Green Grotto, Blue Grotto
I’VE READ THAT KIDS IN THE EAST END of London made grottos. It required a vaguely curatorial eye for whatever pretties or curiosities could be scrounged up and displayed on the doorstep. People payed to look. I like this idea very much. It’s a pre Second World War pop-up museum with a lovely child’s sense of shrewdness and irony, the kind adults always forget they possessed as children.
If you were to stand outside your house now and invite people in to peek inside your wardrobe or maybe check out your grocery shelf, they might give you a strange look and keep walking, but they’d be wondering not just where you fitted in the spectrum of psychiatric conditions, but also whether you bought corn niblets or had a penchant for condensed milk, or if there were pesto stains on your winter coat and yet all your tops were strictly arranged by colour.
Back to those canny East End kids, arranging their collection of bits and pieces and then calling it something exotic and beckoning like a grotto, when much about their lives was dreary and the adults were often as worn down as the front steps of their rented houses. That’s style, kid-style, don’t you think?
To assemble their grottos – in a box perhaps – they might have whipped a china souvenir of South End out of the front room when nobody was looking, or ‘borrowed’ an older sibling’s best marbles. They might combine hair ribbons and a fortuitously found dead mouse with a champion conker or a clothes peg dolly.
I’ve long wanted to try this grotto thing out in a web context, and in Skipist terms it naturally requires rehabilitating something in the process. My grottos are inhabited by the (more or less) good bits from bad photos. I’ve picked the eyes out of an awful lot of lousy pictorial potatoes. There are no corn niblets – or mice – just random objects arranged by colour. Those kids weren’t pursuing a long process, even one with a very short manifesto, and they didn’t have to explain the context, as I am now. I cannot claim to have retained their spontaneity. It’s been absorbing though, and in calling it a grotto, I hope I’ve kept the irony aglow, just a little.