Sunday, 22 July 2018

Out with the new. In with the old.

I am now the proud owner of a complete set of Encyclopaedia Britannica from 1962. 

I didn't set out to buy a set of encyclopaedias. I mean, why would anyone want a bulky source of fifty-six-year-old information, half of which is now hopelessly outdated? 

The rapid changes that take place in the modern world have made it impossible for encyclopaedias to stay current. 
The internet has made them completely unnecessary.
So why did I buy a set of encyclopaedias?

Well, it started with a chair. 

Or perhaps it really started with my love of old things.

A psychologically savvy person might say that, as I age, I'm trying to convince myself that old things have just as much worth as perfect, shiny, new things.  

My husband, the Great Dane, might say that I've lost the plot.

But I would say that I love old things because they have a solidity, a beauty and a history that new things simply do not have.

The history, especially, is what sucks me in. I love to imagine the stories behind old objects.

Take this hot water pot, for instance.

I bought it at the op shop a few years ago because, as soon as I laid eyes on it, I saw a whole world of CWA gatherings taking place around it. 

I pictured a large, sunny, slightly dusty country hall, filled with trellis tables and those funny old metal seats with the curved backs. The tables were covered in white linen cloths and laden with scones, sponge cakes, lamingtons, Anzac bickies and chocolate slices. 

Seated around the tables were ladies with names like Alice and Maude and Betty, dressed in their Sunday best, handbags in laps, lipstick and powder slightly too thick, smiling and laughing and catching up on the week's news. Back and forth between the tables bustled several plump ladies - Lorna, Jean and Marg. They wore floral aprons and carried giant teapots with which they filled the other ladies' cups. 
My op shop pot was there, of course, being carried about by a blustery woman named Deidre. Deidre's forehead was sweaty but her smile was soft. She leaned over people's shoulders, saying, 'A bit of hot water to weaken that tea, love? It's a bit stewy after sitting in the pot.'
And the ladies at the table smiled and nodded and tittered about the date scones, promising to save one for Deidre when she finally sat down and joined them because, my word, wasn't she a worker and what would the CWA do without her? 
All this from one plain old pot.

Old picnic sets, thermoses, hats with veils, fox-skin shawls, ancient lawn bowls, wooden tennis rackets, knitted dolls, Scrabble sets with wooden letters, typewriters, pigeon holes ripped from office walls - they all draw me away into a land of imagined stories ... 
Or perhaps they are real stories... 
Oh my goodness. I hadn't thought of that until now!
Freckles - knitted by my mum almost fifty years ago.

Ready to type my tax return.

I had visions of using the pigeon holes to organise small
art supplies but can't bring myself to place
anything in a hole unless it starts with that letter.
X and Z are going to stay empty for a while.
(Just noticed the clock under T for TIME - it can
move to Y for YELLOW!)

And don't get me going on old brush and mirror sets. 
I'm thinking of starting a movement to have them removed from op shops and second hand stores across the nation. 
They seem too personal, too intimate. 
I'm afraid they're going to reveal secrets that their owner hoped would remain forever hidden. Unfulfilled ambitions, unspoken crushes, long lost loves, bedroom secrets. 
I blush and feel inclined to weep every time I walk by a brush and mirror set. 
The silver ones and the Bakelite ones are bad enough, but those with fine embroidered backings covered in glass are the end of me.

Then there are old books. 

Oh my, how I love an old book with a dodgy cover. Even better if the title or the author's name has a touch of quirk about it.

This one (above), a three dollar bargain discovered recently in Melbourne, has turned out to be one of the best books I have ever read. The character descriptions are fabulous. I haven't laughed so hard while reading in a long time.
And I've since discovered that Constance E. Maud was a heroine of the Suffragettes. 
I'll be spending more time with Constance, if I can just get my paws on more of her books.

And then there are the treasures one sometimes finds tucked into old books. Look at these two beauties below. I'm still pondering what to do with them. 
From an old school banking poster or bank book?

This looks like an essay a child has had to write
for their teacher after indulging in a spot of graffiti:

1958   24th October
Some people get very wild and draw on walls but the
joy goes away after awhile and they feal
sorry for that you have done it.
Let that be a lesson to all you would-be vandals!

So the long and the short of it is that I love old things. Especially quirky old things.

Which takes me back to the encyclopaedias.
I found a beautiful old chair on Bendigo Buy, Swap and Sell and headed off to make the transaction. 
Solid and elegant - and it has a home-cut Masonite
seat. The stories this chair could tell
- and probably will when I sit and listen.

While there, in the garage, expressing my delight at the chair, I was offered the set of encyclopaedias
'Make an offer. We can't get rid of them.' 
So I did.
And they got rid of them.
And now I have a world of outdated knowledge crammed into my book nook. 

Turns out the Great Dane is fascinated, despite his initial scoffings and eye-rollings...

So to finish, I'll share a few gems  that I have gleaned from spending time with my old wonder (the  Encyclopaedia Britannica from 1962, not the husband from 1961!)...

An albino giraffe - beautiful!

Death receives lengthy mention, but Danish pastries do not get a single line of acknowledgement. Even the Cuban tree snail gets its shell displayed, so why not the Danish pastry?

China has a population of less than 600 million. I read it just now so it must be true.

The fact that sarsaparilla and sorcery share a volume just tickles my fancy. Hope it does yours, too.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome! Occasionally I pull out a volume form my 1958 set just to see what the persepective was on some historical event compared to todays take.

    Lovely reflections in this blog, thanks