Russell Norman Treasured Possessions | 451life

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Russell Norman Treasured Possessions

As I’ve gotten older I’ve become less sentimental and more matter-of-fact (although some might simply say more grumpy.) I’ve also gotten really cutthroat when it comes to possessions. I will occasionally have a good clear out and take boxes and boxes of old tat to the charity shop. Or I might simply tip the contents of a drawer into a black bin liner and throw it into the rubbish. (That did backfire once when I reasoned that a cupboard I hadn’t looked in for two years could contain nothing I really needed, and therefore threw it all away. I discovered later that I had accidentally trashed all my wedding photos, including negatives.)

These days I would be a little more careful, I guess, particularly with my treasured possessions. Here are four of them:

My 1928 Gibson L-1. I’ve got a few vintage guitars, and I would struggle to choose between this and my 1956 Martin 018, but the Gibson wins because of its heavy scarring and tattooing. It has been customised over the years and has a number of fascinating transfers and illustrations. It’s also got such a lovely mellow tone. I bought it at Matt Umanov Guitars in NYC and even though I walked away when I first saw it, the sales assistant predicted I would come back for it because it was influencing me with its voodoo powers. He was right.

Elgin A-11 United States Army Air Force (as it was then known) wristwatch. I have a small collection of watches, not of the flashy big Rolex variety, but of the quirky and historically interesting variety. This one is a gift from my son Ollie and is described by military types as “the watch that won the war.” All the allied nations used this model and, uniquely, it was mass-produced in many different factories around the world to exact specification but without a maker’s mark. Mine is from 1943.

First Edition of David Mamet’s American Buffalo. I’m a fan of David Mamet and in a previous career I taught drama. I once got chatting to a very well-known actor in the French House pub in Soho. He told me he was preparing to play the part of Teach in a West End production of American Buffalo. I think he was very surprised that I knew the play so well and we talked for hours about it. A few weeks later I received this book with a lovely note thanking me for the seminar! This is just one of many treasured books.

My monkeys. This is an every-growing collection of small carved, moulded, forged and cast monkeys that my wife started for me and continues to add to. There are some very beautiful Japanese netsuke antiques along with miniature Chinese marble sculptures. I love them all but my favourite is this Victorian painted lead fellow. And just think – children used to happily chew on toys like this all the time!