Scary stories from a lovely place
I’ve praised Stephen many a time on this blog, but one part of his character that I’ve failed to mention can only be described as his incredible thriftiness. Not to say he is stingy, he’s generous when it counts, but on the whole he makes things last a long, long time.
For example his clothes. Stephen doesn’t have a vast wardrobe, but each item is worn into the ground. The only person who gets more use out his clothes is the homeless boys who become the eventual, and final owners. Sometimes when I’m out I see Stephen begging at traffic lights or washing someone’s car and I wonder why he isn’t at work and if he is actually an architect as he claims to be. Then I realise he’s gifted that jersey or t-shirt. The only things that can’t be passed on are his underwear. Hygenic concerns aside, there’s usually nothing left of them. What Jerry Seinfeld says about men and their underwear is true of Stephen – he wears them until they just evaporate into thin air.
Or take his bed linen. He had the same sheet set since he was 8 years old until just before we got married, that’s almost 20 years. The bedspread cover lived through the tense years of the early 90’s in Dublin, traveled from there to South Africa in 1999 and then from King William’s Town to Johannesburg in 2000. It made it through the stress of a Masters in Architecture degree and then moved into his home in Brixton. When it came time for the sheets to be retired I didn’t have the heart to throw them out. Indeed they are almost wafer thin in parts and the pillow cases are unmentionable, but Stephen squeezed so much life out of them I wanted to do the same. So I kept them.
Now I am finally using them. First I made Silas’ name and stuffed each letter to make them nice and 3-D (trying to appeal to the architect in Stephen). This project was relatively successful, though the A pretty tricky. If you don’t look too closely I think they are okay.
I also recently finished 5 pouches which will each contain a different tactile thing, a bunch of 5c coins, unpopped popcorn, scrap material, leaves and shreds of plastic bag. And I put some braiding around the edges for more fun for Silas’ fingers. To finish off I used the bedspread to make the letters of Silas’ name again to sew one on each.
I was a bit concerned that the fabric I used wasn’t robust enough for the sort of rough treatment Silas likes to give things. So I sewed each tactile item inside a bit of old towel and then put them in the pouches. The towel too, is a testament to Stephen’s resourcesfulness. He started using it when he came to Joburg in 2000 and dried himself with it everyday until before we got married in 2009. It too was pretty threadbare and while probably once white, had become grey/bone in colour. I used most of it earlier in the year when I made some cloth nappies for Silas. At the time I asked Stephen why he didn’t buy a new towel after it started to suffer. He said “it’s clean and dry, what do I care?”. I still don’t know what the comeback to that is.
Now the towel and the bedspread will live on, in other forms. Once they belonged to Stephen and now they belong to his son. When Stephen first bought his house in Brixton he took down a dry-wall that was being used to make the lounge room a bedroom. He then proceeded to cut it up and make it into a ceiling for one of the other rooms. I so admired his resourcefulness – he took something that was old and spent and made it into something useful. He regenerated it. As I made Silas toys out of the bedspread and towel I was reminded of the dry-wall ceiling and impressed again by Stephen’s thrifty goodness.