“Hanging tables appeared, dropping instantly from the beams …”
What a brilliant idea, I thought. Although my dining room is certainly bigger than some, much of the floor is taken up with a large table which is used, usually, for no more than two hours per day. If the table were suspended from the ceiling, the floor space could be put to all sorts of other purposes, such as, I don’t know – a dance floor?
It’s not a new idea of course. Patrick O’Brian has rarely been faulted on historical accuracy through the twenty Aubrey-Maturin novels, so I’m certain this practice was commonplace in the eighteenth century Royal Navy, especially in a cramped misshapen little brig like the ‘Sophie’. I first read this book in about 2004; but I realised today that the idea was by no means new to me even then.
In the kitchen of the house, 37 Watcombe Road, where I spent the first eleven years of my life, there was a thing called the clothes rail. It consisted of, I think, five long wooden slats, held together by two cast iron davits, lowered and hoisted via a system of pulleys and ropes which were secured to a cleat on the wall. The rail would be lowered, loaded with damp washing, and hauled back up to ceiling level for it to dry. (If the clothes ended up smelling a bit of fried fish or boiled cabbage, that didn’t matter much in the 1940s.)
The kitchen of my present house must have had one of these devices too at some time, because its cleat is still there, just by the hall door. I hang spare keys on it nowadays.