Wednesday 19 August 2015

When is a chair not just a chair?

A couple of months ago, these lovelies came to Nottingham for a day of chatter, laughter and second hand shopping. It went well. We chatted a lot, laughed a lot and bought plenty.
Our normal fare is vintage clothing. We ticked that box, but when we walked into Sue Ryder in Sherwood, we entered new blogging-get-together territory. I bought a chair!

I'm a bit of a sucker for chairs and this one had just been reduced from £25 to £10, which seemed a bargain. I'm also a bit of a sucker for a bargain, so the deal was done and we carried on.
When I got it home on the Monday, I did a bit of investigating. The back cane was broken and needed fixing and the seat pad needed updating. When I unzipped the cover to see what the pad was like, I squealed with excitement. There right in front of me was a CC41 label. As I'm sure a lot of you will know, that label dates the cushion to the 1940s, during and just after WWII, when most commodities including food, clothing and furniture, were rationed.
I love this postcard of my dad surrounded by his parents in 1941. His father, George, was a Desert Rat and so was away in North Africa for much of the war. This postcard was sent home from Egypt, hence the pyramids.
For me that has a lot of resonance. My father was born in August 1941, in London, in the middle of the war, a few months after the end of the Blitz. I grew up listening to tales from my grandmother who spent the entire war in London. Immediately I saw the CC41 label, I started imagining somebody sat in the chair, by the fireplace, listening to Winston Churchill making all those historic, rousing speeches. That chair went up in my estimation!

Anyway, now the chair was intertwined with my father who was born at the same time as the label. It so happens that he died 20 years ago yesterday, two days after his 54th birthday, so as you can imagine, he has been a lot in my thoughts. So when I started re-caning the chair, I went and changed into a pair of shorts belonging to him.
I used this great video to learn how to cane the chair. Isn't youtube an amazing resource?
Here's a picture of him wearing them, standing on top of a landrover, in the bush on his way down to Juba, which then was part of the Sudan and now is the capital of South Sudan. At the time we were living in Khartoum, the capital, in the North. He was a Diplomat, and during that posting, he was responsible for infrastructure; bridges and roads, and also the physical reality of tourism, so he would go and visit little complexes of huts being built with swimming pools, which apparently always ended up with cracks in them! He loved Africa and he loved that role, because he got to work with the local people for whom he had a lot of respect.
There we are in Switzerland circa 1972, at some friends' house for dinner. That's him on the left, Lambert, David George MBE, and that's me; 3d 1966!
He was a really good man, a dad to be proud of. I often ponder how things might have been for our family had he lived longer, and I often wish he were still here so I could know him as an adult, ask him for advice or listen to his stories. But that's life. We're here, it's now and we've got to make the best of it. So when I look at the chair, I intend to think of him and remember the good times.
I have covered the pad in some 1940s barkcloth from France. That fireplace is the next project. We've got some fab tiles to go in there. 
I'm pleased with how it turned out.


Connie said...

Such a pretty chair. And such a nice story. I do believe in harmonic resonance. My father, too, died at a very young age. He was a smart and funny and sweet. Anyhooo, I was walking through the airport once on the day that would have been his birthday and I heard the loud speaker announcement, "Paging James Snow. " !!!! That was his name! Crazy, n'est-ce pas? See? You were meant to buy that chair!

Anonymous said...

What a great collection of photos and wonderful anecdotes about Dad. Reading it made me well up. He was the best Dad and is very sorely missed. I got all the photos I had of him out the other day too ; they bring back some lovely treasured memories.
Thanks for a great post about him xxxx

Ivy Black said...

How lovely, Tan. I love the link to your wonderful dad and that you put his shorts on to work on the chair. What a terrific gent; a dad to be proud of indeed.
The chair is fabulous and obviously waiting for you. That's one of the things I love about you; you get in there, no hanging about.
If it were mw, it would still be in the corner with a blanket and a cat on it!

Sue said...

You have done an amazing job with your chair, absolutely gorgeous. I have to admit having a thing for chairs too. I would like to do an upholstery class so I can fix up some of my finds. You feel the same way about your father as I do, I miss mine every day. He was a good man.

Vix said...

Two months ago! How time flies. I can't believe that was the last time I had a fun day out with friends!!!
Talk about pushing the blogger boundaries and purchasing furniture on a trip out. Get you, snaffling a Utility piece, those weird re-enacting types get their knickers in a right twist over that CC41 label. Made to last and should keep going for another 70 years now you've worked your weaving magic.
Your Dad packed more into his short life than most people manage in their three score years and ten. The Switzerland photo is gorgeous and he looks quite the man of action atop his Landy.

Miss Magpie said...

What a lucky find, sometimes I am convinced these things are just meant to be. It looks lovely now you have worked your magic on it.

I'm not surprised you are proud of your Dad he sounds amazing. x

Curtise said...

I realised after I had posted about our trip to Nottingham that I had left out the photo of you trying out that chair in Sue Ryder... Silly me. But look how fabulous it is, and I love how it connects you to your dad.
And what an interesting man you dad was, Tania - MBE and all! A distinguished career, and all those fascinating places. It sounds impossibly glamorous and sophisticated, the life of a diplomat, but at the heart of it, there's a decent man working hard at his job and raising a lovely family. I bet you were and are still very proud of his achievements.
Hmm, how different life might have been... Yes, that's always something to ponder, even though it's just a flight of fancy. We live in the now, but have memories and imagination. And your lovely chair will hopefully have lots of warm associations. xxxx

mondoagogo said...

Oops, just realised I had this tab open for days but hadn't got around to commenting! The chair looks lovely with that barkcloth, and next to the matching table. (plus all those pretty posies!)

ooh, weird, Dionne Warwick just came on shuffle singing "a chair is just a chair..."

Also weirdly enough, I dreamed of my dad the day before you posted this (he died when I was a kid)

I can definitely see a family resemblence between you and your grandmother.

Anonymous said...

Forgot to say that the material you have used for the chair cushion is gorgeous! Xx