Some of my earliest childhood memories are those of visits to my Gran and Grandad’s house. They lived far away from us in a tiny semi detached bungalow, with a huge garden that was five or six times the size of the house. In the summer when we visited hours would be spent in the garden with Grandad tending to his roses and dahlias that he grew in the front garden and would enter in the village show, or picking the array of fruits and vegetables that grew in the back garden or down at the village allotments. Gran was always to be found in the tiny galley kitchen from where she would produce a fabulous selection of home baked breads and cakes which would be served at tea time on an incredible selection of miss matched china, always with floral tea cups and saucers. These high teas were always delicious but the highlight of the day was always a reward for good behaviour (keeping out of the way!) and it meant being allowed to play with Gran’s buttons.
Housed in an old biscuit tin the button collection was an eclectic mix of everything from tiny pale mother of pearl buttons for a delicate cardigan, pastels in every shade for baby and toddler knits, to a huge array of brass and shiny buttons, buttons from men’s shirts and trousers and occasionally the odd toggle from a duffle jacket. Hours could be spent sorting them out, counting them and arranging them by colour, size or style. If you were very lucky occasionally you would be allowed to keep just one, a particular favourite, to be fondly cherished, stored away safely, like some magical button treasure.
I hadn’t thought about the biscuit tin full of buttons for years, until recently one day at work Alice came in with a huge box of buttons which she had bought from a local auction. Suddenly all those childhood memories of sorting buttons came flooding back, and I found myself lost in the button box. These ones were stored in cardboard trays and came in very colour and size you can imagine. Far too beautiful to be stored like this I’ve been collecting every shape and size of glass jar that I can, and little by little decanting the buttons into jars, where they sit in the window and catch the light, like jars of magical jewels.
Happiness is clearly button shaped…