Bring It Back: Souvenirs We Love
The origin of the word ‘souvenir’ is late 18th century, French, from souvenir ‘remember’, from Latin subvenire ‘occur to the mind’, but it has come to mean a keyring made in China. If you have the misfortune to walk around Leicester Square, once a perfectly pleasant and fairly unremarkable set of roads featuring cinemas and theatres, you’ll now find yourself barked at by Korean women trying to lure you into very bad restaurants, and souvenir shops selling police constable, red telephone boxes, guardsmen – all the things you don’t see anymore in London.
A friend of mine once made a fortune very cleverly. After taking a cruise, he realised that the ship’s entertainment consisted of unemployable 70s sexist comics, and replaced them with modern stand-ups. I can’t help thinking that London’s souvenir tat needs a similar shakeup; dump the key-rings, bottle-openers and fridge magnets, create some truly remarkable gifts. In the market at St James’s Piccadilly there’s a man who sells brass kaleidoscopes, and he does a roaring trade.
In Transylvania the usual glut of Chinoiserie existed, although I did find some nicer items – a leather-bound volume of Dracula in English (the only one! Missing a trick there, I feel), and if you have to own a snowglobe, go for this batglobe (you need Quicktime for this).
Generally the tat was of a high quality – hats, models, books – but no bats! What’s the best/worst souvenir you’ve ever bought?