So here’s the deal. I’m not one of those people who lives in another decade or indeed wishes to. Reasons include casual racism, sexism, the relative cost of spirits, the fact that dentistry has only really come on in the last two decades, some of the things I’ve read about feminine hygiene products back then (belts? Are you jeffing kidding me?), and the fact that you couldn’t get a decent supplier of belachan in London until about five years ago. On this basis, while it would be interesting, I’m pretty sure that going back in time would be rubbish.
Now, I like Northern Soul and Be-bop and ra-ra skirts and victory rolls but god knows I’m rather too lazy for all of that. But I LOVE proper dressing wardrobes. In one of my previous houseshares we had to move after our landlord decided to turn our house in Islington into a mini nunnery as the nuns next door had reduced in number and they wanted the smaller house so they could sell off the big one (Diocese of Westminster, Roman Catholic Church – I’m not kidding). Side note: we once saw one of the nuns ironing her wimple at the window while we were in the back garden. I’ve no idea why this delights me but it does.
One of the girls had a FABULOUS wardrobe from the 1930/40s inlaid with mother of pearl or ivory (something white, anyhow. Hey, don’t judge me, I’m not an expert!) and with a panoply of gorgeous drawers, shelves and a glass compartment for the storing of hats. She’d moved out and said I could have it if I could wedge it down the stairs, which were narrow and twisty and completely impossible to navigate. We simply couldn’t get it down the stairs on moving day despite trying for what seemed like forever and so left it to the nuns, which broke my little heart. But I’m sure the glass drawer will be excellent for the storage of wimples.
So, it’s not like I’ve been looking for one of these ever since (nearly 10 years ago…), but I did always have in my mind that it would be a cool and awesome thing to have in my life. So many drawers! So chic! I’d even buy some damn hats to store in the little glass hat compartment!
And lo! In September I was searching around the neighbourhood when I came across the Emmaus Shop. Emmaus are a great charity helping the homeless and across Greenwich and Lewisham are known for the bargains and occasional fab finds in their stores. Not only that, but they’re incredibly friendly. Now, I’d said previously that I’m no charity shop rummager. This isn’t because I don’t want to, it’s largely because I’m time-poor and usually get beaten to the punch. I adore browsing but to be honest every time I get to the shop the good shit is usually gone.
I’m always beaten to it – I remember one time in the Oxfam in Dalston finding two FLAWLESS large le creuset saucepans in blue. I controlled my breathing (all the while thinking “THIS IS THE MOTHERLOAD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD”), picked them up, put them down as being solid cast iron they were too heavy, so wandered up to the till to ask to pay for them. WHILE I WAS DOING THIS a lady struggled up to the till with them wedged under her arms and smugly asked if she could pay “right now so girly here doesn’t nab em”. Incoherent rage was my default setting for about 3 hours after that. I would have fought for them (or at least challenged her to a dance-off or thumb war) but I figured “causing a scene” in Oxfam was rather de trop.
Anyway, back in 2014, I wandered into the shop mostly looking for side tables (the hunt continues, friends…). I saw it, and instantly fell in LOVE, and having learned my lesson, immediately asked if I could reserve this while I went and got the cash. Good call, since when I returned a lady was desperately trying to persuade the lovely man in the shop to let her have it instead. Phew! £90 (including delivery) later and three utterly charming blokes were wrestling this bad boy up the stairs of my building to get this into the flat.
Isn’t it FABULOUS???
A quick scrub and a polish later I was eagerly sharing pics with friends and family. All of whom were utterly underwhelmed. I’ve heard “ugly”, “too big”, “why???” and “old-fashioned” (the latter being rather the point). And of course the thing I’m neglecting to add is that it isn’t actually for my room – it’s for Flatmate’s room, and I sense she isn’t exactly feeling the love. Ah, why do I bother?
Simple. Because it’s mine and I love it. So there.
Final note – I was desperately trying to figure out how old this might be as I feared it wasn’t an original. Then while polishing in the back corner this fell out: