In the hot summer of 2018 we are sitting on a garden bench beneath our vine arbour with ripening grapes hanging from above.
In front of our seat is a table-top slice of marble resting on metal legs.
But the marble is not just a marble top, but also a beautiful object in its own right. How could ancient volcanic action produce such a myriad design of glowing chestnut colours with white streaks running through it in all directions?
I once designed for the theatre and painting marble for the scenery was always a pleasure. I laid on a background of colour, that probably related to the action of the play and, with a brush full of colour (or white) pushed the bristles against the way in which one would usually use a brush. The result was theatrical marble for columns and walls that to the audience looked much like our garden table-top.
This marble top was never a table-top but once a washstand top.
After the war the emerging generation wanted to be rid of the old and start afresh in a world at peace.
Washstands were old hat. They once held a basin and matching water jug for washing one’s face and neck (usually with cold water). Times had changed to hot water from a tap and basins that would empty just from pulling out the plug. So those old-fashioned washstands with their marble tops were thrown away or sold for a pittance.
So how did I come by the lovely table-top beneath the grape vines?
Thinking in advance in life, I saw the marble on those washstands becoming the future surface of a marble floor. So I bought them wherever I found them (5 quid max but mainly a lot less, or free), burned the wood for heat, and had the marble stored for future use.
That future came to fruition when I built a country studio house. The rectangular slabs were positioned, levelled, and bedded down above underfloor heating. The marble quality was not of the finest but the combinations of colour and pattern delightful. From this floor one could look out through floor-to-ceiling windows on to the Berkshire Downs. My washstand tops had, at last, come into their own.
But of all the slabs to be used there was one odd one out. It had rounded ends. And you cannot fit a round-ended slab with rectangular ones.
So I kept it aside and had a table frame and legs made for it using reinforcing rod.
And that is the story of my lovely slab of marble that gives so much pleasure beneath the grapes. It is a delight. And I hope that the long-dead cutter of it (number D 8 8 3, carved on the reverse) would also be pleased.