Preparing for Christmas, as one does at this time of the year especially when one is the host, I somehow decided to start by painting a door. It is an annoying door, painted on one side and stained on the other. The original paint job was very poor. I have tried to touch it up occasionally but what was really badly done was the putty around the 20 small panes of glass. This time I removed this and reputtied, sanded and repainted – with only marginally better results.
Then I turned to the stained side. My brother in law, who died in 2005, was a sign writer by trade and his business also restored historic buildings. He liked to paint pictures and he was a great source of wisdom. The first time I elicited his help was sitting down at our house warming dinner party a few weeks after we had bought our very first home. During dessert after a hearty main course, naturally accompanied by fine wine, I asked him what his advice would be about the dining room’s old peeling wallpaper. He replied, “This”, jumped to his feet and pulled off a large sheet by a curling corner. The party erupted and within 20 minutes the wall was stripped. He offered to come over and repaper and at the same time taught me how to wallpaper. It is nice to be in possession of a now almost lost and unwanted skill but it did give me much fun in bygone years!
Over the ensuing years he provided a great deal of useful advice. He was very keen on using shellac and cabinetmaker’s wax on many items and had suggested it for this exact door and I had followed his advice. Four days before his death, which was somewhat unexpected despite a terminal illness, he gave me his last bit of a special cabinetmaker’s wax which he had stored in his studio in a tobacco tin.
As I cleaned up the final bits of putty, paint and shellac from the panes of glass this afternoon in expectation of finishing the job by just applying the essential coat of wax, I mused on what I would write about bullying, when I had finished, a topic currently on the news and about which I have some strong views. I gently rubbed the shellac down with the special fine steel wool he always advised for such a job as I thought about that difficult subject.
Then, as I reached into the cupboard for some of the commercial cabinetmaker’s wax which I usually use, my hand stopped of its own accord and instead I took out the tobacco tin. It is a fine tin, plainish packaging, green with only a small picture of a tobacco plant. It is inscribed with the words “GOLDEN VIRGINIA Hand Rolling Tobacco”. It also advises me to “lever with a coin to open,” and has a special slot provided so to do.
I used a coin then lovingly rubbed the door with the special wax with waves of nostalgia overcoming me.
This side of the door now does look much better.
I am not writing about bullying, nostalgia is a far too overwhelming emotion and may even, one day, disturb those children all over again. Instead I washed and photographed the tin and ask what special treasures are fitting to store in it?
But I discover there is a further sadness. My excellent wallpaper pasting skills are not sufficient, despite intensive, determined efforts, to allow me to paste the photograph of the tin on this post as was intended.
Oh for the past!