A History of the World in a Dozen Objects: Number 11 - The Obligatory Pot

by Jarvo J May. 27, 2011 3163 views

If there is a museum in the world that does not have at least one pot, then I am yet to visit it. They are the staple diet of historical study. It would therefore be odd to look at the history of the world and not include a pot. Indeed the radio series that inspired this little series of posts contained four of them as well as a couple of plates. If you are interested, podcasts of the whole series can be downloaded free of charge here [bbc.co.uk].

My pot is not particularly old, or well made. It has no use or purpose and certainly no value. Yet it does hold one particular record: it is the oldest existing thing that was created by me. It was made as part of a school project sometime around 1970. Everyone in my class made one, but mine was the best in the class. Not the best by a little bit, but the best by an absolute country mile. I tell you this not because I am some unbelievable egotist but because it genuinely was. I realise that this assertion may look like the hight of showing off but it isn't. You see the reason that my pot was the best was nothing to do with me, it was down to my mum. Everyone in my class turned out practically identical pots (hardly surprising, as we had all been given the same instructions to collect shells from the beach and stick them onto an old jam jar using pollyfilla). My mum though realised that they would look a little dull and so spent ages with me collecting washed up pieces of broken glass to give it some colour. She also realised that the bigger shells from our beach would leave big spaces in between and so she gave me the small shells that she had from a small bracelet to fill in the gaps. The result may not quite have the elegance of a Faberge egg, but it knocked anything my classmates did into a cocked hat.

But where's the history in that? It's all personal stuff and nothing to do with anyone else. Well, that's true, but the beach where the shells were collected was at Canvey Island which just 10 years before I was born had flooded, killing 53 people. At the same time across the North Sea 2000 people were killed Zeeland, Holland. That terrible night was not the only time that Canvey had been linked with the Dutch, in fact it was made by the Dutch! The island is largely under sea level, and was only made habitable when Zeeland born engineer Cornelius Vermuyden drained the land and built embankments, using techniques which had previously made much of Holland habitable. Today, the oldest building on Canvey is still the Dutch cottage which was built in 1618 [photoblog.com]. Many of the road names are Dutch.

Yesterday my friend Danrav posted the lesson [photoblog.com] that, ??As time moves forward, the sea patiently reclaims what it owns?. This of course is ultimately true, but you can buy yourself a few hundred years grace with the help of Dutch engineering.

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There are 7 comments , add yours!
Lis 8 years, 8 months ago

I love the pot so much and added it to my fave! I love shells and I love how you guys passionately decorated it with beautiful shells and added colored glass.. very creative. Thanks for the story. Lovely post!

8 years, 8 months ago Edited
Helen Hooker 8 years, 9 months ago

Wonderful post :-)

8 years, 9 months ago Edited
Sadhya Rippon 8 years, 9 months ago

It's a wonderful object that speaks volumes about you and your mum.

8 years, 9 months ago Edited
Gregg Maretka 8 years, 9 months ago

Very nice pot and great story and history lesson here...wonderful post !!

8 years, 9 months ago Edited
Oscar 8 years, 9 months ago

Pot??? Hmmmm....Wonderful image Jon! Excellent accompanying story as well. :)

8 years, 9 months ago Edited
Michael Sakowicz 8 years, 9 months ago

I like pot... Oh wait... You're talking about the container... ;)

8 years, 9 months ago Edited
Nadoune 8 years, 9 months ago

Excellente photo!!!:)

8 years, 9 months ago Edited
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