Wednesday, July 27, 2011
1990: I make a pilgrimage
It's early autumn 1990, and by this time I'm about six months into the flat from Hell (see 1990: Cover me in ecstasy). There was so much I wanted to do but being skint it was not an option.
But still, the future Mrs P and I would borrow my brother's car, soundtracked by this song and Show Me Heaven by Maria McKee, and visit the junk shops, jumble sales, car boot fields and bric-a-brac markets of London in search of that certain something to make our respective flats properly groovy in order to hide the grimness of hand-me-downs and deathly magnolia paintwork.
One journey we did a lot was the one to Greenwich Market. Great for batik cushions and Bob Dylan CDs, but not very good for much else. However, away from the covered market next door was what must have been an old service station, jam packed with great stalls selling Sixties and Seventies curious. We had struck gold. We bought a lot from there, and even though it wasn't that cheap that kind of stuff was far cheaper back then that it is now. It was perfect.
The flat was great: a large, three-bedroomed mansion block flat, airy and roomy but pricey and requiring flatmates. However, it never felt like my home or my own because it had to be shared and it wall went to hell. Shame really, beause it wasn't for want of trying and moving in was so promising.
Dad had very kindly done all the decorating, but the rest was up to us. So how exactly were we to fill it? Having come straight from renting I owned a record player and that was it. Furniture had to come cheap or as was mainly the case, donated by dead relatives. Auntie Maggie, a rather sad woman who never really left her flat after falling off a bus in 1972, despite having a pioneering hip replacement and who died a spinster shortly after we moved in, was the benefactor of a lot of furniture, crockery and linens. Big chest of drawers aside, and without looking a gift horse in the mouth, a flat that was furnished throughout with the cast-offs from an 80-year-old woman was not quite the swinging man about town image I was keen to cultivate. Uncle Bob, who'd died the year before, and with whose money we'd pooled to buy the flat, was the benefactor of lots of great bits and pieces, like copper fondue sets, Swedish etchings and cast-iron wood gnomes, but no furniture of note.
So thank God for Ikea. And wasn't it fun back then, laughing at the funny Swedish names for table lamps and rag rugs, getting a bit giddy over pine and having the meatballs in the cafeteria? Who knew a trip to Neasden could be so exciting? It was a proper day out. And it was cheap. The only drawback of course being while it all looks lovely in the showroom, cosy and dark and chicly Scandinavian, when teamed with your existing homewares it can actually look really rather random. Nasty black wood TV stands - what was I thinking? And the sofa took 10 weeks to come! Even when it arrived the cushions didn't fit properly. I've not bought a stick of furniture there in 20 years now, but you still can't beat their tumblers.
So to hide all this nastiness things were livened up with exciting objets, pictures and plants, hence the market trawl. It's a look we've carried through to this day, though all traces of Auntie Maggie and Ikea have been eradicated, to be replaced by things far more interesting, and if you've been to my house you'll know what I mean. There's still nothing more we'd rather do wherever we are than heading for the nearest flea market. Fascinating rhythm indeed.