The other day, the wife asked, ‘are you sure you’re not gay?’ It was a fair question.
She was making a comment about how I had chosen to tart up an old chair.
I’ve had the iron chair for thirty years. It was left behind in a flat which had once been an Op Shop called Mother Hubbard’s. It was a pretty rough place, rumoured to be among the oldest wooden buildings in Christchurch but, best of all, right in the heart of town.
The nature of our living conditions was wryly commented on by a journalist who went through once Mother Hubbard’s was threatened with demolition, and then relocated to Redcliffs and restored.
I loved living there, and I loved the chair. It sat downstairs in the lean-to kitchen which had a fridge but no oven. My bedroom upstairs overlooked the Avon River and I often went to sleep to the sound of ducks punctuated by the groans of the old building adjusting itself through the night.
That’s where I started writing, and where a fumble friend once saw a ghost, giving me a big chunk of my first published story.
I took the chair with me when I shifted out, painstakingly ‘painting’ over the bold white with two gold pens and making a cushion covered in red velvet.
One night, a flatmate decided to add lots of black pen doodles in an act of drunken inspiration. It was pretty fancy.
The iron chair then spent many years stored in garages or under houses as I took up acting and went on the road. I can’t count the number of times I shifted it from one dark place to another, always wondering, ‘do I really need to hold onto this?’
For the last seven years it has sat under the house I have just sold. Always in the corner of my eye as I renovated and emptied the house.
I wanted to spray paint it a bold colour. Give it a cushion so ridiculous that you couldn’t help but sit on it. I didn’t want it shoved in the corner, a place to dump bags and crap.
Once I had stripped all the old white and gold, I painted it with a neon pink purchased years ago to appease my then-six year old. But the tin ran out before all the iron work was covered. And when I went to get more, the people in the paint shops all raised their eyebrows at the very idea of neon pink. It was impossible to get a replacement in enamel.
So I plumped for plum. And went fake fur for the cushion. Icelandic fox, to be exact, possibly a little influenced by the Icelandic novel I had just read where a 49 year old man does up a broken hotel instead of topping himself.
Hotel Silence is not as bleak as it sounds. It’s very enjoyable. I loved it to bits. It got me reading novels again.
Despite my fears, the Iron Chair has been a big hit in the new house. It sits by a bookcase, looking too fabulous for words, the perfect place to sit with a book or mess about on guitar.
I’m so glad I held onto it.