That author who doesn't appear to have a proof reader didn't reply you know...and who can blame him, he probably thought I was being sarcastic or maybe he doesn't plan on writing any more books soon...
I used to be a bit afraid of contacting 'famous people' until I wanted to know about woven saddle bags for Yaks. And then I found a National Geographic photographer who'd spent time in Tibet and such places, and his e-mail, and so I asked him and he replied immediately with a wealth of interesting information and was so nice and not in the least bit patronising...it was he who told me the Tibetan people put their babies into the saddlebags when they are on the move from one place to another...I could just see a little face peeping out to watch a slow procession of Yaks cross the high snow covered plateaus...
It is the provenance of objects which holds my interest...our saddlebag coming from Tibet...stitched together with strands of Yak hair. It cost me a small fortune, but I so wanted this heavy woven fabric bag which once laid across the back of a patient Yak from a far away country I'll never see.
We have three small oval brass tins...they were for a fisherman...probably a Victorian fisherman. Marked on the lids are the clues to their contents...Maggots, Bait and Worms. I think I found them in an antique fair in Norwich...they were only a couple of pounds but I liked them and had fun imagining an earnest man in his plus-fours sitting on a river bank a hundred years ago carefully putting a maggot onto the hook. He probably smoked a pipe and he might have taken his sons with him...and a picnic in a wicker basket. Ham sandwiches and pound cake and a flask of cold tea.
They'd have wanted to catch a fish for their supper I expect, or maybe they grew bored and went off to explore the river bank and to try to catch the dragon-flies...
I have a very small collection of old clay pipes...found while I was digging the garden over. Now those belonged to the farm workers...the ag.labs of Ancestry. They were cheap to buy and everyone smoked one...old women sat on their doorsteps watching the world go by with a clay pipe clamped in their toothless mouths...young boys smoked proudly...old men had their baccy tins safe in their trouser pockets and young married men thought it the height of hospitality to offer a pinch or two of baccy from the tin kept high on the mantel above the fire.
Who owned the pipes I've found...I've no idea. It might have been Mikey's Father or his Grandfather...
And my most favourite treasure I think must be the book I have which is a collection of remedies for everything from Leprosy to Consumption...it's tatty and decidedly scruffy and down at heel and I have to put it back on the shelf with a length of stout ribbon to hold it altogether...it was published in 1837 and holds a wealth of information...mostly bloodletting and leeches and copious amounts of opium...that came from a junk stall and cost me fifty pence...I like to think of the household it once belonged to...the mother and wife consulting its pages when one of her babies had a fever or the garden boy cut his hand while trimming the hedge...I rather think she used it a great deal...someone has added notations in careful script about the exact amounts of laudenham to use...
That book is old enough, but another book I have which is even older, is a gardening book...written in 1727 it gives advice on everything from growing peaches to when to plant out winter cabbage...to how many wheel barrows of ripe stable manure to put on the rose bushes to the importance of raking the gravel paths daily...it is written in careful English...probably intended for the head gardeners of huge estates who had been schooled in literacy before taking on their posts...
How strange to think that a treatise on growing flowers in a hothouse... heated by underground boilers...and instructions for harvesting ripe peaches and apricots...never mind the plain cabbage...has come here to live on a shelf on a dresser in a tiny scruffy cottage on the edge of a bog in the west of Ireland.
Such tales my gatherings from tatty stalls in market towns could tell...from the fragments of old clay pipes...and the beautiful saddlebag once used on a Yak to carry little children to the winter hunting grounds...the old books, their pages tatty and torn, and pock-marked with mould, were once the prize possessions of people I shall never know...