Object of Desire

What’s black and white and grows in the bathroom

‘Your bath looks wonderful’ said a friend. ‘It’s as if it grew there’

The bathroom is finally coming together exactly as I had planned, dominated by the roll top bath. I was unreasonably thrilled when the plumber confirmed that I could have my first bath today – nearly two years after buying the house

And yet, as it approached 8pm I realised that I had been finding things to do and putting off filling the tub. I had really stuck my neck out by insisting on a roll top bath and it had caused a lot of effort for everyone. Supposing I didn’t like it? I was even obsessing over the idea that it would not take the weight of the 120kg tub full of water and me, and that it would fall through the floor, leaving me cold, naked and alone in the hallway downstairs

But it looked so inviting, and I was filthy

Yes, I had to improvise a bath mat (today’s dirty T-shirt) and my toiletries were balanced on the taps, but I was so euphoric after finally taking the plunge that I composed an Oscar-type thank you speech in my head as I bathed. ‘Thank you Baz for believing in me when I bought this house and this bath back in 2015, and for allowing me to fritter away war could have been our pension fund. Thank you to the Smiley Plumbers for doing what I asked, even though you thought it was wrong. Yes, you did. And thank you to the bloke on Ebay who was chucking away the bath of my dreams,’ etc …

Afterwards I ran downstairs to check that water was not pouring into the hallway. (Oh, me of little faith!)

I texted people to tell them ‘I’ve had a bath’

I called Baz, still full of enthusiasm. After all these years he still just laughs and says ‘if you’re happy, I’m happy’

The guy’s a saint

This gorgeous bath, including the taps and shower thing, came out of a house three miles from us in the UK, where developers had gone in :(. The site manager just wanted a few notes and collection within 24 hours. Two years on, it has found its homeIMG_4386

Why do people choose acrylic baths over cast iron? Enamelled cast iron looks wonderful. The smoothness of enamel is calming, cosy and warm, like a big cuddle. It’s huge. It cleans down so easily. Oh, someone stop me here! I have spent the last forty-odd years since my childhood dreaming of another cast iron bath while everyone else has moved into the acrylic future

What am I missing?

A Very British Sunburst

I was so sure I would manage all kinds of tasks while Baz was away, but I have been hit by cold-snap apathy over the last few days. Waiting nearly an hour for a cab to work this morning and the ensuing migraine were just the icing on the cake

I think it’s time to reflect on a previous project which I haven’t followed up on properly: the sunburst cabinet

In time for Christmas, it reached its potential as a drinks cabinet. It totally owns the living room at home and will not be going to France, being simply too BritishIMG_3987I have avoided any work to the wood itself. This cabinet is in great nick and I love its patina. Mirrors make it more glamorous, as does a shelf in the lower cupboard IMG_4023I added a cheap bath plug chain to give a stable working space on the fold-down doorIMG_4025I love how the top opens up. It’s very useful and I’m amazed at how many bottles I can stuff into it. The top is for beer and other small bottles, but it’s the bottom where the magic really happensIMG_4026

It’s such a sweet little cupboard and I love that something so basically made has, with very little effort, become such a star

Marriage and Serial Monogamy

‘We’re always away when he gets married’

Baz left for his annual golf trip yesterday. We shared a cab to Slough Station, and along the way we reflected on, among other things, marriage

‘We’re always away when he gets married’ I said. A good friend has married several times, but he has very high expectations of a partner. We have failed so far to attend his weddings. ‘Don’t worry’ said Baz ‘There’s always the next one’

We are lucky to have just enjoyed our 19th wedding anniversary. C unashamedly used her cousin’s ID card at Waitrose to pick up a celebratory bottle of Cremant de Limoux(!), and Baz and I had a gorgeous meal in The Fox and Hounds at Bishopsgate. Our first ever meal there together was a Sunday lunchtime, we hadn’t booked and the restaurant was so full that we had to sit at an outside table. I was chilly in my halter-neck, and the owner at the time – a lovely man with a terrible wig – immediately whipped off his enormous cardigan and draped it over my shoulders

That was 22 years ago and we’d been together just a few days. Back then, we were love’s young dream. I remember the day so clearly

While Baz is gone, there’s plenty of stuff to do in the garden, and things to fiddle with in the shed and the garage, though robin chicks are chirping in the old wardrobe in the garage, so paint stripping has to stop. Work on the aluminium flying saucers will have to wait until the nest is empty

The first of the shades (above right) is ready and Baz asked if I will be taking it with me to France. He thinks that I should tilt it at a jaunty angle and tell Ryanair that it’s a hat

Half Woman, Half Squirrel

Digging up treasure

The image on my phone was captioned: ‘Would you like to explain yourself?’

img_0532I could see his point. At almost a metre across, these four aluminium light shades are ‘statement pieces’. I hadn’t slept well the night after Baz went home back in February, leaving me alone in France, I had been wide awake early the next morning and went on Ebay …

