When I came to university in London, I fell into the habit of popping up to East Finchley of a Wednesday afternoon to visit my granny. She lived in the house my dad was born in during an air raid in World War II – legend has it he was popped into a blanket and straight downstairs into the arms of his brother and sisters who were all sheltering under the dining room table – but it was her kitchen table we used to sit at and chat for hours, eating roast chicken and potatoes I’d brought and drinking endless cups of tea so strong it could sink a battleship. She was a terrible cook. At the time, the table was always covered in newspaper and myriad jars and bowls of miscellaneous stuff, its drawer stuffed with scraps of notepaper and rubber bands, an endless stream of random items making their way from a pile at one end back into or out of the fridge freezer. She told me wonderful stories about her extraordinary life.
She was also an artist, with a beautifully ordered studio upstairs with leaded windows which twinkled in the sunlight, full of canvases and sketchbooks, her easel, boxes of charcoals and pastels and tubes of oils; bottle upon bottle of calligraphy ink; brushes pencils and pens – always learning new techniques and trying things out. The kitchen table I guess was where she did most of her experimenting, because when I came to inherit it a few years ago, it was in a right old state. Slightly begs the question what the newspaper was for, but never mind. I adored her, and I cherish her table.
When we moved out of Dalston and onto the boat however, I decided it was high time it looked the part for our new home, of which I have such high aesthetic hopes. Thick layers of chocolate brown paint were congealed on the legs where the Owl had gamely decided to strip it a couple of years ago but abandoned it shortly after starting. The old waxy yellow varnish on the pine top was variously pocked, scarred and scorched to the bare wood beneath, testament to all the experiments it had endured in Finchley. I threw caution to the wind, reassured myself that it would still be Granny’s table after a lick of paint and a vigorous sanding, and set to it.
Fast forwards three months, and it’s looking good. Well – better, at least. Still not perfect, but not as bad as it was. It was harder than anticipated to get the top finish right – and it’s still not there yet as, despite liming the pine, it turned yellow again (and in patches, which scuff despite a topcoat of diamond wax) so we need to persevere. Still, for a first restoration project I guess we’re relatively pleased. (The copper tape around the edge is my favourite bit, I’m dead chuffed with that. Especially as everyone else (twit-twoo) thought I was bonkers.)
Apparently we were pleased enough to have returned yesterday from Battlesbridge Craft&Antiques Centre with: two mirrors, three drawer knobs, a tin sign, a pretty little silver bonbon dish, two blue-glazed ceramic plant tubs for my hypothetical deck garden AND: a set of six dining chairs to go around our table which were a total bargain but are also in urgent need of reupholstering.
Some people are gluttons for punishment.
On the plus side, the boiler is more-or-less working.
And the pink carpet currently upholstering our new chairs is actually surprisingly tolerable in situ (which only means it’s not going to upset me every time I look at them until I’ve worked out how to redo it properly).