Just up the path from our London home is a short, narrow, sleepy street with history. At one end is a fine, ten-house, Georgian terrace. At its centre are two houses dating from the late 1690s. At the other end there is less grandeur but nevertheless this has not stopped the street being listed as an area of special merit to be respected and conserved. This story concerns four shiny, aluminium screws used to fix a door handle in a house at the street’s less stylish end.
Odd as it may seem, spotting details like this is part of my makeup! On our walks, my wife, Rohan, and I are continually looking around. For her, it is nature that is important. So, she will bring to my attention cloud formations, flowers, birds, butterflies and all matters natural. For me it is more matters physical, so I might point out a wall with unusual brickwork, a window with intricate leading between the panes or, as in this case, four, out-of-place screws.
Instead of the older black, round-headed screws, the type used by the builder were the more modern, silvery, aluminium countersunk screws with Phillips heads. To my eye, the silvery screws clashed with the rest of a door’s furniture and, more importantly, were an affront to the area more generally. Something had to be done – but what?
The door was in a house which had needed renovating for years. Under its clapper-board cladding the building was home to two, small shops, one of which was, until recently, the unoccupied office of an insurance company, the other a boarded-up storage space.
Several years ago work started on the office and two music techies converted it into a guitar repair workshop. With its large front windows in their original ornate frames, it is in keeping with the road. And, behind the window, the friendly duo – I have often popped in to speak with them – can be seen doing their repairs all day. Having artisans at work close by has been a delight. Simply by being there, they have brought a new energy to the street.
Later, work started on the second, altogether bigger, derelict unit. Conversion, which was more ambitious, took time and over the weeks I would look in to nosey around. Initially, the changes, both inside and out, looked good. With its front painted black it was just right. Then I spotted the silvery screws used for the lock.
Sally, the new occupant, remembers the occasion when I met her for the first time. She recalls how a rather large, eccentrically-dressed man, knocked on her door, came slowly in, introduced himself, welcomed her and her company – she designs leather handbags – to the street, and then said there was something about her front door that he found worrying. She recalls how I politely invited her to look at the shiny screws and then commented that “Having silvery screws on a front door in a street like ours would be wrong”. She immediately understood the issue, was sympathetic to what I had said and told me that she was pleased that I had bothered to come by. Several other neighbours had also introduced themselves and getting to know, and being adopted by, those living nearby was important to her and her colleagues.
I soon realised that my criticism of Sally’s front door could have been taken personally, and to make amends offered to replace the screws myself and in my own time, although doing that was not straightforward. It would have been easiest for me to change the screws over a weekend but I realised that this could give rise to complications. I had a vision that as I removed the screws from the handle I would trigger the shop’s burglar alarm and, being caught with a screwdriver and handle in my hands, it might prove difficult for me to persuade a court of my innocence.
The new screws were finally put in place during a working day and, as well as thanking me, Sally repeated how pleased she was to have been adopted by the community.
With its two new working ‘shops’, the road has been rejuvenated. It must have felt a bit like this in the 1740s when, as far as I can discover, the shops were first registered. And in all this the screws have played their part. Not only is the door that much more presentable, but through the various negotiations, Sally has been helped to become part of an established ‘road’ community. Not bad for a set of four tiny inanimate objects!
By the way, Rohan also felt that the original silver screws were an eyesore and finds the black replacements a most acceptable improvement.
The illustration shows the handle with its newly-introduced, round-headed black screws.
For helping me with this blog I would like to thank Sally, Rohan and Vivien