Friday, 2 September 2011

Telling bedtime stories

Thirteen years ago, when I was nearly 22, my then boyfriend (now husband) and I bought our first flat together. After our university years of living in rented accommodation we didn't really have many pieces of essential furniture: such as a bed, a sofa, a dining table or a bookshelf. So in the week before we were due to move in to our new flat it dawned upon me that I needed to furnish an entire flat on a very limited budget, very quickly (this may seem a lackadaisical approach, but I consider myself to be quick off the mark here as this thought wouldn't have dawned on my husband until it was time to go to bed on our first night in the new flat). Wandering down Upper Street in Islington I came across an ancient creaky iron bedstead. It had carved flowers at the joints and it was love at first sight. I was only more delighted when the shop owner said that he had a mattress down the side of the shop that I could have with it and it looked in far better condition than anything I'd ever slept on in our rented accommodation, so I eagerly arranged for him to drop them around the next week.

That bed was lovely, but decrepit. When the nighttime heavy freight trains rumbled, squealing and groaning, past our bedroom window at 4am, it would shudder backward and forward on its rusty wheels as though it were possessed (the whole flat moved a little too...unnerving, but fun). Years later, at a different house (shakier foundations, but no freight trains to make its movement felt daily), the joint that held one of the wheels collapsed and so for a time it was also a lopsided resting place. It's only now that I wonder why we didn't think to prop it up with a block of wood. It pained me to say goodbye to those lovely carved flowers, but when my husband's grandmother died, we spent his inheritance on a bed and a dining table from Habitat. Solid things made of oak that we'd keep for years.

When the bed arrived we moved it into position,delighted by the prospect of a night's sleep unpunctuated by creaking each time one of us turned over. When we hauled our own mattress onto it we were a little surprised to see that we were left with a few inches of bare wood at each side and  many inches of unmattressed bed frame at the end. Did the display bed in Habitat really have so much wood exposed, we asked one another. Neither of us could remember, but we placed large pillows between the bedhead and the top of the mattress and found that once a duvet and quilts were piled on top of the bed, you couldn't actually see the wood surplus. It took us a few months of bruised shins to remember to walk around the bed giving it plenty of clearance to avoid being jabbed by the bedframe, but other than that we were happy.

Sort of. Neither of us have ever actually slept very well. My husband's arms seem to fly around like a windmill's sails while he sleeps and several times I have been woken as I have been hit in the face by one of them and so most of the time I would end up on the edge of the bed (meanly stealing most of the covers to make up for my lack of space). It was only a year ago as we wondered why we slept so much better when we were away from home that we started also pondering the possibility of a bigger bed. And so, it was seven years after Habitat had delivered our bed to us that we made the discovery that they'd delivered the wrong bed. Rather than the double that we'd requested we had been given a king-sized bed...which explained why our mattress didn't fit. We were quite delighted to find that we were only a new mattress away from a better night's sleep, rather than an entire bed. And even though our old mattress had come to feel very much 'ours', with age and distance from our university years, I also felt increasingly disturbed that I'd been so delighted by a second-hand mattress stored in an alley next to a shop and that we were still sleeping on it thirteen years later.

Yesterday, our first ever brand new mattress was delivered. The moment the delivery men left the house the children and I wasted no time in leaping on it before we'd even put any bed linen on it. Do you know the odd thing though? Every time one of our old make-shift pieces of furniture is dispensed with to be replaced by something more proper (and more comfortable) I feel like I'm saying goodbye to a bit of our rather naive and funny younger selves and somehow ironing out the creases that might be what makes our shared household experience of being us, 'us'.  Do you ever feel like that?

Florence x


  1. Ahhh when I moved in with my hubby his gran had just died and his family were clearing out the house in advance of the sale.
    We were given a bed and mattress from her house and slept in it gladly as we had no money for anything new.(There were two beds-she had died in one of them but no one was sure which one-so we eenymeenied and risked the death cooties...)

    It was very squeaky but it wasn't until a few years later when I kept getting unexplained scratches on my ankles that we realised the springs were poking through and perhaps it was time for a new mattress.
    So when I got a little promotion we spent my second month's extra pay (first month went on a cat who came home with a broken tail) on a new mattress. On putting the old one in the hall to be taken away I noticed the delivery tag still attached to the handle-delivered to his gran in 1958... so lasting until 2001 it had done very well.

    We slept on that bed and the new mattress until 2009 when I was sure that there were no more babies (for some reason I was convinced that my waters would break on my new bed and ruin it) we got a whole new superkingsize bed, mattress and all.

    I was 37 and it was the first time I had a new bed. And rather than feeling sad at times gone by I felt it was about time that new chapter opened. And it is plenty big enough for the odd child or two to slide in the middle which is just as well really. And I'm sure you, like us, have plenty of creases left.

  2. Know just what you mean about getting 'proper' new furniture. We bought a new bed when we moved here - our second in 30+ years of marriage. It's much bigger and lower - we,too, spent ages bruising our shins, and has a tempur mattress. Husband says it's better but I miss the old spring one and still land up sleeping on one edge. It's also impossible to sit up in comfortably as you slide down.
    When we were little we had feather mattreses which were very comfy.

  3. A great story, as usual! I love my bed and am seriously attached to it although it is probably time for a new one. Do you think it's the bed manufacturers who suggest a bed should only be kept for 10 years then its useful life is over? Ours is around 15 years and sooo comfy. The thing that most puts me off a new one is the slight risk that it would never be as comfy as the current one. So... Will probably just keep it going for a while. Mind you we often wish we had a kingsize when the three kiddos pile in on Saturday mornings!!

    Are you going to make a new quilt to celebrate your new bed?

  4. How lovely to read! My little made our bed for his girlfriend but they split up so we had it and he bought us a mattress too, until then we'd been sleeping on a futon! Our bed is great but the design means you do have to be careful not to knock yourself on the sticky out bits! I do now (at the grand old age of 36) find myself thinking that maybe I'm now a proper grown-up but we still don't buy new furniture!

  5. I cringe when I think back to our last flat (the first as a couple). It was an adventure when we moved in together, but I can't believe we lived in such a run-down and tiny flat.

    A bit of distance (and a lovely flat in a new building that no one else has ever lived in before), really makes all the difference! I can't wait to buy our own place together, but that is a long way ahead of us at the moment.

    I have also been bashed in the head on numerous nights by my fiance's "windmill" arms. And woken up by his snoring. And he steals the covers...but I really do love him, honest!

  6. Lol, love it! When I was 13 my mum and dad went to the new(ish) Ikea in Birmingham (no idea why I wasn't there) and my dad lit upon a loft bed, which he thought would be ideal for my room, and then promptly bought. Fantastic idea in the loft ceilinged Ikea showroom, not so fantastic in the modern estate house with the stippled artex ceilings... I had to sand the whole ceiling above the bed, otherwise every time I turned over I grated my elbows on it! Yes, I was that close, and no, I couldn't sit up in bed, could barely lie at an angle to read! For some reason my dad didn't get a mattress to go with the bed, so I still had my single mattress from my old bed on the double bed framed loft bed (it's an adult one rather than a kid sized one)

    I still have the bed - it's incredibly useful having a bed 7 ft in the air, as I can store serious amounts of stuff underneath it! I did get a new full sized mattress when I moved with it into my student flat 13 years ago, but other than the occasional turn over I've not done anything with it since. It's comfy, but I'm scared of the day someone actually wants to share it with me - it's not THAT big lol

    As for the upgrades, I've not been able to afford many furniture upgrades, but I did feel a pang of sadness when I brought home the grown up side unit for the TV and other gadgets and things instead of the £15 Ikea basic bookshelves, and when I upgraded the sofas which I'd inherited from my parents (and we'd had since I was 8). I still don't think I'm grown up though ;o)

  7. I know what you mean. I still have things from my student days and although I have gotten rid of quite a lot there are a few things I refuse to get rid of. My husband is desperate to get rid of a marble top bedside table. However, I just can't get myself to do it as I had to carry it home by myself when I bought it. I asked the lady in the secondhand shop if I could come back for the marble top after I carried the bedside table home. It was a very hot summer's day and I was exhausted by the time I had carried it all the way to the house and up the stairs (I lived on the fourth floor with no lift) but I turned round and went to pick up the marble top. After all these years it's still waiting to be sanded down and painted but that's ok. Because it's loved (at least by me).

  8. Yes, absolutely. My grandparents recently gave us some money as a housewarming gift and I used some of it to buy a bit of proper crockery. It's lovely, but somehow the inadequate quantity of mismatched (and not all especially nice) stuff that we had before seemed more 'us'! In fact, much to boyfriend's annoyance, I've insisted on keeping a jumble of mugs in use. The six new matchy ones are stored away on a top shelf. We also both feel slightly appalled to actually own a washing machine, and a rather clever and shiny one at that. (Btw, I do wonder if we might have lived on the same Islington street with the freight trains!?)

  9. I know what you mean - my Father refers to our ancient Ikea chest of drawers as 'early matrimonial' But the drawers still open and close, so I refuse to replace it.

    Our first bed had springs which poked through - you used to get jabbed in the night. I loathed it and and bought a huge king sized mattress as soon as we had scraped some cash together.

  10. When we moved in together I think we must have figured that the only essential buy we needed was a matress. So we really invested in a good one. Everything else we just sort of bought when and whatever. I love our mattress though. I've slept in some of the worlds best hotels and nothing compares to my mattress, my bed linen and my pillows. Nothing. It's starting to die now though and will need to be replaced. The furniture we bought alonside it is equally as tired but I can live with that. The standard of the mattress is so high I have turned into a princess and simply can't bare to have any thing less then perfect now. ;) it's a curse really. I just hope they're still making the same type of mattress :0

  11. Unfortuately it means we become 'proper' adults. I'm 50 next month and I sometimes find myself thinking 'however did you become a grown up and bring 2 children up to become adults'

    I never lived in student accomadation but we still have things from our early married years (30yrs next year)and I can't get rid of them.

  12. Know exactly what you mean, after 10 years of marriage and umpteen years together we have just brought our first bed and proper adult furniture. Our Marital bed for the last decade was made by an x-boyfriend of mine. A bit yucky if you think about it.

  13. its not just us then. We still have the bed we brought 12 years ago a small double that really doesn't accomadate 2 adults and 3 small children but we still squeze on. We keep looking fondly at new beds but something else always comes up. One day we too will have a properly furnished house.

  14. Lovely story. We recently got a whole load of smart new cutlery as wedding presents and I've found it incredibly hard to part with all our mismatched cheap student cutlery, that has been following us from house to house for ten years.

    Luckily I decided that we needed new camping cutlery, so I haven't had to part with it yet...

  15. Yep, I feel the same here...saying good-bye to memories but realizing new memories will be made. ;0

    WIth the bed...sleeping well becomes much more important the older you get. When I was young, I could sleep on the water bed that came with the man I love. No way now! Kept the man but got rid of the bed. ;0


Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a message - it's always really lovely to hear from people.

I now tend to reply within the comments section, so please do check back if you've asked a question or wish to chat.

Florence x

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