While not a huge fan of its host, Timmy, and still slightly suspicious of his clothing and techniques, especially the banging of children over the head, I did enjoy Mallet’s Mallet on Saturday mornings in the 1980s. Designed for children, the word association game was far easier to play than the game I like to play in which the words must be the opposite: not associated. Our brains are hardwired to think in chains; you say milk and I think of cows, or babies, or missing children; you say rose and I think of pink or fragrance or skin conditions. But there is a way to break the chain. The technique is similar to one I used while on a gameshow about memory for which I devised mental stories to remember words that were unconnected. The story became a vision, which was then easy to recall while the clock ticked and the pound signs flashed (hundreds, not thousands – it was Channel 5). To think of words that are not connected, you simply have to think of the alphabet. A sequence of letters (not necessarily in alphabetical order, otherwise your cover will be blown, Rainman style), immediately brings forth a word that begins with the letter rather than the thought of the previous word. In the home, connections and juxtapositions are important, but more important are disassociations. A beautiful ceramic vase is more noticeable and more majestic in the bathroom than filled with flowers on a table; a framed cherished item of clothing, umbrella, scribbled note from a loved one or book looks cooler than a print or poster; and haberdashery doesn’t have to stay in the sewing bag – ribbons in the fruit bowl and a special scrap of linen hung on the drying rack. There are, as ever, a few rules, but not many: do not mix items that may cause a hygiene risk. An old ribbon next to an avocado is perfectly safe, but the same scenario played out with a roast chicken causes more trouble for everyone than a bang on the head.


Bowl: house clearance, Avocado: Stratford Centre Market, Ribbon: Nantes flea market, Candle: Cire Trudon, Faux Hydrangeas: Williamson Design Florist, Perth, Fairy lights: Amazon.com and Ikea, Tablecloth: Mary Magdalen Foundation 


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