Who am I?

Last week I picked up a piece of old clay-pipe in a field gateway.  I thought it would make the subject of my next blog-post, so I placed it on the side of the laptop and began to type.  If you’ve read my previous entry, you’ll know that the pipe never featured.

If you know your bird-lore you may now be ‘picking up’ on why I wrote about magpies instead, and what that implies about the state of my coat pockets.  What might not be so clear is what the clay-pipe looked like, or what I mean by ‘old’.

Since I’ve shifted back to magpies, perhaps that won’t matter.  The purpose of this piece could be to tell you about how, or why, I pick up broken things that other people have thrown away.  Although put like that, it does sound as if I’m just a collector of rubbish.

Let’s try for a positive spin.  ‘Collector of rubbish’ suggests a strong civic conscience.  Perhaps I like to tidy up litter. If that’s so, why pick up a piece of clay pipe, and how come I put it on my laptop instead of the bin? This spinning is harder than I expected, and we’re back to the composition of that pipe again.

Let me call it a shard, then.  You’re taking a kinder view of my habit, aren’t you?  It is, after all, a word with gravitas.  You’re likely to connect it to museums and galleries, places of serious study.  Perhaps I’m an amateur archaeologist, following an ambition to build up a cabinet of curiosities. *

Cabinet_of_Curiosities_1690s_Domenico_RempsI do like drawers and boxes.  I’m not so good with labels though, still working on the one for that pipe fragment.  Once we start to think about pipes, even clay ones, there are so many possibilities.  I didn’t want to set out with a huge descriptive passage, but now I realise I should have done.  You’ve probably already pictured it, so whatever I say will cause a fracture in the imaginative bond we’ve formed, and I can’t help feeling that the pipe is, after all, important.

What if you think it was a piece of drainage pipe?  My stopping to pick up something like that would certainly affect the way you view me.  It affects the way I view me, anyway.

Let’s be clear about this, the writer provides the only clues a reader has to go on, and I found my piece of pipe at the edge of a field: it’s reasonable then to assume an agricultural connection.  In this area, old land-drains can be made from red or yellow clay, and you’ve yet to be told that my piece was creamy-white, or that it was small.

This is starting to feel like a series of cryptic clues.  If only I’d said from the outset that I picked up a segment of old clay tobacco pipe.  I could have been more precise, and told you it was the junction where the bowl meets the stem. Then, instead of meandering along this maze of suppositions, we would have reached somewhere very different by now.

Painting: Cabinet of Curiosities by Domenico Remps  (1620–1699)

Photos: Left, my pipe fragment; right, Clay pipes at Bedford Museum, photographed by Simon Speed.

9 thoughts on “Who am I?

  1. Clever, Cath. I thought of an old drainage pipe until the fourth paragraph when I jumped to smoking pipe. My imagination flew to Sherlock Holmes and his ilk. Great word, ilk. Cheers!
    May I use this in my writing workshops?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nothing like a bit of detective work to sharpen your brain on a Monday morning. I like the way you build up the clues, increasing our curiosity with each paragraph. This ability to provoke interest while not giving too much away is surely a desirable skill in a writer.
    I must admit, I thought tobacco pipe straight away, an indication of how my hedonistic mind works maybe? Even in these fiercely anti-smoking times, I’m drawn to old smoking paraphernalia. My uncle used to smoke a pipe and owned an impressive collection, wooden not clay, of course. I was always fascinated by them. There seemed to be so much more to it than simply the act of smoking. He polished it, cleaned it and occasionally took it apart and made sure the parts were unblocked. When he was satisfied that it was pristine, he filled the bowl, put in some sweet smelling tobacco, lit it and then, observed wide-eyed by me, tamped it down with his bare thumb. That he never flinched or reacted to the heat in any way provoked my ongoing admiration.
    I wonder if the smokers of clay pipes such as yours observed such loving rituals as they relaxed behind a smokescreen at the end of a hard day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Ruth, glad you enjoyed it. It was fun to write.
      I would have jumped to tobacco pipe, too. I do like words that carry multiple meanings, so it seemed like a good an opportunity to play around.
      Like you, I had an uncle with a pipe, also wood rather than clay. I don’t remember so much of the detail as you, I love the image of you watching side-eyed as he tamped down the bowl. I’d forgotten about that.
      I suspect the owners of those old clay pipes must have had similar rituals, perhaps this one marked a longed for rest from back-breaking field-work.


  3. I like the way you try on different identities here, something I want to post about. My objection is the way we’re all being put into pigeonholes, something you touched on: ‘I do like drawers and boxes. I’m not so good with labels though, still working on the one for that pipe fragment.’ We shouldn’t be too ready to close down mystery … in particular, the mystery of what genre we’re working in. Does this make sense? I hope not … 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Dave, I look forward to seeing what you do with the topic of identity. I’m already intrigued. I agree with the genre point. Some of the most memorable and satisfying stories I’ve read crossed ‘boundaries’ once or more. I wonder if the short form is better suited to this than the novel?

      Liked by 1 person

        • That’s true, I’m wracking my brains to come up with an example that breaks this point, and am failing. I feel it must have been successfully carried off somewhere, but generally I’m not sure publishers would be happy with it. Could be a tricky sell, I suppose.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Hmm, a novel that takes on and subverts every genre for its own devious purposes … could be done, I suppose, though like you I can’t think of an example.


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