Today I break a mug. Not any old mug. The cheesy mug with the big red heart that the Nearly-Beloved bought me for our ‘China’ anniversary many moons ago. It may not have been the cruise along the Yangtze River I’d been hoping for but at least it was lovingly chosen…
The problem now – apart from confessing my sin – is which mug is going to replace it?
In ideal families, who live in tidy, designer homes, tea is drunk out of colour co-ordinated cups that match the palette of their kitchens. Alas, not in our household! My kitchen cupboard is an orphanage to a motley crew of abandoned or purloined pottery. What’s more, certain mugs already have an owner and woe-betide anyone who tries to drink out of those!
Grunting Teen has staked a claim on the ‘Cadbury’s’ mug. He’s welcome to it as far as I’m concerned. It may give him the old-fashioned feel-good factor with its vintage air and authentic crack down the middle, but to me, there is something fundamentally wrong with drinking tea out of a cup that contains the word ‘chocolate’ on it.
‘Pontypool RUFC’, circa 1978, is obviously a no-go area. It came as part of my marriage vows and has a special shelf all of its own. Thank goodness I didn’t drop that! And ‘Smiley Fish’ is also out of bounds. It’s sunny in a charming Mediterranean way but, as the only non-chipped drinking vessel, it is invariably reserved for guests.
Maybe I could risk the ‘Star Wars’ mug? It once held an Easter egg. But the handle has been superglued back on and I fear the Force may long since have abandoned it…
Then there’s always the cutting edge ‘German Bauhaus’ masterpiece, purchased on a whim from a museum shop in Dusseldorf. It’s cool and Teutonic. Yet its slanting design is unnerving. What’s more, it has a superior air that mocks you at the first sign of spillage.
I could resort to ‘Boring Stoneware’, the sole survivor of the class of four. But its bland respectability means I keep it in reserve for any visits by officialdom or in-laws.
Maybe ‘Psychedelic Spots’ – an heirloom from my student days – could get promoted? But on second thoughts there’s a reason why I’ve always kept it out of sight…
‘Nasty Bee’ is an obvious no. It’s the mug of last resort, usually only offered to workmen or the Nearly-Beloved when he’s in my bad books.
That leaves the assortment of plastic cups which hang out on the naughty step. They are the remnants of childhood, and have never quite grown up. ‘Teletubbies’, with its lingering smell of toddler tantrums and sticky Ribena, is an old favourite. It was such fun with its swivelling middle that I could never bear to part with it. But to drink from its slightly chewed, germ-infested rim is dicing too closely with death.
So, by process of elimination, my new mug of choice must be ‘Someone Special’.
It was given to me by one of my former students, and despite its oversentimentality, it is strong, sturdy and the only thing in the household that still appreciates me.
As I celebrate my decision with a cup of ‘Special’ tea, the door opens. The Nearly-Beloved is home. It’s time to beg his forgiveness. Underneath it all he’s quite a softie, a closet romantic. I hope he won’t be too upset about the breakage. After all, he knows how much his thoughtful gift meant to me by the very fact I managed to keep it intact and crack-free for over a decade.
But memory is a strange thing. It turns out I needn’t have worried. The man who swore he’d taken days to pick out the ideal anniversary gift looks at me in confusion. ‘That tacky, old mug?’ he asks bemused, ‘I never liked it anyway…’