Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Cleaning up the past

I've been indulging in a spot of heavy cleaning. Not, you understand, your regular housework, that being the preserve of Mr B, but the creative, nostalgic kind brought on by the need to clean up the chair in which one's granddaughter has been eating this past week. The chair in question is one of four kitchen chairs which belonged to my parents - and if you look carefully at the blue label in the second photo, you will see that they were made by Ercol. (I should admit now that the chalk scribbling on the label was done by me, aged, I imagine, about three.)

As my parents were married before the World War 2, I think of the chairs as being bought in the late '30s. I first remember them in the kitchen of a top flat in Novar Drive, Hyndland, where they sat round the square kitchen table next to the range. Until we left that flat in 1955 the range was in daily use - it heated the kitchen and the water, though I don't think my mother used it for cooking unless there was a power cut. In these days the coal lived in a bunker in the kitchen, so every time coal was delivered the dust would go everywhere. Notwithstanding this grime, it was on one of these chairs that a nurse sat to hold me as I was anaesthetised prior to having my tonsils removed; this operation took place on the kitchen table and I survived.

Because, presumably, both chairs and table were robust and not easily damaged, I played on and under them all through childhood. They were used as steps or climbing aids and stood in for the parts of an imaginary boat/spaceship/house. I don't think they were ever really cleaned other than by the swift removal of dust - unless the tonsil job brought on something more serious. The woodwork in the room was a deeply utilitarian green, and I found a small splodge of this paint on the seat today, along with a smear of the pale grey paint from its next home, also heated by solid fuel.

I keep going on about the coal because today's labours produced a soupy sludge of years of coal dust, soot and very, very old polish. If you look closely at the first photo, you can see the darker colour at the foot of the spars and on the legs - I really needed to be in a sunny garden with some sandpaper to do the best job. As it was, it took a great deal of effort with wood shampoo, an old pot scourer and some beeswax polish. Perhaps one day I'll take all four of them outside and give them a real going over.

It's funny how we can go into paroxysms if someone scratches a piece of furniture we've just bought, though - I realised today that I don't give a fig for the marks on these chairs. Maybe, of course, it's because I was originally responsible for them.

Try as I will, I cannot get this post to look right. That dangling "I've"... I give up. Life's too short.


  1. I get aggravated at trying to place pictures and words properly on the blog also. More aggravated about a word than the nicks and scars on old furniture that comes from my family, much like yours.

    Even with all the cleaning you are doing, if we are to believe the crime specialists we see on TV (CSI), they could find your DNA and determine which chair you sat in when you lost your tonsils.

  2. Anonymous11:40 AM

    I haven't had a a nightmare about being chloroformed for a long time, but I'm sure it came from getting my tonsils out at the age of six. I at least was in hospital, but only for a day. I was sent home in a taxi in the evening, as a result of which I haemorrhaged three days later.

    How did we survive such primitive medical practices?

  3. Oh, the awesome task of "cleaning up" furniture! I don't have any old furniture, but my Ben will surely have made anything I own look quite "antiquated"...

    Not too sure about the pictures....I always just kept hitting "Enter" until my writing was well below the photos, then backspaced it until it looked right. WYSIWYG isn't always the friendliest mode of editing! Which leads me to wonder....HOW can they call it WYSIWYS when it *isn't*???

  4. oh, I forgot...

    I cannot even BEGIN to imagine that horrific experience of having one's tonsils removed AT HOME!!!! Argh!!!!! I have goosebumps all over my arms at the very thought! However, my mom (was a registered nurse) used to refer to me as "Cousin Weak-knees"!!!!!

  5. Anonymous3:45 PM

    I "think" I remember being sent across the landing to Mrs ?? for the duration of the tonsil op. I remember playing under the table in Novar Drive very well!

  6. Happy New Year, Chris!!!!

    May God bless you and may 2009 be filled with wonder for you and your family!!!!!

  7. Bun - it was Mrs MacMillan. Noneso - I think chloroform was perhaps a particularly vile form of anaesthesia. I may blog about this operation one day.
    Joe - that would be such a blast! But I've just found that these chairs now cost £235 from the same company.
    Katya - I don't know why I wasn't in hospital!

  8. Anonymous11:01 PM

    Finally getting through my blogroll from the past few weeks.

    If you wanted the two photos beside each other and then the text to start on the next line:
    hitt HTML view (or whatever it is these days).
    After the last photo link, type < br / > delete the outer spaces, keep the space between br / and then start your text after the > this should make the text appear on the line below the images.

  9. Doug - I actually wanted the second pic to appear halfway down the post and on the right, with the first photo on the left with text beside it. The latter was easy enough, but when I uploaded the second one it refused to move to where I wanted it and in the end I gave up. Maybe if I updated my template it'd be easier, but I don't care for the look of the newer version of this template, and I've grown attached to it!