When you travel around you can’t help but pick things up. I don’t mean in that way (If you are going in for that kind of travel then I suggest you take precautions to make sure you don’t pick anything up) but I mean that you can’t help but pick things up like souvenirs, mementos and keepsakes. As you might expect, I have a fair number of these. More than a fair number. I think that it’s a shame to throw away anything which you collect on your travels and this, therefore, is a piece about some of the things that I have collected over the years.
THINGS FROM THE LITTLE SHOP
Who doesn’t love poking around the little shop at the end of a tour or museum? Quite often the things you find in there have no connection to the museum or tour… They’re just there to get you to part with your hard earned money. These days I don’t tend to buy anything from the little shop but in my youth I couldn’t resist and always came away with the most worthless of tat.
The oldest travel keepsake I still have are three fossilized sharks teeth in a see through box and I might be wrong but I think they’re the results of a Beavers trip to the Catalyst Museum in Widnes. This is a museum all about chemistry and industry so why they’d be selling fossilised sharks teeth I don’t know. It’s astonishing that I still have them after all these years when so much else of mine has been lost to the black hole which lives here about. The box is now a bit old and grubby but the teeth are still inside.
And speaking of scouting, I also have two figures I bought from a shop on a campsite somewhere, a climber (for years I thought he was a miner until I looked again) and a white water rafter. They’re only plastic but are still in good condition and the climber these days uses my last remaining piece of cub scouts uniform as a sort of harness, my ‘Cheshire constabulary’ woggle which was given out for completing a course.
Amongst my other little shop items are the US constitution, an English redcoat soldier from Edinburgh castle (he’s metal, not real) a plastic Roman from the Grosvenor Museum in Chester, a mummy in a sarcophagus from Manchester Museum, an empty toffee tin from the Imperial War Museum in Salford (yes, I’ve been to a lot of museums in my life!) and a Lord Kitchener fridge magnet from the same place. Meanwhile, on the wall is a print I bought from the Police Museum in Manchester and I also have a mug from the Constitution Centre in Philadelphia. The newest little shop items I picked up were from the Maritime Museum in Liverpool. The only reason I had gone in (on this occasion) was to look in the shop and see if they had any model ships- They did! A black pirate ship. Proper wooden model ships are really hard to get hold of these days, nowhere seems to sell them, so I was chuffed as punch to find this. That day I also, for lord knows what reason, decided to buy a model of Liverpool’s city symbol, the Liver Bird. I call him Larry.
THINGS FROM A REGULAR SHOP
My model ships are the prime examples of this, a lot of them coming from those shitty French seaside towns I was dragged on holiday to as a child. They always had them in those tacky ornament shops you find in such places. They aren’t the greatest quality but they look good on a shelf. My first was H.M.S Bounty and as a sign of how much a piece of cheap tourist trash it is it has a paper French flag stuck to the back of it. Also from abroad are Columbus’s ship the Santa Maria, some fishing boats, a rather cool ship in a light bulb and an entirely glass Viking longboat in a bottle. Sadly the longboat has some little bits that have broken off due to it once being knocked off the shelf. From somewhere in Norfolk came HMS Victory and from the RNLI shop in Beaumaris I have a miniature Endeavour. The one I always keep my eye out for is Endeavour as I’d really love a big one… Whitby might be the place to try for that I’m thinking. I’d like to see the rebuilt full size one as well. That, however, would require going to Australia.
My long ago school trip to London, as well as the story of how I almost vomited in the House of Lords and got lost in Windsor Castle, yielded a small cityscape type model and a more recent visit to Chester brought a dragon into my life. I called him Ceilliau. In Cardiff I happened upon a toy store and bought, for some odd reason, a figure by the name of Garlic Gus. Amongst this collection you could also include ‘Real Fast Food’ by Nigel Slater, which I bought whilst wandering around Bolton Town Centre.
LEAFLETS, TICKETS AND GUIDEBOOKS.
This lot probably makes up the bulk of my travel mementos. The guidebooks are strewn on shelves all over the place- One for Caernarfon castle, Conwy Castle, Penrhyn Castle… The Penrhyn one has not only proved useful for work, it’s actually a really good, in depth guide book all round. I also have guidebooks for Manchester Cathedral and for the Richard III/Henry VII experiences as well as others. In my opinion it’s always worth buying them (unless they’re super expensive) and the reading is always good for half an hour or so, sometimes more.
