Silver stars and yellow 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, (it was 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. Arms folded Mum said, ‘Not in my house’. Undaunted by this misjudgement, he maintained an optimistic approach to decorating. This was evidenced by the number of jam jars lined up on a shelf in the shed. Brush handles rested as bristles bathed in a grey smelly liquid. Nice smelly. From the age of six I made regular trips out there for a sniff.
Mum’s sewing machine, despite several layers of protective wadding, vibrated like a twin tub on the table top. Evenings, when I was in bed, she’d get out the machine to work on my ballet costumes. Cotton scraps were well behaved in comparison to the slippery taffeta. I would practice in my tutu and the windows, my silent audience, would smile in their pretty yellow gingham.
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Daffodils, thousands of them – 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. How my Mum would have smiled on such a day as this. She would have revelled in the beauty of the snowdrops, gloried in the pristine bark of the silver birch and loved watching a five year old skip along in the confident light of a March sun.
A quaint bookshop invites us in to explore. The diversion is welcome. A weighty 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.’ My thoughts dance from the daffodils back to my childhood and the ceiling painted dark blue, dark to represent the night sky. It was a fantasy for Dad, a nightmare for Mum.
Images: WOI – a decoration book. Silver birch at Anglesey Abbey. Jess Payne and me taken by my five year old grand-daughter Isabella.