Micro-trauma #2: Dead Pets and Detachable Ears

For me, everything is synecdochal - parts of a thing can stand for the whole of a thing, and the whole of a thing refers to its parts.

In this way, an ethics of negativity can be drawn from tiny moments of local trauma, just as it can from recognisable, large scale crises.

And that's why yesterday, I wandered down to a small, unlovely patch of concrete and haphazardly trimmed greenery called Ufton Gardens to search for evidence of death.

I found the story on the Hackney Post and thought it looked interesting. The picture explains the story quite succinctly, but to summarise: someone had been leaving poisoned meat in Ufton Gardens in an attempt to kill off the local foxes. Unfortunately for local pet owners, two cats and a dog had died from eating the meat. The story didn't say how the fox population had been affected.

According to the story, a man living on Ufton Road had 'openly confessed to setting out poisoned meat, after he caught foxes eating carp from his pond'.

I couldn't find Ufton Gardens on google maps, so I put on my coat and went out to find it. It took two minutes to get there, and after walking around the small patch of concrete and finding no meat and no dead animals, I realised there wasn't much to research. The laminated sign that features in the photo was nowhere to be seen.

From across the road, three teenagers standing outside the off licence watched me with little to no interest as I circled the non-space trying to think what could be gained from being there.

I wanted to speak the man with the carp. I wanted to see where the pets had been buried. I wanted to know what sort of meat was used for bait. This was the location where the meaning of those things converged, but no meaning could be squeezed from this place today.

So I went into the off licence and bought some chocolate.

When I went back into the building, Glen had a trolley full of stuff that he was taking out of an upstairs cupboard and moving into storage.

He showed us a sports bag full of someone's eraser collection.

I have vague memories of school friends who "collected" stuff like this. I collected cereal box toys for a while, in the mistaken belief that they would accrue some material value. I have the box at my parents' house, I never quite manage to throw it out.

We searched through the bag, picking out erasers shaped like vinyl records, animals, a lip balm. Cultural detritus of the lowest order. 

We found this rubber bust of Van Gogh. He was depicted with one ear, but on the wrong side of his head. (He - or Gaugin, according to the latest theories - cut off his left ear, not his right.) It was nice to think of this tiny piece of kitsch interfering with the reception of a historical narrative.

Glen said that he'd seen Van Gogh doll with a detachable ear.

The label says, 'I'm Van Gogh, my ear comes off!', which presumes the British pronunciation of Van Gogh ('goff', rather than 'goh'), if it's meant to rhyme.

At least it's the correct ear.