Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Staircase story...

Map with additions by someone in Scrobs' family...

Seeing Thud's marvellous staircase in his Bothy, has just reminded me of something that happened to Scrobs, only a couple of months ago.

When I went to a funeral, which was due in the afternoon, I left home early to visit the home town of my grandparents - Letchworth, as the town is only a few miles from where I wanted to finish up, and also, I had yet another pilgrimage to make, but I'll talk about that later.

I had three addresses where my grandparents had lived - all houses or shops built by my grandfather. While staring at one particular house, I just couldn't resist the urge to knock on the door, and I'm so glad I did too! The door opened, and when a pleasant gentleman looked at me enquiringly, all I just had to say was ,"My name is Michael, and my grandfather built this house in the nineteen-twenties"!

There was a pause, and then a huge smile came over his face, and we immediately began to chat on the doorstep about the house and how his wife is on the historical societies etc., and she would love to know more and then he even invited to show me around inside! Now Scrobs would always decline, as privacy is privacy, but he insisted, as I'd talked about all sorts of features of the house, which nobody else would have known, and so we compromised and just stood in his hallway, still talking.

He explained then, that when they'd bought the house, it had been 'Italianated', and the original features had been covered up, and botched pretty badly, so they'd spent a lot of money stripping away the cheap tat, and restoring the building to its original state, including building a sizeable extension in the same style. Letchworth was developed and built to very strict guidelines, with appointed architects complying with these rules very well, such that there would be a feel of community and well-being about the place, even though the history only goes back to the start of the twentieth century!

And then he pointed out the staircase.

I'm afraid a huge lump appeared in Scrobs' throat, as I experienced the feeling of something like 'deja vu', without the 'deja', or even the 'vu' for that matter. But I just 'knew' this staircase, although I'd never seen it before! It was the very one that my grandfather had built, and, my grandmother, father, two uncles and two aunts, had all walked or run up, or tripped up and down countless times all those years ago, and the sight of the nineteen-twenties joinery and design, just made me feel so much closer to the old family, than I had in years! It isn't really a very big staircase, but it has the sort of character which I love, with several dog-legs, kites and a newel post which was so well designed at that particular period.

I didn't go round the interior of the house, as the owner had been so kind even to invite me to talk about the place, but I managed to amaze him by asking, "Is there still a fish pond round at the back"? He looked at me aghast, and said that indeed there was, and how did I know about it, and he took me round to show me an area, which was just as one of my uncles had described it, although the pond was empty, as it was being repaired! My uncle had told us that they'd built the pond from: -

"Three train wagons full of Kent Rag (stone) and gypsum was used to make rockeries and paths, and a goldfish pond about 4’6” x 10’0” x 4’0” deep and concreted. I have learned since (that) this was about four times as deep as it should have been as the leaves from the trees got in it and the decay reduced the oxygen, and we couldn't keep fish alive in it! The cat regularly fell in too, trying to drink out of it!"

...and it was all still there!

But to see this wonderful staircase was an experience I'll always treasure, and Thud's masterpiece will certainly live long enough for someone to tell this same sort of story in ninety years time!


Trubes said...

Lovely story Michael I do hope you got to the funeral.

love Di.

Thud said...

Kind of put a lump in my throat too!

Michael said...

Thank you, Trubes, and yes I did get there eventually, after stopping off so many times and peering over walls etc..;0)

Michael said...

It's funny isn't it Thud, that you can suddenly associate yourself with something as inanimate as a staircase, and immediately there is a story to tell!

I've got another one in a similar vein, which will probably come next!

Sorry to say that I thought I'd posted on your site yesterday, but now realise that I only clicked once instead of twice!

A K Haart said...

I'd never have had the courage to knock but it was obviously worth it for both you and the chap who lived there.

Strange how much a fine staircase adds to a house - stamps it as something much more than a box to live in.

Michael said...

When you think how tactile a staircase is, Mr H, it becomes an entity in itself!

When I go upstairs here, I touch - nay grasp - the hand rail (fiercely under certain circumstances), several times a day, and then comes the newel posts at the top, to steer me in whatever direction I need to go.

The handrail and newels here, are from a previous house on the site, which was bombed in WW2, so the oakwork has even more to tell me!

I can't think of a more utilised piece of a house, than a staircase, except for perhaps the front or back doors!

rvi said...

Hallo Scrobs, we have been gallivanting again away from all the newspapers, radios, tvs and internet. Do you know just how refreshing three weeks away from the world can be? Lots of stress and anger disappears into the glorious sunsets of the south seas..

Then I read your piece about the staircase and it immediately brought back memories of an uncle I had who died some years ago now at the age of 85. He spent most of his life in the army and served in both World Wars. He was one of the last Old Contemptibles. His trade was Master Carpenter and I used to spend hours as a nipper at his side watching him turn bits of wood into beautiful wooden artifacts and furniture. He was astonishingly patient and obviously loved wood and working with it. He used only the items in his tool set - no electric drills and other modern assistance. A quite amazing man.

I suspect that as they worked both he and your grandpa might well have been humming this .

Michael said...

Good to see you back Reevers! The only place we have round here to escape to is our allotment!

Interesting how you describe being with your uncle and watching how he worked. I'm not so sure kids have the same opportunities to do this these days, as there are far too many other things to take their fancy.

I just love doing anything with wood - I'm building a shed at the moment, and still have to make the door...

Agree about the music too, from about the same time I think!