I love my new house. And, since Kat’s prompt for today asks me to think about collections and bookshelves and other things that one might find in a house, I am going to show it to you.
I will hustle you through the front door and the narrow corridor, through to the back of the house, to the kitchen, where it suddenly all opens out. I am enjoying this kitchen. I’ve got room to put things away and room to put things down, and the tap runs hot within a few seconds.
My piano. I love my piano. I swapped a car for it – I can’t drive and I can’t play the piano so it was really a neutral decision. Both were inherited from my godmother Heloise. I love it because it was hers and I love it because it is utterly beautiful, such warm brown wood, such gorgeous art nouveau gilt letters, such a pure clear tone. It stands at the entrance to the sitting room, and visitors come in, and see it, and ask, Can I play your piano? The answer is always yes.
I would show you my current pride and joy, my newly framed pictures. Seven of them: five up on the wall, one propped against a box, one on top of the piano. They’re symbolic, in a way, of everything that I’ve been meaning to do for years and am now doing. The watercolour of lovely watery Annecy and the Montmartre drawing of me and Tony from our honeymoon; the three of my own photographs that say actually, yes, I can take a damn good picture when I put my mind to it; the photograph of Heloise, very beautiful in the late 1970s, smoking on the back of a Paris bus (3380, I think); my mermaid poster, screen-print in mauve and grey, for an exhibition I didn’t go to by an artist I’d never heard of, which none the less was the thing I needed to buy at the time.
The other pictures, yes. Two montages, one of wedding photos and associated ephemera, the other, likewise, of the honeymoon. Photos in cardboard mounts and clip frames, friends and family. Collages, made to set intentions or to lay foundations for castles in the air. A nude by Andrew, the first real piece of art I bought. An odd little trio: the Maxwell equations, done by Anne in blackwork for Tony, a little crucifix, and my compostela. I walked five hundred miles to Santiago de Compostela and all I got was a certificate in Latin… Three yachts in the Old Gaffers race – a nod to the Isle of Wight, that. My year 9 Textiles project, marbled cotton with appliqué and beads: Atlantis with treasure chest and mermaid.
Yes, you would probably notice the mermaids. The mermaids and the ships and the shells. Ignore the photo in the bathroom; that was there when we got here. The shells are cockles, scallops, for pilgrimage. Many paths, leading to the same city. The mermaids are for transition, for breaking the surface. The ships are for trust, and for imperceptible progress.
Bookshelves: just about enough, now, at long last. The ones in the sitting room are ordered. Marching rows of series: Susan Howatch, Sadler’s Wells, Jasper Fforde, Narnia, Hilary McKay, John Buchan, Dorothy L. Sayers. Viragos. Poetry. Theology and LGBT and LGBT theology all skulking on the bottom shelf. Sheet music – mostly Tony’s, but, since we’re both altos, we share it. Tall, wide, hard-backed cookery and craft books, full of colour pictures of beautiful things that I might make, one day, and enjoy looking at in the mean time. In the study, the everything else shelf, to be reordered once I’ve cleared the two boxes that are blocking it.
Collections. Hats! If you look behind the door in my study you will find my greenhouse full of hats: winter hats and summer hats, formal hats and silly hats. Red felt and green, black straw, floppy magenta beret, wide-brimmed and brimless. I love them all. They are magnificent; they are my favourite way of saying, why, no, I don’t give a damn what you think about what I look like or what I’m wearing. In any case, they make me look fantastic. Dozens of packs of cards, each with a different, bright-coloured back: testimony to my huge, loose-knit family and its racing demon parties. Spices, jostling for space, some (cinnamon and ginger and paprika) always running out and needing renewing, but most of them nearly full, a pinch or a teaspoonful gone into some interesting new recipe. Things for making into things: beads, fabric, pens, rubber stamps. This idea about using up what you’ve got before accepting anything else is not helpful. Things have to fester for a bit so that you know what to do with them, and using all-new stuff is too slick and chilly. In the shed: the bikes. At the moment, n=2, a bike and a trike.
On my iTunes: opera grand and petty, the folk song army, rousing hymns, magnificently purple Victorian oratorio and sentimental songs. Things to sing along to. DVDs? Most of mine are Doctor Who: stories of infinite horizons, and basic human, or alien, decency.
What do I love? I love colour and flamboyance and adventure; journey and integrity; beauty and truth; love and joy.