You know that old chestnut about what you’d choose if you had one chance to rescue something when your house was on fire? Leaving aside people (I like to think they’d run at least as fast as I would), I’ve always drawn a blank. Maybe my laptop, or at least the memory stick on which I occasionally remember to back up my files, but since neither actually lives in the house, they might survive anyway. And other than that, I can’t think of a single object which I feel strongly enough about. Also, since fire is my Room 101, I’d just want to get the hell out of there as quickly as possible.
So I think it’s fair to say that things, stuff, aren’t/isn’t hugely important to me. Very few things are irreplaceable, and losing everything I own could just be somebody up there telling me it’s time for a new start.
So a couple of things in the media recently made me shake my head in puzzlement.
One happened this morning. I was about to head out for my daily walk when husband called me back to tell me about J K Rowling’s chair – the one that gave her backache when she was writing Harry Potter, for which someone has just paid four hundred thousand dollars in an auction. My initial reaction was, some people have more money than sense. And when I read the part about the chair giving her backache, that reaction increased tenfold.
The other was a few weeks ago. Lovely daughter volunteers in a charity bookshop, and occasionally someone donates a book which raises rather more than the couple of pounds most books are priced at. In this case, someone had donated a copy of William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience (click here for the full story – if it works, thanks to wonderful daughter for telling me how to do it), and an early draft of a famous song by a famous band had been scribbled inside by the band member who wrote the song. 1990s rock music is a mystery to me, but someone clearly felt this was an important find because it raised twelve thousand pounds for the charity.
I’m delighted for the bookshop’s charity, of course, and I gather Ms Rowling’s charity supporting orphans will get something from the sale of the chair, which is also very good indeed. But I still don’t really get it. Why does an uncomfortable chair suddenly become worth many thousands of dollars because it used to belong to J K Rowling? And why is a rock star’s copy of a rather scruffy book of poetry worth enough to buy a new car (or a lot of famine relief) because he scribbled a song draft in it?
Husband and I have had not unrelated conversations over the many years we’ve been together, along the lines of, why is that painting we saw in a gallery, which we hate, worth a couple of million because it’s signed by some guy called Picasso (sorry, Pablo, nothing personal), while this one on our wall, which we bought because we saw it in a shop window and loved it, probably isn’t worth the peanuts we paid any more?
He doesn’t get it either, so I’m not alone. And I can honestly say that if that elusive big lottery win came up tomorrow, paintings, chairs and rare books would not figure on my shopping list.
And I’d love it if someone could explain.