Sunday, 10 March 2013

Doing Something Different -- childhood treasures

This is just a quickie. I'm doing a project at work -- lots of us have signed up to 'Do Something Different', the behaviour change programme pioneered by Ben Fletcher and Karen Pine at the University of Hertfordshire. Every couple of days we are sent a new 'Do' which is a little challenge designed to shift us out of our comfort zones and promote bigger changes in behaviour (such as losing weight or giving up smoking, whatever your goal is).
The current 'Do' is to 'Do things you used to enjoy. Jumping in puddles, puzzles or playing games. Rediscover childish fun or an old hobby.' This is too easy for me, really, because I've never grown up, so spend quite a lot of time doing puzzles and indulging in childish fun. But to try to get into the spirit of the Do, I tried to think of something that I used to do but no longer indulge in so much (though I've just remembered a blogpost on this very subject not so long ago...). I remember how I used to LOVE arranging my 'treasures'. These were sad little bits of detritus that I had collected here and there. Above is today's arrangement of the bits and pieces I've picked up off the ground over the last month or so. Most precious are the passport photos -- a bit creepy, you may think, but I love finding discarded photos. I also like the coloured wire, magpied from telephony works at the Uni, and I also like the unidentified black rubbery thing at the bottom (the right hand one, not the left hand one -- though that's quite good too).
I am happy now. 

1000 Wishes

Today I reached something of a landmark -- I added the 1000th item to my Amazon wishlist. That's 40 pages of DVDs, CDs, boots (a weirdly high number of pairs of biker boots), but mostly books. Apart from reaching this millennial total (which I fear is excessive, especially in view of the almost constant flow of secondhand books flowing into the house from Amazon Marketplace -- these are the books I haven't bought, let's not even get started on the ones I have), a couple of moments this week have made me think more about Amazon wishlists than usual.
This is the book that's been on my wishlist the longest -- added on 30 Dec 2001
First of all, earlier this week I was looking on Amazon on our communal iPad when I realised I couldn't see how to log out of the site. It didn't really matter, but at the same time it bothered me that someone (ie husband or one of my two kids) might look at my wishlist and see all the stuff I've got hoarded on there. Very unlikely that they would be remotely interested, but, nonetheless it niggled away at me. The next day I tried the iPod again to see if my Amazon account had discreetly closed itself up -- no, my wishlist was still parading itself brazenly for all to see. Those 1000 wished-for items are like a very personal archaeology, layer upon layer of enthusiasms, paranoias, obsessions, secrets. I googled 'Help, I can't log out of Amazon!'  and discovered that it's quite a well-known problem -- lots of people are feeling naked in the face of Amazon's apparent reluctance to let you hide your 'wants' out of sight. At least I found out how to log off.
One of the more specialist books on my wishlist
The other thing that got me thinking about wishlists was that a friend's birthday is coming up and it occurred to me that she might have an Amazon wishlist that I could use to get her something she actually wanted. Her name is a fairly common one and there were around 20 wishlists on Amazon for people sharing her name. I started working my way through them and it was obvious none of them belonged to her. Even though some of the lists only had a few items on them, I was sure they weren't hers. Which made me think that an Amazon wishlist really does reflect the personality of its owner.

Dear Lord! What must mine say about me? Leaving aside anything too coruscatingly personal, mine lays bare all my passions and hang-ups: collecting stuff (see above), making stuff (see below):

...different countries. One year it was Japan:

...then Sweden:

Then I really  got into Sweden:

You get some funny juxtapositions on a long wishlist: too much Scandi-noir and look what it leads to:

Not that I suffer from anxiety or depression, but I'm as vulnerable as the next person to hypochondria and feeling that there must be something wrong with me, viz: 
Then there's these lovely sunglasses which cut out 100% UVA and UVB light (and make you look like Bono):
There are passions recorded on my wishlist that came and went without my actually spending any money at all, or very little. My newfound musical hero, Michel Polnareff:
I've made do with just one (stupendous) track downloaded from iTunes ('Love me, Please Love Me' -- a wonderful French torch song, with only the title line sung in English). Similarly, my sudden passion for travelling round England in a VW camper van didn't even extend to renting one for the weekend.
Maybe if I'd gone campervanning, it would've led to Arcadia...
Anyone who knows me quite well will be aware of my predilection for roaming the world via Google Street View, particularly places I'd be afraid to go in real life. Like the favelas of Rio and the poor, trashed blocks of suburban Detroit.

And I'll admit to one or two wobbly moments on Friday afternoons:

And things I didn't even know I was interested in:

Or had forgotten about:

That's probably quite enough glimpses into my psyche -- it can only be of real interest to me, anyway, so sorry for indulging. I really enjoyed digging back down through 12 years of Amazon wishlisting. I saw my interests distilled out: memoirs, childhood, urban history, maps, art, junk, weirdness, psychoanalysis. And I felt so happy that I have those passions and that I'm incredibly lucky to have wonderful books to feed my passions, should I decide to add to my (already massive) piles of unread books.
My other tip, based on today's viewing, is: buy art and photography books as they notably gain in value very shortly after selling out their short publication runs. If I'd bought all the art/photography books that I have on my wishlist, I'd have some quite valuable assets by now:

PS: Happy Mother's Day, mothers. I don't really believe in it (a religious ball picked up and run with by commercialism -- none of which really does it for me) but my son made me a fish-finger sandwich and my daughter made me a coffee and walnut cake and I'm completely happy.