Following on from my last blog of things I like in our garden, this will be about some of the things I like in our home. We have been here for 27 years and being 77 it is not surprising there are quite a few objects I would like to write about so this may run to two or more blogs! Growing up after the war we never had beautiful things at home, everything was functional and somewhat tatty. An exception was a glorious studio phonograph of polished walnut that had been converted to a cocktail cabinet with glass shelves and mirrors. When we lived in Willow Road it played shellac 78s using thorn needles. It was not wind-up, it had an electric motor but volume was controlled by opening or closing the front. Doors ran from top to bottom at each side, they were cupboards for storing records. Here is verse from my poem Ten things I learned before I was Fourteen.
9 – Sunday was a time for pre-prandial drinks.
I’d cube cheddar cheese,
spike some with cocktail sticks,
pile it in little glass dishes.
It was not long after the war
and Dad’s drink was Pink Gin
the officer’s wardroom favourite.
A drop of Angostura’s bitter
swilled around the glass, shaken out,
shot of gin and then water.
For Mum it was Gin and It;
Gordon’s with sweet vermouth.
The drinks and mixers were kept
in a saloon acoustic gramophone.
It was curvy, mahogany and burr walnut
now with a shiny mirror in its lid
shelves for bottles, mixers, glasses.
I’ve just remembered the soda siphon
with its heavy dull-nickeled lever and spout,
glass, re-enforced with cross braided wire.
We have art glass all over the house, these are from the collection on the window sill in the room we call the study. To the left and right are typical examples of glass from Murano with silver metal and multi-colours. The centre one I bought in a junk shop in Southend. We were on the way home when I spotted it. There was a collection of 5 glass items for £5 The shop owner insisted I take them all though I only wanted this one; I was struck by its beauty. I was delighted to discover it was signed by Kaj Franck a notable Finnish designer! I love the shape, the colour and how it feels in my hand.
The study opens into the hall where we have a wonderful Edwardian sideboard we call the Green Man.
It belonged to my grandfather and I have wanted it since I was about four. At breakfast it would bear chaffing dishes with egg, bacon, devilled kidneys and kedgeree. There was a Duralit toaster that toasted bread one side at a time. As it was patented in 1946 it was truly avantgarde! My aunt Margaret died a couple of years ago, she was 97, and she had instructed her grandsons to offer it to me. Yes! Fortunately it just fits in the hall. As you can see, it bears some of Valerie’s egg collection and the offering bowl from Celbic Hall Spiritualist Church now full of tiny, polished crystals and my wooden pendulum. My sister-in-law gave me the bowl, she was President, and no one else wanted it.
There is also a wonderful cast brass Buddha we bought at Southgate Auction’s. The artistry and craftsmanship is just wonderful and we are lucky to have it. It was with a signed Daum glass car. As we have nowhere to display the car it is in a box but it is one of the large ones. Both for £30.00!
We call it the green man because of this magnificent carving:
Crystals are everywhere. Here is some black tourmaline, I always buy a piece if I see one. It is very efficient at grounding, connecting the holder to the Earth, wonderful to hold especially a big chunk like this one. The other is a quartz druze which is the lid to the geode you can just see to the left of the Green Man in the photo above. Both the geode and black tourmaline came from the wonderful shop, Web of Dreams, in Crewes Hill.
Finally my art gallery. Yes it is in the loo off the passageway running from the hall.
I hang prints, odds and ends, all manner of things. In the reflection, to the right, you can see Al’s Dancing Fish that bangs its tail and swivels its head as it plays Elvis Presley’s All Shook up and Don’t be Cruel.
It came from Plains, Georgia, home of Jimmy Carter. Plains is just a row of about 7 shops and one was just magnificent. Full of everything including this fish. There was a cafe that had a notice “Open 7 days a week, closed Tuesdays.” We were in Georgia on our Honeymoon and were staying with my niece when 7/11 struck and we were marooned!
As I mentioned our honeymoon…
One of my favourite pictures of us taken my my stepsister’s son. We eventually made it to Canada and this is after our trip on the Maid-of-the-Mist at Niagara Falls. On the right is a blacksmith in a small tourist town near Americus, Georgia where were were staying with my niece. The leaf is now on the windowsill in our sitting room. We think it beautiful but blacksmith son Elwyn, sniffed and said he could have made a better one!
Next to the fish is a lovely letter from Sian Philips. I had sent her my poems concerning my welsh mother-in-law’s life on a small farm in Carmarthen as it seemed so like the tale she related, I had just read her autobiography. She wrote that I had “summed up her childhood in the best medium possible – poetry.” It is such a generous comment. I Like to collect old photographs and to the right of the mirror is an Ambrotype of a wonderful mid-Victorian gentleman.
Looking the other way you can see the motion activated screen that runs a video (see below) made by Giovanna Iorio of the Voice Portraits she made of twelve of the translations of my poem
Londinium. It plays when someones enters. The sound track is audio recordings of the translations. The link above is to my page of the 28 translations for a previous exhibition. I now have 39 which were to be exhibited at Enfield Poets Literary Festival which had to be cancelled due to the pandemic! Bottom left is one of my favourite photos of Valerie taken in Hadley Wood I think. Above her is of meandering Turkey Brook in Hilly Fields. The tan plaques on the right are beeswax casts of cities in Germany. They were given me by BASF as I was using their waxes at the time to make old fashioned, solid furniture polish in a round tin. It was in the late 70s. There were six but dog Merlin ate one. The glass clock is facing the wrong way as the battery was flat. I have since replaced it and it is now facing the right way. There are lots of other things, including a telegram, but enough for now but please watch the video below.