Wednesday, 19 November 2008


We returned home to North London and excitedly made our way to our new address in Archway, Upper Holloway. We knocked on the door and were ushered in by Mrs. Bottacelli who directed us through the door under the stairs, telling us to come up to her flat and collect our rent book, when we were ready. When we entered our room: it was magic. There were our lovely dining room suite and two rust coloured, caterpillar, fire side chairs, the interior sprung mattress, our bedding and our pots and pans. Daddy and Doug had made a lovely job of decorating the room. It was now light and bright and clean. Dad had even laid our linoleum for us. We found the shiny, aluminium, whistling kettle, and carried it through to the scullery, where the air was thick with the smell of boiled fish heads! We didn’t care; we were married at last, in our own home, and it was all real.
Our first teapot was made of white china and was encapsulated in an insulated, chrome ball, with holes for the spout and handle to poke out. This was very modern and was supposed to keep the tea hot for ages. Up to now such household items had been very sparse and basic, and still bore the Government utility mark. But the ‘contemporary’ era was upon us, and we were starting to get a bit of ‘style’ in our lives.
The kettle whistled and we made our first pot of tea. Out came our new, white tea set and we played Mums and Dads.
Soon the job of arranging our new home was well under way. Because we wanted to show off our new dining room furniture and comfy chairs to the best advantage, we decided not to clutter our bed-sitter with the inclusion of an actual bed. Bearing this in mind, we decided to leave the bedroom suite at Arthur’s mum and dad’s house, and only use the mattress.
Our room had a door, a window, a fireplace and a handy floor- to- ceiling cupboard which was not very deep, but high. In this cupboard we planned to keep our mattress and bedding.
Each morning, before we went to work, we would stand the mattress on end, fold it in half, then quickly stuff it into the cupboard and slam the door shut before it could leap out again! I don’t know if you have ever tried to fold a new interior sprung mattress in half. It really needed the joint strength of three all-in-wrestlers to achieve this feat, but there was only the two of us! Once the mattress and bedding were hidden, we had a nice, cosy lounge that looked quite normal and, and we thought, rather smart.
Come bedtime, Arthur would open the cupboard door and let the mattress out. We would then drag it over to the rug in front of the hearth and make up the bed, using all our lovely, new bedding. This was the only space in the room that would accommodate the mattress. It was a bit of a nuisance, but well worth the effort if we wanted to have a respectable lounge that we could entertain in. It did, however, have just one little downside.
One morning when we were late for work, it was very easy to convince each other that it was a good idea to leave the bed down till we returned at teatime. We came home about 6 o/c that evening and, when we opened our door, we couldn’t believe what our eyes ere telling us. Our mattress and the bedding were completely buried under a thick layer of black soot, as indeed was all the furniture.
We just stood transfixed, with a mixture of horror and disbelief. The rest of the evening was spent, cleaning, and sweeping and shaking things. We didn’t have a Hoover, just brooms and brushes. Looking back on it, I can hardly believe it happened, or that we managed to clean it up. But it did, and we did. We never left the bed down again though. Previous to our occupation, the room hadn’t been used for years, and so the chimney hadn’t been swept since sweeps stopped using little boys to do the job!


GoldAnne said...

oh how sad the soot , it sounded so lovely the rest of it though your lovely new shiny things
love anne xxx

Jay said...

Oh, my goodness! And doesn't soot smell!!

Your tale took me right back to our first rented cottage, and how we felt as if we were playing at 'Mums and Dads' with our new (mostly second-hand) stuff!

But what is - or was - a caterpillar chair?

Sandi McBride said...

I remember when we first started out together a mere 40 years ago...I felt all grown up until the first fight when he threatened to go home to MY mother! (She being a better cook than I'll ever be). But no, it is a more grown up feeling than we'll ever have, up to and including the first baby...lovely story, soot and all

granny grimble said...


How I wish I could go back to those halcyon days!
I hope you are feeling a bit better now Anne X


Do you know, I actualy love the smell of soot, tar and coal!
I scoured Google to try and find a picture of a caterpiller chair, with no luck. The seat and back were all one piece and curved in an arc shape. The upholstery was made with sausage shaped ridges like the back of a caterpiller (hence the name) Clear as mud?

We never threatened to go home to Mother, in fact never had any spats at all! Isn't it wonderful that putting potatoes that you have peeled, into your own shiny new saucepan, ups the 'grown-up' stakes to the sky!

Swubird said...


Wow, that sounds like a nightmare - cleaning up all of that soot. What a job.

I remember my first place. It wasn't so good as yours. I also had a heck of a cleaning job to do. But, we called it home and it was a thrill to finally he in our own place.

Happy trails.

granny grimble said...

If your first place was worse than mine, I'd love to hear about it. QWhat could be worse than a single cellar room and boiled fish heads!!! Tewll all please.