- Vol. 10
- Chapter 08
Yes, it's original English oak flooring, eighteenth century.
Original staining and varnish too, although it's since been restored and protected with a modern application. In the servants' dining room the restoration wasn't finished beforehand, so you'll still see the original flaking and discolourations, captured for all time, as it were.
The floors are ideal for having a piddle on, perfectly level in some areas, such that if one is fairly careful, it forms a static pool that can last for several days until it evaporates. The story goes, and we have no reason to doubt its authenticity, that the eighth earl left a piddle in the old library that remained for twenty nine days, the wing being closed and shuttered for the winter, and the air thereby undisturbed.
With modern heating, of course, this would be impossible today, but longevity of piddle remains a challenge we must all rise to; that sensibility lies in our genes, from the nobly-bred down to the poorest street scavenger.
My great grandparents, whose portraits you see, are famous in the family for their combined yowling, which, so the story goes. had much to do in the eventual disappearance of great grand-mama, who would habitually disturb the servants loudly as they slept.
It was rumoured at the time that she was taken by one of the downstairs servants to a nest of theirs some hills away, and lived out her days there.
My grandfather said that his father would often wander on the lawns at night, stopping and cocking his ear as if he heard her wailing but could not discern whence the sound came. He eventually died on one such evening, it is thought, from a broken heart, no doubt mewling gently in his sleep.
I wanted this portrait to be, above all else, truthful and straightforward, and hence have chosen to sit for it unadorned. This may be controversial, given that there is nothing here to indicate my station in life but my physical bearing. However, we are all cats under the skin - this has been the primary philosophy of my lives thus far. Naked and open, this is me. I may have a
great ancestry, and bear the marks and responsibilities of careful selection, but I am no more or less a cat for all that, and I wanted this to be portrayed by the photographer.
I sit to one side of the image rather than centrally, suggesting to the viewer, I hope, the natural progression of taking one's primary "place in the sun" so to speak, and such that my shadow touches and overlaps the accompanying images, to indicate how one's life, what one has done and has yet to do, as the sun moves around, touches too upon them too.
Of course, the house is the real star of this portrait, filling the frame, bold and seemingly unalterable, as days, seasons and years pass outside, and as inhabitants are born, live, and die, with few exceptions, within its walls.