The story of a table which has had a chequered life
06:10 08 February 2017
In April, the little round coffee table will have followed my “struggle and strife” and me around for 65 years, writes David Henshall.
It is not something with recognizable antique value but we treasure it because it was a wedding present from my much-adored grandma Edith.
She took us out to Frasers, a rather nice store in Ipswich’s Princes Street, which has long since vanished, but it is not forgotten because, as those with a sharp eye and a long memory will have noticed, it has featured among the adverts in David Kindred’s riveting feature Days Gone By.
The other day, as he was informatively peering back into 1959, there was Frasers sitting cheek by jowel with Elizabeth Taylor in her undies trumpeting her latest blockbuster movie, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and Yvonne DeCarlo, equally dishabille, belly dancing provocatively in Hotel Sahara.
Also cosying up to these exotic women was a large advertisement for Footmans before it became Debenhams, alongside plugs for sales at Bretts and Corders and there was hairdresser Andre Bernard inviting “applications from young, intelligent persons of good address” for trainee jobs.
The expression “of good address” at that time had nothing to do with where you lived or being born on the wrong side of the tracks, but was an old-fashioned reference to the bearing, the speech, the brightness and approach of those seeking employment. In other words, if you’re not the cat’s whiskers don’t bother turning up.
Our pretty little table settled nicely in a couple of Ipswich flats, before moving to another in London, then to a house in Kent and, finally, back to a Suffolk cottage. But it has not had an easy life. With elegant rounded legs and a fine top glistening with French polish, it initially fought a constant losing battle with carelessly-placed uncoastered wine glasses.
We covered the unsightly marks during our brief excursion into flower-power, with its eye-watering multi-coloured shirts, by painting it a nice shade of light purple. But it clearly resented this indignity, looked all wrong, so I stripped it back to its beautifully-grained bare wood and booze-proofed it with polyurethane to restore its pride and propriety.
It has since been into furniture hospital with a broken leg because somebody in a party mood mistook it for a chair. But Bill the builder performed reconstructive surgery after keeping the patient sedated overnight and it is still recognizably the useful little table that, if time stood still, would have grandma reaching for her cheque book once more.