Wednesday, 26 September 2012


I’m shorter than short – standing at exactly five foot nothing – so I put ‘small kitchen step stool’ on my Christmas list, to allow access to the highest reaches of my shelves. What he bought me was a vintage step-ladder, with a wobbly leg and a precarious list to the right that makes it unfit for purpose. I don’t know what panic sets in as he goes shopping for gifts, but he has a remarkable skill for choosing just the wrong thing with such care and love that I cannot do anything but show gratitude, and it is a beautiful ladder. A small metal label, tacked onto the warm oak, is embossed with the date of its hand-crafted birth, 1925, an age when someone cared about the smallest of design details. It cantilevers open with the complex grace of a greyhound rising from a sofa. I cannot use it. I have tried, but the stress as I listen for that creak of impending disaster is too much to bear, and so it languishes in the shed, dingy with stranded cobwebs, awaiting re-use as a shabby chic towel rail, or bedside bookshelves.

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