It was as I was glancing over the Times over tea recently, as I do most mornings, that I came across an article on a new exhibition that’s just opened in London.
So far, so unremarkable.
But what caught my eye was the exhibition’s subject, because I can’t think of a theme that would be much more heartbreaking to showcase. In The Museum of Broken Relationships, each item on display is a symbol of a relationship that’s gone wrong.
I can quite easily see how the collection came to pass. I’m a huge hoarder of sentimental nick knacks; bits and pieces that wouldn’t mean anything to anyone else, but are – for some reason – important to me.
I don’t know why. It’s not as if the receipt from the first-date dinner I had with The Writer is any more important in the grand scheme of things than any of the other receipts from any of the other dinners: the one we had to celebrate his new job, perhaps; or the one that coincided with the first time he told me he loved me – or, actually, anything else that we’ve done since. And yet it’s there, in a little box, along with a variety of other peculiarly mundane objects that have some strange sentimental hold over me.
Whether it’s because they represent something that’s come to be phenomenally important to me, or to act as an aide memoir to my increasingly terrible powers of recall, I couldn’t tell.
Really, there’s not an awful lot of point: I have precious little storage space in my house as it is (the Le Creuset habit needs to come to an abrupt stop before I have to start storing casserole dishes in my airing cupboard), and I’m sure, at some stage, in order to remember what each individual trinket means, I’ll have to start scrawling notes on the back of them like I do expense receipts. Which rather takes the romance out of the whole thing.
But whilst I can squirrel away mementos for no one other than me to ponder over occasionally when I’m feeling particularly sentimental, I don’t think I’d ever want to see a collection amassed by someone else of other people’s keepsakes.
Love, when you’re in it and you have it and enjoy it, is incredible, soul-enriching, life-affirming. But I don’t think there’s anything in the world more painful than the gap it leaves when it’s gone. Hundreds of tokens of that lost love would be heartbreaking to behold. So as moving and beautiful and endlessly curious as it may be, I think this is one of those things that I might leave to the harder of heart.