Thursday, January 21, 2010

memory, netsuke, words

My first beautiful thing for today is a broom standing against the hedge with snow on its moustache. There should have been a photograph of it here, but a mysterious window persistently appears, when I try to transfer the photograph from Picassa to the blog; and what is worse, when I try unsuccessfully to save my text. It says: "We are sorry but we were unable to complete your request." My carefully crafted words meanwhile have vanished with the picture. There is a code in the window, which means nothing to me. It is bx-l1gck6. I try clicking "help", but all I find is a forum where one or two other people have experienced the same problem, and no solutions are offered. Is my broom subversive? Am I being censored? Franz Kafka might have understood or at least have been sympathetic, were he alive today.
I step into the fishmongers, I talk to Nick. I have known him now for many years. He used to work at Mears, the fishmonger at the bottom of Mount Sion. When Mears closed, he transferred to Jones the fishmonger in Camden Road which was, at the time, the last independent fishmonger in Tunbridge Wells. When Jones' lease expired and was not renewed, Nick moved to the fish counter at Sainsbury's and he remained there until a few months ago. His release from supermarket servitude came when the fish restaurant, Sankey's extended its business into fish mongering. As soon as Sankey's opened, he moved there with characteristic enthusiasm. Nick is a good filleter of fish, but he has another claim to fame. He is a collector of netsuke. These are small Japanese toggles consisting of beautifully carved animals, birds and human figures. They are sculpted of materials such as wood, stone, porcelain and ivory. They were used to secure the little sacks used by Japanese men as part of their traditional dress, in place of pockets. Antique and contemporary netsuke are now recognised as works of art for their own sake. There are collectors all over the world . Nick tells me that he has seen one at a dealers which he has fallen in love with, and has asked the dealer to put aside for him. As we stand beside the ice and seaweed strewn slab laden with goggling fish, he tells me that he has spent two sleepless nights thinking about it. It is, he says, a mermaid carved in wood. It seems to me to be a most appropriate netsuke for him to add to his collection, and I hope that he will find the means to acquire it.
In the Oxfam bookshop, there are often elderly ladies in charge who, judging by their conversation, do not know one another well. As I browse I hear one say to the other. "Words are my great fascination." I listen for a response but there is none. The ensuing silence seems desperate for words.


Lucy said...

I fell in love with the netsuke collection in the V&A years ago, a tiny snail for example, on which you could see every vein and almost the slime on its skin. Reading 'The Children's Book' has got me thinking about the V&A, and how much I'd like to go there again. Then I remember a reference to them in, I think, a Barbara Pym novel, about someone who didn't want to think of them when visiting the dentist, because of their resemblance to bad teeth!

The figure of the netsuke-collecting fishmonger yet again confirms my image of TW as the most effortlessly cultivated spot in the whole world. Though your lost-for-words Oxfam shop ladies perhaps put this in doubt? Or perhaps the statement just appeared to them such a truism it didn't merit a reply...

CC said...

So many of your commentaries inspire thought.

The Fish Man and his longed for Netsuke is so
wonderful. Hope I get to know whether or not
he gets his prize.

herhimnbryn said...

Netsuke. Thankyou for reminding me of these beautiful works of art.

The fishmonger and his need for the mermaid netsuke.....there's a short story there.