Why does the rain make me want to sleep? When I hear the drumming of raindrops on my roof, it inspires an urge within me to climb under the covers and sleep, as if I were some hibernatory creature. Even as a child, the rain induced this effect and my parents would sometimes find me peacefully asleep on the sofa in the late afternoon, after returning from school in the drizzle.
On Saturday last, the clear sky presented a credible impression of a summer’s day, but the rain which came down that evening combined with the chill of the night to signal that another season had arrived. In the Sunday market, traders sheltered under canopies and peered out in disappointment at the few customers in the wet streets. Returning from Columbia Rd, cold and damp, I knew I had reached the moment in the year to take out my quilt and put it on the bed in preparation for the coming winter.
After a few judicious repairs, the quilt was ready to serve me for another year, with its glowing woollen colours and satisfying weight, lying on top of the covers to provide emotional and thermal insulation when I lie in the dark listening to the rain. I have written before of how I made this quilt by sewing old tapestries together, in commemoration of my mother in the months after her death – but now it has an age of its own and this receptacle for memory has acquired its own memories too.
There is a sleight of hand – substituting one emotion for another – with my quilt whereby, when my eye falls upon it, I am delighted by its beauty just I am reminded of the one I miss. Similarly, my cat dates from the time when my father died and my pleasure in the antics of this innocent creature colours my sense of loss. Thus, both my quilt and the cat that sleeps upon it serve as antidotes to the sense of enveloping darkness that grief can bring.
As soon as I had spread out the quilt this week, my old cat climbed onto it and curled up to sleep in exactly the same place as he has done each year, prescient of his own position in the order of creation, between the fearsome lion and the docile domestic feline. The pictures upon the quilt have grown familiar to me in recent years, as the last images I see before I sleep and the first I spy upon waking. And so I thought I would photograph some favourites to introduce you to the cast of beloved characters which appear each winter like the cast of a pantomime – the fisherman, the owl, the horse, the bullfighter, the falconer, the dairymaid, and the rest. They have returned to watch over me when the rain induces an irresistible urge to sleep.
This old fisherman was the first tapestry I found.
This is a unique tapestry, not from a kit like the others but copied from an original painting.
This cat dates from the nineteen thirties.
This owl is a favourite.
Notice the detailed stitching on the lion’s face.
These butterflies came from Florida.
This tapestry came from Sri Lanka.
A church in the mountains.
The Angelus from the painting by Millet.
Lowry rendered as a tapestry.
Vermeer rendered as a tapestry.
You may like to read the original story of