Wednesday, 6 July 2011
My kitchen tiles
I have always loved ceramics. I still have a bowl and a green jug I bought in Budapest when I used to have cropped blond hair. Now that was an age ago.
Three summers back we began renovation of the ground floor of this house. The walls are thick and porous and my lungs had suffered since we moved in. Soon after the builders started, a little bulldozer drove inside and churned up the earth where my kitchen used to be (the house has no foundations) and dug down deep. We walked on planks over the damp earth for months, plastic sheeting flapping, the dogs confused.
When the work was done it was time to decorate. I pulled out a crate of tiles a very good friend had given to me, painted by his very old mother. I had driven down to Le Marche with a mate to fetch these and other relics that had been saved from their country house which had been sealed off by the police. S told me to keep a few of the tiles, the ones I didn't need, for his house in Corsica, which he urged me to visit.
I loved the tiles. They were white, painted in the Delft style, each one had a hunting dog, a parrot, a pair of women in clogs, a rigged ship, or a windmill. They were each signed at some point in the design by his mother whom I had never met. They are now placed in a panel on one wall of my kitchen.
Before S and his partner ever came to visit my improved house they had both taken their lives. I knew it was going to happen. But I was still caught by surprise, and angry. I couldn't see why they hadn't gone along with it a little longer. Their beautifully furnished life. Their poisoned beliefs.
They told S's old mother he died of a heart attack. That the pain of losing his lover had killed him.
Somehow, I feel guilty because I have the work she pored over - the tiles that were less successful and the ones that came out well - on my wall, along with the many books and porcelain and furniture S gave to me over the years. And I have never seen her face.
The extra tiles, the ones for S's house in Corsica, have been put away somewhere safe.