Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Chatelaine - a Quilting Journey

''The Chatelaine''

a novel

by Roberta Burgess

Chatelaine (chain)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Chatelaine, 1765-1775 V&A Museum no. C.492:1 to 7-1914

Chatelaine is a decorative belt hook or clasp worn at the waist with a series of chains suspended from it. Each chain is mounted with a useful household appendage such as scissors, thimble, watch, key, vinaigrette, household seal, etc.

Chatelaines were worn by many housekeepers in the 19th century. They were also worn by Anglo Saxon women, as seen from the burial record.

The name chatelaine derives from the same term used to mean the female owner, or husband of the owner, of a large house. The chatelaine was designed to have all the tools necessary for the woman of the household to sort out any problem she may encounter in her day, like a fraying curtain.

CHAPTER ONE - How it Started

They say that sudden wealth brings unhappiness to the ones who get it, but I can tell you now I am not one of those people. The way it happened was a bit unusual, not like a Lotto Win, or a distant aunt falling off the perch or anything like that - it was, well...a bit spooky, really. But I'll go into that later.

Thursday morning, early May 1999, and everybody was banging on about some millennium bug which was going to worm its way into everybody's computer and bring down all the airline companies. Yaddah yaddah yaddah - turned out to be a whole lot of rubbish. However, it make people think about how much control computers (and their programmers) might have over ordinary people, and how we were depending on technology way too much.

After the mail came that day, I sat down rather slowly at the table in the kitchen. I preferred that one to the vast one in the dining room. The light was better, for one thing. Old houses are charming, but dark, draughty and some of the spaces are too big to feel comfortable in. Pierrot and Columbine were snaking around my legs as usual, hoping for a chance to settle in my lap. Heat-seeking missiles, that's what cats are. We tell ourselves that they are being affectionate, but when it's hot, mid-summer, where are they to be found? Out by the pool, stretched out under the shade of a shrub, lazily watching the dragonflies skimming across the water's surface. "Go away you smooches!" I laughed, kicking them gently with one foot, as I sorted through the mail.

There was a free newspaper, the sort that has snippets of news and is paid for through the advertising content. This particular newspaper, I decided that I liked. It had some real journalism in it, it even dared to be critical of the powers that be in the town occasionally, not that that did any good. Things would not change in a hurry in this place, and neither would the power hierarchy. You must be thinking by now that I am cynical, and I guess I am at times, or maybe just realistic. There was a card from my friend in the city. Gorgeous girl. We had been at college together, and kept in touch. She made these lovely hand-made cards, it was a great creative outlet for her. this one had a drawing of a cat on it. Not like my skinny possums, but a huge, hairy Persian type cat, the sort that really knows how to occupy a rug. I smiled at the card, read the brief inscription, birthday wishes for a few days' time.

"May all your wishes come true" it said. That could be dangerous. I decided to have a little day-dream about that while I put the kettle on. There were lots of good wishes of course. The obvious ones about health and well-being for all my family, of course, and Pete being able to get a better job, one that didn't wear him down so much emotionally. I would love to somehow become one of those creative quilters who travels the world, exhibiting my prize winning quilts, and being invited to open and judge quilt shows. The best part would be the ability to travel. To spend days and days in place like the Victoria and Albert Museum, in London, gazing at the work of people like William Morris. Paul, my brother-in-law keeps saying that when (read if) he wins Lotto that the first thing I will know is 'custard pies'! What? I said to him. What will happen is that I will go out the front door and there will be someone there to throw custard pies to celebrate. This event will take place simultaneously at various places around the countryside as everyone near and dear to him ventures out for the day. 'I can't wait', I responded unenthusiastically. "But I will also pay out your mortgage" he said. "Now you're talking!"

Underneath the card, there were one or two bills, groan. Electricity, up again. More hot water being used by Nat, obviously, since she'd come home from college. A bill for the papers, annoying, since we can never find most of them. The paper boy shoots them under the house more often than not, and I'm not inclined to crawl around in the dirt among the spiders to find them.

And then there was the letter.

End of Chapter One

What was in the letter? Give me some help, please!


Anonymous said...

Hope uou get lots of suggestions ..... here's mine!

Invitation to go to classes with another friend .... one you haven't seen for years. She doesn't tell you she is the teacher and its a quilting class.

Judy B


Jeannie said...

The letter was from a well know London? law firm, stating that my dear old Aunt in England had died and left me her estate. What old Aunt and what Estate. ?
it went on to say I was to contact them in regard to visiting the estate to deal with her personal items and decide on the Estates fate - to sell or not to sell.

Hope this gives you some ideas, maybe the old Aunt could be a quilter with fantastic stash of fabric and quilts that she had made over the years yet never shown.

Hugs JEannie
the dogs cat and chook

Anonymous said...

I slit it open and took out the sheet of paper. All it said was "Flying Geese go round in circles". What the... I thought. But then something else dropped out of the envelope. It was a ticket to the opening night of a new private art gallery in town. The exhibition was titled "Art in utilitarian objects". The blurb underneath mentioned, rag rugs, quilts and other "homemade artifacts".

I sat and stared, first at the ticket and then at the cryptic note. It was a no contest really, I was going to go. I mean I had to didn't I?

Dee Soden said...

I like the idea of a rich aunt (dead) that is similar to what I was going to suggest. Think of all the reasures you could find in that house, that sewing room, that sewing box - - - - except on room/cupboard/compartment, locked and no key to be found. The chateline holds the key, literally!???

oh this is so much fun. wait till I tel the quilters over at Face Book.


koolkatquilting said...

Hey that's great! Thanks heaps everyone! I'll work this up tonight and keep watching to see what happens! This is going to go far!


Melody said...

No ideas yet but I love this idea and will certainly be an avid reader

Carrum Downs Scquilters said...

A lawyer's letter from Paris/London/Edinburgh - you choose. Which.....eventually turns out to be an inheritance with conditions - an old cottage (and contents) in ....... choose place ... which you have to live in for one year (to the day) in order to qualify for said inheritance. I have some ideas about what would happen once you are living in the cottage if you would like more????
Helen Evans

bombom said...

whew Helen, sounds as if you should write a booka s well :)

Lindi said...

I'm not sure where you go from here, but you'll have to change the first paragraph if it's a distant relative dying, and that would be a shame. That first paragraph got me in straight away! It has to be goose bumpy, too.

Kate said...

All the above are great

I think the letter was from a relative of the previous owner of the house,who himself had just been left a letter from his dearly departed Aunt..It appears that she stashed away more than her quilting fabrics in the attic and he now wants you to go and look for it......

Carrum Downs Scquilters said...

Withour getting too far ahead of ourselves - I rather fancy Del's idea of finding the chatelaine - but using a key to unlock an attic doorway and travelling back in time - or the key could just unlock a special drawing room that is always set in the 17th/18th century complete with inhabitants (perhpas some famous quiltmakers) and you can flit between the two time zones. Eventually finding the quilt they were working on - with a special code in it about jacobites or some such group???? Helen Evans - getting far too carried away!

koolkatquilting said...

Fabulous! I really want to try to use a bit of everyone's ideas. How fun is this! Later on today I'll get started on chapter two.
Definitely will be a going back in time thing, though! There will be a distant relative dying, but not an inheritance, as such....
BTW Do we have an avid historian in the house? Could really use your help once we go back to "the old country"!

Jeannie said...

Love the time travel and the chatelaine being the key - maybe when goes through her aunts stuff she finds the chatelain and goes back in time when she slips the thimble on her finger.
Also when she is back in time - she is the famous quilter she longed to be.
Hugs Jeannie