Tag Archives: desire


11 Apr



Dad and Mam 1960

Memory is fickle. It is bad enough that we cannot always be sure of our senses (spending time in a psychiatric hospital will profoundly shake one’s faith in reality) and the store of impressions, knowledge and experiences we call memory can be most troubling.

My wife and I cared for and supported my Mam in the last years of her life as her memory gradually unravelled due to vascular dementia. Her condition was compounded by macular degeneration and a bone headed refusal to adapt. When she finally agreed to be cared for professionally, Clare and I uncovered archeological layers of unread sticky labels and notes in her house amidst mountains of hoarded stuff, written to remind Mam of where the other note was to indicate the location of the marmite (12 pots), disinfectant (20 bottles filled with water??) you get the idea. She even hid money in black socks – throughout her wardrobe.

“Look Henk! A Dobby sock!” Clare, my lady of the wicked mirth, referring to the JK Rowling elf character in the Harry Potter books.

Living on her own. Mam must have been slowly becoming more and more lost in her own maze of the Minotaur, walking through a thickening fog without any string.

At the end what was left of her memory were the deepest associations and very revealing. During her last 18 months in care she constantly called me ‘David’ my dad, her ex husband’s name. During this time I realised just how much she adored him despite belittling, criticising and disrespecting his name in all the years prior and since their divorce in 1966. I did not correct her.

This is Grace and I am humbled by it’s Memory.

When my Dad was alive, he and I used to love going on road trips. We would invent a spurious reason, jump in the car with a hold-all each and head for the hills. He used to say “Got some loose change in your pocket? A pair of clean underpants and a vest? Right-ho, we’re good to go!”

Take Dad anywhere and there would always be a tale, a funny association with his own memories and experiences and a riotous adventure.

Take, for example, the time we went to Ireland in his old Ford Sierra, travelling to Waterford to trace his mother, Annie Wilde’s roots, all the way up to Dublin. We found no trace, but a great deal of mirth – in a bar in Dublin we were drinking beer and eating a big meat pie each when onto a crude stage wafted a vision in electric blue taffeta. An aged chanteuse plugged the hammond organ in, switch it on and proceeded to sing.

“It’s Margarita Pracatan!” my dad declared.

The eponymous singer was regular guest on Clive James’ chat show during the 90’s.

I nearly choked on my pie.

Landscape, architecture and movement have always flowed like a waterfall for father and son.


A rush of pure association, comedy and utter delight.


This piece is called ‘Waterfall’ and was commissioned by a couple who have that rare gift – they have kept their curiosity alive through mutual love and affection all the way to retirement.

They had discovered this timber – English Yew – in a small local woodyard near Hillsborough in Sheffield (Albion Timber), the mill owner, David Smythe had put them on to me as a someone who might be able to make them something useful from them.

It was the wildness of the waney, or live edges that excited them. They couldn’t know what lay under the rough sawn, blood red surface of the six boards.

Now, the problem with having an ‘unquiet mind’ (manic depression) is that there is never any shortage of ideas. Almost anything can set my brain haring off like a collie after a rabbit.

So I was grateful that my clients were quite specific in their requirements – a set of shelves with a small cabinet.

It was an artist friend, who said “It’s a waterfall” as I was completing it in my studio. Aye, lad.

During a family reunion, on Christmas Day in Devon with my dad and I were paired up for a word association quiz

Dad: “A Lake, ‘like you are not son’.”

“Placid”, I said.

We were unbeaten. My memory was sound.

The ravens had returned, to Odin.



For the giver of the Dobby Sock.





20 Apr


I discovered this stunning Lancia Fulvia parked outside the railway station in Ostia at Christmas 2012, and in case you are wondering what on earth this has to do with woodwork I’ll tell you.

Years ago, when I was a teenager, my dad rocked up with my very glamorous step mum in a car identical to this. He had been made redundant from his job in West Africa so he had flown to Italy and blown some of his golden handshake on a Lancia Fulvia identical to this one. He had then proceeded to drive all the way home to Blighty in some style. I only need to look at this to remember him trying to give me a driving lesson on his brother-in-laws considerable gravel drive in Gloucestershire, and my weak attempts at controlling a vicious clutch. The Fulvia Berlina was designed by Antonio Fessia in 1963, the design winning many Rally Races and the Paris Dakar. The one pictured here is a 1.6 L developing 115 bhp with a top speed of 118 mph. Which, in a 1970’s all alloy body shell and chassis is seriously quick. To me this is a near perfect design for a motor car, it positively screams “drive me and you will become gorgeous”. I try to make my furniture pieces with this intent, it is an aspiration.

The car also represents an external manifestation of desire. I am sure that I get my passion for making and design from my Dad. If we see something this beautiful it stops us dead in admiration. You can keep your Ferraris your Jaguars (with the exception of the Mark 2) and your dull, boring German muscle cars. Give me a Lancia Fulvia any day; light, fast, compact and beautiful – just like my woman.

Here is the old man charming my wife.

VLUU L200  / Samsung L200  C that’s Mrs Littlewood to you


Lancia Fulvia