I’ve just returned home from a few days away in Bath. It’s one of my favourite cities – graceful Georgian architecture, and such history, not to mention good shopping at every turn. But for all my visits to the evocative, graceful Pump Room and the thrill of gliding around the Assembly Rooms, the thing that I came home most excited about was a small rubber duck.
To add insult to injury, it wasn’t even made in Bath. It was one of who knows how many hundreds of thousands mass-produced in China. It’s imperfect – there’s a fault that all of those in the basket in the shop shared. But it’s close to my heart for two reasons.
The first is that it’s not just any bath duck. It’s a Roman bath duck. And when I get enthusiastic about something, be it a television show (Blake’s 7 and early Supernatural spring instantly to mind) or a film, I get very enthusiastic. A quick glance around my study as I’m writing this yields a tapestry of Middle Earth and a banner from the Golden Hall of Meduseld on the walls and an action figure of John Sheppard from Stargate Atlantis standing next to my monitor. It’s possible that ‘enthusiastic’ is a bit of an understatement.
Shortly before going to Bath, I’d just watched The Eagle – the film adaptation of a favourite childhood book of mine, The Eagle of the Ninth. It didn’t give me all the things the book did, but it had certain compensations. And I’ve since watched it twice more. So it was somewhat on my mind when I saw this Roman legionary loitering on a street corner, looking no better than he should be:
And then I found Marcus Quaximus (so called because of his striking resemblance to Channing Tatum, who plays Centurion Marcus Flavius Aquila):
So my high level of enthusiasm was most definitely at play. But unlike other show-related items I’ve bought over the years, this fills a different need as well – a memory prompt.
I have a terrible memory. I’ve learned, though, that if I have something concrete to refer to, it seems to act as an anchor somehow and memories surrounding that object remain clear. So as well as the smile on my face from The Eagle associations, which will undoubtedly fade with time, Marcus Quaximus will continue to delight me as he reminds me of a precious few days spent in a beautiful city with my mother. Who was entirely bemused by my desire to buy the duck in the first place.
A piece of mass-produced touristy junk has wormed its way into my heart because what it represents is so precious to me–I love that I can be a dork and no longer care what anyone things about my ‘enthusiasms’, and I love that I have some special memories I’ll be able to look back on in years to come.