Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Timeworn and Wonderful

A post inspired by my hubby, Neil!

More pics at end of post

Perhaps not the best pairing of title and tagline, (especially if you happen to be my husband Neil reading this!)  However, do not fear, I’m not about to go into the various unfortunate consequences that are an inevitable part of the ageing process for most of us – you know the stuff, expanding waistline, receding silver hairline, short term memory loss… what was I saying?!I  In fact, this post is not as you may first think, about my timeworn husband, but is actually about my husband’s love of all things timeworn.

When we first met I have to say, I did find his fascination with old stuff, shall we say, a little unusual for an otherwise fairly modern man.  Back then, there is no way I would have given houseroom to some of his most beloved ‘pieces’, and actually there are still one or two things I just can’t take to, for example his 2ft sitting figures of Laurel and Hardy - heaven knows where (or why) he acquired them… in my opinion they are nothing less than terrifying!

These days however it’s quite a different story, and Neil’s interest in pretty much anything from days gone by has most definitely rubbed off. Over the years I’ve come to love his somewhat ‘quirky’ taste, and in fact now share his love of artefacts and paraphernalia which, if they could speak, would have more than a tale or two to tell.

Not so long ago I came home to find a very dirty old glass bottle sitting on the kitchen window sill.  I admit at first, I did roll my eyes, especially when over the course of the week, one muddy bottle became five muddy bottles! Neil had found them, buried in the mud, whilst walking the dog on a nearby field.   He was so pleased with his finds(s) (which he believes date back to the early 1900’s), I couldn’t bring myself to burst his bubble and put them in the bin, which is exactly where I thought they belonged at the time - I’m so glad I didn’t. The bottles actually cleaned up really well and look very lovely on display in our home. Don’t get me wrong I love a modern Ikea vase as much as the next person, but there’s just something really special about these old bottles, not least the way Neil ‘rescued’ them from the ground and gave them a new lease of life and a good home (I know… clearly this sentimental eccentricity malarkey is catching!)

Another example of recycling at its best is our mantelpiece, which was also dug up and lovingly restored by my hubby!  It’s actually an old railway sleeper from the now disused Castleford to Allerton Bywater pit line, which used to run across the land right at the back of home.  You can still sometimes get a faint smell of the old diesel oil which has seeped into the sleeper as you walk past the fireplace. I know this sounds a bit weird but it’s actually a really lovely and very authentic whiff of nostalgia.

And it’s not just objects and artefacts, Neil loves a good old film too.  I remember one time, fairly early on in our relationship, he took me to the cinema one Valentine’s evening.  Did we share the evening on the edge of our seats watching the very latest box office sensation? Oh no, instead we settled in on the back row to watch the 1942 American melodrama that is, Casablanca.  Having not seen this romantic classic before, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to it I have to say (well, it was in black and white, what was I supposed to think?!)  However, I now admit ‘twas I who was the uncultured idiot, and realise that at the time, Neil’s romantic gesture was a little wasted on me. As it turns out, I absolutely loved the film, and looking back, think this was perhaps around the time I really began to find my man’s love of old things really quite charming!

Not quite so old, but still a wonderful blast from the past, is another of Neil’s restoration projects… an old 1970s GPO telephone.  Painstakingly converted by him to work on a modern BT line, this is now our main house phone.  The line’s a bit crackly at times, but other than that it works just fine, and looks great! However it does get more than a bit tricky when making a call to a number with an automated reply message…  what do they mean press the hash or star key, our phone doesn’t have either?!!

