Teresa’s Cabinet of Curiosities

Let me be frank, I’ve never watched Maria Kondo’s programme, but I have caught the odd snippet and various comments on social media.

She launched into my personal orbit when she stated that one should only own 30 books. The echo-chamber that is Facebook was up in arms – what a terrible thing to suggest. My husband’s response was, ‘She means, in the loo, right? Only 30 books in the loo…’ (we have 3 loos in our house, so that’s 90 books right there 🙂 )

We are a bookish household. We have the occasional cull, when it seems to be getting out of hand, but it makes very little difference and we continue to be up to our ears – the trouble is, you see, having culled there’s room for more, isn’t there? So let’s hit Waterstones, local indie book shops, charity shops…

It’s not just books. Ms. Kondo also advises that one should only keep items which ‘spark joy’. Well I don’t know about you, but pretty much everything in our house does that,I am surrounded by an entire galaxy of objects sparking away to their hearts’ delight, a positive conflagration.

Don’t get me wrong. We are not well-organised people and we do not live in an antiseptic organised home with well-placed objects – far from it. I admit, we live in a muddle, life is too short for housework and four cats wreak havoc. BUT and it is a massive ‘but’, the items we have around us, matter.

I say ‘we’, but really it’s me, my husband is a bit more shoulder-shrugging on the subject but I can stand in a room, just looking at something that gives me pleasure, and entirely lose track of time…

The objects that surround me all have a history, and a story. That history, those stories, should be valued.

This is why I’ve decided to write this series of articles – inspired in an odd, slightly negative way by Ms. Kondo, and in a different, more positive way by Neil MacGregor’s History of the World in 100 Objects

So welcome, come on in and sit down, let me introduce you to my Cabinet of Personal Curiosities…


Look at him, isn’t he magnificent? He currently lives on the sill of the tiny shuttered window in our bedroom. He is made of oak and is, I would estimate, late 19th century. There is an air of Victorian Gothic revival about him that I absolutely love.

Where did he come from?

Being literal for a moment, I suspect he originally topped a newel post at the bottom of some grand staircase.

For my part, I’ve had him a long time and in common with many of the objects I’ll be sharing, he is a product of my antiques dealing days.

I’ve reinvented myself many times in my life. I’ve worked for auction rooms, been an auctioneer then moved on to being a dealer in my own right, working antiques fairs and the London trade markets, particularly Bermondsey which I’m delighted to see is still running.

My stall would be stocked mainly with items bought at auction. My gryphon, if memory serves, came from one such sale in Suffolk. I bought a job lot containing the gryphon, a carved wooden eagle and a whole variety of other bits and bobs. I sold all the bits and bobs, and kept the items I loved best – the gryphon and the eagle.

A Little Bit About Gryphons

The gryphon is a mythological creature, part eagle, part lion. They are known for guarding treasures and sacred sites.

It is only as I write this that I understand the gryphon’s specific personal appeal. It is part lion (a pussy cat, and anyone who knows me, knows how besotted I am with our cats). It is also part eagle i.e. a bird of prey and I love birds of prey…

Oh and he guards treasure…well my treasures aren’t worth a lot of money, but they are emotional treasures, story-troves.

‘Tis a win-win, clearly.

Gryphons aside, I do generally have a fondness for heraldic beasts, you need only look at the art nouveau firescreen featured in my blog Looking for a Literary Agent. True the creature on the firescreen is a dragon not a gryphon, but the two are similar in many respects and often confused. A later post in this series will look at a magnificent studio pottery vase given to me by a good friend many years ago. Gryphons a-plenty on that one

If you would like to read more about gryphons (or griffins, although that seems a very pedestrian spelling to me 🙂 ) there are many sites but this quote made me smile and is the thought I would like to leave you with The egg-laying habits of the female were first clearly described by St. Hildegard of Bingen ..

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