‘When my children were old enough to want their own rooms their discarded joint bedroom became my study. It was the first time that I had ever had a ‘space of my own’ and I didn’t realise how important this was until I had it.
It is a very personal space – a room where I gather fragments from my life around me. An embroidered cushion and knitted patchwork blanket, an oil painting depicting motherhood, a clay sculpture of me as a baby; thumb in mouth, all created by my mum. Alongside these are cards and felt hearts made by my son and daughter, bowls bought by my husband and I early on in our marriage and a box decorated by my sister. Underneath the mantle is a flower painting by my maternal granny and on the wall are two rubbings that she told me she did as a young woman at Anchor Wat. Hung either side of a corner, one picture is more faded than the other as it adorned a wall in her either, boiling hot or freezing cold, sunroom. My inward eye wanders back to sunny family holidays in Purbeck where she lived. We walked to beaches, swum in cold seas, picnicked and lazed around reading as she sat on a cliff painting flowers – how I love rose tinted glasses!
On the shelves, work files form the backdrop to oddments given to me by my children – an old keyboard with a lovely message, paper fashion designs casually blue tacked on 14 years ago and still there. On top of the shelf is my childhood – Jemima, my rag doll made by my mum and a hairy sheepskin mouse given by my paternal grandparents.
The bookshelves that run around two sides of the room take me down the path of my adult life. It starts with books on teaching, Steiner activities to do with children and a large section on preschool music. Above is a shelf for my book group, 24 years’ worth of paperbacks so far, and such a well curated selection. Then the history books begin – those on women’s history, swimming history, laundry history, coffee houses and pub sign history, but the subject that takes up most space is Cambridge history. Most are gleaned from second-hand bookshops where I get very excited over a typewriter produced pamphlet, filled with the quirky research, by a long-forgotten person, on a very specific subject! Finally, overflowing onto the chest of drawers are the books that link to my most recent project, the David Parr House.
But something that these photos do not show, hidden amongst the books, are more memories. I often slip odd cards, pictures and letters amongst their pages, waiting there to surprise me when I next take it down from the shelf. Just last week my son opened a Diana Henry cookbook and found a Father Christmas letter written by my daughter aged 6.
My space is my very much a memory box that gets opened each time I go in.’