Over a decade a go Michael Landy destroyed all of his possessions. Over a two week period, a total of 7,227 items, including Landy’s car and a jacket of his fathers were dismantled, smashed, pulped, and granulated. The art installation, known as ‘Break Down’ was a brief sensation and made headlines across the world. It also made quite an impression on a small, mousey haired 14 year old from Bristol, i.e. me. Ever since I have endeavoured to keep my consumerist tendencies in check. I attempt to fix things that are broken, sometimes with success, and try to refrain from buying things that I don’t truly need, however swanky they might look (apart form scarves, I fear that I am a lost cause in this respect). I also to try to make sure that I don’t become too attached to any of the items that I do buy, possessions after all just being inanimate objects, and I thought I was doing pretty well at this, that was until last week when I lost my water bottle.
Now I’m going to start by stating that this wasn’t just any water bottle. It was a 1 litre nalgene, an (almost) indestructible, chalice of hydration, well known to anyone who has spent any time an inconvenient distance away from a tap and cup. It had been everywhere with me for the past 6 years; down rivers, through jungles, on snowy mountain tops in blizzards, on beaches, and dive boats, and it had the scars, or rather the stickers, to prove it. Most importantly the place it spent the most of its time was on my desk, where it provided not just refreshment but a reminder that while I might spend an inordinate amount of time beavering away at a computer or in the laboratory, the next adventure was just around the corner. This water bottle was not just sentiment for the past, it symbolised future ventures that would then, in time, become part of the sentiment themselves.
It seems that by making sure that I buy single good quality items and then by taking care of them, by attempting to avoid, quite literally, ‘buying into’ the chronically disposable culture that we all live in, each purchase then becomes both personalised and personal. On reflection I realised that I had one particular type of possession where this issue has become chronic, you’ve guessed it, it’s my outdoor gear. I made a mental check list of those thing which I would be truly heartbroken if I lost, see below, and as you’ll see it’s fairly extensive. It seems that for now I’m going to have to resign myself to the fact that for better or for worse my kit will always be much, much more than stuff to me.
Shorts – These are made from recycled plastic bottles and I think they look super cool, others have disagreed. Have been on all of my kayaking adventures and went of my first dive trip with me. Hard wearing – had them for 5 years.
Scarf – This is the first thing I ever knitted. I helped shear the alpacas from which the wool came from, while I was in NZ. It is a jumble of holes, different stitches and tensions. One end is twice the width of the other and it took me around 5 months to finish. It is also INCREDIBLY itchy, but I love it.
Green Jacket (Mum’s) – This coat is so old (purchased circa 1985) that the brand doesn’t exist any more. It is incredibly hard wearing and super warm. Synthetic so unlike my down jacket it doesn’t matter if it gets wet. Blends in well with the english countryside, but stands out like a sore (and septic) thumb if you wear it in Paris in January.
Sarong – Purchased from the Body Shop in a sale over a decade ago, this beauty has been everywhere and done everything and now as a consequence looks distinctly threadbare. I am hoping that it keeps going for a decade more.
Backpack – I will at heart always be a rucksack rather than a handbag kind of girl. I always have one daysack that goes everywhere with me, to work, to the shops and up mountains. The last one only got scrapped because the bottom fell out and this one is almost at the 4 year mark.
Boots – These boots have kept my feet warm and dry for four years. They are now on their last legs and I am attempting to get them re-soled as part of ‘PROJECT FIX’