One fish two fish red fish blue fish
22 March 2010
Yes, there’s a story behind the blue fish ornament from yesterday’s post.
Well, of course there is. One branch of anthropology these days is called Material Culture, and deals with what the objects in our lives mean to us. One of the top material culture professors in the UK has written about everything from Coke cans and mobiles to blue jeans and cars.
But there is actually a minor story behind the fish. Over and above the fact that, when you turn it to one side, it’s actually meant to hold a tea-light; I don’t use tea-lights, so I turn that side away, and then I don’t have to think about ceramic fish-guts.
I bought the fish from a gift shop on a holiday island when I went there for a work visit. We’d gone to the same island every year for a decade when I was young: we’d even visited the same port town once, tried to visit the remains of the dockside fortress (it was shut) and all sat on a bench eating powdery orange crisps while it was spitting down with rain.
Most of our holidays ended up like that. Money was much tighter than I understood, and anything other than the entrance fee for worthwhile historical or zoological attractions went straight off the agenda. (After my mother went back to work, we did run to tickets to the dilapidated theme park in the south.) It really mattered when your boiled-sweet stick snapped. We went to see the famous coloured cliffs, but there was no gift shop, and there was absolutely, definitely no fun fair. (Or maybe my mum and dad were well up on their Ray Bradbury and didn’t want to be having doing with fun fairs anyway.)
One of the things I never bought, because it was no use for anything, was a paperweight shaped like the island filled with sand from the coloured cliffs. It was recursive enough to capture my imagination, but my pocket money would never quite enough, and there was always one more foam glider from World War II to buy at the newsagent’s. That was the summer I found out what a Fokker was.
After this visit, I asked the host if there was anywhere to buy gifts in town off-season. I couldn’t go to the island my family knew every inch of (apart from the posh bit in the north with yachts) and not bring something whimsical back. While I was at it, I bought a sand-filled paperweight. I also bought the fish. I think it’s meant to be a regal tang (-‘A what?’ -‘The Finding Nemo fish.’ -‘Oh, one of those.’), although it might be an angelfish. I can’t tell. There’s not much room for anatomical correctness in a fish designed around a place to put a tea-light.
The cat from the photo doesn’t have a story yet. I’m afraid it comes from one of the in-town out-of-town superstores, on my first big shopping trip after I’d moved in. It’s going to have to make its story on its own.