Monday, 28 April 2014

Legacy from a Viking

Image borrowed from Blackpool Viking Dungeon

I have spent many hours sanding, cleaning and painting the bureau.    Unsurprisingly,  my thoughts have mostly been about the history of it.

I acquired it a few years ago, when I was instructed to get rid of both it, and all the contents.  My aunt was moving into a smaller home and had no need of a bureau, nor was she interested in the contents, she wanted them burnt.

I love it because it belonged to my late uncle.  

He had a hard start in life as his father died very young, leaving his widow with four children and no income.   My uncle had to leave school to earn money to buy food and clothing for his siblings.   His dreams of becoming a priest were just that.    Life was a struggle for them, but they managed.

The habit of frugality never left him, throughout his life the maximum 'pocket money' which he ever allowed himself each week was £5.00.    This bought his occasional pint of beer and enabled him to place some bets on the horses.    He was rather good at that and often won.   I hope he had fun with his winnings.

His other hobby was the game of darts.  He was extremely skilled and won lots of cups and trophies, unsurprisingly, he was on his local pub's team.    At some point, he and my aunt had a falling out over something.   The trophies disappeared and have never been recovered.   His ability to throw darts was also lost, but more of that later.

My uncle and aunt did not have any children of their own, but they were wonderfully generous and indulgent to my brothers and I.    He even helped my mother to nurse me through a bad dose of pneumonia, when I was just 6 weeks old...of course I don't remember that.

Somehow they never quite got the knack of turning a house into a home, perhaps that was why they enjoyed spending so much time at our place.

Uncle John and my mother would cook up a storm of wonderful food while my aunt was pretty good at washing the salad, though she left the tricky bit of slicing and arranging it to someone else!

I digress.   Inside the bureau was a medium-sized cardboard box.   My heart gave an extra beat of excitement as I lifted the lid, for inside were many dozens of letters written by my parents and myself, to my aunt and uncle.    They dated from the early 1960's, when we were living in Hong Kong and then move on to the years we spent in the Western Isles.  

Treasure within treasure.  These old letters, especially the ones with my parents thoughts and their, oh so familiar, handwriting are very special to me.

The dresser I told you about in my previous post is now finished,
and you can catch just a glimpse of the bureau over on the right,
it is about to undergo the next phase of painting...birds, flowers, etc.

So, this once dull piece of furniture (to the right of the photograph)  is now standing proudly in my kitchen.    I think it looks quite Scandinavian in that light grey colour.      The dresser has been completed, the doors and drawers are back in place and I'm pleased with it.

You may be wondering where the Viking bit comes in, well my uncle suffered from clawing of the hands in his later years.  Dupuytren's contracture.  It is believed that this spread through Europe in the wake of Viking invasions and settlements.  The hand deformity meant the end to his darts playing.

Funny to think that my darling uncle, so like a miniature James Bond (being dark and handsome in his younger years)  probably had Viking blood running through  his veins.


  1. I love that bureau and your refinishing/refurbishing job is beautiful.But the treasures in the box it held make the bureau even more special. It's amazing those glass doors survived all this time. You know how wild those Vikings can be.

  2. Sounds like his Viking Blood was none too kind. I love 'grey' too, especially that green grey that one sees so often in Provence; the colour of the back of an olive leaf.

  3. I would imagine finding the letters was bittersweet. The 'makeovers' look fabulous!
    Jane x

  4. Job well done, it’s nice to have a bit of history on the furniture.

  5. They both look lovely. You have inspired me to give Dad's bureau another makeover, and to move it into the conservatory where it will be enjoyed much more than where it is now.
    How wonderful to find the letters inside the bureau. The only things I have written by my Dad are some directions he wrote for J, and the inscription in my Bible from Christmas 1971. They are treasured, and make me cry when I look at them.

  6. Gosh it looks great! I am loving your kitchen it is really beautiful

  7. Lovely job. The flower garden you are about to make will be sweet to see.
    The dresser reminds me of "The Sliding Door Cupboard" in the corner of my childhood home. The lower section held table linens, as it should. The upper section held every piece of flotsam and jetsam acquired in forty years of marriage. The cupboard did not move with my mother to this house, and I cannot imagine how she sorted it. The only cupboard refugees I recognize are my dad's "big eyes", for splinter removal from children's fingers. The box containing the actual splinter removal kit has disappeared.

  8. pretty nice blog, following :)

  9. oooh, I must tell my Viking... love the dresser colour x

  10. beautifully done, with the accent colors and items.

    Do you know the name and website of the Viking?

  11. Wonderful are so patient to give it multiple coatings of paint. Love the glass doors.

  12. It must have been so exciting to re-read those letters.... My Mum found some of my old letters from Uni the other week and passed them onto me. It was interesting (but also quite weird) to read about lectures, rehearsals and essay deadlines again! Jx

  13. Dear Elaine, you did wonderful work: it looks so lovely and cheerful!
    To find old letters and thus walk back into memory lane: fascinating. I keep lots and lots of letters from my friends from schooltime on - nowadays our children might find a harddisk drive :-)

  14. Just found your blog via Shirley. Love it! I'm renovating and painting furniture too. You have some great inspiration here. Thanks.


Your comments are much appreciated and greatly enjoyed. x