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William the Conqueror's famous battle took place a bit north of Hastings, and it wasn't too long after 1066 that an abbey was founded next to the battlefield, complete with supporting village.

Just short of a millennium later--910 years, to be exact--I came ashore at the White Cliffs of Dover, and before too long, was taken, as all visitors to Sussex must be taken, to visit the town of Battle, Battle Abbey, and, incidentally, the Battle Auction House, where things that were older than the country I came from were on offer to actual non-museum people.

I'd never been to an antiques auction before (and, now that I think about it, have never been to one since), and the thrill of bidding £50 on something--and winning it--was considerable. Especially since fifty quid was a hell of a lot of money to me in 1976.

A Victorian walnut writing box with parquetry inlay

It was a writing box. It wasn't older than the US, but it was as old as the state of Oregon (circa 1850), and that was still pretty cool. Gorgeous thing, walnut with brass fittings, multi-colored Tunbridge marquetry inlay, carved velvet writing surface, a secret compartment, the works.

Even then, when the internet was scarcely a gleam in some DARPA engineer's eye, I had no real use for a traveling escritoire (though it accurately presaged my avidity for portable electronics), but I loved it. I shipped it home to myself and, many months later when I shipped myself home, I found the writing box had been damaged in transit--dinged in a couple of places, one of the hand-wrought brass hinges broken, the velvet torn.

I wrapped it back up and stuck it on a shelf, and on one shelf or another it has remained for...(*does the math*)...three and a half decades.

Google turned up a nearly identical writing box just now (pictured above). Its price is not disclosed but comparison shopping suggests that it's probably about eight times what I paid for mine. I can therefore calculate the cost of my naive faith in international parcel handling at approximately...a lot. Education isn't cheap.

I think I'm ready to get rid of the Battle box at last.

You know, I think this whole thing is a metaphor.

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