Tuesday, 10 July 2012


My mum and dad have been back from Spain for about 18 months now and my mum is loving being back. She works for my sister for three days a week, she does her accounts, answers the phone, picks up my niece from school and all sorts of other bits and bobs. She thoroughly enjoys it because my sister runs her own interior design business. My mum is very creative and she's a self-admitted butterfly. When we were kids we could never know what kind of living room we'd come back to. She'd be constantly re-arranging furniture, decorating, cleaning and having all sorts of new ideas about the way she wanted her home. Luckily, my dad was running his own soft furnishing company: supplying hotels, pubs, restaurants and so on with furniture, carpets and curtains. He could get everything she wanted at trade prices and would often make what she needed himself.

When mum is not with Mel, she's with me. She likes to come at the end of the week and pick through what I've bought at auction. She loves it. She coos and ahhs her way through the stock. She has the gift of seeing through the encrusted muck and moth and tarnish and she helps me out when she can. Last week I gave her a good chunk of Mrs Cooper Smith's linen, which she dutifully bleached, washed and ironed. She also forced my dad to put on his reading glasses and examine Mrs Cooper Smith's fine stitching. She appreciates what I'm doing and she's my main encouragement.
This week she came at the beginning of the week to drop off the washed linen. Keeping the stock in a small-ish suburban house is a pain. Many things I keep on display all over the house until they've sold. Lots of things are in my conservatory and dining room in storage boxes and many are all wrapped up in boxes waiting for the postie to come and collect. There's a constant movement of "nice things" (family saying) and I am beginning to get the feeling that I'm living in an antique shop. So in comes mum, linen in hand, and while I'm making her requisite sweet coffee, she's padding about putting Mrs Cooper Smith's doilies underneath the all of the "nice things" in the living room. I know what's she's doing, because she does it all the time. She makes mini still lives out of the stock as soon as she comes through the door and she doesn't even ask. She's the boss, she's my mum. By the time I've made the coffee there are clusters of early 19th century blue and white pottery (her favourite) on the table in the bay window, she silently points to an American walnut mantel clock on mantel, there's an Edwardian biscuit barrel on the side table by my knitting and she has rearranged all of the cushions.

I look at her with sympathy and say, "it's all sold, mum. I've got to wrap it today."

"I don't know how you bear it," she says vaguely disappointed.

She points at the pink roses in the cranberry glass jug on the table and simply says, "beautiful!" The jug is on sale this week and I know it will sell. She begins to wax lyrical about the day I will finally get "premises". She'll come in and help, she'll polish the furniture and arrange the stock...she'll let me do the buying. She thinks there should be a chenille curtain separating the antique shop from the tea shop - I object to chenille and think it should be Sanderson's vintage chintz. She wrinkles her nose, but concedes. She thinks the shop should be arranged like a living room, so that everything seems useful, beautiful and appropriate. She says that we should offer a curtain making service. She is old enough to realise that a virtual antiques shop is nowhere near as aesthetically fulfilling as a real one. When she talks about the virtual shop she says "you" when she talks about the fantasy real shop she says "we".

"Don't you ever keep the things you really love?" she asks.

I tell her that I sell everything. However, I also say that when I really love something I put it on sale for a high starting price. I describe the Victorian salad dish with the roses and bluebirds on it and say that I thought it would never sell because I put it on for a £34.99 start - but it did sell and I dutifully packed it off to America. She points to Mrs Cooper Smith's cushion which I cleaned and re-stuffed last weekend and says, "but you're keeping that."

I consider for a moment and smile, "yes, mum. I think I will keep that. Just to please Mrs Cooper Smith." Mum smiles and understands.


Pom Pom said...

You are such a fine writer! I feel like I know your mum now and I want to know more. Fascinating.

Dulce Domum said...

Thanks for that, Pom Pom. You're really kind. I'll let my mum know you think she's fascinating!