a return to the table

In our kitchen, we have an oval Victorian drop-leaf table. It has been in the family since my father-in-law was a child, if not before, and it has seen a lot of action, and a number of homes over the years. It is definitely past its best, marked by mug stains, felt pen marks, fading and scuffs. Nevertheless, this kitchen table is very much the heart of our home. Standing next to a large sash window that looks on to the garden, it benefits from natural light and a view to the hill beyond.

All sorts of things find their way on and off the table during the course of a day. Meals (of course) but also toys, books, letters, craft activities, laptops, medicine, to-do lists… a microcosm of family life. Back in 2014, it occurred to me that it might be interesting to photograph that tired old table through the course of the year, to discover what stories it can tell. For a long time, on this blog, I continued to document the years with monthly photographs of my kitchen table – my tabletop images were even featured in a magazine.

Time passed, I moved on and lost enthusiasm for my tabletop project, but this week, whilst searching for something else, I came across my May Table post for 2014, and was immediately struck both by how much – and yet how little – things have changed in the five years that have passed since then.

I felt an urge to return to that old table, a little more scuffed, a little more tea-stained, a little less stable, but nonetheless, still here at the heart of the kitchen. It’s May again- how the months and years fly past. The smallest is celebrating his birthday, but this year- unbelievably- he will turn six. The mama-made felt badges are still going strong- I have 11 of them now, stuffed into an old tobacco tin that once belonged to my Yorkshire Grandad. This month, number six for the smallest will be joined by number nine for his brother- their birthdays just a day apart.

Yet again (for the third time, in fact), these boys will be celebrating their birthdays in Cornwall – hence the map. From the wall above my desk, I pulled down a fading polaroid shot of our trip to Mousehole five years ago- a reminder of sandy toes and pink thrift, sea glass and starfish waving in the rockpools. A reminder of the day he turned one.

I still have my Mama mug, but I use it less than I once did, preferrring my coffee in this one from a local potter. The striped French jug is still going strong, however, and once again it’s filled with Cow Parsley- my eternal May favourite. I picked it from that same shady lane where I once walked a fractious baby in his buggy until his tired eyes drooped. Nowadays, its a lane that forms part of my regular running route, an activity that I never would have dreamed of myself doing back in those hazy, milky days.

In my quiet moments (of which I have more now that even the smallest is at school), I’m poring once again over my map of Cornwall, where the memories of seaside days past lie side by side with the anticipation of adventures to come. Here it is, then – the May table.

If you’d like to learn more about how to tell your own stories, you might be interested in Little Stories of My Life – a 5 week E-course that will nurture your creativity and confidence, teaching you my secrets of storytelling with words and pictures, showing you how to find your voice, to see the magic in the everyday and to harness the power of your own small stories. Click here to find out more and to grab your space. Enrolment closes at midnight on Saturday, and this is your last chance to take the course before November.

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