Silver stars and golden daffodils
Dad liked to tidy things up with a coat of paint. He wasn’t skilled like the men who wore white bib-n-brace overalls, but most of the time Mum was grateful for his efforts. On one occasion, when we returned from Kingston after a school uniform shopping trip, Dad had covered three quarters of the sitting room ceiling with a pot of navy. He’d intended to add silver stars.
‘Not in my house,’ mum said, her arms folded tight beneath her bosom.
Dad conceded. Undaunted by this misjudgement he was dedicated to home decorating which was evidenced by the number of jam jars lined up on a shelf in the shed. Brush handles rested as bristles bathed in grey smelly liquid. Nice smelly. From the age of six I made regular trips out there for a sniff.
Despite several layers of protective wadding Mum’s sewing machine vibrated like a twin tub on the table top. When I was in bed the flowers on the dining table were swopped for threads and scissors, and patterns for ballet costumes. Cotton scraps were well behaved in contrast to slippery taffeta. I would practice in my tutu and the windows, my silent audience, would smile in their pretty yellow gingham.
Daffodils in their thousands, alert and proud, greet us on our Mothers’ Day outing to Anglesey Abbey. My grand-daughter picks two nodding heads from the welcome bucket at the door; one for me, one for her Mum. As we walk along the footpath my mind tracks back. How my Mum would have smiled on such a day as this. She would have revelled in the beauty of the snowdrops and the pristine bark of the silver birch. She would have beamed with pleasure at the five year old who skips ahead in the confident light of a March sun.
A quaint bookshop invites us to explore. The diversion is welcome. A vintage compendium grabs my attention, The World of Interiors – A decoration book. Min Hogg, once editor of The World of Interiors magazine writes, ‘in whatever direction fashion may drift in the future, beautiful decorating will always be one of life’s great pleasures.’ (Hogg and Harrop, 1988). My thoughts dance from the daffodils to my childhood memory of the dark blue ceiling. It was Dad’s fantasy to recreate the night sky, yet Mum always yearned for light. It proved to be my first lesson in interior design: if a home is to be enjoyed it must be decorated to reflect the emotions and feelings of everyone who lives in it.
Reference: Hogg M and Harrop W (1988) The World of Interiors – a decoration book, London, Conran Octopus Ltd.
The original version of Silver stars and cotton daffodils was published in Acer, the 2018 Spring issue, Vol II, of Curlew: an anthology. (http://www.the-curlew.com/store/product/6-acer-new) The editor, Dr Lynn Parr, describes it as a ‘thought-provoking’ essay.