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The only item of furniture that remained in the house after I'd bought it was a huge pine dresser which stood defiantly at the far end of the galley kitchen. It didn't quite fit in with the modern minimalist look but according to the Pickford's man, shifting it would have been more trouble than it was worth. "I'd have to remove a window frame to get it out," he advised me in his broad Yorkshire accent, surreptitiously glancing at his watch.
"Chop it up and chuck it on the bonfire," said a helpful friend, casting a disdainful glance at the offending item. "I'll bet it's riddled with woodworm anyway." But I felt sorry for the old dresser, too hefty and ungainly to be moved, so it stayed put, reigning supreme in my kitchen even though it wasn't quite to my taste. In time I grew rather fond of the thing and it polished up like a dream... real solid wood, not like that mass produced veneered stuff you get nowadays. I made it prove its worth though, displaying the colourful plates and teapots that grandma had acquired purely because she'd never been able to say no to the Rington's tea man.
With the arrival of spring it was time to decorate. Armed with several super-sized cans of cheap and cheerful magnolia, I'd soon resurrected the kitchen and given the walls a new lease of life. But what could I do about the dresser? Should I cheat and paint round it? I deliberated. Believe me, I was tempted, but I'd still have to move it to replace the kitchen floor... terracotta tiles would be nice.
"Jesus! What am I going to do?" Maybe my prayers would be answered in the yellow pages. I soon found a suitable advert:
JAYCEE FURNITURE AND JOINERY SPECIALISTS - home advisory service available.
The man who arrived on my doorstep a few days before Easter couldn't have been more helpful but hardly looked the build to shift anything larger than a nest of tables. "Such a large item will most likely be in two pieces" he said knowledgeably. He ran his hands over the dresser and admired the workmanship. "Craftsman made that. Most furniture is flat pack nowadays - not what I'm used to at all." He was softly spoken, mid-thirties, a bit on the lanky side and with his dark, shoulder length hair, beard and moustache, he looked like a relic from the sixties. You could imagine him in a rock band, playing lead guitar. His overalls were a spotless whiter-than-white-Persil-white which seemed a bit odd for a workman. I took to him immediately. It was strange, really. I felt I'd known him all my life. He had such a lovely smile and a mysterious look about him but I wasn't going to get all silly over him like grandma and her Rington's delivery man.
He didn't attempt to move the dresser. He just smiled meekly and picked up his mobile, "Just need a bit of help from my mates," he said. "Hi, Pete... could you and Jamie call round to the following address? I need a bit of help."
In no time at all Jaycee's muscle-bound workmates appeared at the door. They soon managed to edge the cumbersome dresser away from the wall. Jaycee pondered for a moment as he felt behind it with a gentle hand. "Just as I thought," he said, "there are brackets there." With the aid of a screwdriver, the top of the dresser soon parted company with its base and now the two halves could be moved at last.
"Look! There's a door!" I exclaimed as the space behind the dresser revealed itself for the first time. "Doors usually lead somewhere don't they?" Feeling stupid because I was stating the obvious, I began to blush.
Jaycee gazed at me with the warmest, brownest eyes I'd ever seen. "It might be a cupboard or maybe even a walk-in pantry if you're lucky."
His mates had gone now, leaving the dresser in two pieces in the hallway, looking decidedly homeless. "Right, I'll be on my way too, then." he continued, gathering up his tool kit.
A fear of the unknown suddenly overcame me as I wondered what lay beyond the door. It didn't help that I'd seen the film "Rosemary's Baby," only the week before (you know, the one where Mia Farrow discovers a secret passage behind her airing cupboard which leads to a witches' coven).
"Don't go!" I yelled, "Please stay until I find out what's behind there."
"I'll open it for you; don't be afraid," Jaycee said comfortingly.
I felt much calmer now, more like Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz when she steps through that magical doorway and everything suddenly changes from dull monochrome to glorious Technicolor.
Jaycee turned the handle and the door began to move with a stubborn creak, as if it had never expected to be opened again. All we could see was a pitch-black void, darker than the dark of a moonless night when all the stars are obscured by clouds. A whiff of damp stale air assaulted our nostrils. "I'll get my torch," Jaycee said. "It looks like you've got yourself a cellar."
"I will lead you through the darkness and into the light," he said a little too theatrically for a joiner as he stood outside the door, torch poised. He fumbled for the light switch which didn't work. Eventually locating a central light, he noticed there was no bulb in the fitment.
I trod apprehensively but Jaycee was fearless. It was like walking down into a cave, the very bowels of the earth even.
"I've got some spare bulbs in the kitchen drawer," I said helpfully, retracing my steps to find one.
Soon there was light, the cellar now stripped of its sombre atmosphere. I couldn't believe my good fortune... all that extra space which ran the entire length and breadth of the house!
"Plenty of room for that old dresser down here," said Jaycee.
"Yes, but I'll need to get cracking with a few gallons of magnolia first,"
Jaycee smiled his usual mild smile.
"Fancy a bit of lunch after all that hard work?" I offered.
"Sure, why not."
I hadn't been to the supermarket that week so it was only a simple meal. Some garlic bread, half a bottle of red wine and a couple of sardines were all I could summon up, but Jaycee was grateful enough. I'll always remember the lunch we shared together, that spring, just before Easter. And it's still a bit of a mystery to me really but once I'd painted the cellar I thought I'd phone to ask if Jaycee's mates would come round to help me move the old dresser down there, but try as I might I never could find their advert again when I searched through the yellow pages.
© 2015 Stella Kaye