I’ve been collecting charms for the last few years. Metaphorical ones, not silver. I’ve plenty of those– and I rarely wear the bracelet.
It was a present from my parents when I was little. A special request when no doubt it was a newly fashionable thing. Again. What goes around (the wrist) comes around, right?
It made life easy for gift-givers for a while, witness some of the oddities on the links.
My almost-but-not-quite-brother-in-law (the engagement fell through) bought the most memorable. He had a sense of humour and liked beer. So no surprise it was he who bought me a pub that opened – by its floor – to show a drunk inside.
That drunk is now locked in the pub forever, eternally merry, belligerent – or dead. The floor kept falling open, snagging on things, so it had to be soldered shut.
Memories of many hues dangle from the chain. Poignant, sharp or fuzzy (why a lawnmower? Whoever bought a little girl that? My father, wishfully thinking?).
She went with my not-a-real-aunty Maureen, because my father wouldn’t fly. But that – and a ban, following a disastrous ear operation – didn’t stop my mum.
I was helping to run a conference about electricity. And I fell sick, of course. Did I brush my teeth in tap water, asked seasoned travellers? Whatever. It’s the only time I’ve ever had an injection in my bum because I was vomiting.
And, most recently, an unearned, stylised shell from Santiago. Bought by my lovely Prof.
We neither of us walked the Camino, but the memory shines bright. Perhaps all the brighter for want of blisters.
Or lack of reason.
My new charms are not possessions. Yet, I can ‘own’ them if I choose.
I recently added a new one to the collection. I’d only just realised I was collecting, or I’d have added it before.
We’d spent a wintry night at a nature reserve, in a wood. Stargazing.
There I saw a galaxy – a galaxy! – called Andromeda, through a small telescope. I saw blue-hot stars shining from light years away. I saw mountains on the moon, the dusty ring of a nebula and the celestial hoops around Saturn.
I saw lights that may have long-since ceased to shine. How can this be?
No, don’t explain, I know there are answers, but that doesn’t mean I want to understand. I like the unsolved mystery, the wonder, the unfathomableness of it all.
It was awesome. And I was in awe.
But wait, that’s not the charm. The stars are not for owning, not even metaphorically.
Two days later, a drear Sunday, out we set. The heavens had spoken. We had to go.
I’ve written about it before, Jodrell Bank. There’s something humbling yet inspiring about the place.
One man’s vision come to fruition. A classic British back-of-a-fag-packet project that, in the 1950s, led the world.
Sir Bernard Lovell. A pioneer.
It was from here that the Russian Sputnik – and the first dog to travel into space – were tracked.
The debt-ridden early radio telescope became viable when the USA began sprinting into space to keep up with the Russians. They needed its then-unique expertise and camped out in the grounds. Read the fascinating stories here.
And it’s goosebump-inducing to think you can listen to the sound of the big bang. At the push of a button. No really, here:
Anyway, that dreary Sunday we took out a year’s membership. Despite the unusually unpalatable lunch in the cafe. Despite the fact that scaffolding was up around the telescope itself and the hoped-for magical movement was not going to happen. It will, one day.
They’re tarnished. By humans.
We have a penchant for managing things.
We manage gardens and woodlands, coasts and lakes, rivers and streams, museums and galleries.
Which means sometimes, they lose their shine. For me, anyway.
Museums turn hyperactive. Long grasses are shorn and graceful trees lopped.
Ground is churned by tractors, spoiling the …
But I’m learning to leave well alone. To push such temporary tarnishings to the back of the mental drawer till their time comes round again.
For even intangible charms have their season.
And sometimes, a reason.
But then again, sometimes, not.