems, worth study.

    My Box

    My box is made of golden oak,
    my lover’s gift to me.
    He fitted hinges and a lock
    of brass and a bright key.
    He made it out of winter nights,
    sanded and oiled and planed,
    engraved inside the heavy lid
    in brass, a golden tree.

    In my box are twelve black books
    where I have written down
    how we have sanded, oiled and planed,
    planted a garden, built a wall,
    seen jays and goldcrests, rare red kites,
    found the wild heartsease, drilled a well,
    harvested apples, words and days
    and planted a golden tree.

    On an open shelf I keep my box;
    its key is in the lock.
    I leave it there for you to read,
    Or them, when we are dead,
    how everything is slowly made,
    how slowly things made me:
    a tree, a lover, words, a box,
    books and a golden tree.

    Gillian Clarke

    Thank to Elizabeth.

  2. Sheena Murphy says:

    One of the things I love about boxes is the immediate allure they lend to the contents, even if only paper clips or hair elastics. Whatever you put in a box instantly becomes a treasure: hidden, private, special.

    One of my favourite boxes is a blonde wooden box with two drawers which Geoff gave me decades ago filled with champagne and cognac truffles. The truffles, while sinfully delicious, hardly rivalled the container. I love to open and close the perfectly fitted drawers, admire the dove-tailing, and put things away, tidy and ordered.

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