by Kathy Sharp
Once upon a time it was peppermint striped, you know; joyful and playful in colour and intent. But now the fabric has worn so thin you can see through it like a misty green and white glass. It is flung over an aged and battered tractor, a final attempt to keep out the weather now that the barn roof is leaking so badly. Look, it has been pierced by a couple of pitchforks holding it down onto the earth floor. It’s nothing odd, you will agree, for old things to be re-used in ways they were never intended to be. But what do you think it was, this threadbare stretch of canvas, once so brilliantly coloured, and now merely a shroud for the rusted tractor? A sail, perhaps? Imagine that bright thing on a pleasure boat!
I had thought of it that way myself, but just look at these old photographs I found of the interior of the grand house nearby, now demolished. In the attic room that was once the nursery – here’s the picture, look – you can clearly see that the ceiling was decked and draped in canvas, so the children could have the delight of sleeping in a tent all year round. A fabulous striped tent, gorgeously decorated. You can see that much, even through the sepia tones.
Canvas always has another use, doesn’t it, until it falls apart? And if you look carefully at the edges of this faded cloth – mind the pitchfork – you can see the remains of silken tassels and the ragged edges of a string of golden bunting.