Thursday, 17 January 2008

Great heights and better things

This is the picture which hangs above my computer, to the right hand side of the screen. It is slightly grubby and watermarked, but it is one of the first things I would save from a house fire (after my children, husband and the dog).

I know that birds and flowers have various meanings in Chinese symbology, but I haven't yet fully researched this picture.

It was given to me by my mother and her late partner Michael, who loved scouring sales and auctions for interesting artifacts. Michael died 11 years ago, just two weeks before Princess Diana. He definitely had an eye for the unusual and could see the beauty of something, despite its grubbiness.

The picture is embroidered on silk. A bird of prey, what sort I don't know, sitting on a branch of wisteria, next to what could be a rose. Pasted on the back is a label which says W. Heffer and Sons Ltd, The Heffer Gallery, 18 & (something obliterated), Sydney Street, Cambridge, which is presumably where it originally was purchased from, although Michael found it in at a farm sale in Pembrokeshire.

Michael used to pick up boxes of all kinds of rubbish at sales, but within there would be something lovely, like this painting, or the Chinese ceramic stool Mum has, or her umbrella stand full of interesting and various walking sticks. At one point he went through a phase of buying chairs and tables. He gave me this lovely lidded bowl with a goose spoon on one of my birthdays.

All the time he was visiting farm sales and antiques auctions Michael knew he was terminally ill. It was almost as if he was looking for lovely things to leave behind which we could look at and enjoy that would remind us of him.

The best part of the picture though, for all it is attractive to look at, and one day I might even find out how to have such a precious thing cleaned, is the Chinese inscription at the top left hand corner.

It says: "This shows that I have the potential for soaring to great heights and better things."

Which, I think, is rather fabulous.


  1. excellent line of inspiration to us all. and how sad is that line, that he knew he was terminally ill. what a thing to carry with him in his quest to find beautiful things.

  2. Your blogs are great, PM. Well written and entertaining - had a hairdo like your poodle one...oh dear! and I wouldn't beat yourself up about the 4x4 - sounds like you need it. And please get that silk painting cleaned and preserved - what a beautiful sentiment and how inspiring...

  3. Love the wee bowl and the spoon. The picture is beautiful and yes, very inspiring, especially considering the circumstances.

    Would love to hear 'The Wheels on the Bus' in Welsh, I don't think we have it in Gaelic!

  4. How lovely. I wonder if you got in touch with the Royal School of Needlework whether they might know of a way of having the beautiful embroidery cleaned?
    I love the duck bowl, such clean lines.

  5. Lovely picture and so good to have such memories.
    Liked the unusual dish too.

  6. Precious memories and a sentiment for life. You can't really ask for more. Thanks for sharing that. It gives me a new perspective today.

  7. A great sentiment indeed....and the perfect inspiration for a writer.... Certain items and images have the power to speak directly to our hearts, don't they?

  8. You must miss Michael- I'm glad he left you some material things to remember him by as well as the memories. Very inspiring motto by the way.

  9. That is so sad but beautiful too PM. How special that picture must be to you xx

  10. What an incredibly gorgeous bit of art! I also love that sweet bowl...and your blogs, time for a new post on the cooking one isn't it?

  11. The trouble with that 'excellent line of inspiration,' as Milla calls it, is that it seems unfinished 'but I'd rather sit comfortably here in this wisteria and peck at the rose - at least until I get hungry when I might flop down and see if there's a poorly rabbit about.' is what the bird seems to be saying to me and if so, then he's (is he a he?) probably typical of most of us. We have the potential but do we bother to use it?

    That was meant to be a humorous observation but it sounds a bit sour grapish now that I read it through. Not meant to be at all because this is a lovely post and especially lovely is Michael's idea of leaving lovely and beautiful things behind. Love the Goose-spoon. I have three (wooden) geese over my bed.


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