Ballast

This weekend the household decamped to the countryside to enjoy a change of scenery.  As with any foray into the English countryside, one is reminded that one is but a pimple on the giant moon-faced complexion of history.  The inescapable knowledge that lots of people before you suffered existential angst and lots of people after you will suffer existential angst is oddly comforting.

You can’t wander about the English countryside without falling over something that is 15 times older than you.

The Butter Cross isn’t even that old.  Just up the road, there’s this:

The cracked info-board asserts that the Great Hall was built in 1190.  I’m going to try and stay calm while I posit that I’m pretty sure it looked much nicer in medieval times without all those fucking incongruous cars parked outside it.

Inside was the kind of folk art event happening where an old hippie (and I say that with fondness) sits behind a piece of wood they jig-sawed into a random shape and marked with an outlandish overestimate of its value.  There was cat folk art: had I been willing to sever my right arm, it would have been a suitable adornment for Mrs. G’s writing room.

What with all this earnest folk art going on, it didn’t seem right to snap photos of the vaulted ceiling and impressive collection of commemorative horse-shoes.  I’m going to count myself lucky that my father wasn’t present and I wasn’t dragged kicking and screaming to the nearest display of Morris Dancing.

When I was a kid I despised old things, as though they no longer had a right to remain on this earth because the times they are a-changing and revolution was the only way to go.  I still think revolution is the only way to go, but the social revolution and old shit are not mutually exclusive.  I like old shit.  It reminds me I’m not the centre of the universe.

Within the locality were a number of poncy antique shops run by people with names like Mungo Cadwallader-Strumpet.  We eschewed these in favour of the junkier end of the market, where we fell in love with this:

It is a 1920s cupboard thingy with original bakelite teardrop handles.  The top is polished oak, and the rest of it has been painted matt off-white and pleasingly distressed.  I am hurriedly re-working my bedroom decor ideas around it.

It felt real to me, this piece of furniture.  I could see it in a house I could imagine living in, or visiting.  It’s a feeling entirely different to those that arise when I traipse into proper antique shops to gasp at price-tags.  In those places I look at the items and think they are hideously overwrought and indulgent.  This cupboard thingy is honest.  I wonder who owned it before me, and what their lives were like.

I opened up the cupboard when we’d got it home, and stuck my head inside, and noticed a little sliver of perforated paper sticking out between one of the upright pieces of wood and the side.  Careful extraction revealed it to be an old postage stamp.

The internet informs me it is at least 44 years old, probably older.  It’s a pre-decimalisation one penny stamp showing the Wilding portrait of Queen Elizabeth II surrounded by a pattern of the four symbolic flowers of the countries of the British Isles (English Rose, Irish Shamrock, Scottish Thistle, and Welsh Daffodil).  Sadly, it is not the postage stamp equivalent of a lottery win, or I would be writing this from the mojito-splashed deck of my new yacht.

But seriously, I’m not much for the value of material stuff.  We probably overpaid slightly for the cupboard.  But the point is, I love it.  I love the stamp.  They’re true and real in a very human sense.  I’m adding the stamp to my box of little things I love, where it can nestle happily until my children’s children find it and wonder why the hell I kept it when stamps are obsolete, the times they are a-changin’, and revolution is the only way to go.

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1 Response to “Ballast”


  1. 1 Jenn @ Juggling Life November 29, 2011 at 4:48 am

    That is very cool–and I would have fallen in love with that cabinet as well. Janet, from Fond of Snape, recently posted a photo with a pie cupboard in the background and I am seriously covet it.


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