Jumbo, a new film about a woman who falls in love with a fairground ride, sounds charming despite the strange premise. The film-maker Zoé Wittock was inspired by Erika Eiffel, the woman who married the Eiffel Tower; other objectophiliacs have fallen for chandeliers, briefcases and bridges.
In a more measured way, there seems to be a lot of it about. A wild swimming friend calls her preferred body of water her “pond boyfriend”; another friend sends me a picture of her bargain shiatsu massager with the message “I have a new lover.” My American friend tells me she’d “have a threesome with Marks AND Spencer”, which is troublingly generic: which branch? It also illustrates the erotic thrill of the unfamiliar because I can’t think of anything less arousing than aisles of Percy Pigs and Per Una.
Constrained horizons mean this has been a time of forming strong attachments to particular spoons or rings on the hob; it’s another facet of our pandemic oddness. When my son recently returned from several months away, I had to explain the new layers of complexity I had added to my hierarchy of mugs to stop him desecrating my favoured ones with protein powder. There have been three people in my marriage ever since my husband got his histrionic, high-maintenance coffee machine: he’s in thrall to its alarming emissions of steam and water and constant dramatic demands to be descaled, filled or emptied.
If I could pick any inanimate object with which to have a relationship, it would be York Minster, a building that still gives me goose bumps after 40-plus years of familiarity, but I have enough self-knowledge to know I would be punching stratospherically above my weight. My dysfunctional, co-dependent relationship with our robot vacuum cleaner – I really need it, but it’s so annoying – would require years of couples therapy to unpick. So what’s left? There’s a silicone spatula I’m very fond of: it’s unassuming but effective, with a certain discreet style. We complement each other; we work well together. I think that’s what they call “relationship goals”.