Nearly forty years ago, we lived in Sheffield, next-door-but-one to Bryan. He was and is a carpenter. His wood never came from the woodyard though. It was always scavenged. You’d find him investigating skips or nosing through derelict buildings. Not for him IKEA generation pine and MDF. No, Bryan looked for weathered oak, warm-toned cedar, maple, cherry, iroko. He’d pick up a walnut floorboard or a broken mahogany cupboard door. He’d squirrel away a fragment of marquetry or a shard of polished ebony. Who knew when they’d come in handy? Everything was carefully organised next to his workshop: it might wait years and months for its moment of glory, but every piece of wood would find a use … one day.
He wanted projects he could put his personal stamp on – no identical sets of anything for him. And he liked to try things out and experiment. So he made a deal with us. We’d get the dining table we wanted if he could try a few techniques that might or might not work. No money would change hands. In exchange for being guinea pigs, we would get a table – for free – that might fall apart within the year.
Forty years on, we’re still using it. We still enjoy the almost-game-of-chess to be played on its surface. We fondle the dome of wood rising gently along one side. We smile as we remember the small marquetry lines that punctuate one of the legs: they show the knee heights of Thomas, then four, and Ellie, then two. We invent tales about the stick-man water carrier and enjoy the pretty mother-of-pearl buttons embossed into the surface. Look at the legs. Each is different – one made from pillars of the checker-board assembly scattered on the surface.
The stick man.
The exploded chess board.
That sensual polished nipple of wood along one side.
Tom’s leg height.
Another detail from the side.
… and another ….
… and another …
One of the table legs.
A small detail.
Crawl underneath. The table is dedicated to everyone in the family. There’s a further notice: this one.
We’ve called in one 10,000 meal service, as promised on the dedication notice. Sadly, Bryan now lives in Wales, and we have moved north from the Sheffield street where we once all lived. Bryan and I each have a different partner now, and we’ve rather lost touch. But that table ensures that he’s never forgotten. And when I go, will it have to be chopped in three? Each of my children wants it. Perhaps it’ll be a Judgement of Solomon moment for them.
I’m an indifferent housewife and Malcolm is worse. What’s the point of dusting until you can actually see a result from doing so? Malcolm would probably say ‘What’s the point of dusting? All it does is re-arrange the dust.’ Hoovering happens when it has to.
So last week it was a terrible shock when I decided to have a really good spring-clean, hoiked the edge of a rug out from under the radiator where it’s normally firmly wedged, and found this…..
…….. the corner of our Persian rug chewed to a fragment. By clothes moths. Of whom I could see not a single sign.
Well, we cleared up the mess and left it at that. Until today. Malcolm had a little sort out of the jumpers in a drawer, and found this….
….. and this ……
Well. Spring cleaning it is then. With a vengeance. We’ve ransacked the shops for nasty chemicals, packaged for the most part in plastic (so much for our eco-credentials), and set to with the vacuum cleaner, dusters, scrubbing brushes, mops. It’s either that or face the world with every item of clothing interestingly decorated with a filigree of little holes.
Will it make us less indifferent housekeepers? Probably not. It’ll take more than that to change the habits of a lifetime. But then, it turns out that both Harrogate and Ripon are suffering from a serious Invasion of the Clothes Moth. Even Houseproud Housewives are not exempt.
Another update from my daughter’s long and exceedingly difficult journey from young widow to cancer patient to reconstructed survivor. You may have noticed that the more normal her life becomes, the fewer the posts …. so let’s hope it’s an even longer wait till the next one…..
A friend recently remarked that you’re all so heavily invested in my story that it would be only fair to let you see a picture of the new knocker. She’s probably right. So, here’s the result of my trip to the Build-A-Boob Workshop back on that Tuesday in late February. I’m actually quite proud of it – and, simply from a surgical perspective, it IS pretty impressive (in comparison with the flat-chested butchery which was there before, anyway). Unless there’s a market for MastectomyPorn™ – which, to be fair, there probably is somewhere – I guess this is only interesting to those who really care. So, here you go.
This is the norkitecture. My DIEP/TRAM autologous breast reconstruction, should you care to Google it (though readers of a nervous disposition may wish to look away now). No implants whatsoever. What little tummy fat I had has now been re-sited into…
Before I begin a series of posts from Spain, I thought some of you would like to catch up with Danny. For newer readers – my daughter, who is not called Fanny, lost her husband to oesophageal cancer after a tough couple of years of unsuccessful treatment, leaving her with 10 year old twins, a business which she and Phil had run together, and a recalcitrant dalmatian. Three months later, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She has the all clear, but is awaiting great reconstruction. In this post, she brings her story up to date. I’m so proud of what she’s achieved these last few dreadful years.
I meant to publish this just after Christmas, which passed without incident. I’d forgotten how to enjoy festive family time, because for the last four years its presence only enhanced the pain we were in as a family. Whether we were waiting for test results, or scans, or news of a trial which might just give my husband a bit more time, or for a mastectomy which would only afterwards determine whether my life could be saved or simply prolonged a bit, every Christmas week (when the rest of the country ground to a halt and celebrated) left us dangling in painful suspended animation. Every year, we wondered if it would be the last we’d see with our children.
But this year, it was wonderful. Quiet, calm, content… and rather than being angry for the loss of my husband (though of course the grief hit us all at times) I…
I was with Team William & Zoë at the weekend. A walk in Woolwich seemed a fine Sunday outing.
Woolwich is firmly a part of London now. But it wasn’t when it was omitted from the Domesday book in 1086, on the grounds that it was part of Saint Peter’s Abbey in Ghent.
It wasn’t when Henry VIII founded a dockyard here in 1513 to build his royal ship HenriGraceàDieu. It remained a royal dockyard till 1869. Then a Royal Laboratory, producing explosives, then a Royal Arsenal. By 1741, it had a Royal Military Academy too. Woolwich was a fine industrialised garrison town.
Until it wasn’t. The dockyard closed first. The Academy moved to Sandhurst in 1945. The Arsenal closed in 1967, though during WWI it had employed over 70,000 workers Woolwich fell on hard times. Even though, or perhaps because it became home, in 1975, to Britain’s very first McDonald’s.
It’s beginning to recover. Those fine military buildings are finding new uses as housing. With improved transport links, Woolwich is being touted as south London’s ‘next big thing’.
We did explore. That military architecture really is pretty fine. It forms the backdrop here to Peter Burke’s Assembly, 18 cast iron figures which speak of Woolwich’s busy industrial past.
And I love a gritty urban riverscape too. We planned to walk on, to the Thames Barrier.
But it was cold. It was raw. We wanted to enjoy our exploration. So we will come back another day, when the sun is shining. And we’ll return to Vib too. The bao at this wonderful Vietnamese café are certainly worth exploring.