Saturday, 16 January 2016

I Recollect A Room

As I listened to Bach's Double Violin Concerto this afternoon, I was transported back to the drawing room in Christ Church Vicarage, Highbury.  I'm not sure if it was because the soloists were David Oistrakh and Yehudi Menuhin - the champion violinists of my childhood - or because I am preoccupied with the business of leaving another home at the moment, but I felt myself almost physically present on the green sofa, left-hand end.

Behind me is the second of three record players my parents owned over the period of 25 years spent in this house.  Its 70s style has come back into its own now, as have the boxes of vinyl LPs.  There is the grand piano, draped for its own protection in a Dutch-style thick blue cloth.  Underneath, on top of, and around the piano are other musical instruments - my mother's violin and viola;  my brothers' violin, cello and oboe; my flute.  And there's another piano - an upright on which my uncle used to play when he and Mum performed duets.

Further round the room is a large sideboard on which are black and white family photographs.  In the corner is a bracket clock, ticking slowly at the moment, but sometimes stopped for years in-between repairs.  In front of these are an armchair in which I think Mum is sitting, because J. may have left home by now.  She is sipping a post-lunch coffee (white no sugar).  She has her hair down after washing it, and has pinned a towel round her shoulders, My father might be in his upright armchair, reading out clues to The Times crossword, "4 down - Make an effort with an exclamation at the end in musical form.  8 letters - blank, o, blank, c, blank, blank, t, blank".  (I just made that up). If we've recently had guests, and it's Lent, Dad will have taken a chocolate as the box was passed round.  He will place the chocolate in a queue, saving it for Sunday.

The mantelpiece comes next, supporting all sorts, including a silver box of our infant teeth, and some wire and papier mache dinsosaurs made by Joan, a parishioner.  We'll give the silver box to Vera when Mum dies, without the teeth though.  Beyond this, on the right of the fireplace is a cabinet containing more stuff - china figures, plates, a Victorian baby's rattle - the random treasures of a few generations.

The chair that sits in front of this is occupied by my grandmother when she is visiting.  If she's not, it's D's chair.  If she is, and it's before the smoking ban, she'll be noting down the crossword information on her cigarette packet in blue biro: _ o _ c  _ _ t _  Beside her is the occasional table on which sit its lamp and elephant tooth, and beyond, the large bay window.  If we are in the amaryllis phase, there will be an amaryllis or two in red or pink flower, and maybe some African violets, on the table in front of the window.  If one of the amaryllis flowers is broken off, it's me that caused upset by knocking a music stand onto it.

Back on the sofa, the right-hand end belongs to M., the middle to Mum.  Sometimes, I used to lie my head in her lap so she would play with my hair.  But that was a very long time ago.

The carpet is a rectangle of green.  At the edges are dark brown stained floorboards from which I'll continue to pick up splinters until I learn to keep my shoes on.  The curtains are pink damask, framing the garden, the plane trees in Highbury Fields, and, in just a little while, the setting sun.