Saturday 21 April 2018

Schrödinger’s Fishing Tackle Box

Walking into work this morning I found myself thinking about my mother’s house which was cleared and sold last year. A few weeks ago I came across the property listing online, together with photographs of the house cleared for sale. Every room empty including what used to be my bedroom. The first space in the world I could call my own. Walls stripped of wallpaper and painted an aseptic white. Floors clear and sanded. No trace of the home I knew. The décor and furnishings now live only in my memory and a few photos of mine from past visits.

I’d suspected for some time that it wouldn’t be long until the house was sold, if it were not already, to cover the cost of my mother’s final years in nursing care. I could have asked someone about it but was content to explore the uncertainty. Looking back on it this morning I smiled to myself, recognising it as a Schrödinger experience.

Unless or until I asked the house, my home from birth until the age of eighteen when I left for university, was simultaneously sold—and not. Curiosity may have killed the cat but Erwin Schrödinger’s feline remains alive and not-alive until someone looks inside the box and the entangled, quantum superposition states of live cat / dead cat collapse.

At my mother’s funeral I was told—without my having asked and without anyone asking if I wanted to know—that the house had, indeed, been sold. But it was finding the photos online that collapsed the states for me. I looked inside the box. And found that the cat, or rather the home I had known for so long, was not dead. It simply was—not. It no longer existed. Like my mother. Like my father, years before. Not.

And my mind turned to the things the house once contained. The furniture, books, LP records, clothes. Had any of these now not-things been mine? It seemed plausible, although if there were still items of mine in that house decades after my leaving home, how important to me could they have been? I mentally ticked off a list of things I knew I had rescued and brought up north over the years.

  • A wooden tractor and trailer my father made for me one Christmas.
  • A wooden fort with drawbridge and moat, also my father’s work.
  • My collection of Action Man figures, uniforms, and equipment, including clothes my mother sewed and knitted by hand.

Another list, of things I was pretty sure I had never rescued and which were likely now not. Childhood board games. The six foot wingspan balsa wood glider I spend one summer building, filling my bedroom with balsa shavings, dust, and the rich aroma of cellulose dope. My scarcely used fishing rods.

And then I saw it in my mind’s eye, in all its classic red painted glory. The wooden fishing tackle box my father made for me: another Christmas present, or possibly a birthday. I would have been in my teens, maybe thirteen or fourteen.

I was never very into the fishing itself. I can’t remember ever catching anything despite visits to the canal with my cousin and to various park lakes with friends. But for a time I loved the craft and lore of it. I pored over angling magazines, crafted floats and lures from balsa wood, feathers, bits cut from tin cans—whatever I could lay my hands on.

I can see my tackle box now, clear as anything. The handle on the lid. The brass fastenings. I slide them open and lift the lid. Inside are all the floats, hooks, lines, lures and other paraphernalia. The scent of aniseed ground bait. And I wonder where that box is now. I’m not sure to which list it belongs. I may have brought it north at some point, in which case it is probably up in the loft. Or not.

It exists / notexists. Like so much else. And I find I am okay with that. With the unknowningness.

Old Schrödinger was really on to something.



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