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.

The transforming power of Love


Leonardo da Vinci c.1499                                             Madonna & Child                       with St Anne & the infant John the Baptist                             One can’t help feeling the weight of expectation on those two tots

Mrs Thatcher missed so much of life in virtue of her maxim about buses. It went something along the lines of the living definition of failure is using the bus if over the age of 25.

I witnessed a thing of miraculous wonder the other day. Returning my gaze from the sky to the goings-on around me, there was a woman of indeterminate age – truly, anything between 30 and 50 – lumbering back down to the driver to tap her Oyster card. From the rear view, this figure seemed akin to a small, dishevelled mountain. When she turned it was clear the world had been nothing but immutably harsh and cruel to her.

Lines of dread had chiselled deep gashes across her brow while vaguely flabby cheeks were capilliaried with cold. The amorphous mass of her be-holed cardigan suggested the shape of Baltic granite without the smootheness and the matted hair appeared more akin to a horse-hair mattress. Her gait was that of a drunken docker and her bulk was somewhat overwhelming.

All this impressed itself upon me in a heartbeat. Yet two seconds later, this embodiment of hellish misery was a vision of loveliness. How, I hear you cry? She smiled at the very small child sitting in the push-chair.

The love that cascaded from every pore of her core had a wholly transforming effect as dazzling as an ogre changed into a princess, with or without a pea.

Gone was any notion of a cumbersome wreck and in its place was the dancing delight, fairy light affection that wrapped itself around mother and child. The sweetness of motion cradled her from being over-powered by the love that yodelled from her, illuminating her eye and skin and heart.

At this time of familial warmth and reminders of existential vitalism, I can’t help pondering the shattering simplicity that what makes life meaningful … is love.

Have a splendidly joy-filled, love-funneled Christmas.