Old things have their own past, they’ve lived a previous life, they connect you to a vanished time. Source: George Butchard.
I love being around objects from those bygone days before Apple ruled the world and you could get an app that tells you how long it’ll take your beer to reach a specific temperature in the fridge. I came to this conclusion last weekend while wandering through Izmailovsky market, a huge open-air jumble sale in east Moscow that sells all kinds of Soviet-era bric-a-brac. Or as my long-suffering fiancée put it bluntly, “junk.”
“Why do people buy this old trash anyway?” She asked, sighing and tapping away at her smart phone.
“Nostalgia” I replied, as I wandered over to a man selling an abacus.
“Nostalgia for what? You weren’t part of the Soviet period.”
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“OK then, a sense of history. Old things have their own past, they’ve lived a previous life, they connect you to a vanished time. How much for the abacus?”
“2000” replied the stallholder, eyeing me warily, as if to understand if I was a man who knew his abaci, or if I’d accept this hugely inflated price. I bartered him down to 750, before realizing that on balance I probably don’t need an abacus. That was the story of the day, me seeing something I had to buy, Ksenia stepping in with cold hard reality. The questions came thick and fast: “Why do you need a bust of Stalin? Why do you need a load of World War II bullets? Why do you need a candlestick?”
All very logical, but they somehow miss the point of such a market, where “need” is not a word you should ever utter. In the end I left empty-handed, with my wallet undamaged and my desire to own a bit of history unfulfilled. The wider question remains, however, which is why I love old, useless memorabilia, and why new technology doesn’t fully satisfy me. All I know is that I would rather own older, even outdated objects, even if they’re objectively more hassle to use.
I’ve got a strange urge to rush off to Izmailovsky right now and buy a typewriter, so I can pretend to be Bulgakov when I’m writing my next blog. Perhaps I can convince the editors to accept a typed and mailed copy for all future submissions. We shall see!
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