Rain, which has at last stopped, has been the main feature of our weather for the last two days in a row. Very welcome rain from the garden’s view point and for the first time so far preventing any outdoor activity although I might complete a few jobs in the greenhouse later on.
In the meantime I return to the story of my desk. Or I should say stories. Things I collect about me all have stories. I have made it my way of life to retain and live within, as it were, connections with loved ones and my shared experiences with them. I have said ‘live within’ because these are not accumulations of memories opened as the inclination takes like a photograph album. The work shed is a good example. I have, along with my own tools, my father’s, my uncle’s and more recently my best friend’s father’s tools, given to me by his wife. They are all regularly and deliberately used on my own projects, their owner in mind as if they were merely borrowed, in mind and in my life.
Another example is my everyday ‘Bling’ which I assemble about my person daily in a little ritual, always in the same order, each one a lived experience involving a loved one. I am working on this story which I am relating in another form which brings me to my desk and the white lidded aerosol behind the tablet PC.
This aerosol contains spray glue. It sits there awaiting the completion of a piece of writing to accompany an abstract painting destined for an illustrated book, a long term project that I add to from time to time and which requires spray glue for each illustration.
The light reddish brown pebble in the bakelite case on top of the desk, (it can only just be made out), was used in another piece from this book and collected from a cornish beach. To my imagination it contains a monstrous, mythical, swimming beast.
You can see trophy badges from father’s day cards, one from my son another from a granddaughter which at the moment are reminding me that father’s day falls on day 92 in The Covid.
The dictionary came from my office at my long term employers who were so grateful for my devoted service after 25 years that they made me redundant. I used this dictionary for all of those years and it remains with me along with the ‘traffolyte’ sign announcing the name of its occupant from my old office door. This latter trophy now adorns my work shed and serves the same purpose. I also decamped with a waxed pocket engineers reference, a handful of drill bits, a scientific calculator you can just make out top left, a Brinell microscope, which is behind the calender with the tulips, and traumatic memories of the redundancy process which now adorn many of my worst dreams.
And so to return to the desk itself. The desk is C1930. It belonged to my uncle Dennis and was used by him in a small bedroom upstairs where they lived in Fleetdyke Drive, Lowestoft. When I helped his widow to move to a smaller house she gave me the desk in thanks for a laying a patio. It was my idea, Dennis was a second father to me and the first big loss of my life, he sat once where I am sitting now. His old desk also holds a hand made token recording their Golden Wedding anniversary, behind the PC, a box of fishing flies, top left under the calculator, and one of his wife’s paperweights on the right by my red notebook.
But my favourite thing is this :-
In one of the drawers I found an old, complete, packet of 10 Wills Woodbine cigarettes. They have their own story. Dennis was a heavy smoker in his younger days and often relayed this story. He told us that one day he ran for a bus and nearly collapsed in pain and breathlessness. He would have been around 25 to 30 years old. He gave up smoking on that day at that minute (around 1949 I would guess) and carried an unopened packet of Woodbines around with him for many months afterwards without ever touching them. He never smoked again. We knew he had kept the packet and there it was in his desk drawer.
In another connection, I worked at the factory where they were made during the summer school holidays as a casual labourer. There are so many more threads and connections on and in this desk, an old piece of utilitarian furniture but which resonates the lives I’ve known with my own life and I just adore it with all its inmates.