Wooden friends

“You’ll get nothing back, if you put those old pieces of furniture back on auction, now”.

“I don’t plan to sell my of them.” I’ll reply, “They’re my friends. they have followed me, stayed with me, for decades, now. Add their own lifetimes, and we become antiques together, even though not in a Collector’s realm.”

“Do you remember,” I say, addressing a low, heavy old oak cabinet, hiding many life albums, “when I rescued you from an auctioneer’s back yard?”

I couldn’t believe the lovely wood had been exposed to scorching sun, and soaking rains. Ridges had started to form on a hinged lid, yet the hand-carved, lower squat shape, held its’ own. One of the decorated ball feet, was divided and damaged. “Perhaps that is why they abandoned you? Well, we sorted all that out, and you have remained treasured and working, ever since, comfortably, in your chosen corner”

Under a discreet lid, and within, this cabinet, an empty cut for a gramophone space, will never compete with the real upright 20s , dark ash Performer, in the other corner of my room. Lift that top lid, and find the centre emblem, with the inimitable ‘Master’s Voice’ terrier, waiting for our ear-blasting volume to be released. For that, grasp round knobs to open two small doors, exposing slats over a horn. Below, concealed behind the finely grained wood, is a store place for vinyl records, resting now. Past occasions with the upright gramophone, have seen glory, for example, as at a 20s revival garden party, with a willing young boy to turn the handle, liven the speed... move on to Tangos, Rock & Roll... later, even dated Tenors...

Let’s turn to the silent, but proud writing bureau, centre stage, which might well also have once viewed the 20s Razzmatazz world, or felt it’s stories written. On the outside of its’ reclining, writing lid, is a blank medallion design, on warm red mahogany. Inside that lid, shielding cubby holes and secret drawers, just missing the green baize inset, are large ink stains, reminiscent of fountain pens and blue-black ink. The desk had been a birthday gift from me. another auction room bid. One day, it came back to me, to fill yet again, with hoarded envelopes, soft-edged papers, letters, secreted pens ... and much, much more. I have always appreciated its’ carved bulbous legs and worn rungs, below.
In the more ornate category, to keep myself and my room, company, is a traditional, dark-wood capacious piano-stool., with carved rung handles, to ease up from, after long, now past, piano practises; little colonnades are for legs, and curved feet.... best of all, a secure lidded seat, seat, the home for years of saved brochures, replacing the original music scores.

Shouting out for recognition, from the space between 2 doors, is the youngest Upstart. is a small but adequate chest, with a deep lid and brass handles on each side of the box. It was created some 20, 30 years ago, from a rich reddish wood from ancient tropical forests, above valleys in high mountains. It has rounded shoulders, its’ skin is smooth and firm, but here and there, you will find deep, revealing, characteristic cracks, and fissures.

This other friend, may have been recently crafted, but what a history! Its precious wood had provided railway sleepers, weathered, smoothed, and strengthened to iron, over a hundred years ... The wood sleepers were finally replaced by iron, then stacked, and forgotten, being unusable for firewood for the local workers. During the nineties, however, aspiring and innovative individuals, finally were able to cut through the wood with machinery; they joined and polished the pieces to create treasures, furniture, doors, supports. My chest sits solid and guarding, with a signal to a couple of deeply, beautifully cracked stools, of the same tribe, nearby.

I have more friends, if fairly crowded. We all share memories.

There is the pseudo 16thC small table, for ‘everything’. It has eight carved legs some to pull out, and angle, to support side flaps. That, a bookcase, and wall mirrors, in wood-framed, period style, sailed high, long ago, on a car’s open roof-rack. all the way from a farm of gum and pine trees, outside town, to my home in the suburbs. The farm had vast, converted barns, and the owners had turned from tobacco crops to furniture creations, using their own grown wood. But they were among the early possessions to be invaded, under an African government directive... their trees burnt and chopped. barns destroyed. Somehow, that link between country spaces, a dusty avenue, a rickety sign, and person to person, warm and welcoming salesmanship, lingers on, as if alive, not wiped out at source.

My friends and hand-woven baskets made from reeds in a thin stream near my home, kindly disguise a cunningly spread range of portfolios, canvases, files, while cork boards remind me of many arts and interests for engagement... inside or outside this room of friends.

Less delicately, perhaps, than Virginia Woolf, I pick my way, but with extreme comfort and gratitude!

Amai lived Africa, Italy, now England. An artist, with a love for word., thoughts, memories, pictures…