Mr Thwaite’s Doll – pt II
“The old man took a tin from his pocket and opened it to show to his friends. I had been reading an exhibition catalogue studiously trying to not to appear interested in their conversation so far, but now I was intrigued and put the book down.
Inside was a tiny clay figure, no bigger than my little finger, all of one piece with carved face and hair. The man animatedly explained how he’d found it on a riverbank whilst walking with his daughter in Ousbrough Wood. He’d just shown it to a historian friend nearby – we were near the British Museum – to see if they could tell him any more about it.
At this point I could hide my curiosity no longer, and asked if I might take a picture of it on the man’s creased palm. To be honest, I was just as interested in this mudlarking man who carried his treasures in his pockets to show to friends over tea, as I was in the doll; 17th or 18th century, perhaps a pipe tamper, he and his friends speculated. They went back to talking of other things, and after a while the man with the box and one of the friends left. The remaining man turned to me and said he wasn’t surprised by the finding of the doll, nor of his friend carrying it about and showing it to people; his friend was the poet Anthony Thwaite and was always finding things and then writing poems about them.
I came home inspired by Thwaite’s lifelong curiosity for found objects or fragments, and his willingness to share it; some research shows a terracotta head making an appearance in his poem ‘The Return’, his fascination of a graffitied Libyan potsherd in the poem ‘Sigma’; he even curated an archaeological exhibition at The Sainsbury Centre, Norwich, entitled ‘A Poet’s Pots’ in 1998. Perhaps it is no surprise to discover he describes himself as an ‘archaeologist manqué’.”