The final All Blacks win against Australia felt like a perversity. Thomas, sitting next to his son John, suffered a heart attack and was carried through the stands on a stretcher. Jeannette brought up their four kids on her modest teacher’s salary. Bob, her youngest, followed her into the profession. Aged 20 he moved to Auckland for teacher training and met Helen. They married in 1967, when Helen was still a teenager. Jeannette advised them to enjoy their freedom before having kids. But Bob was ill and the diagnosis of Hodgkin’s, followed by witnessing a friend’s death, confirmed that life was for getting on with. They moved into a cottage in the ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ town of Ngongotaha. The rent was cheap but not cheap enough to suppress Bob’s ambition to build their own home. 1976 saw the completion of their new house and the arrival of their new baby, Simon. Ongoing chemotherapy meant Bob was too weak to work so he took up an apprenticeship with a cabinet maker. This fascination with making things and the need to understand their construction had been in evidence when he was a boy mending his mum’s lawn mower. So Bob made things, he made stools and wooden letters for the kids and bread boards and the workbench heaved and the bank balance shrunk from the acquisition of tools. This awl was one of those tools, passed down to Simon when his dad died at the age of 36. Simon, an industrial designer, says it is his ‘most useful, best tool ever’.
A training day in King’s Cross isn’t how Florence would have chosen to spend her birthday, but James told her he’d take her out for breakfast first. The training day was actually a ruse, hatched between James and Florence’s boss, Jess. James and Florence were going to Paris. They spent the day eating and drinking and walking and Florence left with a fat smile and blisters. James sent flowers to his co-conspirator Jess to say thank you. The flowers were a generic and boring bunch but they were an important catalyst for Florence. Her work was ‘perfectly fine’ but she wanted more. She’d been planning a pedal powered delivery service but she wasn’t sure what to deliver. Now she knew. She would deliver flowers. Nice ones. She quit her job and built a trailer. She hooked it up to 1 of the 200 bikes that hung in their flat, James’ business is designing and building bikes. That was a year ago. Florence has adapted to her 3am starts, heading off to Bristow & Sons in New Spitalfields and cycling back in the half light. She knows that Coronations are actually called Carnations and that Dahlias don’t survive the potholes of east London and that the Peonies from Spalding are always beautiful.
After he graduated Matt returned to Manchester but he ‘had naff all to do’ so he signed up for the maximum length of time for a residency. This would be the first time he’d been to Denmark. He was eager to avoid the kind of myopia that could take hold from too much time spent in the UK. This was a chance to escape and think. He met Sten at the International Ceramic Research Centre. They became friends immediately, the 50 odd years between them made no difference. Sten was happy to see Matt avoid the insularity of the Centre, he played football in the local team and made friends with people in Skælskør who had nothing to do with the world of ceramics. Matt says ‘Sten liked me more than my work’. It was only on Matt’s fourth visit that Sten gave him the pot. Sten gave the same basic pot to any visiting artist who he rated, asking them to decorate it. He used this pot design as the basis for a clay ‘creature’ he made. He gave it to Matt during his first residency at Guldagergård, it now has a permanent home in Matt’s London studio.
Herb put all his weight on the suitcases to close them. When he finally unfolded his body from seat 24C his $500 dollar suit looked like a $5 suit. He headed north to the Catskills but as the bus drove through Sullivan County the roads were peculiarly quiet. He arrived to find the festival had already ended, inspite of it running over by a day. Herb would have to stay longer than planned to sell the contents of his suitcases, ‘a grab bag of 60s crazy hallucinogens’. Twenty one years later he was still there, the drugs were gone and he’d found a wife. They settled in West Hurley, three miles outside of Woodstock. At the edge of their plot was a small orchard. One weekend Herb and his 5 year old son, Will, were digging over the soil. Will found this tiny toy gun. Herb explained that 100 years ago there’d been a little boy, just like Will, playing just here. And Will’s world condensed, even as a 5 year old this felt like an epiphany. Will still has the gun, held together with the fine wire that Herb coiled around its broken barrel nearly a quarter of a century ago.
When Anita was 12, her father brokered her marriage to a friend of his, a fellow dutchman in his 40s. Years of abuse followed and Anita finally fled north to São Paulo. She found refuge in a pension run by the church and found work in a local textile factory. Each day she passed a soldier, basking in the sun outside his barracks. Just a few months passed before Manoel proposed, neither of their existing marriages seeming to be an obstacle. After three miscarriages Anita gave birth. She put her eventual good fortune down to naming her baby after her husband, Manoel – no matter that the baby was a girl. This ring was bought to celebrate her daughter’s birthday. It was handed down from Anita to Manoela and from Manoela to her granddaughter Vee. Since Vee lost the Topaz stone from the ring she’s never taken it off. She was working as a nanny and after two months found the stone folded into a buggy’s rain cover.
Late Friday afternoon Thomas ‘Turk’ Cheney shrugged off his oily duck bibs. The next morning he slid into his snakeskin boots, a pearl snap western and Levi’s so starched they could stride out on their own. He grabbed his Stetson and headed to ‘The Elephant’s Trunk’ with James running behind. New Mitford’s flea market was a weekend ritual, they picked up rings, belt buckles and bolo ties. When Turk and his wife Joanne moved to a trailer in Broome County these accumulated things came with them. Turk was now in his 60s, ‘nothing worked but he just kept ticking’ until finally the cancer won. Joanne gave this tie to their son James on the day of Turk’s funeral. Throughout his life Turk had been fascinated by Alaska but he never made it out of New York state. James set off with his dad’s ashes. He hitch-hiked from Denali National Park in the west, south to Seward, up east to Valdez and north to the Yukon river, scattering his dad’s ashes at each point.