I’m out of office and in a new country, but I’m not on holiday.
This is because I’m helping care for my 93 year old mother who needs 24/7 at home, after a sudden acute infection and a two week hospital stay. My sister and I kept a constant vigil at her bedside and her recovery has exceeded expectations.
Caring has taken over for now. Everything’s been on hold, but I’m inching my way back to elements of my previous existence. Life took a turn, something happened (as they say) and I don’t quite feel the same about anything.
Hospital life is a parallel universe – you both live on the edge of your nerves and wade through treacle. There’s an airless tension to waiting for (and advocating for) wellness within a vast institution, and to observing extreme ill health at extremely close quarters. It makes you think (a cliche of course).
BBC Radio 4 Desert Island Discs kept me going through the quieter night shifts, and also settled me on my nights off. I could just about post to Twitter and Instagram on occasion, but all I could really think about was getting mum through it. Hyper-focus enabled me to keep going despite exhaustion, anxiety, and sensory stress. Autism was helpful in this situation (despite extreme challenge).
My art practice focuses on objects, and now that we’re out of hospital I can find moments in the day to touch base with it a little. I’m indulging a growing obsession with an intriguing thimble I bought online just before everything kicked off. My husband brought it for me one visiting day, tucked among my spare clothes in a small suitcase. Emerging jewell-like from it’s cardboard tube, it seemed impossibly exotic and evocative – speaking to me of my other life – amidst the wreckage of the elderly ward.
So I’m now on the trail of this thimble, and have found that it is one of a set of six. Why they have been inscribed with Spain 1937 is of great interest to me. I need to find out what occasion they were made for.
By great luck I’ve managed to find a seller who has the remaining five thimbles (of course I snapped them up), and one set that was sold only three days ago. My only clue is Marin Spain in the listing that was sold (for which there was a box).
The two current leads pursued are a suggestion that the thimbles could have been made as souvenirs for the famous Paris Expo of 1937 (for which Picasso created his seminal work Guernica), or that they could relate to Marin Chiclana dolls (as each thimble seems to feature a flamenco dancer). But, if they are Marin Chiclana related, why the inscription Spain 1937?
Is it possible that Marin Chiclana dolls were featured on these thimbles for the 1937 Paris Expo?
Another possibility suggested to me is the occasion of the antifascist Second International Writers Congress in Defence of Culture (1937), with the Paris Expo being more likely.
Whatever the case may be (including possibilities not yet touched on) the date, 1937, and country, Spain, make these thimbles significant and probably politicised objects.
A curious symmetry of circumstance means that I have to wait a little longer for my thimbles to arrive, the seller has been suddenly called away from home to care for their mother…