The normal response is to smile. Sometimes they laugh. Sometimes they grimace. Other times they nod and leave the room. Hastily, on the verge of rudeness. This is what happens when people come face to face with my kitsch for the first time. I have lovingly collected these rare titbits over the past decade. I was, for a time, forced to live in shame. My kitsch remained hidden from view at the risk of being openly mocked. No longer. We, my kitsch and I, have entered a golden age. They are out in force, filling walls and shelves and desks and cabinet tops and nooks and crannies, proud to be tugging occasional smiles across faces that don’t smile often enough. Let me take this opportunity to introduce you to a few of my favourite things.
The Horse’s Head
Horses heads mean something. Imagine a family that loves horses. They ride them, breed them, train them, watch them race, trot around the countryside on their backs yee-hawing. This family smells of earth, cigarettes, straw, brandy and mouldy tarpaulins. They have a horse’s head hanging on a wall in one or perhaps all of their rooms. It does not always have to represent love. In the Godfather, a horse’s head means the opposite, the gravest of Mafioso warnings. This horse’s head of mine is neither. It is a little too stupid for either of the aforementioned purposes. My horse’s head is not meant for love or fearmongering. He is meant only to cast a wonky eye on a wonky world and for me to see it.
The Bird Tin
The question that this little tin poses is ‘why?’ There are few better questions than ‘why?’ Why paint a bird dressed as a Victorian spinster on a tin? Is it for whimsy? Is it for beauty? Is it for me? Why yes.
The Plastic Tiger
Tiger tiger burning bright In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye
. Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
The answer to William Blake’s question is… not the bugger that made and painted this beautiful creature. There is no symmetry, fearful or otherwise, about this stealthy shelf stalker but there is something unique. The weight of the plastic, the proportions, the prowess, the perfection in the imperfection.
The Plastic Dog
I like the idea of a dog. A friend. Always happy to see you etc. But then I remember that they shit and fart and stick drool and hair to you for fun, bark and yap and bite and demand things like attention and food. I like my plastic dog with its pretty eyes and happy-to- see-me pout. It doesn’t need much looking after: the occasional dust or change of scene seems to suffice. A man’s best friend.
The Panda Egg Cup
My love of kitsch is often misconstrued by others as a love of shit. They fail to draw the same distinctions as me. They are unaware that my love on an object depends on so many indefinable characteristics. These are very fine margins, the smallest of details that tip an item from shit to kitsch. It is a miracle then that I didn’t do it in this case. My mum, risking ridicule, gifted me this gem of an egg cup. It has the obligatory animals rendered in odd detail – not ugly, not realistic, a twilight zone of recognisable and reprehensible. It is made of a form of plastic that feels like it could have surprised someone somewhere at some point. When plastic was still plastic and not yet some commonplace product, thinned and brittled by overexposure.
The Shipping Forecast Plate
Anyone who has ever survived the rough seas of insomnia thanks to the ebb and flow of the shipping forecast will know. Anyone who has ever had the cricket commentary interrupted by the shipping forecast will know. It is a poem, an incantation offered up to forces bigger than man. It is for sailors and fishermen more alone and vulnerable than you can ever be lying in a bed. It is a mermaid’s song carried on a sea mist into the hairy ears of a Hemingway character raging battle with solid slabs of ocean. The shipping forecast is familiar and familial, comforting, an aural cuddle, a piece of wool to hold onto when blackness leaves you hanging in nothingness. Yet it is exotic, so very exotic. I love the shipping forecast and I love this plate because it reveals some of its secrets. I’ve never had an item of crockery that I can refer to when listening to Radio 4 and now I do. This is my England.