Writing from the Museum

Some of our writers have generously shared their work with Stories of Childhood. This piece was written during our January workshop. Cerin Eames was inspired by Frances and Greta, her paternal grandparents, and their mastery of arts and crafts.

Frances and Greta

He grew willows in his garden, which were harvested, stored and then soaked to make numerous wonderfully hand-woven baskets. Not just baskets but also a rocking horse large enough for at least three cousins at once, hanging on for dear life and over-enthusiastically making the poor creature do more than it was designed to do.

He bound books. Carefully creating his own marble-effect paper for the inside cover and then putting together collections of drawings, letters, and magazines. Hard binding for longevity – keeping words and images for perpetuity. He had tools to emboss letters in gold on the spines and fronts of the books.

He made us beautiful things, a jewellery box with my name engraved inside, lined with velvet, with tiny hinges and exquisite dovetail joints.

He put my initials on a leather music case that he had made for me to keep my recorder music inside. It was special having my own unique holdall.

He was gifted with his hands, a teacher of Art in schools and a master-craftsman at home.

He built a workshop and sun-room at the back of his house and a walk-in pantry for Grandma’s numerous chutneys and preserves, there was no end to his skills.

He also made a loom that filled the whole of one bedroom where Grandma would weave. She used yarn that she had spun from huge sheepskins. She created dyes from natural plants and flowers growing around their home.

She made clothes; hand sewn, embroidered, crocheted, knitted and always wore a house-coat indoors. She heated milk for our bedtime drinks and gave us home-made biscuits to dunk. 

They made me a doll’s house for my 4th birthday. 

Grandpa created the shell, a classic Georgian property on 3 levels. The front opened from a central point to reveal a lounge and kitchen downstairs, a staircase up to a bedroom and bathroom and then two further bedrooms in an attic space with a table-tennis table too. The floors were covered in materials appropriate to the room and wallpaper lined the walls.

Small curtains hung at the windows and miniature light switches operated the central ceiling bulbs in each room. I loved that when I closed the house I could imagine the family at home as I looked from the outside, chinks of light coming from behind the lace curtains.

Grandma made the occupants of the house. Several generations resembling both of them, me, my parents and my brothers including the youngest, a baby with a shock of ginger woollen hair.

The people had sturdy pipe cleaner bodies and their shoes were Blakeys (metal tacks for stopping your shoe heels from wearing down.) Their faces were stitched by Grandma to varying degrees of success with some stern-looking eyebrows and harsh mouths, others had a startled look about them with rosy cheeks and hair made of embroidery thread. The younger family members had pigtails, bunches and Grandma had a formidable bun.

I played with this wonderful gift so much over the years, adding furniture, asking for different items for birthdays and Christmas, all so real, so minute.

Wine bottles, a toaster that popped toast, roast beef, a toilet roll holder and loo brush, rugs, potted plants, mirrors and framed pictures, the grand piano, books and the table-tennis table with bats!

What an absolute treasure. So much love and time put into the making of this wonder.   So much love and time playing with it.

The whole family enjoyed the creating of scenes and scenarios. It passed down through the cousins, then my children and step -children, my brothers children and now it sits like a statesmen – on top of a wardrobe in my spare room. Doors closed, lights off, people carefully wrapped in tissue and furniture boxed up and packed away.

It waits for another generation of children to enjoy its splendour and looks forward to lighting up lives again.


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