Friday, 3 July 2015


You can't expect to go an holiday and not break something, sometime. It only takes a brief moment of clumsiness, and then something is smashed. I broke a posh dinner plate and a much-loved mug while away in Scotland.

Both times, I felt stupid for letting it happen.

Both items are irreplaceable, in the sense that you can't now buy an identical replacement, only something similar.

In neither case does this really, really matter. But with the mug it felt like the sad end of a long and valued association. Let's look at the mug first.

Although I loved this mug, I haven't of course got a really good picture of it when it was in use and intact. Even I don't take photos of everyday objects that are 'just around' and apparently always will be. Here's the best I can manage, both of them caravan shots while away on holiday in 2011 and 2014:

It was a mug acquired from a Horsham bookshop - Hammicks, a bookshop long vanished - by the previous owner of the village house I purchased in 1996. She went into a local home for elderly residents, and this was one of the items she left behind. I doubt if she ever drank from it: mugs wouldn't have been her style. I found it in a cupboard, pristine, on taking possession, and I used it from that moment as my number one favourite mug until I broke it on 18th June last.

So I owned this mug - a delicate thing, really, like all china - for as long as nineteen years. I used it daily. It always came with me on my caravan holidays, and nary a mishap. Then in one careless moment, I brushed it onto the floor with a big red canvas bag containing my morning shower equipment (towels, shampoo, etc), breaking its handle in four places:

With the handle merely cracked in one place - or cleanly broken in two places - it would have been possible to effect a strong repair with superglue. But four places? I couldn't see all those stuck-back-together handle bits standing up to the heat from hot drinks throughout the day, and then all the constant washing. The glue would soften. It would all have failed catastrophically at some point, spilling tea or coffee, and spoiling something in the process. With a heavy heart, I put it in the bin bag and that was that. I reverted to the bog-standard melamine mugs in the caravan, and, at home, a rather nice set set of four yellow china mugs that M--- had given me a few years back.

It was 'only' a mug. But it was a bit of my personal history. It had seen me through a lot of stuff. I don't think it's so silly to feel a pang at its loss.

The dinner plate was one of six I bought four years ago, in a sale at House of Fraser in Chichester. It was Denby bone china. I always took two of these plates away with me in the caravan, using them alternately, and when towing they were both wrapped up against breakage, and stowed where they couldn't move around or bang against anything hard.

Well, on the 12th June I'd just washed up, and left the ill-fated plate on the draining rack with only a very few other things, but one of them was a heavy Pyrex glass measuring jug. I must have nudged this lot accidentally, and it all slid into the sink in one motion before I could stop it. The glass jug fell onto the plate and broke it into pieces.

What a sorry sight. I wasn't sad, as I had no personal attachment to that plate, but certainly I felt annoyed at myself.

But hey ho. Life isn't all about dinner plates. Although it reduced the 'set of six' down to five at home, it made me look for a more sensible substitute for use in the caravan. And I soon found just that: a set of four melamine dinner plates from a hardware shop in Newton Stewart in Galloway. I hesitated over buying them because they weren't especially large for dinner plates, and they weren't white. Then I told myself that the blue-and-yellow design was actually rather attractive; that these four plate were lighter and much more caravan-friendly than the two bone china plates ever had been; and that, hey, they were only £1.58 each. A bargain. What was I waiting for?

Back in the caravan, I felt good about my canny purchase. Yes, the new blue-and-yellow plates were inelegant compared to the one remaining Denby bone china plate, and noticeably smaller:

But they were desirably light for travelling, they weren't going to break, they didn't need pre-warming before serving up, and I could still place a decent amount of food on them - even if it all looked a bit crowded:

So all in all, that plate breakage has done me a favour. The blue-and-yellow melamine plates can stay in the caravan when I'm not on holiday, and there's now one less item to pack.

There's no point doing anything about that mug. It had Historic Significance, and I can't go to any shop and buy that. I may get some nicer, larger, melamine mugs for the caravan, expressly to drink tea or coffee with. At home, I think I'll stick with M---'s yellow mugs. They are just right, and it's about time they were brought into play.

I have one other mug with even more Historical Significance. Here it is, in a shot from 2005. I looks no different in 2015.

It's a 'Poison Mug' from 1978, in this case Strychnine, bought with the furnishing and equipping of my very first pad in mind. I'd got promotion at work, but it meant a transfer to London and buying a flat there. I was ready to go, however, and it was fun buying knick-knacks and other things for my very own first property. I saw a set of eight 'Poison Mugs' in a shop in Ringwood, and snapped them up.

Seven of them have fallen by the wayside, getting smashed one by one in the last thirty-seven years. If I remember rightly, there was Opium, Hemp (same thing?), Heroin, Arsenic, Strychnine, Belladonna, Hemlock and Cyanide. All of these clearly do you great harm, or can even kill you, but the first three are really for drug addicts rather than poisoners. But that didn't really matter. The point was, when sipping your tea in your Very Own London Flat it would appear as if you were actually imbibing Something Rather Stronger. Such was dark comedy in 1978.

It's a nice mug, but I haven't used it for years, not wanting to risk dropping it and severing a connection with my 1970s self. It nestles among other delicate items on display in my lounge.

1 comment:

  1. Strange how attached we can become to something as simple as a china mug. There is no way of measuring emotional attachment and memories...


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