When I was a child I would spend long summers with my grandparents in Shamokin, a small coal mining town in Pennsylvania. They lived in a quite ordinary and modest house, but I remember it being full of the most extraordinary objects.
When I got bored of lazing around on the porch, I would climb up to the attic and sit there amongst the discarded furniture, peering into wooden chests full of furs and feathers, pulling out hats from dusty boxes and rummaging through piles of piano music – popular show tunes and radio hits from the 1930s and 40s. Even now, there is a particular smell – a mix of heat and dust and old varnish - which transports me back there in an instant.
After my grandmother died, my mother shipped many of her things back to England. I don't think she could bear to leave anything behind. This lamp used to sit on my grandfather's desk and was probably bought by his father. I remember being fascinated by the metal dragons and how, when the bulbs were lit, they seemed to breathe fire. It is very precious to me, not only because it is a thing of great beauty but because it has this magical power to evoke very loved people, places and times.