This little table was already old when I got it when I was a little girl. My mother used to take in the occasional lodger or paying guest, and I used to love them all as they were a very welcome break from my rather solitary not to say lonely existence. I was very shy as a child – something that always shocks people who know me as a very garrulous adult, but I found it easier to talk to adults, especially if I had their undivided attention.

One such person was Alinka Malkhassian. She was the product of a wartime marriage between a Polish girl who had been on the oddysey via Siberia to Tehran. She was supposed to move on and eventually find safety and succour in the west. But she stayed and married a very handsome Persian. (Or so I was told.) Unfortunately the marriage did not work out and Alinka’s mother sent her to England to Pitsford Polish boarding school for girls. That did not work out either, and Alinka was expelled for sunbathing in the nuns’ garden. I have a photo of her somewhere. I’ll try to attach it. (Can’t actually find it at the moment.)

Anyway, friends of Alinka’s mother persuaded my mother to take her in for a few months.

I adored her. She was 17 or 18, very glamorous with her beehive hair, enormous eyes and nose and… this is the important thing, she took me seriously.

She answered all my questions while intermittently feeding me pistachios which her father would send in large industrial sized canvas sacks.

She it was indeed who told me all the facts of life. And then promptly told my mother she had done so.

I could feel the relief in my mother for the rest of her life that she didn’t have to have that particular conversation with me.

Alinka was great. She had a boyfriend who was nice enough to promise to marry me when I grew up if I didn’t find another. A lucky escape for both of us I think, looking back. Even if his mother had written one of the best books I have ever read in Polish. Wróble Noce. Summer nights. (Irena Bączkowska) Stories from the Ukraine at the turn of the last century.

So, back to the table. Alinka had this little table in her room. It is no more than eight inches across and about a foot high.

It folds down very conveniently. I always admired it and then she gave it to me. I can’t remember if I actually asked for it, but it’s possible. I kept it and treasured it all through school and university. And then, in one of our moves I suppose it was mislaid. I never actually forgot about it, but I didn’t think about it. Until a few weeks ago; my husband had gone into the attic to find something else and came down with a very sorry and battered looking little pile of pieces of wood

“My little table!” I cried. “At last. I’ve found it.” Or rather, he had.

He looked at me somewhat taken aback but took it to his workshop. A couple of weeks later he had restored it perfectly, even remaking and replacing some of the little brass flowers and wires.

He handed it to me with a very smug look on his face! I am thrilled to have it back!

Alinka, where are you now?

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