‘I always wanted a Spanish table with ironwork stretchers. I love its combination of wood and wrought iron and thought I would work on it well.
‘My wife and I were in Amsterdam and we went to the auction together. There were three Spanish tables up for sale. The one before this — which I thought I wanted — sold quite high. When this table came up there was just one other bidder who, mercifully, faded away quite quickly and my table just about made its low estimate. So I was doubly pleased.
‘I’m wary of getting into a bidding war, because it can push you further than you want to go. On the other hand, it’s frustrating if you stop and the other person carries it off at the next bid.
‘I think this is a travelling table, designed to come apart and be packed up for the road. The catalogue called it a refectory table, but those are usually quite large things found in monasteries. You can seat four people around it, no more. But to me it’s more attractive than the other two in the sale.
‘I would say it’s both decorative and austere — which is very Spanish, of course. I guess it is late-17th or early-18th century. There are more florid versions of this style of table, but this one has all the characteristics of the era.
‘I wrote my two most recent books sitting at it. Francis Bacon in Your Blood tells the story of my friendship with the painter, and The Existential Englishman is an indiscreet memoir about my life in Paris from the 1960s on.
‘The stretchers remind me of duelling swords — and writing is a duel, mostly with oneself, so I suppose that’s appropriate’
‘I had to wrestle with both books, and the table became a kind of ally — a friend helping me to pull through. That sounds a bit mad, but it was good to have its history and elegance on my side.
‘The table is also comfortable to sit at, since the stretchers don’t get in the way. They remind me of duelling swords — and writing is a duel, mostly with oneself, so I suppose that’s appropriate. And I like the fact that the top has been been knocked around a bit. This table’s had a life, and so have I.’
The Existential Englishman by Michael Peppiatt (Bloomsbury) has just come out in paperback