Object #4 – mirror, inlaid, worm eaten.
I studied at RHBNC, London University, in Egham, Surrey. I lived in halls for the first year, breezeblock affairs with tiny shared kitchens that smelled of icing sugar.
Then I moved into a shared house on Station Road. Our landlords were married – accountant and tax officer. The rent was high, £19 for each of the seven bedrooms. I painted mine magnolia, in the nude on my landlady’s advice. The door hit the foot of the bed when it opened. The desk was too small for an open Complete Works of Shakespeare, too big to get a chair between it and the bed.
Mark’s godmother Aunty Joan lived nearby with Uncle Mike, in a gatehouse to Windsor Great Park. She once went to a wedding in her gardening coat. She had a gardening coat. They offered Mark and I grenadine when the adults were drinking sherry. I don’t know to this day what grenadine is. Uncle Mike was compact, smoked a pipe, laughed like The Penguin, turned the engine off when driving downhill to save petrol, had seen service in India during the war and claimed that as a boy he’d picked up the first news of the Spanish Civil War on his cat’s whisker radio, but none of the adults had believed him. When he needed to put up a new TV aerial, he smashed a hole through the attic. I was once thrown across the bedroom by an electric shock off a light switch. The bath spiders there were enormous. Dad was infuriated and delighted by Mike. Joan was a cousin of Joan, Dad’s first wife.
As a student, I went there once for dinner (sherry by then, not grenadine). They generously dug out and loaned me a carved white-painted dressing table for a desk and a worm eaten mirror. The desk supported my Complete Works through to graduation. I loved it. I was sad to give it back. The mirror has reflected 5 Birmingham houses, and 7 South East London flats, so far. I’m ashamed I never gave it back. Thank you Aunty Joan and Uncle Mike.