top of page

thoughts: otter

I was asked to write about something sentimental; something I love.

How difficult and how challenging: to write about an object which means the world to me and absolutely nothing to you. I wonder if I can, and why I might want to.

So you learn to see the said object through my eyes? That is impossible, given we don’t share the same experiences and memories of it, no matter how frequently and eloquently I might relate them to you.

So you might cherish it when I am gone? It’s a lovely thought, but consider how many much-loved personal treasures have been consigned to dustbins and charity shops on the passing away of their owner/admirer?

So you might understand a little more about me? Yes, I rather think it is this which would be most motivating. The modest amongst us might be loath to admit it, but this extension into perpetuity is what makes many otherwise sensible souls strive for remembrance, to make a difference - to make their mark. But, only memories of the very special and unique survive the loss of all those who personally knew them.

Instead, I’ll leave behind some possessions that others will wish to keep, and others that they would prefer to remove from the face of the earth, given the chance. And that's fair enough because even I can’t explain why I choose to keep what I keep and why I am unafraid, even keen, to lose others.

But this task of writing about a sentimental object is difficult: just a little.

Either my valued object is cumbersome (a wall hanging I created using only found and gifted objects, for example), or my valued object is alive (my living room weeping fig 'tree', my children, my dog, my dad).

Perhaps it is cute/sweet/pretty/useful but means little. I'm attached to it without being sentimentally involved.

Conversely, the object may be small and inconsequential be swarming with personal memories.

And the objects I’ve placed in that latter group have a meaning outside their own existence. And, this is the point I'm trying to make, their meaning may often also be outside anyone else’s understanding.

Or they may be too personal to share with others and to describe in words rather than feelings.

Do I bring to you the umbilical cord of my children, still clamped? Do I bring a photo of my mum? I don't.

I wonder. Perhaps the objects I'd be most comfortable writing about in this way (with affection but without damaging nostalgia), would be those I like greatly (but don’t love), and those evoking only simple memories.

For instance, my otter. He cost £3.79 from a charity shop. I am not a huge fan of cuddly toys but the (very) occasional one does catch my eye (I own only four… another otter Valentine's Day gift bearing the slogan “Otterly in Love with you,” a sweet little owl (a gift from my beloved daughter), and an enormous, lifelike white tiger, Tarzan, who lives on the spare bed in the loft). Soft toy number four is a countryside otter doorstop and, when I bought him, I walked round town with him perched on my hip as I might a 9 month old baby. No carrier bag for him.

I didn’t buy him because he was prestigious or would reflect well upon me, or because he was cute or because I collect otters, or cuddly toys. I bought him because he added something to my life from the second I met him. Yes, that’s kind of pathetic. But that’s the best I can do. I have brought my otter as my ‘sentimental’ object, despite the lack of long term relationship we share, and despite the fact there’s no pathos or nostalgia involved in the affection I hold towards him. I brought my otter because he makes me happy and I like to surround myself with items of colour, vitality and character. To me, he definitely has the latter. If an item isn’t of use and if it isn’t of pleasing countenance, then it has no place in our lives. I paraphrase William Morris (badly).

My otter pleases me. So here he stays. That is all!

bottom of page