My first trip abroad, almost 40 years ago, was to Majorca and naturally I brought back one of those thin stemmed vino bottles that you drink by holding it back over your shoulder while dislocating your arm at the same time. Being a non drinker, I was never sure why I bought it but I guess it had an air of the Mediterranean about it. For many years it became a dust catcher on a shelf in my living room and after a downsizing exercise a few years ago, it's now part of a landfill just south of Barnsley.
I often wonder what future archeologists will make of it. Part of a Spanish community in Yorkshire perhaps or maybe they'll come up with the idea that Barnsley used to be twinned with Valencia ? Just shows how something trivial like a tourist's trip to Majorca in 1972 could lead to ill conceived theories that Iberia was once connected to South Yorkshire during Ice Age 2.
My next trip was to Austria and all I brought back, that I'm admitting to anyway, was a small wall plaque with some sort of Austrian crest on it. It said so on the front.
Again this ended up having 'pride of place' in a far alcove of my living room and to see it up close, you had to move the half ton tv set to one side, climb over the electrical cords that powered 9 other entertainment devices and the same amount of speaker cables as at a U2 concert.
It's now keeping the Spanish vino bottle company in darkest Barnsley.
Canada was next and by this time I'd finally realised that my home was never likely to be featured on 'Through The Keyhole' even though numerous visitors to it had been known to exclaim "Who would live in a house like this ???? "
And so my souvenirs became more practical and less ornamental. When I started going to America, it was at a time when the fast food outlets and the major movie studios would team up to their mutual benefit by offering drink 'cups' which promoted the latest summer blockbuster movies. That was why, several trips later, my kitchen cupboards were overflowing with 'supersize me' plastic cups featuring images ranging from Batman to Spongebob Squarepants !
Did I say practical ? Well one or two cups MAY have been useful but in my enthusiasm to gather up every free souvenir cup I could lay my hands on (well free if you bought the extra artery clogging meal that offered the cup), I ended up with about 25 times the number of cups as I had annual visitors to my house.
And they were pretty fed up having to drink their tea out of a 32oz cup anyway. I probably shouldn't have included straws either.
Of course I also returned with my suitcase full of novelty t-shirts which over the years became dusters and cleaning rags. This wasn't simply down to my increased girth but more a case of what is acceptable in America isn't quite the same as what is acceptable in North Leeds. The amusing, but slightly naughty, t-shirt that had seemed like a good and practical souvenir idea when seen hanging on a rack in Ron's Surf shop on Daytona Beach just didn't cut it in the Moortown branch of Marks & Spencers.
And you can only wear so many baseball caps from so many Hard Rock Cafes - although as my hair receded, they became much more practical. As with most items of clothing, one or two became favourites and the rest were exiled to the land of unwanted souvenirs, or my back bedroom closet to give it its proper name.
Finally I switched to keyfobs and fridge magnets - smaller and just as useless really. I only have one car. I only have one front door. I only have one fridge/freezer. Yet for some reason I have over 100 keyfobs and about 75 fridge magnets from every State in the Union. I have Disney fobs, Coca Cola fobs, a musical Chicago Cubs fob and even a fob that contains a condom ! Now I can tell you that's not the fob you want your keys to be on when you leave them on the church pew one Sunday morning. Oh no, believe me, you don't.
And the fobs themselves ! Some of them are so big (promoting a movie) or knobbly (the plastic Snoopy) that you'd not want them in your pants anyway. The working model of Pinocchio has left scars to this day. And that's no lie.
So after my recent downsizing, the landfil near Barnsley is now 3 ft above sea level and dozens of Nigerian orphans are proudly sporting mementos of trips to strange sounding places they've never been to.....but that all have Hard Rock Cafes. More baffling historical artifacts for future archeologists.
And I'm left with mugs. Not many, but enough to act as souvenirs and talking points whenever I allow one to be used by a tradesman. I may not have a Johnny Depp mug but I do have a few that can only be looked at, even by me. Gold plated ones no less. Well I think it's gold. The man in the store swore it was gold and if you can't trust a man who lost an eye and part of his leg in a sword fight, then who can you trust ? Even his parrot backed up his story.
Nowadays I don't bring back any traditional souvenirs.......not really. I bring as many Amaretto creamers as I can fit along the edges of the suitcase, a pack of white ankle socks and maybe some logo free polo shirts.
At least I can then shop with impunity at Mark & Spencers and other shoppers will never know that I've been to the Miami Hard Rock Cafe - unless, of course, they pop round for a 32oz cup of tea !!