Tuesday 27 November 2012

Geegaws and gimcracks

So the physiotherapist said today there's nothing he can do for me. Wait. He said there's nothing more he can do for me. That's better, right? That means that, after nearly 7 months since stupidly, and clumsily, leaping off the back of a moving boat onto the river bank thereby dislocating and fracturing my shoulder, followed by one distinctly non-urgent ambulance ride, half a tank of Entonox, three hours in the tender loving care of the NHS in Norfolk, one doctor's visit, several X-rays, a CT scan, an MRI, two consultations with an orthopaedic surgeon, 20 decreasingly painful sessions with John the physio, and the best part of $700, I'm on my own again. Which is not the same as being back to normal, because the arm is still weak, the range of motion is still restricted and the muscles still ache - but time and normal use should take care of all that. Says John.

As souvenirs go, I've had better. I long ago stopped buying the t-shirts with place-names on the front (is 2008 long ago? Maybe not. But nobody walks the Inca Trail without buying the t-shirt, surely? That's in a separate category entirely) or coffee mugs, stickers and embroidered badges. I don't often buy the other stuff either, apart from a little moonstone dodo from a lovely Mauritian stallholder who invited me and my friend home for dinner, and a patently machine-made and probably synthetic but still warm and cosy "handknitted llama wool cardigan" in Inca patterns from a rather tired-looking but friendly lady in the street on a chilly night in Puno next to Lake Titicaca. Having done so much travelling over the last 10 years (and yet having been to far fewer places than so many people who don't write about it for a living - what are they thinking?) I really couldn't buy souvenirs on each trip and still have room to move in my house.

People do though, all the time: I see them in markets and souvenir shops and at the airport, spending up big on local stuff for themselves and as gifts, and I wonder what will happen to most of it. Op shops, most likely, or the dump. And though it is a waste of resources and no good for the planet, it does of course serve an important purpose economically, and in tourist spots all over the world millions of people depend on the income from making (or importing from China) and selling it all. Aesthetically, though, it would be nice if tourists could be persuaded to buy beautiful, or at least pretty, things that they will actually put to some useful purpose, or genuinely take pleasure from every time they see them; instead of wasting their money on dust-collecting, jokey, junky plastic stuff that they wouldn't normally look at even once back at home. All of which reminds me, soon it will be time to put the tree up...

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