Sep 9, 2010

Buried Treasure

by Michelle Douglas

Watching: Series 2 of Jonathan Creek

Reading: Rereading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society

Listening to: Goofy's Greats on vinyl - a K-Tel classic

Making me smile: the freesias popping up all over the place in our lawn and scenting the whole street

When I was growing up I loved stories about buried treasure. These days I love hearing tales about decrepit old barns, which on closer inspection house priceless classic cars. Or abandoned houses whose wine cellars contains crates of rare, vintage wine... and hidden in the attic is a long-lost painting from a master and a Stradivarius violin.

Such anecdotes hold the world's possibilities in the palms of their hands - when treasure is found then anything must be possible.

Have you ever found a treasure?

When I was seventeen, I rifled through a box of things in my grandmother's garage and came across a simple black crepe dress with an embroidered lace detail at the waist. I'm not sure if the photograph does it credit. I've never worn the dress, I'm not sure if I could still squeeze into it, but I can't part with it - I can't even tell you why.

Earlier in the year I helped clean out the garden shed of a deceased relative and I rescued this object from the skip.

Again, I can't tell you why I was drawn to it. Nobody has been able to tell me what it is. I suspect, given the location and history of said relative, it will have something to do with coal mining. The writing on the face says: Nobel's Explosive Co Ltd, Glasgow, 141096. It is now sitting on a shelf in my lounge room as an object of curiosity... and still nobody can tell me what it is? Does anybody have a clue?

I've unearthed odd and peculiar books in unexpected places too - The Wide World Letter Writer: with Answers is my favourite. Listen to some of the titles of letters: From a Lad to a Sea Captain asking to go to Sea (and there's an answer!), From an Absent Lover Complaining of a Scarcity of Letters (oops, and there's no reply), Invitation to a Fancy Ball (with an answer accepting and an answering declining). The book is old. The pages are yellowed and the hardcover has come away from the spine. It has a preface, an introduction, and a list of Abbreviations used in Writing and Printing, but I can't find a date. I found the book in a dingy old cupboard at my uncle's house - an uncle who was illiterate and couldn't read. Perhaps he sensed it was a treasure too.

Do you think treasure can beget treasure, because the story potential here is starting to fire my mind! What kind of story could I come up with if I combined these unconnected elements - a black dress, an instrument used in mining, an old book and... a barn full of classic cars? I can't help feeling that the possibilities are endless. What's more, I'd predict that if all ten LoveCats ran with Treasure as a story idea, each and every one of us would come up with a different tale (hmm... now that could be an interesting challenge).

Do you have a treasure story you'd like to share?

And if anyone can tell me what my curious object is - with a link to it on the Internet - you can choose a book from my backlist as a prize.


  1. Ooh, fabulous post, Michelle! You've certainly picked up some interesting 'treasures' over the years!

    I have a wonderful old enamel teapot with red and orange flowers on it that I think of as an object of art!

    I have no idea what your curious object is. LoveCat Anna might know, though...???

  2. Love the sound of your teapot, Emily! Orange is my favourite colour... and I love tea.

    And, yes, I was thinking LoveCat Anna might be able to shed some light on said curio :-)

  3. Gosh, Michelle, what a treasure trove you have! I love discovering old things, although I don't think I have anything quite as curious as yours.

    Not sure what that device is, but it's post-1877 (not that that's any help, lol).

  4. Anita, I'm wondering if the allure of old things is the sense of history they have -- the stories they could tell. I love the feeling of walking into an old antique shop (the dark and dusty sort rather than the bright expensive ones) and taking in a deep breath. I'm always convinced I'm going to find something wonderful.

    Ah, and my curious device... well, post-1877 is more than I knew about it. Thanks!

  5. Michelle,

    Aren't treasures wonderful? I'd love to take that mining device to my dad and ask his advice on what it is. I love things that have been used in the past and are curios today.

    I have a treasure that I think is brilliant. It's a very, very old edition of Lord Byron's poetry, covered in what I think is snake skin. It belonged to my stepgrandmother's mother and was given to me as I studied English and she thought I'd appreciate it. Byron isn't a personal fave of mine but I felt so special being entrusted with it. It's one of those things I'd make a grab for if I had to evacuate the house fast.

  6. Michelle, what treasures! I have a few little things like a couple of my grandmother's scarves (not expensive things, but I know they came from her) and a lovely marble solitaire game (made from the stone marble, with round marbles in the slots) that belonged to my other grandmother.

    Hope we find out what your mining curio is!

  7. Wonderful treasures, Michelle! I hope Anna has an answer for your Nobel Explosives Co device - I'm intrigued! Are those buttons on the top? I wonder if it could be a detonating device... but I really don't know so I hope someone can answer!

    A couple of my treasures are old first aid books. The older one is 1928 - "Revised by Committees in 1917 and 1928". The price is 1s 6d or by post you could get it for 1s 7 1/2d.

    It gives directions on how to perform "Silvester's Method of Artificial Respiration" and the 1939 book gives directions on the "Schafer's Method". I wonder how effective they were! I think the mouth-to-mouth method wasn't invented until the middle of the 1900s - but because it's so standard now, we tend not to think that once upon a time people didn't know about it!

  8. Sharon, was one of those the pumping arm method? Strange to think we are so accepting of mouth-to-mouth now.

  9. It was, Anita! The Silvester Method. The Schafer Method had the victim on his stomach while the first aider pressed around the lower rib area.

    And some of the other treatments are really fascinating too - things we wouldn't dream of doing now! Mmm, maybe I'm seeing a blog topic in here! ;)

  10. An old edition of Byron in snakeskin, Annie? Wow! That's not something everyone can say they've seen let alone have... and so much more special because it was entrusted to you.

    Ah, and your father might know what my curio is. We might talk some more... :-)

  11. Rachel, am drooling over the thought of your grandmother's scarves -- love, love, love scarves. I find that price is meaningless when it comes to treasure. It's all about imagination, nostalgia and memory. It's lovely that you have such meaningful treasures from both your grandmothers!

  12. Sharon, your treasures made me laugh and wince. Not sure I'd be a big fan or either the silvester or the shafer methods of respiration.

    And re: my curio. They're not really buttons on the top (as in you can't turn them on or off), but a kind of metal pyramid. They remind me of battery terminals. (?!#).