Sweet maiden, good knight

When I was freshly qualified, I secured a laboratory post in the Microbiology Department, of the then, newly opened John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, England.

I had applied from New Zealand, and was excited about the prospects of settling and making my life in England.

I lived there for two years doing all the usual – making friends, travelling around the UK and Europe, playing house, before eventually returning to the colonies!

My room, in a shared house I rented while living on Oxford, was in desperate need of brightening. So, I put my mind to buying suitable furniture and meaningful artworks.

On a suggestion from a friend, I duly toddled off to an old church where visitors could make brass rubbings from replica lattons.  Replica because many brass plaques had been slowly worn away by the rubbing process by the thousands who needed to decorate their homes before me. Creating rubbings from many of the original lattons is now banned.

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I remember, entering the church and choosing a maiden and a knight. The attendant at the counter gave me a choice of a bronze, silver or gold coloured artists crayon and told me to rub for all I was worth!  OK!

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I paid my money and installed myself alongside other “brass rubbers” with my bronze wax crayon.

Echoing around my head were his instructions – rub the side of the crayon not the tip, so lines and uneven colour are avoided. Use firm and even movement over the black paper, but not too much pressure, so the finished result won’t be patchy and finally, he advised me to rub, rub and rub. The quicker the job the less impressive the results.

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About fifteen minutes in, realisation struck – Half way through my first rubbing, making sure the crayon was on its side with consistent pressure applied, my arms started to feel like they were going to fall off, such was the ache. I realised, too late, that I had been overly ambitious with the size of project I had undertaken. Committing myself to both maiden and knight, in one sitting had become a daunting task.

When I got to the point where I thought I could rub no more, both arms spent, motivation waning, I took my attempt back to the counter to be untapped from the engraving.

Hmmm!…I was greeted with a less than impressed attendant, who (I am sure he had my best interests at heart), promptly sent me back to rub that crayon over the paper with a little more ‘love’ and enthusiasm.

He warned me, if I gave up, I would end up regretting the finish.

Near tears, I returned to my work-space, picked up the crayon and rubbed, until it seemed to me, that even the replica engraving was in danger of being worn down. I knew I couldn’t go back and show the ‘task master’ my efforts if I wasn’t totally confident that I was going to receive a victorious smile.

I can’t remember how long I continued, but you can be assured, it was long enough that even I was impressed with myself.

Three, yes, three decades later my maiden and knight still beam in bronze glory. I did do a great job and I love them. Just about every home we have lived in have seen them positioned with delight.

(As is usual with my blogs, the camera work isn’t ideal. The photos were not taken with the rubbings in mind. But these shots will give you the idea.)

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 Still on the hall wall as we were packing for our next adventure in house No. 1

In our city apartment bedroom

               Finally, after several other homes, it is now on the wall of the boys castle bedroom

I know you will agree with me when I say, there are somethings – items, possessions, activities, experiences, memories in life, that help tell your personal story.

My knight and maiden are part of my story.

They have stayed in New Zealand in our now nearly grown-up boys’ castle bunk-room in our “time capsule” holiday home.

There they will continue to connect my life with theirs. What was so special to me, has been handed down, to in turn, be special to them; these two pieces of art now part of their life’s story.

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