My Wuthering Heights Cupboard


I have just bought an old oak court cupboard, or 'press'. Very old really. It has 1626 carved on the front, along with some initials, a G.A. and an A. above that. There is also a tiny little G.A. down on one of the legs. (George Armitage? George Arden? Why am I convinced he was a George?) My professional woodcarver husband, who knows about how such things are constructed, reckons it is pretty much original (with some renovations, obviously - changed locks, etc and I suspect that the back is later than the rest of it) and not a Victorian amalgam. The carving is simple, and very beautiful, and the whole huge piece looks 'country made'. The colour is wonderful - some parts are darker than others, the wood is silky smooth to the touch, with the marks of the adze still on it in places. I got out some good wax polish but found that I needed to use very little - once I started rubbing at it, it was as though the wood sprang to life, with hundreds of years of waxing and polishing - and it smells wonderful too, sweetly of old beeswax. There is a candle shelf, and above it, all along it, are faint, irregular marks, which I realised were the scorch marks of ancient candles. One is particularly noticeable, as though the wood may actually have caught fire and smouldered there for a while.
So why am I writing about this in a blog about creative writing? Well, even while I was bidding on it in my local saleroom, I had lines from Wuthering Heights running through my mind. Remember the scene where Cathy is delirious, down at Thrushcross Grange, and tells Nelly that she sees the 'black press, shining like jet'? And Nellie tells her that there is no press, and she realises that she was wandering in her mind, and imagining herself back at Wuthering Heights? It's a magical scene, and - like so much of that powerful novel - one that has remained in my mind for years. My cupboard inexorably reminds me of Wuthering Heights. Although it was bought in Scotland, it is almost certainly of North Ccountry provenance - Yorkshire, Lancashire or Cheshire. I don't know who G.A. was, if he was some cabinet making countryman, who made this for his new wife, A, (Anne? Alice?) and decided to put his own initials down on one of the legs, as well as on the front, to indicate as much - or some wealthy young farmer who had the cupboard made to mark his marriage - but there is something rich, and warm and beautiful and elemental and a bit scary about it, and I know that the feelings it inspires in me are very similar to my feelings when I read, and reread the descriptions of Wuthering Heights itself, in that much loved novel. It's an inspirational piece, and I find myself sitting and gazing at it, as though I can't quite believe it.
PS The whole kitchen is now going to have to be redesigned around my beautiful bargain. We had intended to do this anyway, but the situation is becoming urgent. Meanwhile, I can feel an idea for a novel coming on.....

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