Wednesday 21 December 2011: The Welsh dresser
En route to London we made a minor detour in Carmarthenshire and stopped to peer at a curious old roadside farmhouse, obscured behind a mass of overgrown bushes. The windows were opaque with grime and the whole building was streaked with moss and lichen like a weather-beaten sepulchre. To the side lay a large deserted farmyard. A man emerged from a nearby bungalow and, upon enquiry, seemed happy to explain that it was his family home, empty some 15 years since his parents had gone. Would we like to see inside?
At the rear, a huge roof swept down from the ridge of the original house to cover a single storey extension that ran the whole length of the back. Pushing open a low door, the man led us into a vast farmhouse kitchen with a range at the far end and this dresser immediately confronting us. It's typical of its kind but more often seen in antique shops nowadays. Here it stands just as it must have done when it was in constant use, displaying a mixture of willow pattern plates (the largest ones only pressed into service for a Christmas turkey or a Sunday roast joint), everyday mugs and an assortment of practical crockery and decorative china.
All the floors in the house were uneven and every wall was bulging with rotten plaster. There were ancient electric fires, telephones and armchairs the like of which I have not seen since childhood. On the walls hung faded photographs of black and white dairy cows from the family herd (one was 'the first Welsh cow ever to be exported to America') while the 'trophy room' contained ranks of silver cups and chalices that had been awarded to their champion cattle. They were black with tarnish and overflowing with yellowing pedigree certificates and bills of sale. The dairy/store room still had its old stone slabs to keep milk cool and a metal trough for salting the pig meat. The whole house was dim and dusty like a time capsule from fifty years ago. The owner cheerfully asserted his long held intention to do the place up one day - or may be his son would. Antique dealers snoop and pry but there were no plans to part with anything.
It's late and now I have no time for comments - apologies. I hope to catch up when I return home tomorrow.