And so, onto the very latest addition in our collection of ‘all things old’, a wonderful and powerfully nostalgic record player.  Actually it’s not old really, but we’ve been after one of these for a few years now, and would have loved an original ‘Dansette’.  Sadly, these turned out to be way out of our price range, so instead, we settled for a Steepletone Dansette ‘style’ player, on which to bring our dusty vinyl back to life.   Having both always loved our music, we actually had quite a collection of both LPs and 45s to dig out of the loft.  We’ve had hours of fun already, reminiscing as we listen to some of the old tunes jumping and crackling on the turntable.  Surprisingly, there isn’t quite as much ‘jump and crackle’ as we expected, and we were astonished at how great the old vinyl still sounds.  It was hilarious watching Neil give the younger members of our family a lesson on how to play a record.  ‘What do you press if you want to skip tracks?’, ‘what do you mean that’s only half the album, and you have to turn it over to listen to the rest?!’ This lesson was followed by what turned into a bit of a quiz, where we challenged the young’uns to guess which records were from my teenage collection and which were from Neil’s.  So predictably, yes Michael Jackson, Shalamar and Sister Sledge were mine, with Pink Floyd, Deep Purple and Emerson Lake & Palmer being Neil’s.  There was however the odd red herring in the form of Neil’s favourite Madonna album, and my In the City album by the Jam.  As Mrs Hart (mum of Miranda) would say… such fun!

Of course, if you’ve read my previous blog posts, you’ll know we recently ‘invested’ in a motor vehicle of the timeworn variety, ‘Billy’.  Billy is a 30 year old Bedford Motorhome, which we acquired back in August 2014.  Poor old Billy was in serious need of some TLC, and Neil’s been busy correcting one or two mechanical problems and sorting out a few nasty leaks!  It’s taken a long time to get to the stage where Billy’s mechanically sound…(ish!), and leak free (well at least for now), and I’m excited to say he’s almost ready for my input.  Oh yes, cushions, curtains, throws and bunting are at the ready, and I can’t wait to get on with a bit of interior design!  We’re hoping Billy will be ready to go on tour by the Easter break at the latest.  More Billy blog posts to follow!

Actually, looking around our home, there are many other signs and indicators that would make it an easy job for Lloyd Grossman, Keith Lemon, (or whoever it is that hosts Through the Keyhole these days… is that show even still on TV?!), to conclude what sort of person lives in a house like this.  For example, we have the beginnings of a pipe collection going on (well,  perhaps a slight exaggeration, we have two), one of which Neil bought for no apparent reason whilst we were wandering around an antique shop in The Lanes, Brighton, and the other which used to belong to his pipe-smoking granddad – actually there are still traces of tobacco in there! (really quite sweet or really quite disgusting?... I’m not sure).

We also have, on our bookshelf, a very interesting specimen called ‘The Volunteers’.  Neil found this in an old store of his a few years ago and was intrigued by it. The Volunteers is a series of short stories for children - the content of which is quite shockingly un-PC by today’s standards - it really does make quite fascinating reading.  There’s even a handwritten message on the inside of the book’s cover which indicates that it dates back to 1917!

Also, taking pride of place on our lounge window sill is a very lovely clock, which was handed down from Neil’s beloved granny and granddad.  Apparently, it was a wedding gift to the two of them when they tied the knot back in the 1930’s.  It no longer keeps time very well, but it looks great, has a wonderful sounding chime, and is a lovely sentimental reminder for Neil of his grandparents.

So, after initial reservations as to whether my husband was some kind of weirdo throwback to anything pre 1970’s, or actually just a very charming, interesting and romantic sentimentalist, I decided that the latter was most definitely true. 

I’m so pleased that I eventually embraced, learned to love and in fact now share at least some of my hubby’s slightly eccentric ways, and am excited to think what we’ll add next to our growing collection of all things old. 

In the meantime (as I hurtle towards the big five-zero myself), I take some comfort in the fact that evidently, my nostalgia loving hubby doesn’t discard things, or see them as any less special, just because they might be getting on a bit… he simply sees them as timeworn and wonderful!

Thanks for reading.

Just one old bottle from Neil's collection

And here are the others Neil dug up, teamed with a trio of modern slimline vases to add a bit of colour

A fascinating addition to our bookshelf back to 1917!

A 1930s wedding gift for Neil's grandparents - not keeping time so well, but still chiming!

Our 'timeworn' camper, 'Billy'

Railway sleeper mantlepiece... aahh smells lovely!


1970's GPO telephone... great 'til you need to press the # key!

Pipe 'collection' - complete with leftover bits of tobacco!

Loving our new toy!

And, the record collection... looking forward to adding to this!

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