It is a simple truth that relationships change with age. For my part, over the years I have become closer both to other human beings and to some of my possessions. In this particular story, the possession was a bone china mug.
It all started when I went downstairs to make an early-morning cup of tea. I selected my blue-tit mug, an absolute favourite, a present from my wife which we bought together in Edinburgh almost ten years ago. In went the teabag followed by the boiling water, but when I returned from the fridge, milk jug in hand, I noticed that the mug was surrounded by a puddle of water. I assumed that it had been spilled when I poured in the water from the kettle, but it soon became evident that, thanks to our dishwasher, the mug had acquired a hairline crack. Silly as it may sound, I felt devastated. This mug was a treasured friend from which I loved drinking.
It is odd that over the years I have become increasing particular about my mugs, even developing a set of criteria that the ideal mug should meet. For nothing else are my feelings so precise. Accordingly, the ideal mug must have shape and colouring that is clean and uncluttered; it must have visual appeal – all very subjective. It must have a handle big enough to accommodate my index finger and on cold mornings it must also lend itself to being held cupped in my hands. Finally, it must feel comfortable on the lips, with its rim of the right thickness, shape, texture and circumference. In all respects my fine bone china blue-tit mug fitted the bill and, because of its status, when it broke I mourned a little and put it to one side rather on a shelf. It certainly could not be thrown hastily into the bin for recycling.
Soon a search for its replacement began. In this, the inscription on the mug’s base was critical. In clear print it read ”Dunoon china. Blue Tit. A design by Richard Partis”. On the first two Internet sites I found it soon became clear that there was a new Dunoon ‘blue-tit’ mug design and this version carried intrusive lettering all around its base – not for me. I could find nothing satisfactory on Amazon or eBay. Some shops claimed that they sold Dunoon mugs but on journeying to one such in the middle of London, I discovered that the full range was only stocked at Christmas – I had missed out by two months.
I was soon back on the Internet trail and this time I fell upon the pottery itself. Luckily the website included a phone number. The woman on their switchboard recognised the mug and put me through to Vera in the warehouse who “would know more”. Vera sympathised with my loss, worked out the mug’s precise shape – the Wessex style as it turned out – and then apologised. There were no such mugs on her racks but suggested that I speak to Betty in the shop. After questions from Betty, particularly about its Wessex-ness, and a long wait while she went looking, Betty returned to announce that there was indeed one left in a display cabinet. Four days later it arrived by post.
The parcel was opened with unfounded anxiety – it was neither the wrong mug, nor broken. Within minutes, and after a good cleaning, I drank from it one of the best cups of tea for a long time. It’s odd how being reunited with an old friend, even one that is inanimate, gave me such enormous pleasure, and in this case even somehow improved the flavour of the tea. The mug also offered some cosmetic satisfaction. Back again on its hook, our row of mugs once more looks complete. Without it, it looked to me as if the sideboard had lost a treasured front tooth.
Mug shot: Joe Collier © 2015