So a strange thing happened, which necessitated a post about ships in bottles. On my way down to London last week, I was reading Scarlett Thomas's new book Our Tragic Universe (and very good it is too. You should read that) on the train. In it the narrator, Meg, finds a ship in a bottle washed up at her feet which is exactly the same as one she admired in childhood. It is a book where strange connections, coincidences and cosmic ordering are treated with both suspicion and intellectual curiosity.
So imagine how weird it was to walk towards Trafalgar Square and find this massive thing displayed on a plinth.
National Museums Liverpool, a group of six museums and galleries. Whilst meeting some press people in the Merseyside Maritime Museum, I watched a craftsman place a ship in a bottle to an audience of open-mouthed children. I loved his ships in bottles, and would peer at them gleefully every time I went there.
When I left, I harboured (harboured! get it?) a secret desire that my leaving present would be a ship in a bottle. Sadly, I had not communicated anything of the sort to anybody. I had limited confidence at the time, and had barely spoken to the woman who was my boss all the time I was there for fear that I would snap in two (there was nothing remotely wrong with her). Unsurprisingly, my ship-in-a-bottle wish was not granted, and my gift was a very small cup (I do not favour small cups) printed with a picture from the Walker Art Gallery which I wasn't particularly bothered about.
Especially when they had The Beguiling of Merlin by Edward Burne-Jones in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, which would have made a much better cup, in my opinion.
Last year when I was in our local Maritime Museum I saw this obituary pinned onto the noticeboard. It made me sad, even though I'd never even spoken to the man. Because, you know, of the lack of social skills.
Long-term readers of this blog (that's just Alice) may remember the story of the woman who bought herself a case of champagne for Christmas every year because she knew her presents would be disappointing. When I sat down to write this blog post, I thought it was for you. But it's actually a present to me, a gift of ships in bottles with a bit of Arthurian magic thrown in. It's making up for past regrets, for things not said, and tiny cups. I'm enjoying it, whether you are or not.
A lovely thought provoking post.ReplyDelete
I trust you're not afraid of breaking in half anymore. Because you have a way with words on the page, and I hope in real life too.ReplyDelete
I have always loved that Burne Jones too. Well, most Burne Jones if I'm completely honest.
May your day be filled with ships in bottles—and may you accidentally step on a tiny ugly cup (while wearing strong-soled shoes, of course). Serendipity!ReplyDelete
Do you know, as a lover of the pre Raphaelites and a Liverpudlian, you'd think I'd have managed to get to the Lever in 38 years wouldn't you? Well I haven't so thanks for showing us that image.I did manage the Walker though, many times.ReplyDelete
Bums about cups instead of ships in bottles. I could try to make you a silver one but I think the results might be embarrassing. I've just peeped on ebay though - you can buy vintage silver and glass ship in bottle charms. Oof.
Hang on just a minute. Your LEAVING PRESENT? In England you get a present when you leave a job? Instead of being escorted to the front door by security after all the computer passwords have been changed? THE HELL YOU SAY.ReplyDelete
a ship in a champagne bottle sounds good, as long as I get to drink the champagne first xoxReplyDelete
That's a lovely post. I wasn't given the space pen I secretly coveted when I left a job several years ago. I know I could buy one myself but it's not the same. They should be able to read my mind!ReplyDelete
I have similar fears that by not speaking up I've missed many opportunities. My mother tells me someone I went to school with met her exotic international businessman husband on a flight but in her position I know I would have spent the whole time silently trying to maintain my claims to half the armrest.
This was a lovely post and I'm all for buying oneself a case of champagne! Thank you for the book recommendation too... I enjoyed the last one I read of hers.ReplyDelete
Boats in bottles are wonderful, I absolutely agree!ReplyDelete
I certainly hope your past regrets include maligning, disparaging and besmirching bloggers from Germany.ReplyDelete
If it had been me arriving in Trafalgar Square feeling winsome about lost love and ships-in-bottles there would have been a tiny mug on the plinth. And it would have been that particularly vile brown Denby pattern.ReplyDelete
Lovely post. Have put you up as British Mummy Blogger of the week, btw.ReplyDelete
Very bittersweet, lovely post.ReplyDelete
I'm not particularly nautical. My mother has a ship in a bottle - perhaps I should go round there and nick it for you?
I used to love watching him putting ships in bottles at the Maritime Museum. Am rather sad to hear that he has died.ReplyDelete
Hope you do get a ship in a bottle one day :-)