Celia’s birthday today and the countdown to our trip to Bellaghy and Belfast via the glamour that is Luton Airport begins. Celia is out tonight with her husband and daughter but we met up this afternoon. Not perhaps the most obvious birthday celebratory gig, but we enjoyed it nonetheless.
I have two small stools with seagrass woven seats. They were gifts from my godparents to my sister and myself back when the world and we were young. I presume my sister didn’t want hers and so it was left with my parents who handed it, along with the one that was mine, to me when I moved to this flat. The years have left their mark. The seagrass is broken in parts, the legs are looking scruffy. I thought I should like to get them repaired and spruced up, maybe to pass to the great nieces. The first price I was quoted was exorbitant, but the second was more reasonable.
A deal was agreed, and today it was time to hand over the first of the stools to John at his allotment which just happens to be at a site both Celia and I have peered at through the wire fence. We walked the short route in April sunshine and began a half hour of magic.
There was only one person working at the allotments so identifying John was easy. It was so lovely to get through that gate. And John was a delight. He invited us to sit down at a table surrounded by doubtful chairs. We immediately accepted. The chat flowed. We learned how he had become a basket maker – a member of the Basketmakers Livery Company no less – and weaver of seagrass seats. Celia likes a basket and soon they were bonding as John listened fascinated to how her collection grew in the years she lived in Zambia and Botswana. The bonding continued when John said he grew up in Cuffley. Cuffley! exclaimed Celia and recited some of the words of a song she learned on her first ever residential school trip in, and I think you might have guessed this already, Cuffley.
We had a great time. John continued to surprise us in a good way. He said basketry and seagrass weaving is not his main job. What is? He repairs harps. Of course. Why hadn’t we guessed?
I hadn’t taken my camera so there are no pictures to share, but I reckon this afternoon will stay in my memory a long time, and tonight’s entertainment at the SouthBank is going to have to be pretty hot to beat it for Celia on her birthday.