I am addicted to ‘Money for Nothing’; I’m not ashamed because, although it would imply that I am watching ‘day time TV’, I just record it to watch when the evening TV is so crappy. Recycling, upcycling, repurposing, reusing, salvaging… all my favourite words. Having seen how pieces of furniture can be transformed into the unusual or quirky, I have always wanted something like that in my home. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a new talent I have developed; it would be criminal for me to attempt any kind of transformation and completely ruin something but, I thought, there must be a piece of furniture, that I already own, in need of upcycling (and then, of course, I have to find someone to be able to do it).
Moving house has so many potentials! While downsizing had been a priority when moving, there were things that would never be ‘downsized’: tea towels (of course), jugs (and there are a lot), pictures (also a lot, but sadly no Picasso lurking there otherwise I might have changed my mind). Several thousand books went but I do still have a lot, not novels (because I read on Kindle) but classics, poetry and travel, in the main. My previous residence had massive shelves and therefore there was always a place for a new jug or two. The downside was that these shelves were open thus all the jugs required dusting. It had been an ambition of mine to find ‘storage’ for these ‘collectors of dust’, behind glass doors. I just didn’t have such a piece of furniture; I didn’t even have shelves, without glass doors, in my new place.
As I sat watching ‘Money for Nothing’, I did wonder if that small, useless cupboard in the lounge could be converted into something. To cut a long story short, I found Sarah, a ‘furniture artist’, near me; she located an old-fashioned, glass fronted display cabinet that would go on the top of that useless cupboard and the rest is history, as they say! She asked me how I wanted it designed. “Leave it to you, you’re the artist”. She looked around at the pictures, asked me about my holidays and said she had some ideas. It is at this point, I thought “OMG, what have I done? Is it going to be something I could live with?” Too late now.
While the cupboard itself was pretty useless, there was an open shelf at the bottom where I kept some old poetry books, things I had inherited, authors I enjoyed. It meant that when the cupboard went to Sarah’s workshop, I had to pile these books on the floor. Better just check I still want them all. It is when I found “Britain in Verse and Sketch”, compiled and illustrated by Lindley Searle. In the front was an inscription, in blue ink, not biro, “A happy birthday Beatrice from Pamela and Sheila xxx. March 1946”. My mother would have been 22; today this book is 73 years old, in perfection condition.
”This book is dedicated to all country-lovers”, said the first page. It was first published in 1945 with a ‘stamp’ saying “Book Production: War Economy Standard”. During the Second World War there was a need to ration the use of paper. In 1940, publishers had their pre-war useage reduced by 60%. In 1942, the Book Production War Economy Standard was introduced which defined the size of font, words per page, number of blank pages; this was a voluntary agreement but if publishers didn’t comply their rations were reduced once more.
On Page 17 is a poem called ‘Plymouth Harbour’ by H.D. Rawnsley; never heard of him. I have to say that it is a dreadful thing to admit to never having heard of Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley because, beside his prolific production of poetry, he was one of the founders of the National Trust (I’m a member) and the first published writer that Beatrix Potter had met and who encouraged her to get her first book published. Beatrix Potter being a heroine of mine, (even though I always disliked Peter Rabbit).
I have no idea if ‘Plymouth Harbour’ is considered to be ‘good’ writing; but it is one of many of his poems in this book, alongside Robert Burns, William Wordsworth and Lord Byron. It is for readers to decide. I am delighted that moving the cupboard revealed this book. I can honestly say that I never opened a page; I wonder how many other books there are that I haven’t looked at and/or might be an inspiration for a Tea Towel Blog.
Back to the cupboard, I had a few glimpses of the upcycling, with photographs winging their way through the information highway. Still couldn’t imagine it in its full glory. Last Sunday, it returned home. Totally amazing! I wondered what would happen to the cupboard if jugs were put in it. Would they detract from its beauty? The answer is “No”. Sarah has designed and painted an amazing Scottish scene, purple of the mountains, heather and fern, light, flowers. Perfect and fits in well with our paintings.