Not log tables


Room to spread out

I come from a family of decidedly womble-ing tendencies.

In other words, we tend to acquire objects, and do not tend to throw them away.


In my own case we are mostly talking about books, though other things accumulate too (at work, microscopes and sundry microscope bits are an obvious example).

In my parents’ case it is books AND other stuff, including furniture. My father used to have his lab for many years on a site where extensive outbuildings offered virtually unlimited storage space, so he had all sorts of stuff squirreled away. When I first bought a house in the late 1980s, and was trying to furnish it without spending money I didn’t have, I ended up with a bookcase for the bedroom from the family ‘store’. I remembered the same bookcase had run along one side of the living room in the family home we lived in from the mid 60s to the early 70s. I was slightly surprised at its reappearance thereafter, since in that house the bookcase had been a ‘built-in feature’, fixed firmly to the wall!

Anyway, there are objects and bits of furniture to be found dotted around my parents’ houses and gardens that came, in turn, from other houses we have occupied, or from their own parents’ houses. Nothing unusual in that.

There are also objects passed along, or passed on, by friends.

One of the things I like about such objects are that they often have a story that goes with them.

One example: at the Summer place where the Entourage Elliott is currently encamped you can find the handsome refectory table pictured above.

The table is not an antique of any kind, though it is a nice solid piece and very handy for sizeable gatherings. For instance, we managed to get eleven round it for an extended family get-together last week without feeling particularly cramped.

It also makes a useful spot for writing, typing, drawing, colouring in the frontispieces of Tintin books, playing chess, releasing calcium from intracellular stores and anything else you can think of.

The main interest in the table is in what one might call its ‘provenance’. My dad was given it by a long-time scientific friend of his, the late plant biologist Daphne Osborne. She had received the table many years before as a leaving present from Churchill College in Cambridge, where she had been the first-ever female Fellow in the 1970s.

Though the table was by then in storage, having presumably been superceded by something bigger and grander, it had – so the story went – been a college dining table, and had done service at Churchill College dinners in the college’s early years in the 1960s.

Over at the Wikipedia entry on Churchill College you can find a list of some of the notable Fellows. I like to think some of these luminaries might have sat around the table having dinner and setting the world to rights. For instance, I wonder if Francis Crick – one of my father’s scientific heroes, as you might recall from here – the physiologist Richard Keynes, and CP Snow of ‘Two Cultures’ fame, ever sat at the table together in the 1960s? I would like to think so.

About Austin

Middle-aged grouchy white male. Hair greying but hasn't all fallen out yet. Spreading waistline ill-concealed by baggy jumper.Semi-extinguished physiology researcher turned teacher. Known for never shutting up. Father of two children (aged 6 and 2) who try to out-talk him. Some would call that Karmic Revenge.
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6 Responses to Not log tables

  1. Brian Clegg says:

    ‘releasing calcium from intracellular stores’? Are you sure you aren’t Henry Gee in disguise?

  2. I like the wine bottle by the high chair – teach ’em young

    • Austin says:

      I think that’s actually a ‘stealth’ fizzy water bottle… but there is a traditional Oberbayerisch drink/childrens’ remedy called “Gansewein”, which consists of a drop or two of wine (white or red) in a glass of fizzy water.

  3. cromercrox says:

    Nice table. I’ve always had a hankering for old-fashioned mahogany lab benchtops. Practically indestructible. Never been able to find one. And even if I did, I’d never be able to lift it.

    • The medical school building where I worked for many years had been built in the 70s and had benches of some kind of dark tropical hardwood, though not actually mahogany. As the building was gradually refurbished over the 90s and the noughties these benches were ripped out, and I do know at least one academic who collected them. As I remember he eventually had an entire set of garden furniture (table and chairs) made out of the stuff. It was incredibly heavy, though, and the bench tops had to be cut somehow once he had got them home, neither trivial jobs.

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