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Alexander Residence: Do you have a piece of furniture that tells a story?

Monday, 7 March 2011

Do you have a piece of furniture that tells a story?

It always takes a while for a new story idea to germinate, and with my next Open University creative writing assignment due next week, I was starting to fear the blank page.  Then on Friday, as two of my friends and I watched our children playing under my kitchen table, an idea for a short story began to take shape. The children pulled off the wipe clean tablecloth to make a better den, and suddenly the old antique table was naked for the first time in years. 

My friend was quite taken by the table - despite it's lines, scars and dodgy legs - and by the idea that objects have a story.  (I, on the other hand, secretly covet her stylish, modern and hugely practical home).  She began telling me about someone she knew having a table a baby was born on.  Then another story about an antiques dealer who felt so guilty about making money from other people's objects that she gave huge amounts of money to charity.  My fingers were itching for my notebook.

I tried to piece together the story of our table.  We bought it on eBay for £100, I think it's Victorian, it's farmhouse style with a drawer at each end.  The woman who sold it to us was having a baby and felt the cracks in the top, and holes left by woodworm weren't very hygienic. We were child free and I thought it had character (Mr A thought it was totally impractical and has had to take it apart many times to move house).  It belonged to the woman's grandmother, I could see she was sad to part with it, and she emailed me an account of it's history a few days after we took it away.  Why I never printed that email I don't know.

The children playing under it also made me think of people sheltering under the table during the war.  I finally put all the ideas in my notebook on Friday evening, and over the weekend my subconscious has definitely been marinading them.  I have lots of threads which I am playing around with in my notebook this morning.   

I have realised throughout my Creative Writing diploma that to write you have to be like a magpie, daily life is packed full of shiny snippets of stories. My other friend is a nurse in A and E, and she saves me glimpses into her shifts - sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes life affirming - these glimpses have inspired two other pieces of writing.

On another note, while doing some 'research' I found this very similar but longer Victorian table on eBay for £995.  As well as being a good den and a source of inspiration, it was a sound financial  investment too. Shame it's not the most practical table, but hey, you can't have it all.

Do you have a piece of furniture that has a story to tell? I would really love to hear it.

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At 7 March 2011 at 12:44 , Blogger Hot Cross Mum said...

A lovely story - and you have inspired me to set up a den under the kitchen table this afternoon - haven't done that for a while!

Most of the furniture in our house is relatively new - my sister has a lot of the old family furniture, including a coffee table my dad made which has a heart carved out at either end. It reminds me of my childhood whenever I see it - and keep promising that I will being it over to Ireland. One day!

At 7 March 2011 at 13:03 , Blogger Kate said...

Love this! I have an old tea chest that my grandmother brought over to Ireland from her home in Bristol. When I was about 20 I spent days stripping off a layer of ugly paint to reveal the plain wood beneath. It now resides in the playroom filled with jigsaws. I love that old tea chest!

At 8 March 2011 at 18:18 , Blogger The Alexander Residence said...

Hot cross mum-that table sounds lovely, great to have something made by family a well as part of the family.
Kate - sounds like the sort of project I enjoyed in my twenties, no time fo such dedicated restoration attempts these days sadly.

At 9 March 2011 at 19:57 , Anonymous Kath Parklover said...

Such an interesting post. I sent a short story to a competition last week, the theme was winter and I came up with an idea from looking at my neighbour's leafless Elder tree. I know, sounds like a real page turner doesn't it? ;)
I'm trying to write ideas down more, I'm a bugger for thinking up themes, forgetting to write them down - and then just plain forgetting about them. Doh.

At 16 March 2011 at 07:38 , Anonymous Sarah (Catching the Magic) said...

Fabulous story ideas and the course you're doing sounds great.


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