A step down from guidebooks are the leaflets they give out at such places. Often there’s never enough information on these things, I find, but they’re still worth keeping hold of and worth having a read. Most are nothing more than a short ‘welcome’ with a map and a bit of information. Chester Cathedral and The US National Constitution centre are the ones with the least information whilst the US Capitol leaflet is more like a mini guide book all by itself. I have leaflets for Barley Hall in York, both Cathedrals in Liverpool, something for the York Cat Trail (which when I go back and have more time I think I’ll follow in full) and for the Welsh slate museum. I have loads of these… Quite literally, loads.
The tickets come in all shapes and sizes. One, from the old Doctor Who experience in Cardiff, is a wristband and the ticket for the SS Great Britain comes in the form of an old fashioned ‘passenger’s contract.’ Beaumaris Courthouse and Gaol is a paper pull off thing, meanwhile, and the Jorvik Medieval Pass is proper credit card stylee. My boarding card for America is in here, as is my train ticket for Cardiff. I have a ticket for the Empire State Building (which, to tell the truth, wasn’t worth it.) There is one for the Statue of Liberty, though I only saw it from the boat unfortunately. Finally we have my theatre tickets- One for Hairspray on Broadway (it had George Wendt, who played Norm in Cheers, as Edna) and the other for The Mousetrap.
I don’t have many of these but I have some. Most of them are US cent pieces but I have a few special coins as well. One is a Centre Parcs one from a coin machine, a warped one pence in other words. I have some George III replicas in a cardboard display book and I think they came from the Grosvenor in Chester (which would also merit them as falling under ‘From The Little Shop.’) My favourites of all the coins are the Jorvik ones. I have two from a university trip- Like the George III coins they’re in a cardboard display book. The other one is probably at least twenty years old and is in a faded plastic bag.
Photographs are the ultimate travel keepsake. With everybody owning some sort of camera it’s something we can all have and whatever you end up with is unique. Personally I take quite a lot of photographs and some of them do end up rubbish but I keep most of them, unless they’re really bad and blurry. A lot of them are cloud stored right now as my computer came with a ridiculously small amount of hard drive space but I always put my favourites up on my flickr page. There’s a lot of Liverpool on there. The trouble is that all of the photos we take today are digital and they are easily lost. This happened to me at the end of university when I locked myself out of Facebook. When I got back in it was months later and I had a new profile so I dumped it without collecting my photos. My laptop had gone down the tube the year before so I lost pretty much all my photos from my first two years of university. The only one that survives is a picture of Conwy castle, a good one though. Everything before that is either on disk or on memory stick. Always back up your photos, that is the lesson here.
I don’t suppose my dodgy knees count? Probably not. The most prominent miscellaneous items I have are some sea shells that I picked up from Crosby Beach. One of them is a razor clam and the rest are muscles or bivalve/scallopy type things.
In a little bag in my archaeology box (yes, this is a thing) I have some bits from an exploration a friend and I undertook. We went across town (a part I’d never been before) to investigate the site of an old mill by a brook. They’re mostly bits of pottery but there’s a nail and a bit of chicken bone in there. At least I hope it’s chicken bone. Interestingly, that trip was also the inspiration for the scene with the gravling nest in Spawn.
The other miscellaneous items I have are two theatre programs, one for Hairspray and the other for The Mousetrap. They aren’t the only theatre shows I have seen, obviously, but those were the ones I saw on my travels and so they’re kind of special.
As stated in my opening paragraph, I feel it’s a shame to throw away anything you collect on your travels. That isn’t to say that things don’t sometimes get thrown away or go missing.
A Roald Dahl audiobook on cassette, for example. It came from somewhere in Cornwall or Devon I think. It might have been Charlie and the Chocolate Factory but I had Fantastic Mr Fox as well and it could have been that. Whatever it was, it has long gone.
There’s the cardboard train… It might not really fall into travel memento category though as it never made it past a few hours. That story is one I’ll tell another time as I have a theory about what happened to it.
The other thing potentially lost forever is a teddy bear and I had had him for as long as I could remember. He went by the name of ‘Jersey Ted’ (it was written on his jumper) and obviously he came from Jersey. Unfortunately I have no memory of Jersey as I was only a little nipper at the time but the bear, I remember. He came with a little book of stories and in later years adopted an eye patch that came in a party bag. If I still had him he’d be my oldest souvenir. I think I know where he might be but I can’t be certain. He might be in the outer loft space and I’ve been meaning to go up there and check for a while. I think in all honesty I should do that before I leave here for good.
Many of my travels, particularly those I’ve undertaken, can be seen on my Travels page and there will be plenty more in future. I’m tempted to write about Philadelphia and maybe a bit about New York and I’m planning a couple of excursions to the Wirral for some stage. I’m also in the process of saving for a mega-trip, which depending on how much I can save will either be an epic journey into the wilds of the north or a fantastic voyage down to the sun drenched lands of the Mediterranean. I might even do both if I can save enough.