Curiosity and kitten heels


Image                                                           Pretty much as it appears today

Spoiler Alert: if unfamiliar with central London, you’re going to have to take our word for it.

You know the block that spans Shoe Lane to Kingsway between Fleet Street and Holborn, pretty much all in EC4 and still totally Dickensian?

Within it lie Royal Courts of Justice, Lincoln’s Inn, London School of Economics & Political Science, Soane Museum and … the Old Curiosity Shop. Yes, there was such a place inspiring Dickens’ novel that he published in weekly installments through 1840/41.

Rarely do we actually do something next door which others travel around the world to see – Lord knows why but it appears in our DNA not to bother – yet th’other day, while having the treat of wriggling through from the City to West End, the time opened up in front of me to slide roundly through the portals of the Shop.

I’m not sure what I was expecting other than Little Nell valiantly dusting a corner and Grandfather wearily bustling in an ante-room.

An inscrutable Oriental figure unlocked the door a while after knocking and drew back to reveal something entirely magical. Dainty, hand-made shoes & occasional threads – shirts mostly – draped with careless cool through the crescent shaped Shop which is barely the size of a slice of the type of cake from which a person leaps in rosey surprise.

It is a most curious shop. It is creakingly old. It was a Dickensian experience. I am still floating from knowing that in these dismal days of our global disgrace, there continue such places, immune to faddish post-modernism and which hold themselves together by virtue of mysterious self-possession.

Twenty Twenty is almost upon us. Here at The Materials, we hope your Christmas is a-flowing with humanity, that kindness abounds and swelling all opportunities to be meaningfully useful is embraced.

It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Rightness of wrongness Wrongness of rightness


Timothy Bateson 1926 – 2009                               As an older actor, he gave a most affecting Mr Dick in the 1974 BBC serialization of David Copperfield. As a young man, he won a scholarship to Wadham, Oxford.

I love being wrong. It means another thing’s about to reveal itself, better to be understood.

It was shocking to realize some years ago that mine is neither a popular perspective nor, if actually grasped, one to secure empathic acknowledgement. Indeed, someone to whom the idea of my ambivalence towards being right struck him as proof of imbecility withdrew from the professional friendship lest tainted by the association.

What does it mean to be wrong? To lack true knowledge, to misunderstand the facts, to see the world differently from the majority? To know there’s more to discover?

Perhaps better to ask what does it mean to be right?

Rightness appears to hold to itself a moral, intellectual authority ~ a necessary and sufficient condition to silence opposing views. It is right until the fashion, framework or facts change. It infers we know that of which we speak.

Shutting down dialogue seems far worse than being mistaken. And is it just me or does your heart also shake a bit when someone dismisses your concern in virtue of the economic sense it may or mayn’t make?

Mr Dick was never mean, false or cruel and Betsy Trotwood valued his clarity though the world found him a simpleton. Weaponizing being right doesn’t place Right on your side: it merely makes brittle that which ought to have movement and flexibility.

Answers oughtn’t close down deeper questions. Greater expectation may be captured in continuing to wonder?

[You knew, ‘ course, the Viking word for responsibility is ansvar]

💥 David Copperfield was written and published through May 1849 to November 1850. Great Expectations was first published in serial form in Dickens’ weekly periodical All the Year Round, from December 1860 to August 1861.