Travelling around every few years, I actually don’t have that many long-term possessions. For a while I had clothes that had lasted for a good number of years. But beyond a few pieces of underwear that madam wished had long since been thrown away (she was largely responsible for other items of clothing being given away), almost all of my clothes are no older than four years. Thinking about my other items (and my own personal possessions took up less than two suitcases on the recent move), there is almost nothing older than five years. About the only thing currently among the possessions older than five years is my old Nokia phone (perhaps circa 2010), which I still carry around and use as a non-work number, and then my large pocket-sized Bible.
If you’d asked me about my small black leather Bible last week, I would have told you how it was a present received on my tenth birthday (or Christmas). I would have even turned to Colossians and shown you the pages that are still tea-stained from a spilled cup in the first few months of ownership. I could have even described how I had dried the Bible after that incident on the radiator in my bedroom in 22 Hazel Crescent, an address we lived at from 1988 to 1991, and that I could still picture the scene.
Only, on Sunday I was looking at the first few pages of the Bible, and noticed the phrase ‘This edition 1997’, which comes as something of a shock. This dates the Bible to a year before doing my A-levels and then leaving home for university. Providing the date is correct (I can’t come up with a reason why it wouldn’t be), then I was given the Bible by my parents much later (I was 17).
So, a bit of a surprise. This Bible is still something I’ve had and used on a very regular basis for more than two decades. It is I think the only possession that has accompanied me to all the different places I’ve lived (Nottingham, Cardiff, Leicester, Norwich, Oxford, Brazzaville, Abidjan, Dubai, Freetown, Lusaka). So I guess it can still be described as special in some way. The zip broke a very long time ago. And the leather looks worn, as do the pages. I remember there was originally a slip explaining how to take care of the leather, which stayed inside the Bible for a few years, but never led to any action. But the Bible is still as useful as it ever was, and it’s the format of the Bible that I feel most comfortable flicking through and reading from (despite the small text size). I don’t yet feel sentimental about it, but in a life that has seen frequent change, perhaps that feeling will soon come. And maybe it will, in time, become a tattered heirloom.