THE GARDEN CHAIR FROM GLOUCESTERSHIRE
With the arrival of spring we all set our clocks and watches one hour forward to what is known as summer time. When autumn is upon us, we do the opposite – which means that we all ‘gain’ an extra hour by putting the clocks back one hour.
To avoid confusion, it’s handy to have some way of remembering whether clocks are put forward or turned back. One that works well for those of us who have a garden is to remind ourselves that in spring we put the clocks forward at roughly the same time as we look forward to dusting off our garden furniture, ready to enjoy the return of the sunshine. And in autumn we put the clocks back at more or less the same time as we put our garden furniture back in storage ahead of the winter.
These sturdy and much loved garden chairs (part of an entire suite of garden furniture) have been around for at least the past 50 years. They came originally from England, brand new and delivered in flat packs straight from the factory. All that was needed was a little dexterity to put them together, and suddenly they lent their surroundings the air of a verdant English park. What a joy! A joy that has been a source of enormous pleasure over the years. I’ve remained faithful to them throughout, never tempted to cast even so much as a longing glance at other garden chairs or outdoor furniture.
A metal disc provides information about where the chairs were made and by whom: ‘R.A. Lister & Co. Ltd. Dursley. England. Burma Teak.’ The factory in Dursley was founded by Sir Robert Ashton Lister in 1867. A Wikipedia entry explains that, in addition to agricultural machinery, ‘by the early 1900s (Robert A. Lister) developed a successful line of wood-based garden furniture.’
There have been different gardens down the years, some of them quite sizeable. There have been different cushions, too, mostly self-coloured but always deep-buttoned.
Teak ages with such grace; provided it is not treated with a pigmented oil, it gradually assumes a silver-grey hue. Spring after spring, when you put the clock forward you know it’s time to give your garden furniture a quick clean. Maybe also a coat of oil after it’s been spruced up and allowed to dry.
So many coffee breaks, so much tea that has been drunk, countless meals in the shade of the pear tree. One summer, however (it was, perhaps, the first or second year after the arrival of the furniture from England) pigeons chose to perch in the pear tree directly above the chairs. As a result, a large parasol was required to provide essential protection for that year’s many al fresco meals. For their part, the otherwise lovable little pigeons continued to coo undeterred, oblivious of the amusement that their presence provoked.
Another summer saw the garden furniture placed on a large patio that was covered with a roof. That year there wasn’t a pigeon in sight, just a woodpecker that discreetly kept its distance.
I remember one calm, quiet afternoon with coffee and a mountain of freshly baked muffins, pinkish in colour and filled with raisins. The memory of it all remains crystal clear.
The chair, together with its cushion, was my favourite place to sit: a generously proportioned seat, slightly scooped, with sturdy armrests broad enough to provide an extra sitting place, if only for a short while.
The backrest with its five vertical bars is both utilitarian and classic. The chairs in particular are so heavy that they don’t readily lend themselves to being moved around.
Our first garden had no place for winter storage; instead, the chairs were forced to bide their time out in the open, with the big old pear tree as their only shelter from the rain and snow. Today, under the protection of the patio roof, they are happily unaffected by the shifting weather of the seasons.
Teak has long been a popular choice of wood for a broad spectrum of applications, from boats, bridges and railway carriages to furniture and all manner of household utensils. Demand for teak was particularly strong after the rationing of the war years.
The timber is hard, has a high oil content and is resistant to rot and insect infestation. Teak trees are native to India, Indonesia and other south-east Asian countries. In the wild they are slow-growing but can reach heights of up to 40 metres.
Teak is the diamond among our planet’s tree species – something to be cared for, to be looked after, yet also eminently useful.
BUT: Use only eco-labelled plantation teak, not teak from old-growth forests. Old teak objects sold in second-hand shops or flea markets and the like are, of course, OK.
In 2019 the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation reported that the military dictatorship in Burma is using brutal harvesting methods to fell the country’s last remaining old-growth teak forests … News that is almost enough to break one’s heart.
Gun Bjerkander Handberg
🌲Christmas Gift Idea 🌲From the Editor
This blog is a continuation of the elegant book series author by Gun Bjerkander Handberg, ‘Please Be Seated – Historic Chairs and The Tales They Tell. Two beautiful books filled with charming tales of inspirational chairs and musings of a four-legged variety.
If you enjoy the blog, both books are now available online or to order from you local book shop, just in time for Christmas.
Please Be Seated – Historic Chairs and The Tales They Tell
Please Be Seated – More Historic Chairs