My Treasure Tin

I listened to Rich Lakin reading one of his poems on his blog yesterday. It was about ‘Word Tins’. You can check it out here.

My reply to him was that I never had word tins, but I did have a tin that I kept my treasures in as a child. He suggested I should write about my tin.

Most people smoked when I was young, including my mum and dad. Dad rolled his own cigarettes, favouring a popular tobacco called Old Holborn, which is still sold here. To keep the tobacco fresh, he would keep it in the tin that it came in, a tin emblazoned with the distintive logo of the brand.

By the time I was given my tin, it was old and well-used, a lot like the one in the photo above.

The first things I kept in that tin were some foreign coins. Some were from India, a legacy of my dad’s army service during WW2. I also had a coin with a hole punched in the centre, which I think was from somewhere in Asia. (Probably Japan) I was sure that those unusual coins would be worth a great deal one day.

Next to go into my treasure hoard was a medal. It was in the shape of a star, and was given to me by one of the family friends who were always known as ‘uncle’, though they were not related. Sixty-two years later, I cannot be sure, but I think it was a Burma Star. It certainly looked like one, as I recall. Here is a photo of one.

Something else I expected to be incredibly valuable when I was older. Hard to believe that they now sell online for around £20. Given what they went through to get one, that doesn’t seem right.

The coins and medal were the only occupants of the old tin for at least a year. Then for some reason I became interested in elastic bands, especially coloured ones. Very soon I had a dozen or more stored in the tin. One very light blue one was a favourite, until I acquired a bright yellow one from somewhere and that went to the top in my estimation. I used one of them -a red one- to secure the tin after that, as the lid was becoming loose.

A day at the beach provided the final addition to the tin, when I was around eight years old. On a stony beach somewhere in Kent, I found a beach pebble that looked like a small pig in profile. At first I presumed someone had carved it into that shape and dropped it, but my mum was sure that all those years on the beach had formed the shape by the pebble constantly being moved by the sea. Either way, it was certainly a treasure, so the pig-stone went into the tin, which was now almost full.

Resecured with the red elastic band, I put it in my small hand-made wardrobe, and there it stayed. I would occasionally open the tin, feel the smooth lines of the pig-stone, and hold the medal to my chest as if I had won it. When the red elastic band finally perished, the tin went into a drawer under my socks.

Between 1967 and 1976, I moved house three times. During one or other of those moves, my treasure tin disappeared.

I just hope whoever found it valued its contents as much as I did as a child.

The small things

As I sit in Beetley, it is towards the end of May, but it is raining hard and has been since I woke up. It also feels quite chilly, the first time it has been so for some while. Hardly the stuff that memories are made of, but it has cast me into a reflective mood, nonetheless.

I have recently been sent lots of e-mails from various companies. New cars, electronic goodies, better and faster computers, and sophisticated mobile phones; all have featured in these sales promotions. There are curved televisions with screens of unimaginable size, gadgets to make life easier, and cameras that do all but actually go out and take the photos for you. No doubt that will come soon.
All this bounty and luxury made me think about what we value, what is important, and what truly enriches our lives and existence. My list is not definitive. It is personal, and may mean little to others. Search inside yourselves, and you will discover your own.

A photo of my mother, in an old frame. It is taken in 1939, when she was fifteen years old. She has all her life ahead of her, and she smiles into the camera, anticipating the years to come. Little did she know then, that the next six years of her life would be consumed by a world war. There can be no value put on this picture from the past. To me, it is priceless.

Warm sand under your feet, walking across a beach. A sunny day, perhaps fifty years ago, possibly last month. The feeling is the same.

Climbing into a freshly-made bed. Clean sheets, and the prospect of a refreshing sleep before you.

Shaving with a new blade. Effortless, leaving you feeling smooth-skinned, and relaxed.

Lying on your back in long grass. Looking up at the sky, watching the cloud formations, sensing the ground on your back, feeling like a small part of eternity.

The companionship of a pet. No need to speak, no communication necessary. Just being together is enough for both of you.

The feeling that you know you are in love. Hard to define, even harder to explain, you just know. And it feels very good.

Sitting in a small boat, moving across water. You let your hand drift just under the surface, and feel the water passing across your skin.

Picking up a new book. Starting the first page, you immediately realise that it is going to be an incredible read, and you almost cannot wait for the next chapter.

Leaving a cinema after watching a great film. You stand outside the building, and are suddenly aware that you have seen something quite wonderful.

Standing before a work of art, its meaning and power becomes apparent to you. You get the message implied. You understand the artist’s intention.

Colours in nature. A seemingly unlimited palette, never ceasing to amaze.

A family gathering. Generations together without discord, understanding what it means to be human.

Laughing about nothing with good friends. You are the only ones who get the joke.

The sea crashing ashore on a stormy day. Feeling insignificant in its presence.

What’s on your list, I wonder?