|Mementos of my mother
||[Apr. 21st, 2015|12:25 pm]
The Bears' house, as helenraven remarked on Friday, has a strong family resemblance to our own: it's a big old terraced house, whose inhabitants do not regard home improvements as an entertaining pastime. BoyBear and my mother, Skip, bought it together, many years ago, selling a long lease on the basement flat to help finance the purchase. My mother had a self-contained flat on the ground floor, and since her death the Bears have let its large front room, with use of bathroom and kitchen, but kept the back room, which gives them access to the garden, space for GirlBear's art projects, and a sofa bed for guests.
Recent changes in the basement flat have revealed the presence of dry rot, and BoyBear has been working with the leaseholder to arrange for the necessary work. He should probably have realised that this was going to be disruptive not only in the basement but also in the wall immediately above, but for those of us who are not good at the stuff, words like "dry rot" tend to freeze the brain, and it wasn't until Thursday that a message left on the answering machine revealed quite how disruptive it was going to be. The company doing the work wanted to confirm that everything was clear to give them access on Monday. This is why BoyBear was left at home on Friday to wrangle telephones, and discover what access they needed, instead of walking along the Dollis Brook with us. We came home to discover that, despite a scary moment where it sounded as if we were going to have to rip out the entire kitchen, the preparation required was substantial but manageable. A professional had been booked to come on Monday and remove the gas cooker, and the rest of it - the back wall of the big room, on either side of the French windows - we could do ourselves.
So the entertainments planned for Saturday were replaced with much rearranging of Stuff: audio equipment taken well away from where builders would be generating dust, our cosy nest in the sofa-bed folded away, books stacked in the space this made available, and covered with a dustsheet, plants taken out into the garden, the spare glasses removed from the cabinet to the left of the French windows and taken upstairs (with the exception of half a dozen cocktail glasses, which were boxed up to go to a charity shop), likewise winter clothes removed from the wardrobe on the right. We gazed at the shelves of odds and ends which had belonged to my mother and decided that they were far enough from the area of work, and that while we appreciated the reminder that there were still belongings of Skip's waiting to be dealt with, it wasn't going to happen right now. Then we examined the furniture.
The cabinet that held the glasses was a pine dresser, the sort composed of a cupboard underneath, and a separate set of shelves (in this case with glass doors) standing on top of it. The shelves should be reasonably stable, but it's as well to secure them in some way. We could see that Skip had tackled this by screwing a hook into the top of the cabinet, and using wire to lash it to the decorative fitting which no longer supported the curtain rail (because the cabinet filled some of the space previously covered by the curtain). But unfastening the wire did not free the cabinet, and examination revealed it had also been nailed into the dado rail. durham_rambler and BoyBear between them were able to free it, though this dislodged a length of the rail. "Typical Skippy workmanship!" we said, picturing her at the foot of the ladder giving instructions to her press-ganged 'volunteer'. Moving the base of the cupboard was easy, because it was another typical Skip item, Potemkin furniture with neither back nor base, so we were able to lift it bodily, leaving the tins of paint standing on the floor where it had been.
One down, one to go. The 'fitted wardrobe' looked like a handsome piece of furniture, with art deco door fittings (which didn't match) and one elegantly inlaid door: but it was obvious that a piece of that style could not have been fitted into the alcove, and besides, why just the one good door? So it was no surprise when we started to take it apart, to discover that it too had been bodged together from what was available - that one good door, a sheet of hardboard, the side of an old bed. These had been screwed, nailed and in places glued into position, with odd offcuts holding the different elements at the same height. It took some doing, but the four of us together, some pushing, some pulling, and durham_rambler wielding the mallet, managed to remove it - all bar the clothes rail and the shelf above, which we left. We were asked to clear up to a height of 1.5 metres, and we had.
Duty done, we went out to the Cellar Upstairs for a couple of very enjoyable sets from Gail Williams and Jim Younger, a fine spot from the wonderful Tom Paley, and not enough from Dorten Yonder.