Yes, I’ve used fairly similar excuses before. Several times

The squirrel gene has kicked in. There are plenty of projects to get on with and the longer spring days should allow me to dig them up to work on. I can barely wait to get home from work tonight to get started

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The shades will eventually look great in the kitchen. (Once we have a kitchen, that is)

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These are just some of the little ‘bits’ that came with the shades

This pile of accessories is just the support cast. They have all been scrubbed and will need a lot of elbow grease. The seller found one of the small reflectors left behind and very kindly posted it on at no cost. I worked by hand on the flower light but this time I am using various drill-mounted polishing pads to get a shine. More fun, less strain

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Before and after initial polishing with ‘Mothers’. Pretty convincing, I’d say

The lightshades should be going to France sometime in the summer, but there’s no need yet. More pressing is the cast iron washstand (Very hard work) that needs stripping back before re-painting. Currently it has moved into our hallway at home between working sessions so that it doesn’t rust as soon as I strip it. After the two fireplaces of 2014, I swore no more cast iron

Who was I kidding?

Fifty Shades of Greige

Because blandness comes as standard

Last night hadn’t passed as I’d hoped. I had barely slept and each hour was marked by the church bell, one hour behind time. At first I thought I had dreamed that my alarm had gone off, because the 7am sky was non-committal, not the bright blue I had expected

And so, the word ‘greige’ surfaced, a word I originally learned from a very bouncy Etienne Daho song on my playlist back in Brussels circa 1991 (I still sometimes play it). I grabbed my phone again and checked for the exact translation of greige, which is ‘the colour of silk in its natural state, a light grey towards beige’

I might have said ‘muddy’

My phone reassured me that it was currently clear and that the day would get better. Of course, all that time spent awake during the night had encouraged doubts and thoughts of ‘what am I actually doing?’ to creep in, and I was glad to see that the sky had changed to clear azure as promised. I put those negative thoughts away. I had a lot to do

My day was spent stripping wallpaper and sweeping out the bulging fire grate in the ‘head in a bag room’, which is now ready for washing, filling and painting, and should probably be re-named before I get too used to calling it that!

The delivery I had been expecting all day didn’t arrive. I worked until I was filthy and exhausted and I could barely put a sentence together when Baz called. My clothes and I were by now fifty shades of greige so I took a shower at my rented apartment and recovered with a mint tea in the sun

The builders had left nothing but this cabinet in the bathroom. I can only assume that they thought I’d want to keep itIMG_5105I ‘took care’ of it as soon as they’d gone for the day

I was in the supermarket this evening with plenty of red wine in my basket (I absolutely have to sleep tonight) when the plumber called me. Just five minutes later we were back in the house talking waste pipes, British taps and toilet installations, and I am delighted to announce that thanks to their work we now have a cold water supply officially inside the house and that a basic bathroom will be installed within the next week or so

I must go now. I must sleep, and that wine won’t open itself

 

The Sum And Its Parts

enjoying the bigger history of small pieces

I’ve often seen these (unmistakably French) ‘Comtoise Morbier’ clock face surrounds or headpieces. They’re usually still attached to clocks, so these two really spoke to me, in the way that displaced and orphaned things so often do!

The problem was that I just couldn’t choose between them:

one features various birds – obviously a favourite subject of mine

the other one illustrates a family at a graveside. There’s something so very French about that. I mean, we Brits would never show a mourning scene on a household object

I took them both and asked the guy to combine the postage costs (he didn’t)

I was very excited about them arriving. Unfortunately when they came they looked very rough, and I felt like I’d been ‘had’. I didn’t want to show Baz, so I left them in their meagre packing

But yesterday the rain scuppered my paint-stripping plans and instead I spent a happy hour with gloves and various pliers, gently teasing the thin brass repousse, which is very malleable but also easily torn. I then scrubbed them with a toothbrush and they came up a treat, as you can see

These relatively low-cost clocks were made in villages in the region of Franche-Compte, near the Swiss border, from around the year 1600. Various families in each village would be involved in making the different elements of the clocks, before final assembly by a finisher. At that stage the clock faces with their headpieces and workings were portable enough to be carried in groups of four on backpacks, along with their pendulums stored separately below, to be taken for sale further afield

clockmuseum
photo courtesy of Comtoise Uhren Museum

The final purchaser could simply hang the clock with the pendulum exposed, or they could pay their local casket maker to make a long case for it

The earliest clocks had cast brass headpieces, but these were replaced by brass repousse – like mine – in the early 1800s. Production declined after the Treaty of Frankfurt in 1871 permitted the tax-free import of German clocks to France, and then apparently ceased after the First World War

It appeals to me that so many people had a hand in this industry, that the clocks were readily available, and that the wonderfully decorative designs were often based on simple everyday scenes from provincial life

And so these two inexpensive pieces, bought for reincarnation as mirror frames, have a long pedigree of practicality as well as beauty

Could there be anything more French?