Tuesday, 27 January 2009

The mystery of Mavis

Who was Mavis Cullum?

Well I know exactly who she was. It’s stamped in black ink on pattern paper:



The paper lay between the hoop pine floor boards and a heavier layer of lino paper in our hallway for many years. On top of the lino paper was a layer of very old crackly lino and on top of that was extremely worn Axminster carpet. The carpet is very old. Where it was joined to the grippers near the front entrance, the tacks were entirely through the carpet. You had to step carefully over the join. Pathways were worn into every room except the bathroom. Five years ago the bathroom door was moved from its original position opening into the kitchen, to open into the hallway to meet council hygiene regulations. In five years the carpet, though old, showed no trace of wear in that spot. So the wear must have come over many, many years.

I don’t know when Mavis was a milliner and if she worked for herself or for someone else. I don’t know if she laid the paper in that position herself or if it was simply paper left over from a millinery purchase by the lady of the house. The architecture of this house suggests construction in the late 1920s. I can’t imagine that the carpet is that old although the lino certainly could have been. The lino was only loosely laid without any of the heavy glues or pressed backings of later linoleum. What makes me suspect that either Mavis or someone who worked for her lived here was that every crack and crevice of flooring and covering harboured pins: rusty, shiny, long, short. Great piles of pins had worked their way down to floor level. We pushed them into piles, swept them up and vacuumed them out of the crevices.

a) Mavis lived here, sewed/made hats in what became our bedroom and is now Blithe Girl’s abode and dropped lots of pins.
b) Someone who worked for Mavis or was related to her and had a use for her leftover pattern paper lived here, sewed and dropped lots of pins.
c) Someone who was fashionable, possibly well-off (buying hats in Ipswich when it was a significant journey away), used that room as a sewing room and dropped lots of pins.

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