Monday, 17 May 2010
I saw this mug in a charity shop.
It was plonked carelessly in among all the usual sorts of bric-a-brac you find in these places: ornamental dogs and cats trying to out-do one another in whimsicality and general look-at-me cuteness, willow-pattern plates (it’s ALWAYS willow-pattern!), lonely wine glasses (which should clearly be part of a set but there’s always only the one - deep, no doubt, in the throes of survivor guilt), endless salt and pepper sets, empty picture frames, and mysterious little ceramic boxes whose purpose I have never managed to fathom.
But there was something about this mug. Its dark colour and its aloof plainness so set it apart from the gaudy, busy, floweriness and general commotion of the other things around it. It was sure of itself, too - centred, as they say, and didn’t feel the need to stoop to the level of those other mere trinkets vying for my attention. It was the ceramic embodiment of less is more. If it had been a person, it would have been a Buddhist monk - serenely detached from the world and all things in it.
“I’m not going to buy you.” I told it, slightly prickled by its smugness, “I have more than enough mugs in my house, thank you very much, and I’m trying to de-clutter. So, although I like you, I don’t need you and I don’t want you.”
The mug just sat there saying nothing (well, it would, wouldn’t it?).
It knew, you see.
The next week, I was in the shop again, (I am an Olympic-level moocher around charity shops). The mug was still there, albeit on a lower shelf. The company down there was no better than that which it had enjoyed the previous week: the dogs and cats were still trying too hard, the solitary wine-glass still mourned its shattered siblings and the little Chinese people were still hanging about on their bamboo bridge, gossiping, no doubt, about the sad state of a world that doesn’t want willow-pattern tableware any more.
“Still here, eh?” I greeted it. “What’s with the relegation? Were you too pricey? Not pretty enough? Chip on your shoulder? (See what I did there?)”
It was unimpressed by my attempts at ceramics-based wit.
It really was rather a nice shade of blue when all was said and done, and so smooth. I hefted it in my hand, just to try. mind you, no commitment. It fitted as if it had been made specially for me. For a moment, I contemplated our future relationship. The Children in Need mug would have to move over, obviously, but Pudsey’s nice enough - for a bear with just the one eye, he wouldn’t mind, surely? I imagined a shared future of refreshing cups of tea, bitterly delicious coffees and maybe the occasional ice-cold milk (the stark whiteness would look so good against the mug’s dark skin).
It said nothing: it had waited, it could wait a little longer. Softly, softly…
“Ok,” I sighed, reaching for my wallet, “You win.”
It didn’t show it, but somehow I know it was pleased.