Hurricane Bertha beset Downton this morning, as we drove Sheila to New Milton for her to attend a Quakers meeting. We went off to Tesco superstore for a shop, and by the time we had finished and returned for our friend, Bertha had hastened on her way to London.
The Quaker meeting house put me in mind of Muriel and her table. Muriel Trapp was my Area Manager when I first arrived at Westminster Social Services Department in 1974. Muriel’s funeral in 1980 was the only meeting I have attended. I was impressed by the calm silence we experienced except when someone had something meaningful to say. My former manager had been a Friend.
When Jessica and I first set up home later in the year of my arrival, we bought two second-hand items from Muriel, who lived in North London. I think we paid 50p for the broom and £30 for the table, first setting it up as a dining table in our Lloyd Baker Street flat in North London. This item of furniture is of the kind that is often found in retro-style pubs that are furnished with a hotchpotch of the kind of pieces your mother might pass on to you or buy for you, to equip your first home, from house clearance or charity shops. Already quite elderly forty years ago, it had a central leaf that could be utilised by pulling out the main two that were mostly in use. So rarely had this operation been performed that the unused section was still bright and shiny beneath its scratched and stained companions. It travelled with us to Horse and Dolphin Yard in Soho, and on to Gracedale Road in South London, each time serving the same purpose. When we moved to Newark, where a long kitchen table was already installed, it was converted to an arts table at which we sat to make and paint things. We kept it clean, but a few ink stains were inevitably added to its surface.
In 1997 Jessica’s siblings gave us our first computer. Muriel’s table then became a computer table, and remained as such until, in 2006, I moved back to London. It reverted to my dining table in Hyde Park Square and again in Leinster Mews. When, in 2007, I moved to Sutherland Place, it was transported to Elizabeth’s garage in West End, Southampton. At some stage, my sister’s garage/workshop suffered a leak. A little mildew consequently mingled with the other surface stains.
In 2009, Muriel’s table was scraped clear of vegetable matter, crossed the channel and became the kitchen dining table in my house in Sigoules. A year or two later I bought another table for the kitchen and moved the subject of this story to the sitting room where, once again it became a table for a computer and various other gentle activities. In the picture it bears a notebook, a camera, a bowl of walnuts, a number of dictionaries, and Michael and Heidi’s wedding group photograph. The walnuts were a gift from Chris’s lifelong friend Mike Ozga and his wife Oona. They brought these from their own garden about 30 odd kilometers away in Acquitaine.
When Sheila visited The New Forest last year we had, at her request, gone in a fruitless search for Sway Tower. The following October Jackie and I found it, and I featured it as Peterson’s Folly. Today we took Sheila to see it.
This evening we all dined on a wonderful roast lamb dinner, followed by rice pudding. I finished the Medoc, Jackie drank the last of the Lambrusco, and Ian drank Hoegaarden. Sheila’s choice was sparkling water. After this Becky and Ian returned home, leaving Flo and Scooby with us.