Sometimes I snap up a travel souvenir that makes me go, ‘Aaah… s’lovely, that. It’ll look ace on my mantlepiece/bedside table/dangling from the ceiling.’ But I long ago gave up buying objets de crap just for the sake of bringing something home. It’s obvious when you think about it. You’re in a tourist spot and you’re looking for something gorgeous. It’s not going to end well.
I recall hopping from shop to shop in the pouring rain in Taormina in Sicily looking for presents. Unable to afford or carry any of the colourful swirly ceramics crowding the shop windows, I was looking for something delectable and bijoux. Richly coloured eggs made of marbly onyx type stuff were pleasingly smooth to the touch but what’s the point of an egg that you’d break your teeth on?
Many of the souvenirs in Taormino were made out of bits of volcano. Sicily isn’t short of volcanic stone, it positively
explodes with it, in fact, so it’s forgivable that somebody probably picked up a fistful of the black, prickly lumps one morning, examined them closely with a furrowed brow and gave an excited yell of, ‘Eh, Elizabetta! Bring that box of googly eyes! These’ll make great ladybirds!’
Over the years, I’ve amassed Egyptian glassware, a Turkish rug, an Ampleman tee-shirt from Berlin, a carved fruit bowl from Poland, batique clothing from Australia, a fancy metal-worked camel incense holder from Jordan, and a malachite bracelet from Tanzania which disappeared 30 years ago and resurfaced last week in a carrier bag of Lego.