Souvenirs provide touchstones for memoriesWritten by Roger Holliday Claudia Fischer | | firstname.lastname@example.org
We’re never averse to borrowing a bon mot or two wherever we find it, especially when it comes from British friend (and TFP travel correspondent) Keith Fletcher.
We were sitting in our living room chatting with him on the phone about a future trans-Atlantic visit and events from our mutual past when he closed with a typical Fletcherian flourish:
“Yes, even nostalgia isn’t what it used to be!”
Well, we’re not so sure of that, because looking around a room loaded with tchotchkes captured during a lifetime of travel, we realized how every item we’ve ever collected, while of negligible monetary value, still manages to trigger instant nostalgia for a particular place, a special person, a great adventure and, as such, is priceless.
To us, at least.
Like two black and red graffitied fragments of the Berlin Wall and a couple of tiny model Trabant cars — one in blue ceramic, the other in pea green metal — that will forever transport us back to an epic East German journey in the winter of 1989 and the unexpected hospitality of a Dresden family who welcomed us into their modest home — we were the very first Westerners they had ever seen!
Then there are the pebbles. Several of them, celebrating long-distance walks. Along the River Thames. And across Britain. Plus a more substantial wooden plaque etched with dates, distances, names and some battered boots and bleating sheep.
On another shelf sit pieces of Polish folk art — in leather and glass — from trips to Krakow and Warsaw and the Tatra Mountains. There’s also leaded crystal from the early days of the Czech Republic. A hand-colored quirky cartoon of Prague city spires. A carved wooden loving spoon from a Welsh mining village. And models of a double decker bus and a London taxi mingling with an assortment of coffee mugs and a marble statuette of David picked up at Michelangelo’s house in Florence.
On the fireplace mantel, our parade of bibelots continues, anchored by a large and fanciful drawing of Bergen Harbor, home base for a fleet of freighters that daily ply the rugged Norwegian coast to Kirkenes — 600 miles north of the Arctic Circle.
Our print, discovered in a Bergen art gallery, duplicates one in the stairwell of our favorite freighter, the M/S Narvik (now decommissioned), that we rode up to the Russian border on several occasions.
Alongside is an exquisitely flowered papier-mache plate born in Kashmir but picked up for a song from an artisan’s workshop in northern Sweden … a battered pewter bowl from the Loire Valley … and an Australian vase in brown and yellow Outback hues from Adelaide.
More Antipodean memories come from stuffed koalas and kangaroos, CDs of Aussie folk music, a Sydney scene that lights up and plays “Waltzing Matilda” on demand and a beautiful and rather expensive print of a lush rain forest Jabiru bought in an art store in Palm Cove, Northern Oz, to celebrate a wedding … or a special birthday … or an anniversary. Can’t quite remember which, but we love it anyway!
One memento stands supreme, however.
It’s a silver-plated horseshoe mounted on a plaque and given to us by a dear departed friend, Robin Porter.
Robin was a mounted policeman attached to the royal household where he looked after Burmese, the queen of England’s favorite horse. Robin rode with the queen in parades and on state visits and when she exercised Burmese in the grounds of Windsor Castle.
Our horseshoe was worn by Burmese during the Trooping of the Colour on June 14, 1986.
Reminding us of other quadrapeds … and of high Swiss mountain meadows … are three real-deal cowbells bought at an Interlaken farm store. The canals and carnivals of Venice come to life in original art from a talented Toledo artist and travel friend, Tom Durnford. While astride a bannister watching all the in-house action sits Fred, an uncharacteristically large, black Beanie bear hailing from the very hotel in Michigan’s U.P. where “Anatomy of a Murder” was filmed 50 years ago.
And so it goes.
Pictures. Mugs. Models. Statuettes. Stuffed animals. Stones. Rocks. And CDs. Knickknacks picked up in a half century of overseas travel, providing us with instant memories and proving our friend all wrong.
Because nostalgia is still alive and well … and living in our house.
We have the stuff to prove it!
E-mail Roger Holliday and Claudia Fischer at email@example.com.